Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Art As Experience

Anchors Aweigh, Oil Painting by Melody Phaneuf, Private Collection

Josef Albers said that Art is not an object but an experience. It can be both, in the same way that a theatre production might be life altering to some, but to others it’s pleasant entertainment.

My own path from appreciation for the decorative to the realm of aesthetic experience began while viewing murals from Pompeii. Bob Hunter took our group of Vesper George Art School students to see the excavated walls installed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

I recall that the scale of the room was such that the figures on the walls were life size. The subject of the murals depicted the cult of Dionysus. As I walked around the room I was conscious that the scenes seemed to blend into one another seamlessly but it wasn’t until the finale, where the emissary of Dionysus strikes the initiate that I was stunned with awe. It was only then that I understood what being “moved” by a work of art meant. My body swooned under the crack of the switch.

Determination to understand the secret of my experience drew me into many years of studying abstract relationships of imagery. Ultimately, I surmised the cause of my astonishment to be a combination of a building rhythm of arcs coupled with identification to life size figures. The effect was like a tom-tom, which culminated with a final sweeping arc of the lash in the last scene.

It is more than fair to say that the murals of Pompeii transformed my life. Until then I had seen
making art as something enjoyable, but the idea of evoking emotion, of arranging the cause of aesthetic experience became my life’s journey.

Art should at the very least, I think, ameliorate its surroundings. But the greatest art should transport us beyond ordinary experience.

Above, murals from
The Villa of Mysteries, Pompeii


Boston Artist, Melody Phaneuf is well known for her evocative still life, landscape, and portrait paintings. Her paintings are regularly on view at The Guild of Boston Artists, 162 Newbury Street; at Fenway Studios, Boston by appointment; and North Shore Art in Gloucester from May through October. Phaneuf ‘s paintings have been exhibited at The National Arts Club in New York City, Galerie Herouet in Paris, and with Art du Monde, in Japan.

Melody The Artist Home, founded with photographer and color specialist, Martha DiMeo, features Phaneuf’s original oil paintings on tumbled marble tile murals and beverage coasters, fine art prints, and handmade note cards.

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