by Vala Schriefer
I like ideas that are hard to explain, concepts that no matter how deeply you analyze or
how far you chase, are always temptingly tinkering on the brink of the unknowable and the incomprehensible. I guess I like making myself confused. That’s why my favorite movement to study in art history is DADA. It’s like trying to explain a dream to someone; every time you think you’ve captured the essence, illuminated how the plot builds to that one revealing truth about yourself, it all dissolves, and the dream sits back in your mind knowing it is an incommunicable tenet of your subconscious. Art tends to have that quality; the ability to generate infinite questions, the ability to confound. I’d like to spend my life trying to answer those questions, and while I am at it, create some new ones.
Art history offers a cornucopia of complex inquiries, riddles that demand the mind to
reshape itself and to reconsider reality. While I find the expanse and development of the history of art as a whole utterly fascinating, I am primarily drawn to art of the last couple centuries, as I find it more closely aligns to my understanding of history and subsequently philosophy. When I look at this art, the questions start boiling over and the analytical spheres of my brain light up. How can I put into words the emotional gravity of Mark Rothko’s simple blurry squares? How can I express Richard Serra’s physics-defying manipulation of one’s own sense of space by just his bending of steal? How do I begin to articulate the irony and satire of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain? I can’t communicate it because I can’t recount a dream in its true form. Nobody can
really. I am, however, able to infiltrate an age-old conversation by creating art of my own.
I will always be drawn to the temptation of discovery, to the idea of birthing some
marvelously new and groundbreaking perspective that will change the world forever; to being god. I certainly have the arrogance to be an artist. I use my art tools to explore my own boundaries, the boundaries of the world, and to try to invent new forms. Sometimes I will sit down to have a long chat with Kandinsky about color, or argue with Picasso about shapes. I use art history as a guide, a mentor through my experiments with creation and destruction. The subject will always be the fuel for my analysis and the hands that craft my perception of the world. The more I learn of art history, the deeper my desire to question and create becomes.
I know I am venturing into dangerous territory. I know that I will be told that there is no
profit to be made, nothing to gain, that it’s just not worth the struggle. I cannot, however, silence the whisper of an Edward Hopper, or muffle the incantations of a Frida Kahlo, or quell the vibrations of a Jackson Pollock. I can’t help but become part of the noise, to scream. From everything I have learned from art history, I know success (in the traditional sense of the word) is not easy, or even likely. Despite the improbability of it all I am going to try to be god anyway. Getting a chance to enter the conversation, having a moment to take a bite out of history is all I hope for. Studying art history has guided me to the shaky fate of an artist, of a creator whose job is to ask impossible questions and try to delineate the mechanics of a dream.