Speak the words modern art and my brain immediately conjures up the image of a canvas with enough primary colors splattered across it to resemble any preschooler’s first take-home painting. Better yet, I’ll imagine a mishmash of broken items (maybe a doll’s head, an umbrella, scattered playing cards, and a wooden chair) stacked into a Jenga-like tower and glued together. "How is THAT art?" I’ve often asked museum curators. (That’s a lie. I’ve never had the audacity to ask aloud, but I’ve sent this question out telepathically several times to no avail.) It wasn’t until a recent visit to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. that my opinion of modern art completely changed.
I hadn’t planned to visit the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. I needed a reprieve from the sun’s skin-frying rays and the strange donut-like building not only intrigued me, but offered an air-conditioned haven from the outdoors. Inside I found myself transported into a strange environment of sight and sound, light and shadow, and a dimension of imagination. It was something straight out of the Twilight Zone!
Now, many of exhibits still left me shaking my head and wondering what con artist managed to fool someone into thinking it was worth money. At the risk of offending those people, here are a few examples of pieces I personally thought were complete rubbish (Andy Warhol fans, be warned):
Someone was throwing out their old Eater decorations, I guess.
The Display Stand with Madonnas is supposed to be "familiar and fantastical" instead of tacky and boring.
This is really just an anagram for the message: "NOT ART, SON. HEHE! -W"
Art, however, is subjective. It was interesting to notice how museum visitors reacted to the pieces. I would pass right by one display while someone else would stand there marveling at it. Likewise, a few pieces I found incredibly deep and thought-provoking whereas other visitors breezed right past them without a second glance. The art I loved the most included:
Stand before it and stare into an abyss. Stand before it and you get a visual representation of infinity.
A fun light project. I liked being in the room of cool blue for awhile. :)
For me, a glimpse at social dynamics and human cruelty.
The next time you’re in Washington D.C., I hope you’ll consider visiting this Smithsonian museum. Unlike the other museums, it isn’t swamped by school children. For me, it was a wonderful escape, an opportunity for introspection, and a chance to appreciate modern art.