When people post pictures of things, I’m often more interested in what’s in the background. If a person is posed in a room, I’m looking at what else is in the room. What is the context behind the subject?
I’m not sure where that comes from, except that I try to notice things that go unnoticed, or aren’t in focus, or are deemed uninteresting. Sometimes I see things that are interesting, many times, not, but I always find myself looking around the subject of a picture.
Especially in paintings. In a painting, everything that’s there was put there on purpose, which automatically makes it interesting to me. Sometimes there are messages hidden in those things, symbols, statements, meant to go unnoticed. That’s what’s great about art – you don’t have to be obvious to be subversive.
In photographs, the things in the background aren’t always there intentionally – we tend to focus on the subject, and ignore the background. But what is unintentionally captured is interesting in that it was not a focus but can sometimes be revealing by accident…like little whispered confessions.
I like art. I wouldn’t say I love it – I don’t go the art museum more than once a year, and when I do, there are certain sections I always skip. I don’t know too much about different artistic movements or historic periods. And there are certain types of art I really struggle to appreciate.
However, since the election, I found I had to limit my exposure to the news and to certain social media sites. I really just needed to take some time to process, and decide what to focus my time, energy, and money on over the next few years doing what little I can to try to make some little bit of difference in this dumpster fire of a situation our country is in. Harm will be done, and things will get worse. I need to leverage my whiteness to start supporting those who lack privilege, and to do my part to battle white hatred. It’s not a question of if, but when and where – I’m thinking through how I can best leverage my privilege and my skill set.
But I needed to cocoon myself for a bit first, and it’s art blogs that have been preserving my sanity. I was desperate for something to look at that didn’t worsen my anxiety, so I started following a Pre-Raphaelite art blog. Then another one. Then a blog about fashion in art. Then some focusing on various historical periods.
They’ve been soothing. I’ve been taking the time to look at not just the main focal point of the painting, but at the details. The background. Some of the blogs I follow actually emphasize this, offering close ups of small details. I try not to let anything go unnoticed. It’s all there for a reason.
In the past, I’d use literature as a form of escape from feelings of anxiety and rage and helplessness. But being as how I work full-time and I’m a full-time graduate student, I can’t always do that. But I can take 15 minutes here and there to scroll through some art blogs, let my mind empty, and just appreciate the image in front of me.
Just being silent for a few moments, and looking, and seeing, and appreciating…it does wonders for my mental state.