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07 June 2009

Artomatic, Love, and the Exploding Brain

My wife and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary this weekend by attending the 10th annual D.C. Artomatic art exhibition. We're talking about something like 275,000 square feet of art gallery and performance space featuring some amazing (and some awful) visual art and live music and performances. And it's all FREE!

The temporary exhibition space is located in one of the new hypercontemporary D.C. office buildings that sits vacant because of the overbuilding that's taken place in Our Nation's Capital combined with the effects of the Great Recession. So, rather than the sterile offices of law firms, real estate developers, consulting firms and the like, there is something like six floors of art and sound, plus adult bevvies and food offered up by the Hard Times Cafe.

For me, this was such a wonderful way to spend my anniversary. Our honeymoon had been spent in Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels taking in mucho awesome art. I think our favorites were the Rodin Museum in Paris and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. At that time, I knew I loved art but now -- having experienced so much more of life and having learned a lot from incorporating artistic processes into my work as an educator -- I appreciate it so much more. That's an exciting thought because it means that my appreciation will continue to deepen as I grow older. This fact, in turn, is an exciting prospect because it means that there are good things about growing older, even though you fart more and get hair in weird places. So, going to Artomatic made total sense, and it cost us way less than traveling to Europe.

Earlier in the day, Jennifer and I had been sniping at each other over...guess what? Think: What do middle-aged couples with youngish children (read: requiring a babysitter) and summer camps to pay for, argue about? If you answered "money" then DING! you would be correct. So, the freeness of Artomatic was helpful. But we'd really done a number on each other so we kind of headed out of the house rather grudging and glum, trying to shake off our hurt feelings and mutual contempt for the others' bass-ackward thinking about things personal financial. On the subway ride to the Navy Yard, where that heretofore empty new office building is located, we got into another intense discussion about Jennifer's travails at work, which she needed to talk about and I wasn't in the mood to hear. Big Error on My Part. It was so intense, in fact, that we forgot to "de-train" at the appropriate station and had to double back, which gave us even more time to become angry, again, with each other. Doesn't this sound like a great date night? Somebody give me a Stoly, straight no chaser.

So we entrained on the green line back to the Navy Yard, detrained there and headed upstairs at 55 M Street, Southeast to become enveloped by art. After sampling some of the electric prog rock in the deafening, concrete first floor performance space, we shot up to the second floor. That is where we fell back in love. We fell in love with the art and, again, with each other. We remembered who we were and what mattered. Our lives are good. We are healthy. We have jobs and good friends. We have enough money. Our children are wonderful. We are the best of friends. Artomatic reminded us of what is important. Here were a lot of artists, most of whom are just extraordinarily creative and, I gather, quite poor, doing something they're passionate about and (mostly) good at. Blown glass, oils on canvas, sculptures and installations of all types, video, furniture, photographs, performance. Artomatic is everything in life.

And my brain? Well, it simply exploded with ideas and wonder. Neurons danced! I woke up. Cheered up. Got high without any alcohol or drugs. That morning I'd been in my shul (synagogue) reciting the Hebrew mantras and getting humble, reconnecting with the rhythm of nature and rejoicing. Artomatic enabled me to revisit those feelings in a different way. Art enables a person to see and feel things anew by seeing and feeling them through the artist's eyes. The artist sees things in a certain way and presents them to you and you may like them and you may not. The artist doesn't care.

Our painter friend, Pat Goslee had some of her wonderful, intricate, busy pieces on display. The one you see here is "part," one of a series Pat has done exploring "the notion of concrete space. A space that is at once empty and full." This image doesn't come near to doing the piece justice. You've got to just stare at the real thing for, like, several hours. I gave it about seven minutes and it worked on me. On her website, Pat has a quote by the critic Jerry Saltz that says "art is an energy source that helps make change possible."

If you live in the DC, then you must make a pilgrimmage to Artomatic. If you do not live here, then you must find art wherever you are, in person, and observe it. Art is all over the place and need not have been created by human hands. Do it as soon and as often as possible. If you're married, take in some art on your wedding anniversary or on a date night. Share it with your lover. When we observe art, we evolve. When we observe art together, we evolve together.
the notion of concrete space. A space that is at once empty and full, where a soul might find peace uncrowded by wars, words, and the opinions of others.the notion of concrete space. A space that is at once empty and full, where a soul might find peace uncrowded by wars, words, and the opinions of others.