So we went from this:
but Jon and I have been totally under the weather so there was also a lot of this:
Until we found some mega pain killers and dragged our sorry asses to the Auckland Art Museum:
Which, as you can see, is a beautiful building with lots of glass, so you have a feeling you’re walking through Albert Park while also looking at the art works inside. There were nice touches, too, to acknowledge Maori roots:
and honor grand Maori faces:
Granted, the museum is small, this country is young, national identity, a thriving art scene are equally young and New Zealand is far away from the rest of the world, so it’s hard for art to get here, let alone build up a momentous collection. And then, obviously, people don’t come here for art– they come here for the natural beauty, the sea or simply to get away from it all.
Jon walked out, sneering that it wasn’t much but I feel less is more and sometimes a smaller museum makes you connect with the art more because there’s less of it. Plus, large museums can simply be overwhelming. When I walked into the Met in New York for the first time, I got a splitting headache and an overwhelming sense of fatigue, which is apparently real, known as Stendhal Syndrome:
Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.
Let me tell you what I connected with today and why. First there was William Hodges’s Dusky Bay:
Hodges was on board with Captain Cook and this was a painting he made on a piece of pine wood from the ship, showing Fjordland, the first sighting of New Zealand after seeing nothing but sea and stars for weeks if not months. Thing is, take out those men in canoes and the scenery is exactly the same. When we traveled down Doubtful Sound, I said to Jon, this is how Captain Cook must have seen and experienced it, because obviously, Fjordland has been preserved and there has been zero development (or human stains on the landscapes like phallic Trump Towers).
The above painting inspired the modern interpretation of this series, which hung right next to it:
As far as European art goes, I was most impressed by this Rembrandt etching:
That tiny bit of light and a man in his dark, dark study…
And while we’re on the subject of Dutch Masters, I did like this Kiwi tribute to Piet Mondrian, which connected my NZ travel to my travel to the Netherlands this summer where I saw the excellent Mondrian exhibit in The Hague:
Goya’s Death of Truth triggered dark thoughts about America and having to return to a country whose leader tells one whopper after another, which doesn’t seem to be cause for impeachment or Amendment 25 any time soon because the GOP looks the other way rather than looking at the corpse at their feet:
We are returning to the US tomorrow and I feel we’re about to regress from a country of great beauty to a country of great ugliness, and darkness, and danger, and feelings of dread when it comes to thoughts about some impending apocalypse such as WWIII– all because our supreme and evil leader can’t control himself. But this is where art can also be a form of consolation. Read the following by Cecil Day-Lewis, written in the dark days of WWII (1943):
So shall our time reveal long vistas of calm and natural growth, a pattern mysterious yet lucid, for Love is the focal point of the pattern. And our heirs shall unfold, like a cluster of apple blossoms in a fine tomorrow.
These lines inspired this painting by the English painter John Tunnard:
Love trumps hate and that red sphere should remain our focal point and our source of light, no matter how much the darkness seems to envelop us, or box us in.
So you see– even that small collection of art in Auckland had something to say to me personally and this is why we have art and museums: to keep the madness at bay.
This is also why we have vacations, because both mine and Jon’s working life have been such that we really needed New Zealand, or rather, a New World reprieve. This country has given us new hope and inspired us with its scenic vistas and dreams, leading to the kind of rest and relaxation that we were craving, so thank you New Zealand, and New Zealanders, for showing us your pristine beauty inside and out. You have much to be proud of…