High Museum of Art

Trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta GA

The weekend before my second semester of MFA classes kicked back in session, I ran away to Atlanta for one last visit to the outside world.  After traveling four long hours in my car while listening to a podcast by Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, I made it from Statesboro, GA to the ATL.  All I wanted to do was get out of my car and have a hot cup of coffee at Cafe Intermezzo on Peachtree NE along with some cheesecake and possibly some real food, but mostly just cheesecake.

Molly Hatch Physic Garden, 2013-2014
Earthenware and Glaze
456 plates, each 9.5 inches in diameter

Aside from that, the biggest to-do on my checklist of adventures was to make a visit to the High Museum of Art.  I particularly wanted to re-examine a piece called Physic Garden that I had written a research paper on the previous semester by the ceramic artist and self made sales woman, Molly Hatch.  See my original plan was to go inside, take a seat on the log bench just opposite the plates and with my new found knowledge and rehash all of the original questions I had before I started to do research on her.  Needless to say, that did not happen.  Instead I became a walking encyclopedia for the plates on the wall and began explaining in detail about how they were made, where they came from, and what inspired their creation.  My friend who I was visiting the High with was unenthused by my excitement and walked off while I continued to spout interesting facts about Hatch's process.  As I continued to ramble not realizing the my friend had since left me, some museum visitors who clearly were interesting began to crowd me.  An elderly lady in the small group of six or seven people actually asked me some questions regarding how the glazes on the plates were made, as well as "where is the restroom ma'am?"  Clearly I had been mistaken for an employee of the museum due to my eagerness to spill the knowledge born from an intense eight page research paper.

All in all, what I got from this experience is simple.

I now have a greater appreciation for the modest looking plates on display at the High first and foremost.  Had I not been forced to stand in line at the coat check due to rain on my previous visit, I would have never taken an interest in them.  At first glance they just look like a large number of colorful plates on the wall as you enter the High through the revolving doors.  But now I know that there is actually an entire row of plates in storage and not on the wall due to a measuring mistake on behalf of the museum.  (The High Museum of Art actually mis-measured their own gallery wall...really guys, come on!)  I also now know that the physical plates are not even the original ones that Molly Hatch tried to order from overseas and that the original order was canceled a few days before delivery due to international shipping port authority issues.

It's tiny quirky facts like these that made me want to come back for another visit.  I wanted to see the piece with new eyes.

I also am slowly learning that I should always do a little research on the pieces of art that I see or read about.  In the past I would visit a museum as "something to do to pass the time" instead of visiting as a "way to gain new knowledge".  This has always been a big problem for me, and I believe it is a problem with most people these days.  Like any random stranger, I too enjoy mindlessly walking around the galleries, reading small captions, and occasionally getting yelled at by the guards for getting too close to a priceless piece of art.  It makes me feel good when I can come up to an artwork and I know something about it.  I feel like a genius for a brief moment...please tell me who doesn't love that feeling?  I'll go ahead and apologize in advance for butchering this recount of Art critic and Nun, Sister Wendy and her description of "what art is to people" through her description of Piss Christ by Andres Serrano. She basically says that "people are ok with art most often because it gives them something to relate to.  When it's not approachable or they don't have an moment of comfort because of its familiarity, it isn't held as good art and it gets forgotten."...just like most of the art I have viewed over my life time while aimlessly wondering through the museum.  Now I make it a point to do even a small google search on an artist name, a title of a work, or a gallery I walk past or hear of.  Like writing something by hand, I remember it better after taking the time and putting in the effort to actually look it up and read a few quick lines.

Inspiration Plates from Chelsea Factory ca.1775 in Permanent Collection at the High Museum of Art

Moral of this adventure:  Everyone should do this more often.  We have the world in our hands and who doesn't appreciate some instant gratification via the web.  But what we need to do differently, and I am retraining myself in this aspect daily... I am making it a point to do my "homework" and retain what I read rather than letting that insta-knowledge escape me.  No more drive by captions in the museum galleries of life, I want to learn about what I am seeing/hearing/reading/watching/doing/experiencing.

I pose a question to my readers who I have made it this far in my blog---when is the last time you actually took the time to look something up with the intent of learning about it, rather than just instant gratification?

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