10 April 2011

travels with my aunt (RIP john mccracken)

back when i was just little m21,  my great aunt would visit from san francisco,  and she made a point of taking me to the la jolla (now "san diego") museum of contemporary art every time, as art, particularly modern art, was one of her great passions. she recognized my artsy bent as child (meaning she knew i was a budding homo who coincidentally loved to draw), and being a somewhat "bohemian" type herself (that's what my mom called her), she wanted to nurture and encourage the development of that side of my personality.
great aunt zenita truly opened my eyes about art, and listened to, and respected my opinions, even though i was just a smart-assed nine year old who thought he knew everything about everything. she explained to me that art could be whatever the artist wanted it to be, and if i were to respond visually to a piece, to not worry about what it was "supposed" to be, or to listen to anyone's opinion but my own, but merely experience the work, and enjoy it. great advice i still value to this day (she also advised me to move to san francisco as soon as i turned 18, as i'd "fit in much better there", advice i didn't understand at nine, but by the time i turned 18, i understood all too well ;-)

one of the pieces i remember vividly from our trips to the museum was a john mccracken "plank", which i liked, but i didn't quite understand-  how it could be art, when to my young eyes it was just a painted piece of wood, leaning against a wall. aunt zenita explained to me about painstaking craft behind the work, that the work blurred the lines between sculpture and painting, and was part of a tradition of art- the minimalist, pop  and color field schools- of which she then pointed out more examples to me around the museum (judd, lewitt, kelly).
somehow, after zenita's talk,  a little lightbulb went off in my head, and i've carried around a huge love of abstract art ever since. the art can be whatever i want it to be, and usually for me, being pretty is enough.  some people see a brightly colored plank of wood; others see a stunning sculpture; both  definitions are ok.
RIP john mccracken.  i'd like to thank you, and my great aunt zenita, for opening a young boy's eyes to the bigger world of art. i promise to walk up to LACMA this week, stand in front of a mccracken "plank" and mentally toast the two of you.


Karena said...

A very wise Aunt Christian! (with excellent taste)

Art by Karena

jones said...

Hi Christian, that is the best description I have ever heard of the vision or role of abstract art--it broadens my eye. I wish that I could have met your Aunt Zenita-what a lady. Have an awesome week. Mary

Teresa at Splendid Sass said...

We all have someone in our lives that influences us so much. Interesting to read about your, Christian.
You can make anything appear funny, btw. Have a great week.

The Zhush said...

What a sweet post...(I'm imagining Auntie Mame here-the highest compliment that I could pay any aunt!..and what I aspire to be one day!:) )

maison21 said...

thanks kids- my aunt was a pretty kooky lady, but she really did have an influence on me.

rouge said...

Would there many more of the fabulous Aunt Zenitas in the world. A fairy godmother to you, really.

tula said...

Aunt Zenita and Little Maison21. If that isn't a power duo, I don't know what is!

Layers and Layers said...

What a great post, poignant and HILARIOUS at the same time. I've never had anybody take me under their wing and I envy you your eccentric (wise) aunt tremendously! Thanks for sharing such a great story!