Reflection – Feeling Art With Your Eyes

Tristes presentimientos de lo que ha de acontecer (Gloomy presentiments of what must come to pass) (1810-1820), from Goya’s Disasters of War series, by Francisco de Goya

Written & edited by Trevor Knapp.

During my brief time living in Chicago, I spent many weekends visiting the Art Institute. I always had a blast just perusing through the halls of that museum – seeing works from Ruebens, Van Gogh, Monet, Brueghel The Elder, Giacommeti… many fond memories. Seeing the lives of many artists within the canvas and clay.

What really moved me within the Chicago Art Institute was the time I was able to see the entirety of Francisco de Goya’s Disasters of War series. His work changed how I see the world and how I create art as a whole. I didn’t fully grasp how intense this feeling was, but when I walked out of the museum that day, I knew something had happened irrevocably deep within my soul.

It was one of those foggy, windy, shitty rainy days in Chicago and I had to run my ass 6 blocks down from where I was staying to get to the Art Museum. I scheduled an entire day in their Prints And Drawings Research Room to have a private viewing of Goya’s print series (I highly recommend doing this, you just have to work around the museum’s wonky hours of availability). When I arrived they brought me in right away, sat me down, handed me some fabric gloves, and rolled over this big black and red cart of shelves with Goya’s work within them. And there I sat, slowly peering through each of his prints.

To see the depth of Goya’s black inks, the sharpness of his marks, scaling of his compositions… words fail. I felt like I found a comrade that shares the same vision I have of the world, one that knew exactly how to express that vision. I understand how one would view The Disasters of War as grotesque and bleak, but there is still a sense of beauty in that darkness. There are a still few works within the series that offer glimmers of hope, even within its senseless violence. Seeing work like this with your own eyes in an actual space has its way of changing you.

As with any experience that you see with your own eyes, you take something in that a screen cannot give back. Actual experience can alter us in ways that we can move forward in the world with a completely new perspective. This perspective can change our courses beyond recognition… had I not seen Goya’s series in person, I am not sure I would have moved forward with my Metropolis series. I felt reborn.

That is why I own artwork and continue to create artwork: So that I can find new meaning and understanding in the world, so that I can share that with others.

Que Valor! (What Courage!) (1810-1820), from Goya’s Disasters of War series, by Francisco de Goya

And so, there is something I cannot stress enough when it comes to seeing artwork: go see it in person. Go to the museums, go to the galleries. If you know of any artists in the area that you admire, schedule a time to go meet them and see their work. Get out there and see some art. Let your eyes feel artwork that needs that in person experience. We need to be out there in the world, communicating with one another. Let us use art, to some extent, as that bridge.

Photo taken after I saw Goya’s print series, it was an interesting day…

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