I was in New York last week and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On my last visit some fifteen years ago, I had to skip the sculpture gallery because the guy I was seeing at the time wasn’t “into” sculpture.
I’ve since grown a pair and don’t let a man decide what I’ll get to see at any given museum. My experience in the MET’s sculpture gallery brought to mind Ayn Rand’s essay, Objectivist Theory of Art. As she says, “The unique function of art is to present, in concrete form, what is essentially an abstraction.” I think this is the role of any artist, be she/he a writer, sculptor, painter, composer, singer, musician.
I’ve always loved the visceral experience of sculpture. Even tried it myself years ago, buying a sculpture trestle, clay, and all the cool spatulas and knives. Damned if it wasn’t harder than it looked. So when I saw these awesome sculptures at the MET, I was humbled.
I’m in awe of how stone carvers can be faced with a squat block of marble and somehow create not only a vivid sculpture, but a beautiful moment in the heart of the observer. Take a look at the one given to us below of Saint Tarcisius by the sculptor Alexandre Falguiere. Just a guy mucking about with chisels, hammers, scutches, files, rasps, and rifflers, right? But then writers create worlds for their reader with mere words. If you’re a writer, you know how certain sentences and chapters and whole books can take blood, sweat, first born children to produce. I imagine the same can be said for composers who create symphonies with a line up of little black symbols on a page, and the musicians who turn those symbols into music that transport us with instruments made of wood, brass, and molded plastic.
If you want to know more about the sculpture Saint Tarcisius, you can read it here I don’t think his expression is one of religious fervor. It reminded me of some of the moments I’ve had during meditation years ago, when I actually meditated. They see “religious fervor,” I see “meeting inner self for the first time.”
As you can imagine, in a New York museum, everyone had to be taking selfies. I have the same disdain for cameras in museums as I do cameras at concerts, but found myself with cell phone in hand, capturing some of these sculptural images. Because they hit you in the gut. And because I had to study them obsessively afterward to find out what was so compelling. Like this one for instance:
If you need some clue as to the expression on his face, read about it here, but to me, it was the perfect depiction of one of those “fuck me!” moments. Turns out it’s the artist’s interpretation of a man experiencing physical torture, but everyone has their subjective reaction. After all, Ayn Rand also wrote, “….. a work of art can touch the deepest places in us, feelings we often have trouble defining and making explicit.”
The work to the left was stunning in real life. The photo does it no justice. A Google search on, “Woman sculpture at MET grabbing right breast intently” came up blank, so it’s anyone’s guess what the artist meant to convey by her position. Breast grab aside, in her face I saw all the moments I’ve felt alone on this planet with no hope in sight.
I circled it so many times, a security guard was dispatched to watch me.
What’s that expression on his face? If you’re interested in someone else’s interpretation, read about it here.
I thought it was a guy thinking, maybe a little depressed, but just thinking. Turns out the sculpture was named “Hypocrite and Slanderer” by someone other than the artist, after his death, so the observer should be led by his/her own reactions.
Thank you to all artists, past/present/future who make the abstract nothing into a concrete something.
What work of art has transported you?Share: