Untitled and Mirrors

7:00 AM

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1969
I have always been jealous of my mother’s connection to paintings. Every time we went to a museum when I was younger she would stand in front of a painting for at least twenty minutes and rattle off facts about the artist, explain the technique, or just stand in silence, staring. I used to try to make the same connection as her, but I never could. I would listen to her explanations, honestly try to absorb the information that she was so passionate about, but no matter how I tried, all I saw was a pretty painting that felt distant, incomprehensible. Trips to the museum became frustrating. I liked the paintings, I knew that it took talent to create them, but I couldn’t look at them and have some sort of connection, really understand what the artist was trying to get me to feel. The paintings never felt particularly special to me. I just thought they were pretty. But my mother thought and felt so much more about them, and I wanted to share in that connection.

The resolution - senior year art history class. We began the year with Mark Rothko. The extent of my knowledge about him was that he painted squares in a range of colors. That was it, or so I thought. We watched a film, read a play, and discussed as a class about Rothko and his art. After multiple weeks of analysis, I finally came to realize that the paintings weren’t just blocks of color that tricked your eye, but a collection of colors, lines, smudges, and movement that captured your mind. The longer you stared, the more the painting moved. It seemed to envelop you, as if you were falling into the space as the lines simultaneously jumped out at you. The more we read about Rothko, the more I began to understand that he wasn’t just developing art that captured the eye and mind, but developing a sort of mirror that lead the viewer to look inside himself. For this reason, I have selected Mirrors by Justin Timberlake (who just happens to by my all-time favorite artist) as my song for this post. Although the viewer does not find his soul mate in the painting as Justin expresses in the song, the lyrics “it's like you’re my mirror, my mirror staring back at me” directly apply to Rothko’s paintings. Rothko wasn’t trying to develop art that could be easily replicated and apply to everyone in the same manner, but rather art that had a specific meaning to each person. Some viewers feel as though the paintings are dark, dismal holes, while others find them to be uplifting and freeing. Each painting provides a different mirror for the viewer, one that illustrates a specific reflection for every person. 

I now understand my mother’s connections to paintings. I appreciate standing in front of a masterpiece for twenty minutes and taking in every minute aspect of the work. I now find myself dragging my mother to the museum and standing beside her for those twenty minutes not sharing in her connection with the work but creating my own opinion, insight, and connection with the piece. I can now stand in silence and stare, something that I never would have been able to achieve without my senior year art history class. 

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