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A Closer Look

Slow Down for Art!

Posted by on Thursday, April 25, 2013
Up Close and Slow: Taking a good look at a work of art at Freer|Sackler.

Visitors take a good look at a work of art at Freer|Sackler (photo by Cory Grace).

Hillary Rothberg is an educator at Freer|Sackler.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. —Henry David Thoreau

The above quote is this year’s motto for Slow Art Day—and how true it is. While we may all look at an object together, what we see as individuals varies widely. And it is that subjectivity that makes art such a powerful tool. Some see the intricacy of design and technique in a piece of art; others see the emotion and poignancy in the story told by that piece. By slowing down and really taking time to view a work, we can deliberate on art in a meditative style, exploring its depth and meaning, and can understand better its craftsmanship.

On Saturday, April 27, the Freer and Sackler Galleries will take part in the rapidly growing Slow Art Day movement. We, along with more than 250 other art venues across the globe, will lead a group in looking at art objects. Then, we will discuss what we’ve discovered over lunch. It’s an opportunity to see and think deeply, and to share with each other the meaning of art in our lives.

Want to learn more about Slow Art Day? Check out this interview with founder Phil Terry on the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s blog, Eye Level.


2 Responses to “Slow Down for Art!”

  1. Jeff Gates Says:

    Welcome to the Slow Art Day community! And thanks for the pointer to my interview with founder Phil Terry!

  2. Kenneth Wrath Says:

    Henry Thoreau’s observation that, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” had me thinking that it was a good thing mankind developed writing. Art, specifically cave paintings, were our species first form of mass communication. I couldn’t help wondering how many times the story the original artist was attempting to tell through his or her art was misinterpreted by successive generations viewer. Were the paintings an inventory of local game, or instructions as to how best to hunt the animals portrayed on cave walls? Were the paintings created to praise animals because they were thought to be spirits, documenting hunts, or giving praise to the hunters? I believe Thoreau’s quote could have been extended to say, “… and it isn’t what you see, but the correctness of what you perceive that matters most.” The introduction of writing allowed for information to be passed on in a form that is much clearer as to the intent of the writer.

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