In college, we did an exercise where my professor asked us to write down the names of ten artists. Then she asked us to cross off the names of those who were dead. Then cross off the names of those who were men. THEN cross off the names of those who were white. How many names were left on our list?
That was really a challenge to me, and opened my eyes to the fact that most, if not all of the names on my list were those of dead white guys. I loved this exercise so much I did it with my students every single semester I taught high school art. I wanted them to realize that there's so. much. more. to what art is and means and who can be called an "artist". This is one of the many reasons I have chosen pieces for my home from a variety of living artists.
I am therefore ashamed to admit that my favorite artist is, in fact, a dead white guy. He died 13 years before I was born. Insert laughter here. Ok, I know. Gimme a break, it's hard enough to "pick one".
My absolute favorite is Mark Rothko, and has always been. I'm obsessed with his work and the response his use of color stirs in me every. time.
It has been said that Mark Rothko began his career in painting after just wandering into an art class to meet a friend. He was so impressed with what was going on in that classroom that life completely changed direction for this Yale student. Insert comment about the awe-inspiring power of art teachers here.
One of the coolest things I've read about Rothko, is that once his work became more abstract in the late 40's, he started just numbering his paintings or just calling them by the colors in them. He did this because he said, "silence is so accurate", and held the position that giving the paintings names would sway or confuse the viewer and "paralyze their imagination". He wanted his work to be open for interpretation and each viewer's personal connection. I'm pretty sure every artist in the history of time would have been a tad more successful if they had only followed suit.
His work is simple yet moving. Did you know that color is THE single-most powerful component used in design, fashion, advertising... you name it? It's because color triggers an emotional response from us. Some colors are aggressive, some are happy, some are somber, some are calm. We relate to them in ways we do not relate to music, images, or anything else. Think about it!
I could go on and on about color, but I'll stop here and just give you a nice little sampling of Rothko's work. I promise you'll love it, too. Also, his paintings are HUGE.
|from our trip to San Fransisco's MoMA, June 2011|
|Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas|
Each one makes me feel a little different. These are just a few I found when I googled "Mark Rothko paintings". I encourage you do get out there and see a little more for yourself! What do you think of Rothko's work?