Learning to Look from LA Times’ Christopher Knight

Writing and talking about the art of slow looking can be difficult. Fortunately, Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times does it really well. And as we all get ready for Slow Art Day 2022, we can learn a lot from him.

A talented writer, Knight avoids ‘Art Speak’ and instead helps us slow down and look, as in this article, Baroque painter gets her due at last about the artist Artemisia Gentileschi and her painting Lucretia.

Knight looks slowly at her painting, Lucretia (below).

ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI’S painting “Lucretia” (J. Paul Getty Museum)

Here’s a great example of his observational (and writing) skills:

Light falls from murky darkness at the upper left, establishing a spectral diagonal exactly opposite to the figure’s spatial thrust toward the upper right. The dagger points directly to the place where the two diagonals cross. X marks the spot. Head tossed up and back, eyes fixed heavenward, Lucretia is about to stab herself to death.

In this passage above, he doesn’t give us a lesson on Baroque Art, he helps us see the light and dark; the composition; the position of the figure; the twist of the body; the grasp of the dagger; the contrast between the surface textures of skin, fabric and metal.

Most of all, he shows us that it’s all right there in the painting if we just slow down and look.

Final point I’ll make: Knight starts with the art and only after he has reviewed the work itself does he then get into the history, the patriarchy, and even the ‘discovery’ and celebration of Gentileschi as a Feminist icon. This is precisely how we want Slow Art Day participants to look – first at the art, then and only then might we move to a discussion about the history and theory.

Hope your planning is going well for Slow Art Day 2022.

This year I will be leading a Slow Art Day event looking at sculpture art in Heisler Park, which is a lovely outdoor park above the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach, California.

Hedy Buźan
Founding Host, Slow Art Day

Hedy Buzan is an artist and founding host of Slow Art Day. She also helped launch the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, an annual arts festival in Southern California. 

Slow Art Day is committed to publishing posts like this from our hosts around the world. Here are some tips.

2021 Annual Report – Get Inspired!

Our 2021 report is now available for you to review.

Read it and get inspired by your fellow slow-art-loving educators, curators, and artists.

As of 2021, Slow Art Day events have been held in more than 1,500 museums around the world.

Yet, we continued our second decade during the second year of the pandemic with many museums and galleries still closed in spring of 2021.

Despite the closures, 110 organizations registered for Slow Art Day 2021, and we received 37 reports, which we catalog in this annual report as a way to encourage sharing of best practices among our global community.

So, take a look and get inspired as you design your 2022 slow looking sessions.

And thank you for helping us grow in our second decade (2021 was our 12th year!) – and for all you do to remind the world of the power of art to bring all of us together as humans deserving of respect and inclusion.

Best,

Ashley, Erica, Jessica Jane, Johanna, Maggie, Phyl, and Richard

P.S. We are thinking now especially of our Ukrainian colleagues (several Ukrainian museums registered for Slow Art Day again this year). We cannot imagine what they are going through.

Make (and Love) Art not War – Slow Art Day 2022

We’re excited that a growing number of museums in the Ukraine are joining Slow Art Day 2022. We thank them for reminding us all of our shared humanity (and love for art) in a time of tensions and troop deployments.

The latest Ukrainian organization to register is The Khanenko Museum, which holds Ukraine’s largest collection of European, Asian, and ancient art.

Of course, Slow Art Day 2022 will be happening not only in Kyiv, but all over the world.

In fact, it will be our 13th annual celebration of the power of slowing down, looking at, and loving art.

Educators, curators, artists and others have planned wonderful sessions everywhere from South Africa to Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Finland, UK, Belgium, Australia, Latvia, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, New Zealand, across the U.S. and Canada, and many other places and spaces around the world.

If you have not yet registered to host a Slow Art Day event, then please sign up.

– Ashley, Jessica Jane, Johanna, Maggie, and Phyl

P.S. Our 2021 annual report comes out next week and is chock full of great ideas to inspire you in the design of your 2022 sessions (while waiting, you can review the 2020 and 2019 reports).

Slow Art Day Annual Report Coming Next Week

We are excited to announce that our Slow Art Day 2021 Annual Report, which details the hard work and creativity of educators, curators, artists, and docents from around the world, will be published next week.

For those of you designing Slow Art Day 2022 events, this report will inspire and guide you in the design of your slow looking events.

In the meantime, you can also read our 2020 and 2019 annual reports, which are also chock full of good ideas for running Slow Art Day events.

And if you have not yet registered your museum or gallery for 2022, then please sign up.

– Ashley, Jessica Jane, Johanna, Maggie, and Phyl

P.S. 73 museums and galleries have already registered for 2022 including the Olena Kulchytska Art and Memorial Museum in Lviv, Ukraine, The Met Cloisters in New York, the National Gallery of Singapore, the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and many, many others (see the full list).

Slow Looking with the New York Times

Host Essay by Hedy Buźan

Have you ever wondered “Okay. –  So, how do I start ‘Slow Looking’?”, or, if you are a museum educator, “How do I help a visitor slow down?”

One answer comes from the interactive art appreciation online New York Times column Close Read, written by critics Jason Farago and Arthur Lubow. They use an observational technique to closely examine work as diverse as an Albrecht Durer self portrait or a Jasper Johns abstraction.

Of course, being art historians Farago and Lubow bring context and relevance to the exploration, but this extended way of looking is a possible model for advanced slow looking sessions.

(Ed: For museum educators designing events, Slow Art Day HQ recommends a simple approach that allows participants to discover that looking slowly with no prep or expertise can be transformational; to that end resources such as this step by step process used by Brigham Young University Museum of Art for their first Slow Art Day in 2021 can be quite useful.)

While I have done a lot of slow looking (and slow painting) in my life, this series helped me see even more clearly.

This is what I notice about the Close Read method:

  • The critic starts by taking in the whole object and thinking about what it is – a figurative study of an interior/ exterior environment, a landscape, a ‘documentation’ of a historical event, or a self portrait.
  • Then they get specific describing the characters the atmosphere and the general feeling of the piece. (Incidentally, back when I was an art teacher, I would ask my students to start a critique by describing the image to a blind person, naming all the parts as specifically as they could- I found this tool helped students start really looking).
  • Then the critic starts in with observing parts. Noticing. Noticing. Noticing. The pose, the background, the brushwork, the characters- primary and secondary – the light and the dark passages.
  • Once the parts are named the critic becomes curious about each one and what it might represent- They ‘Sit with it’ and let the work reveal itself. Asking themselves: Why is this compelling?
  • As they notice they ponder: Why this depiction? What could that possibly mean? How does it expand the meaning of the work?
  • Finally they embrace context- comparing it to other works, putting it in cultural and historical context, and inviting us in to a deeper understanding.

We can expand our Slow Art experience by adopting some of the techniques above including reading about the artist’s life, comparing one artwork to another, and by looking at the works of the artist’s influencers and contemporaries….but remember our main focus, especially with the public, is on the simple art of L O O K I N G with no expertise or historical knowledge required.

If you want to read more, I recommend beginning with their wonderful piece on Jasper Johns, How a Gray Painting Can Break Your Heart.

“In Memory of My Feelings — Frank O’Hara”, Jasper Johns, 1961.

Enjoy!

Hedy Buźan
Founding Host, Slow Art Day

Hedy Buzan is an artist and founding host of Slow Art Day. She also helped launch the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, an annual arts festival in Southern California. 

Slow Art Day is committed to publishing posts like this from our hosts around the world. Here are some tips.

Can Digital Help the Slow Art Movement?

Freelance writer, Rebecca Hardy Wombell, asks about the role of digital in building the slow art movement in her recent article for MuseumNext, where she also documents the history of Slow Art Day and our relationship to the Internet.

We originally launched Slow Art Day as an antidote to the negative effects of the Internet – effects I had already begun to see in 2008 while running a digital consulting firm helping companies like Apple and Facebook. For years since then, our rule at Slow Art Day has been simple: we can use the Internet to evangelize slow looking, but the events must be in museums and galleries and definitely *not* online.

Of course, the pandemic forced us to go online and so we pivoted and quickly taught museums how to use Zoom and the basics of how to run slow looking sessions virtually.

From there, many galleries and museums all over the world used their creativity and ingenuity to design Zoom-, social media-, video-based and hybrid events, as well as some in-person sessions where possible (all of which Wombell documents, and which our 2021 annual report will summarize when it’s released in February).

Best,

Phyl, Johanna, Jessica Jane, and Ashley

P.S. You can read Wombell’s full article – Can digital technology help us to learn to look slowly? – on MuseumNext, or visit her website, Words of Art, to learn more about her.

How to Submit a Guest Post

At Slow Art Day, we welcome guest posts from the educators, curators, and artists who host Slow Art Day events around the world.

Posts should be:

  • short (no more than 400 words)
  • connected to art, artists, and the art of slow looking
  • written with language that is both accessible (light on jargon and “art speak”), personal, and passionate

Here’s a good example of the kind of writing we like to publish:

Reflections on the Life and Death of Artist Wayne Thiebaud

Hedy Buzan writes with a depth of knowledge about the artist, but with ordinary words and a passion for this artist. She provides a video where he takes a slow look at a painting at The Met and a link to an essay he wrote in 1981. She concludes with a terrific quote from the artist that helps the reader think in a new way about art and the act of creating it.

To send a post for us to consider publishing, please take in mind the above and email us at: info@slowartday.com (or, if you are a host, then you know how to directly contact us).

Reflections on the Life and Death of Artist Wayne Thiebaud

Host Essay by Hedy Buzan

Wayne Thiebaud died on Christmas Day 2021 at the age of 101.

Thiebaud was one of the most important American artists of our generation. Mis-described as a “Pop Artist”, Thiebaud’s work was simultaneously accessible and deep, rooted in art history and slyly funny, idiosyncratic yet universal. His work, accessible in print and online but always best seen in person, was thick with glorious impasto and color nuance.

American in his subject matter – he famously painted still lifes of cakes and pies, but also archetypal figures and landscapes of the vertiginous hills of San Francisco and the rolling Sacramento Delta. Thiebaud was eclectic in his influences: there is as much Matisse, Daumier and Cezanne in his works as there is the influence of Hopper and Disney. Moreover, Thiebaud had a brilliant mind, as evidenced in this 1981 essay A Fellow Painter’s View of Georgio Morandi.

Thiebaud was always looking, looking, looking, and open to the new. This brief video by the Morgan Library gives some insight to his constant evolution as an artist (as well as a look at some of his great work).

At the end of his life he did a series of paintings of the most hackneyed subject in American art – clown paintings – and made them into a transcendental experience.

An exhibition of his work was shown last year at Laguna Art Museum. While Covid restrictions prevented a Slow Art Day there, my review for the local paper can be read here.

Moreover, Thiebaud the man was humble, approachable and kind.

You can see that in this video below where he takes a slow look at Rosa Bonheur’s “outstanding” painting, The Horse Fair.

Thiebaud had a second home in Laguna Beach and loaned and gave works to the local museum, as well as mentoring artists up to the final year of his life. He liked to work in the mornings, play tennis, take a nap and work again in the afternoons. He drew daily. He loved to teach and each of the three times I’ve heard him lecture he repeated the same anecdote:

“I love to ask students, especially beginning students one question: ‘Who is painting the painting – you or the painting?’ They invariably answer ‘I am painting the painting’ To which I say ‘Wrong answer! You need to follow the painting and see where it takes you.”

What wonderful words of advice, as regards painting and life. 

Hedy Buźan
Founding Host, Slow Art Day

Hedy Buzan is an artist and founding host of Slow Art Day. She also helped launch the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, an annual arts festival in Southern California. 

Slow Art Day is committed to publishing posts like this from our hosts around the world. Here are some tips.

Slow Art Day Bikeride to Sarehole Mill

To celebrate Slow Art Day 2021 when museums were locked down in England, artist Jo Essen, based in Birmingham, UK, organized a slow looking bike ride to Sarehole Mill.

The historical mill, today a museum and bakery, is well-known for its connection with J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He once lived across the road from the Mill, and it inspired his writings about Middle-earth.

Picture from the surroundings of Birmingham. Photo credits: Jo Essen.
Picture of nature. Photo credits: Jo Essen.

Essen shared an online video from the bike ride, and encouraged others in the pandemic lockdown to get out and do some slow looking. “It was wonderful to be involved in slow looking even when we were not able to visit museums,” said Jo Essen.

So, while the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Norton Simon Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and many other large museums ran virtual (or in-person events), and while a number of smaller museums and galleries also ran Slow Art Day sessions, 2021 also included Jo Essen and her family looking slowly at nature and architecture.

Love that!

This report is a fitting final post for 2021, especially as we and the world struggle through yet another wave of the coronavirus. (Note: you can read all of our 2021 published reports, or wait for our 2021 annual report to be published in February of 2022.)

We hope you have a wonderful new year wherever you are in the world. And perhaps take some inspiration from Essen and go out and do some slow looking at nature, architecture, public art, or in museums and galleries, if they are open in your area.

Stay safe and healthy and get ready for yet another year of building the slow looking movement.

With love,

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Mindful Slow Art Day in Singapore

For their first Slow Art Day, the gallery ARTualize in Singapore, Singapore, organized a Mindfulness with Paintings session, encouraging participants to combine mindfulness with slow looking.

On the 10th of April, ARTualize opened their two-hour session by introducing participants to some mindfulness techniques. Participants were then invited to look slowly and mindfully at selected paintings, including Low Hai Hong’s 海天一色 (literally: Sky and Sea). This was followed by discussion.

Low Hai Hong. 海天一色 (literally: Sky and Sea), from the collection Passion in Living – Paintings of Indonesia. Courtesy of ARTualize.

 

The gallery also hosts regular ‘Mindfulness with paintings’ sessions to get more people to discover the joy of looking at art. Sessions are held every Sunday from 2 to 4 pm.

Paintings on display in the gallery are also available for rent to give people the opportunity to experience the art in their own homes. Exhibited works are changed every two months. Click here to learn more.

At Slow Art Day HQ, our mission since 2010 has been to build a slow looking and mindfulness movement around the world. As a result, one of our goals has been to use the annual event to inspire museums and galleries to host regular slow looking sessions throughout the year.

We are happy to see that ARTualize are both participants and leaders in this movement and look forward to whatever they come up with for Slow Art Day 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

P.S. If you would like to follow ARTualize’s updates, you can follow them on their Facebook page.