The temporal quality of looking at art in person


In our instant media obsessed culture, standing before a painting, the act itself requires courage. Courage to stop. Stop all texts, calls, and pushed beeps, chimes and dings. It requires courage to be alone, with your own thoughts, and fearlessness to face what confronts you. 


Allow me to introduce you to Pat Public who checks in with a smartphone 5+ times an hour. Imagine Pat is enjoying a day at the beach with family or friends. They stop for ice cream, and then stroll along the boardwalk or cobbled street of a seaside town and happen upon an art gallery. Someone in the group suggests they go inside and take a look. The paintings in the window are neither lighthouses nor sailboats as in many of the gift shops. Pat hesitates to go in. Why? 

Thoughts that art is only for people with tons of money and if you aren’t rich you shouldn’t go in? Pretend Pat has plenty of money, why then hold back? Fear of being embarrassed for being ignorant about art? Or, possibly Pat just wants to go back to the beach, or thinks art is boring. Pat is accustomed to action.

If Pat goes inside, what then? I have observed many Pats, most will quickly take a turn through and leave. When this happens I often want to stop them and say, “Hey, what do you think the person who made these/this was thinking?” “How long do you think it took to create?”  Or, “which was your favorite?” and talk about why. Anything to get a visitor to linger long enough to become engaged. I’ve heard some artists say an artwork has to grab them immediately or they ignore it. But some works like great poems and novels require multiple readings before they reveal their exquisiteness. Or, like a ball game, if you are flipping channels or checking in online, one inning or quarter may be ho-hum but then later there is an incredible play and the totality of the game turns out to be great.

 Viewing art in person can be a great social activity or a respite from invasive technology and others. In solitude before a work, you can engage with the past, present, and future. Pondering answers to the aforementioned questions regarding the artist creating the work, or how it makes you feel, or what it reminds you of, can bring you back in time, while in the present.  Your experience can alter your future. 


Time is running out for viewing Posthumously Blooming at Galatea Fine Art. The exhibit ends this Sunday at 5pm. If you are in Boston, I hope you stop in and delight in the lush colors and question their mystery.

Thanks for reading,


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1 Response to The temporal quality of looking at art in person

  1. Pingback: The temporal fear of looking at art in person | art genesis

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