Traveling Without a Passport

 In Inspiration, Weekly Forum Discussion

Today I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see their Mystical Landscapes exhibit, which included works by Monet and Van Gogh among others. I have a special place in my heart for Impressionist painters. I fell in love with them – Seurat, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Whistler – in a first year art history class in college. I loved how their paintings were often textured, the paint so thick it looked like it might fall off if touched. They were able to use paint and brushes to convey the light across forests, flowers or haystacks, to capture emotion and subtleties, with semi-distinct brushstrokes. While it wasn’t painting that captured every detail, the nuance conveyed more meaning somehow.

A few years later I traveled to Paris and went to the Musee d’Orsay – the gallery for Impressionists. I had to mentally pinch myself – I was standing in front of the originals, not as captured in my textbook, but the true paintings, touched by the masters themselves. Later on, I would discover more about Canada’s own impressionists: The Group of Seven, Tom Thomson, Emily Carr. I have been to many galleries since Paris, and have found impressionists’ works along the way. A few months ago, there was an exhibit on Lawren Harris, one of the Group of Seven, and in this instance, a favourite painter of Steve Martin, who co-curated the show. I love his way with colours and how he depicts mountains, my favoured landscape.

Today it was the Grain Stack by Monet that captured my attention. I’ve seen it before, in books, but the light – how it was captured in paint…it was warmth and light, and on a cold December day, it was a good stand-in for sunshine. In the snowy winter day, in the city, I’m not likely out in nature quite as much, but being there, looking at landscapes, sunshine, bright, open blue skies on canvas, it brought light somehow to the day.

All to say that in many instances, art and travel go hand in hand. Art can take us places we may not go physically. Art, paintings, photography can take me places – that I haven’t been, and take me back to memories of places I’ve visited.

In this case, it’s about cities. I’ve been to Paris, but I would definitely go back. Berlin too. When I was there, they were still rebuilding after the wall came down (although that event had happened 10 years before I arrived). I would go back to Italy and see places with a few more dollars in my pocket. Much of the time though, there are so many new places to see that ‘going back’ seems to be lower on the list. My ‘want to see’ cities list isn’t as long as it used to be, but there are still a few: New Orleans, Chicago, Prague, Barcelona (see previous on Spain, of course), I would do Havana again, differently. Many cities have galleries, with art that allows me to step into other worlds, where I might catch up with an impressionist or two. And other artists too, of course. And of course, there is the art of cities, in their buildings, their music, their street art and graffiti.

I want those experiences, that art.

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