Monday, August 17, 2009

Abstract Art and Nature Photographs

When I go to an art museum, it's always the abstract art that immediately grabs my attention and gets me excited. I've never studied abstract art. My comments are a result of just paying attention to how I respond to this art.

I don't know exactly why I enjoy abstract art so much. It may have to do with something like purity. Abstract art, for me at least, frees me of certain distractions. I don't have to figure out the story of the painting and I'm not distracted by questions of accuracy and realism and the other questions raised by representational art.

I enjoy experiencing the geometry of abstraction or the studies of color or, in sculpture, the experience of weight. Geometry, color, weight and the countless other qualities abstract art explores all have emotional qualities, to me, and I'm moved by the intensity and mystery of abstract art. For example, the geometry combined with the shades of blue in this piece both intrigue me and stir my feelings:

The varieties of blue bending toward gray in the above piece makes me think of how much I enjoy taking photographs of the ocean and sky and of clouds as a way of creating my own abstract art.

If I remove the beachline and people and any mounds or rocks from ocean pictures, they become, like abstract art, portrayals of color and studies in light, and sometimes explorations of shape. In looking at these pictures, the viewer might figure out it's the ocean and the sky; nonetheless, the dominant reality of the picture is not the ocean itself, but the abstract colors that make up the ocean and the sky's most abstract and purest reality. Here are some of my attempts at ocean/sky abstraction:

I experience these pictures less as portraits of the ocean, sky, and sun and more as the emotional power of blue and gray and white. While these pictures lack the geometrical exactness of the abstract painting I posted, I do think it's possible to abstract the power of the colors from the ocean and sky and sun and experience the power of the light and color on their own terms.

One of the new friends I made this summer at the writing retreat at Camp N Sid Sen was Cheryl Dudley. When she goes to work, she drives from her ranch into Moscow, Idaho. Every summer morning, she sees the sun rise over the rolling hills of the Palouse. Cheryl let me borrow this picture she took a few weeks ago of a Palouse sunrise. To me, it's a beautiful study of the abstract nature of light and shape and pattern. I find myself almost losing my sense of the Palouse and experiencing the beauty of light and color itself, almost as if these qualities could be anywhere..(but I so love the Palouse that I don't really want to forget the locale of this photograph):

So there they are: my reflections upon abstract art and nature photography.

You can go here and enjoy more of Cheryl Dudley's photography.

The painting "Blue Stripes" is by Kathryn Crocker. Go here , use the search feature, and click around and you will find more of her work.


Cheryl said...

Bill--I enjoyed your take on abstract art because it gave me some substance to work with the next time I'm confronted with it. Frankly, abstract art frustrates me because I try to make sense of it. Unlike the way you think of it as purity, I think of it as chaos and--perhaps--senseless. You've made me appreciate it a little.

inlandempiregirl said...

I really like the art and photos on this post. I agree with Cheryl... now I need to think of it as purity.