Knowing Your Art Deeply (Part 2)
September 28, 2020
By Jan David Winitz
President and Founder, Claremont Rug Company
Read Knowing Your Art Deeply (Part 1)
Last week, I recounted my experience in the Grand Canyon with my first meeting with Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I observed that great art and natural phenomena have similar impacts. The experience of watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon in many ways moved me as did my encounter with Van Gogh’s masterpiece. In that twilight before dawn, I had stood with a group of strangers, all of us involved in various conversations. Then, just as the sun began to rise and the canyon wall lit up in an exquisite spectrum of hues, we collectively became quiet. Faced with Nature’s monumental interplay of color, form, and light, together we were enraptured by this display of an art principle of the highest magnitude.
On a smaller scale, the deeply patinaed colors of the antique rugs on the floors and walls of my home are profoundly affected by the change of light throughout the day and the seasons. Their continual color abrash reveals seemingly myriad hues. The lanolin-rich wool, which long ago absorbed natural dye pigments deep into its fiber, produces a tremendous luminance and a mesmerizing depth that I rarely experience in other art forms. My rugs have taught me to appreciate firsthand the emotional effect harmonious colors bestow, a sensitivity that amplifies greatly the enjoyment of my surroundings.
I understand that I can only know an artwork deeply when I’m willing to enter into a “conversation” with it, without preconceptions. We all have had the experience of speaking with a person we’ve already formed an opinion about, and thus we can no longer hear what they’re saying. The same is true when looking at art.
Experiencing what a work of genuine art has to offer is analogous to the opening of a door, not only into the artist’s inner experience, but to our own. It’s not unusual to become so intrigued by a certain artwork that it propels us to embark on a fascinating journey into learning about the artist, his or her regional aesthetics, period and influences, even the specific techniques employed to create the work. Art inspires us to gather knowledge willingly and to relish the study.
To begin to look receptively, we must suspend concepts of “value” and “importance,” even so far as to separate ourselves from what knowledgeable people, even experts, may have said. Analysis can come later, but in this moment, what matters is to simply experience the impact of looking, the effect the artwork has on us. To be moved by it without trying to figure out why. Aesthetic balance and harmony are not merely theory. They are something that can be experienced by anyone willing to look receptively, to tap into what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “what lies within us.”
I gravitate to art that simultaneously impacts me emotionally, intellectually and physically, which suspends my inclination to evaluate and ignites new insights, not only into the work at hand, but also into life in all its aspects and my place within it. This is art that energizes and nurtures me, always enhancing, never diminishing. Having worked with clients at my gallery, Claremont Rug Company, for four decades, I am renewed and tremendously gratified that we share that emotional vision.
Experiencing what a work of genuine art has to offer is analogous to the opening of a door, not only into the artist’s inner experience, but to our own. Regardless of the medium — music, literature, sculpture, theater, the intrinsic artistry of great weavings or the natural majesty of the Grand Canyon at dawn—interacting with great art gives us a glimpse of our innermost aspect, a place of meaning beyond logical thinking and analysis.
What a longtime client said, speaking about the many antique carpets he and his wife have assembled over three decades, can apply to any great piece of art: “My rugs provide a particular emotional reward that makes our lives more fulfilling.” And, as one extremely seasoned connoisseur told me near the start of my career, “Art stems from love. The response to it that we experience in our hearts is art.” What more can we ask for?