Modern art was never my cup of tea. I enjoy mainly old oil paintings of the French impressionism era by Oscar-Claude Monet or Eugène Boudin, with their gaudy ornate shapes, romantic pastel colors, and vivid, rich nature—or the incredible juxtapositions and surprising idiosyncratic combinations in the surrealistic fantasies by Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. But not modern art, with its minimalistic and bold lines, simplistic shapes, and daringly loud colors. To me, modern art is too much about the hidden, and too little about the visible sense behind a painting. But, I do realize that I might be wrong in labeling all modern art with one cliche, thus I am always open to new experiences. So, when my friend invited me to a gallery exhibition by Jack Long last week, whom I had never heard of before, I was quite enthusiastic about it. When I saw the works by this artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I was truly amazed.
The exhibition comprised of a collection of the photographs that the artist had named “Vessels and Blooms.” I have seen instant photography pictures before, but nothing that artistic. It usually looked like a set of bright and juicy splashes of colored water, beverages, or paints captured randomly, with no particular order, except for the combination of shades that would look aesthetic or contrasting together. But, what Jack Long has done is a completely new level of instant photography combined with fine art. The artist (I believe it would be wrong to call him simply a photographer, since what he does looks more like paintings than like photography) creates amazingly beautiful pictures using water, dyes, pigments, and thickeners, shaping them into flowerpots of lilies, tulips, roses, peonies, and orchids. These exceptionally realistic, glossy, and bright three-dimensional images—with a hint of movement to them, which made the pictures somewhat romantic—instantly mesmerized me. The artist captures a single moment and does more than just preserve it. He creates the art during those milliseconds of beauty that flickers in front of us, and that our eyes would not be able to capture otherwise.
One image had a particularly strong impression on me. It was a bright orange flower on a plain wide background. It resembled a fragile poppy, being torn apart by the wind, vulnerable to the air attack, but so beautiful and breathtakingly tender. The primarily orange flower had mustard yellow specks and inclusions that formed a subtle and elusive transparency of the flower’s pestles. This evasive and tenuous image reminded me of the fragility of nature’s beauty, and its vulnerability under human’s influence and the polluting impact of our existence. The delicateness of this image, and the beauty of the idea, hypnotized me. I could not look away from this magnificent picture with which I instantly fell in love, so I just had to purchase it. And now this frail and gorgeous orange flower on a dainty brittle stem is what I look at every day, and instantly remember how precious the feeling of happiness is. I cannot help but associate this meringue and airy flower with love and happiness—so imperceptible, volatile, and eluding, yet so magical and breathtaking at the same time. Thank you, Jack Long, for the inspiration and fervor that one of your works brings into my life every day now!
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