Saturday, January 30, 2016

Where's all the art and other interesting stuff

Where’s the art?

Probably in storage in some museum somewhere. Quartz, a digital business news publication, surveyed 20 museums in 7 countries. While their survey was limited to the works of only 13 major artists, there is certainly enough information to draw some conclusions. Only a tiny fraction of art is actually available for people to view and enjoy. Much of the available work for viewing is purchased art, rather than donated art. And, of course, certain artists are better represented than others.

Cezanne and Monet were well represented, while Egon Schiele did not have a single work on display despite 7 different museums holding a total of 53 of his figurative works. Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art has 199 Rothko paintings in storage and only two are on display.

Since most museums consider archiving, storage, and conservation to be their primary purpose, it seems as if the public’s access to art is far down on the list of importance. One can only wonder how long these museums can keep stacking up the work. And exactly who is all this art being archived for?

Do people who grow up in the arctic see better in the dark? 

C. Anderson
Leave it to a cognitive neurophsychology specialist to try and find out. In 2007 Bruno Laeng divided about 250 students from the Arctic University of Norway into two groups: those born above the Arctic Circle and those born below it. Both groups took a test measuring color discrimination. People who live north of the Arctic Circle experience two months each year with no direct sunlight. The only natural illumination during the dark winters is twilight, which tends to have a bluish color.

Those people born above the Arctic Circle made more mistakes arranging the yellow-green and green tabs, but fewer mistakes arranging the bluish ones.

And in yet another study  Ohio State University psychologist Angela Brown looked through dictionaries for more than 450 languages and found that the closer people lived to the poles, the more their languages distinguished between blues.

Nature’s fractal patterns

Marcia Bjornerud wrote an excellent article for The New Yorker, “David Maisel’s Geometric Geographies” about  Maisel’s aerial photographs of Toledo, Spain,

“Classical geometry—Greek for “earth measure”—is not very earthly. We love the serene, eternal, incorruptible form of the circle, and the illusion of mastery that being able to reckon with it mathematically gives us, but the shape itself is rare in the natural world. . . Given enough time, nature prefers other, quieter motifs. Consider the dendritic geometry of a river system. Each tributary stream is fed by creeks, which are fed, in turn, by rivulets of progressively smaller size. Try to determine the system’s total length and a paradox emerges: the closer you look, and the smaller your measuring stick gets, the longer the river becomes. Each level in the hierarchy encloses a smaller but equally complex microcosm. No single scale is more important than any other. Such unruly geometries, which are known as fractals, are obvious and ubiquitous in nature—in weather patterns, mountain ranges, ecosystems . . .

"Architects and urban planners are, on the whole, still acolytes of Euclid. It is rare that a human system develops into a fractal; most become top-heavy, with a few outsize elements dominating form and function. But look closely at Maisel’s images of Vicálvaro and you can see nature reasserting itself, the wind and rain forming notches and rills around the edges of the simple rectangular blocks.”

How Real is Reality?

A while back I wrote an article titled “The Problem with the Real in Realism”. I was trying to address the issues of visual perception, learned symbolism, and the impact of language on how and what we “see”.  So, of course, I was drawn to this article by Adam Frank “How Real Is Reality?” on NPR.

 Frank’s article details the convergence of the brain-frying science of quantum mechanics and its intersection with philosophy. While the scientists are left scrambling to explain quantum weirdness, we can question the possible fractal pattern in the micro and macro worlds of reality. The Copenhagen interpretation posits that electrons don’t have intrinsic properties like position or spin. It is only the act of measurement (observation) that makes the electrons take on specific values.

Frank wrote, “Is there something out there independent of us that has specific properties in-and-of-it? Or is it all a mush of potential and possibility about which only our knowledge takes on a stable form?

"The fundamental question remains. How real is reality?”

Museums are keeping a ton of the world's most famous art locked away
Do people who grow up in the Arctic see better in the dark
David Maisel's geometric geographies
How real is reality
The problem with the real in realism