Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Intimacy and Fragility

Yesterday, Dan Thompson, my teacher for Figure Drawing Intensive at The New York Academy of Art took us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view master drawings. This was a special viewing, though, because we were walked into the guts of the MET, we went down some stairs, into a quiet library where you couldn't take out pens, only pencils, no cameras and no pictures. And the drawings that were most requested by the class, were brought out to us in pairs, there was no glass, no velvet rope to distance us from the drawings; we could get as close as we wanted to and if we wanted to see even closer, there were magnifying glasses provided to us.
There is a fagility to a drawing, if you don't seal it, it is easy for it to be damaged just by touching the paper; and even if you have sealed it, there is still risk of it being damaged.
A piece of paper is so easy to permanently damage. Even if a drawing is framed and protected by a piece of glass, that somehow makes it more vulnerable.
A painting is usually oil or acrylic paint applied over canvas or fabric, when a painting is finished, both elements (fabric and paint) somehow make each other stronger, the fabric with the paint feel like very sturdy, heavy and malleable plastic. The paint becomes an additional layer on the fabric.
Somehow, the same cannot be said for drawing.
But I digress.
That's one of the things that came to mind when I was looking upon these drawings that have been preserved for an indetermined amount of time.
One of my favorite drawings was a drawing of the head of a dog, I don't remember the name of the artist and it was done in watercolor and graphite.
The one the struck me the most was Michaelangelo's study of the Lybian Sybil. It's about 8 x 10 inches, it's small, this is one of the only ones that had glass on it.
I don't know why it struck me so much, maybe it's because I'd seen it so many times before, but this time I was looking at the original piece.
Along with the Michaelangelo drawing there was a Leonardo study. I think it was the moment that I saw Leonardo's that I kind of realized what was happening: Leonardo, the man himself, at some point in the past was looking upon this piece of paper, playing around with materials, experimenting, drawing. Leonardo himself touched this piece of paper, leaned over it and breathed over it.
These were merely studies for something further.
When an artist finishes a piece and shows it, he/she is ready to show the world the artwork, at this point the artist chooses to show the finished product. The drawings that I got to see were the premise to that moment of security, these drawings were like reading from a diary. An artist doesn't choose to show the sketches that came before the finished product, when the artists is still throwing ideas back and forth, looking for that which suits him or her the best.
This is a moment of vulnerability, moments of insecurity, taking notes. So, I basically got to see Leonardo and Michaelangelo in what I consider to be moments of hesitation and openness.
I have a hard time thinking of certain people as merely human, it's difficult for me to think of Trent, Leonardo and Michaelangelo as humans like me. Defective humans.

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