The Artistic Lens – Lessons from a Visit to the Art Institute of Chicago

If you’ve seen any of my drawings or paintings, you’ll know that I have no hand for the arts. Even with a deep appreciation for them, my doodles and sketches don’t amount to much. That doesn’t stop me from drawing or painting. I color outside the lines (sometimes on purpose and other times not so much ha). I love it and I am interested in how artists see the world.

I spent a few hours at the Art Institute of Chicago on Wednesday with a friend and mentor. I was excited to discover new insights about creativity after taking a guided tour of the Modern Art Wing and some unguided roaming. Our tour guide, with such a bright and excited passion for the arts and museums, discussed a variety of works including those of Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Moholy-Nagy. One of the common themes among their works is to push art forward when it needed to change. To see differently in a conventional world. Even if the world wasn’t ready or receptive, they changed for the sake of the artist and creativity.

One of the unique insights presented was that artists adapted to the introduction of technology. For example, artists found new ways to paint still life paintings when the camera was introduced. Not in content, but in presentation. They became more abstract to be specific. Our tour guide may have captured the sentiment of the artist, “You can take a picture of a tree. You know what it looks like. I don’t have to paint what is there. I can’t paint what I see.” Trees became characterized by odd shapes, vague outlines, and colors that no tree will ever be. Yet, it is still recognizable as a tree.

Artists have freedom to create representations of familiar subjects based on what they see and perceive. This practice seems transferable in its utility, but I’m unsure of how to make it tangible for other areas of my life. Though I am not an artistic, in what ways can I adapt my behaviors and thinking as new information and technology are introduced? There are many questions I have yet to answer, but this new (to me) way of thinking may prove to be helpful in future endeavors.

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