Painting outside the lines

Posted On July 24, 2010

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Words by Sary Valenzuela, 14

The author imitating one of Picasso’s ladies.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as “The Met”, is one of the largest art galleries in the world located at the eastern edge of Central Park in New York, USA. It is home to more than two million works of art and five thousand years’ worth of cultural masterpieces from every part of the globe. “The Met” prides itself for having nearly five million visitors every year! So, when I visited the museum, I expected no less than to see only the most beautifully crafted artworks in the universe!

After walking through the main entrance, one would already be stunned by the lobby’s elegant interiors. Giant arches serve as welcoming gateways to differently-themed galleries with dome-like glass ceilings that serve as natural light sources for energy-efficiency. The marble floors and towering pillars seem to pay homage to the Renaissance period which was, after all, the “Golden Age” of art.

After strolling around for hours, I felt like I had been transported through time and space to witness the best of what artists and engineers of different nationalities had to offer. I was mostly awed by the strikingly yellow vacuum cleaners, eccentric but functional stools and chairs, thousand-year-old china plates, animated junk metal creations, laminated oak dressers, ancient African boats, and golden Mayan treasures looted by the conquistadores! I was also pleasantly surprised to find a corner full of Philippine cultural artifacts in the Old Asia gallery which brought out the Filipino pride in me.

I also stumbled upon another wing of the museum that featured statues from Ancient Greece which made me marvel at how sculptors chiseled whole slabs of marble with such precision and detail. Then came my “up close and personal” encounter with timeless artworks of people and landscapes that looked more like photographs taken by a good camera than things that were painted by small brushes and a steady hand! It was mind-boggling to see the artist’s mastery of simulating natural light and attention to detail (right down to the faint color of veins under the skin)!

By the end of the day, I was exhausted but I mustered enough energy to view the Met’s most popular collection: the Van Gogh Paintings. I couldn’t help but overhear countless visitors asking for directions to the exhibit all day. This made me imagine what kind of wonders the collection had in store for me. At first, I thought I was in the wrong room because the paintings there seem to have been made by a talented ten-year old boy who was not afraid to paint outside the lines and splash bold colors.How could such child-like work be deemed as “magnum opus,” meaning “great work” in Latin?

Then I realized that you don’t need to paint or sculpt like a Xerox machine, able to copy life exactly the way it looks like in reality. I remember complaining often to my dad about how crude and child-like my drawings were because they didn’t look real in any kind of way. Van Gogh taught me that being a great painter only requires one to be true to oneself and to paint in one’s own unique style that would reflect who you are and how you truly feel. Now if your artwork happens to inspire people in a way that makes them feel good about themselves and the world in which they live, you just might have a priceless piece of art in your hands.

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