Ecstatic Moments

I'm currently doing Alyson Stanfield's Blast Off course. It's challenging and intense but I'm finding it incredibly revealing and useful. One of the daily lessons was about reconnecting with what made us want to be artists in the first place. Here's what I wrote on the subject:

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I've been thinking back to some of the ecstatic points in my life that made me an artist.

1. I would have been about 16 - 17. I was still in secondary school and we were taken on a visit to Glasgow university. I had some free time and went into the Hunterian art gallery, where I was utterly transfixed by a full size Victorian/Edwardian painting of a woman. I can't remember who it was by - I think it was possibly John Singer Sargent - but I sat there for about an hour, totally engrossed in it, with tears running down my face.

2. Standing in the Sacré-Cœur in Paris with clear December sunlight streaming through the Rose Window while the choir sang in Latin.

3. Seeing Eva Hesse's drawings for the first time - I'd always loved her sculpture but the subtlety of her grey-toned drawings blew me away when I saw them in real life.

4. Walked round a corner in the Pompidou Centre and being confronted with Cubist paintings by Picasso. I was in my early 20's and had only been seriously drawing for about three years. I had seen them previously about two years before and been singularly unimpressed - at the time I liked the Impressionists and I thought Cubism was 'modern rubbish'. However, when I saw them for the second time I'd done a lot more art history reading and I suddenly got it. It was a surprisingly visceral moment, like a punch to the stomach! It's a moment that's stuck with me because it reminds me that even if I don't initially like or understand a piece of art, it's always worth taking a second look because my understanding of the visual world is constantly evolving.

But my defining moment was when I was 18 years old, sitting in an English lecture at college and getting absolutely FURIOUS at the way the lecturer was completely pulling this book apart and remaking it in his own image. I found it so disrespectful, I was sat there thinking, "write your own damn book, mate!" and it suddenly hit me, "I don't WANT to do this, I want to be the person MAKING things, not the person analysing other people's things!"

Now I look back and I think, yes, THAT was the moment when I stepped through the looking glass!

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I've had many other meaningful encounters with art in my life but those are a few that stand out. Was there a defining moment in your life that took you down the path you're on now? Have you ever experienced a piece of art that overwhelmed you with emotion? Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear about it...

20 thoughts on “Ecstatic Moments

  1. I was taken to the Picasso retrospective at the Tate (the one that is now Tate Britain) and I had an inspiring art teacher at the age of 14! It's good to remember where the inspiration for art came from! Thank you Kirsty

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    You're welcome, Rosie. And it was great to hear your memories too.

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    You're welcome, Rosie. And it was great to hear your memories too.

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  2. I was taken to the Picasso retrospective at the Tate (the one that is now Tate Britain) and I had an inspiring art teacher at the age of 14! It's good to remember where the inspiration for art came from! Thank you Kirsty

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  3. I was taken to the Picasso retrospective at the Tate (the one that is now Tate Britain) and I had an inspiring art teacher at the age of 14! It's good to remember where the inspiration for art came from! Thank you Kirsty

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    You're welcome, Rosie. And it was great to hear your memories too.

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  4. For me, there have been many art experiences which filled me with emotion. I had such a "moment" earlier this year. I was honored to attend a lecture by Richard Tuttle at the Miami Art Museum. While waiting for it to start, I looked around and saw a room full of people from many walks of life, with one thing in common- their love of art. I felt overwhelmed with joy and something I cannot explain. As someone living on a tiny Caribbean island, I rarely have such opportunities to even look at art, much less the chance to attend anything of this sort. I realized how very blessed I was to be, temporarily, completely engulfed in the subject of art, that at that moment, tears came to my eyes. I embraced this feeling and kept it with me. It somehow reminds me to forge ahead with my own art career, regardless of the situation and limitations of my present location; and to never take for granted any opportunity for artistic growth.

    Your post is beautifully written. I enjoyed it very much. Quite moving.

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    What a beautiful comment, Stephanie, thank you!

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    What a beautiful comment, Stephanie, thank you!

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  5. For me, there have been many art experiences which filled me with emotion. I had such a "moment" earlier this year. I was honored to attend a lecture by Richard Tuttle at the Miami Art Museum. While waiting for it to start, I looked around and saw a room full of people from many walks of life, with one thing in common- their love of art. I felt overwhelmed with joy and something I cannot explain. As someone living on a tiny Caribbean island, I rarely have such opportunities to even look at art, much less the chance to attend anything of this sort. I realized how very blessed I was to be, temporarily, completely engulfed in the subject of art, that at that moment, tears came to my eyes. I embraced this feeling and kept it with me. It somehow reminds me to forge ahead with my own art career, regardless of the situation and limitations of my present location; and to never take for granted any opportunity for artistic growth.

    Your post is beautifully written. I enjoyed it very much. Quite moving.

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  6. For me, there have been many art experiences which filled me with emotion. I had such a "moment" earlier this year. I was honored to attend a lecture by Richard Tuttle at the Miami Art Museum. While waiting for it to start, I looked around and saw a room full of people from many walks of life, with one thing in common- their love of art. I felt overwhelmed with joy and something I cannot explain. As someone living on a tiny Caribbean island, I rarely have such opportunities to even look at art, much less the chance to attend anything of this sort. I realized how very blessed I was to be, temporarily, completely engulfed in the subject of art, that at that moment, tears came to my eyes. I embraced this feeling and kept it with me. It somehow reminds me to forge ahead with my own art career, regardless of the situation and limitations of my present location; and to never take for granted any opportunity for artistic growth.

    Your post is beautifully written. I enjoyed it very much. Quite moving.

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    What a beautiful comment, Stephanie, thank you!

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  7. This is a lovely post. I'm only figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing now so I don't have similar memories to share. But there have been some similar experiences in my life where I've been really moved by art, I just never thought that I could actually make it my career. I guess they're like signposts I missed! I remember that Art was the one class I actually enjoyed in school, and how shocked and proud I was when one of my prints was chosen to be in an exhibition. I remember going to the Louvre on a family holiday in France and being so moved by the beauty of some of the impressionist paintings, it was the absolute highlight of the trip. I remember going to Venice in college with 2 friends who had no interest in art and I split up from them for an afternoon to go to the Peggy Guggenheim and how that was such a joyful experience basking in art and beauty for an afternoon. And so many more. You've got me thinking now! I must go write them down. great post! :)

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    How lovely to hear about your joyful experiences in Venice, missmilki. These are the moments that really stick with us, I find. If you're considering taking a more creative direction in your life, I highly recommend the book, Creating A Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd - it's a very practical guide to moving towards a creative career.

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    How lovely to hear about your joyful experiences in Venice, missmilki. These are the moments that really stick with us, I find. If you're considering taking a more creative direction in your life, I highly recommend the book, Creating A Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd - it's a very practical guide to moving towards a creative career.

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  8. This is a lovely post. I'm only figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing now so I don't have similar memories to share. But there have been some similar experiences in my life where I've been really moved by art, I just never thought that I could actually make it my career. I guess they're like signposts I missed! I remember that Art was the one class I actually enjoyed in school, and how shocked and proud I was when one of my prints was chosen to be in an exhibition. I remember going to the Louvre on a family holiday in France and being so moved by the beauty of some of the impressionist paintings, it was the absolute highlight of the trip. I remember going to Venice in college with 2 friends who had no interest in art and I split up from them for an afternoon to go to the Peggy Guggenheim and how that was such a joyful experience basking in art and beauty for an afternoon. And so many more. You've got me thinking now! I must go write them down. great post! :)

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    Reply
  9. This is a lovely post. I'm only figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing now so I don't have similar memories to share. But there have been some similar experiences in my life where I've been really moved by art, I just never thought that I could actually make it my career. I guess they're like signposts I missed! I remember that Art was the one class I actually enjoyed in school, and how shocked and proud I was when one of my prints was chosen to be in an exhibition. I remember going to the Louvre on a family holiday in France and being so moved by the beauty of some of the impressionist paintings, it was the absolute highlight of the trip. I remember going to Venice in college with 2 friends who had no interest in art and I split up from them for an afternoon to go to the Peggy Guggenheim and how that was such a joyful experience basking in art and beauty for an afternoon. And so many more. You've got me thinking now! I must go write them down. great post! :)

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    How lovely to hear about your joyful experiences in Venice, missmilki. These are the moments that really stick with us, I find. If you're considering taking a more creative direction in your life, I highly recommend the book, Creating A Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd - it's a very practical guide to moving towards a creative career.

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  10. Thank you so much for that post, Kirsty. I started writing a comment, speaking of my shaking knees in the Chartres cathedral, or how overwhelmed I found myself in front of the Masaccio fresco in Florence (whereas I'm *really* not that fond of italian art in the first place...) and then realized my comment would be much longer than your post, so perhaps that means I should make a post on the subject too!

    I'll just share one of my biggest epiphanies, as it was the first time I was overwhelmed by contemporary art, and this epiphany is called Mark Rothko. It was in 1999 (I was 24), in the Musée d'art Moderne in Paris, I had never heard of him and I visited a big retrospective of his work... and oh my, I didn't understand why and how I could be so overwhelmed, but I was, and it was not far from being a mystical experience. I was lucky enough to see another important Rothko exhibition in 2001 in the Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland (one of the most wonderful place you can imagine in so many aspects) or some of his work in permanent collections of museums in London or San Francisco, and I've never been disappointed, the magical effect was always there...

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