2007-01-26 / Columnists

The Inner Voice

Commentary by Marilyn Gelfand

This week I had the opportunity to visit the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. I was listening to a book on tape and heard about an eccentric doctor who collected a vast amount of paintings and then had many stipulations on how the paintings could be hung, who opened a school for all to learn about art. Of course in the book on tape, there had been a robbery there from which the story proceeded. Based on where the museum was, even with a pseudonym, it was easy to realize it was the Barnes Foundation. Besides all the astounding artwork displayed, this medical doctor and drug inventor applied the scientific method to art. In so many situations in life, the facts are always there. It is the framework given to the facts that can change in the eye of the beholder. This was the first time that I ever saw that the owner aligned different artists from different centuries with furniture, pottery and metal hardware as from the Pennsylvania Dutch group. Each wall had common elements of light, space, color and form and the viewer was invited to see the common thread on each wall, which had a symmetrical display. No titles are allowed so that each viewer had to come to his own conclusions. The place had to be called a foundation because it wasn't a museum of dead art. The idea of co-relating paintings to each other was unique to me. Why do it? To Dr. Barnes, it was important to display that similar methods were applied in different locales at different centuries. On another floor, he had the elongated faces of Modigliani side by side with African masks as he felt that African mask sculpture was brought back to Europe in Modigliani's time and was the influence behind the long faces.

These days it is often hard to find the facts in life, but once you have them how you connect them is often told to us as a given. It is so important that we can connect the facts as we see it and not necessarily repeat what we are told thoughtlessly. The frameworks we choose in life are own creation and choice. Like people who live in the same line of apartments, each apartment can look different depending on the owner's choices and vision.

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