Ms. Panky, what is the function of an art museum?

The art forms we see exhibited in our museums typically fall into the general heading of sculpture, painting, and photography. These objects embody the good, the true, and the beautiful. They are usually ageless in that they have passed the critical judgments of time.

Here at the Modern Art Museum of Calquier, it is expected that each of our visitors, away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial world, will experience the serenity, excitation, appreciation, orientation and/or sensual gratification that emanates from these treasures. We hope that each visitor will carry away some new perspective or insight about the reality of the world or the self.

You almost speak of art as a religion.

The appreciation and apprehension of art are spiritual endeavors; art lifts our souls; in a serene and peaceful environment, art carries us away from the mundane world and permits us to grasp a part of reality in a new way. As I traverse the corridors of our very old brick edifice, away from the exigencies of daily necessity, I often imagine that I am in a temple.

In fact, where resources permit, the outside of an art museum is as much a work of art as the inside. Architecture is one of the art forms. Since the urge to present art is holistic, it does not terminate, in the minds of the art curators, with the doors of the building; its spirit and modus vivendi extend to the very grounds.

In this regard my mind turns to Fort Worth. Here we find the Amon Carter museum, designed by Philip Johnson, the dean of American architecture. Here we find the Museum of Modern Art, arguably the most beautiful piece of architecture in the world, designed by the world renowned Tadao Ando. Here we find the Kimball art museum, designed by Louie Kahn. The outside of each of these museums is a complement to the inside. Their unique and focused landscape and architecture carry us away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial world. They form a gateway to the serenity, sensual gratification, apprehension, and mind-altering experiences within. These institutions remind us that there is life beyond the world of commerce. Art is comprehensive in its reach.

I have a limited understanding of art in general and rarely appreciate modern art.

Where shall I begin? The painting has always been the mainstay of artistic expression. When photography came along, the artist realized that painting must be perceived to express more than can be depicted by the photograph.

Robert Bechtle of California, who painted primarily from the 1960s through the 1990s, actually started his paintings with a photograph but the final work adds a dimension that the photograph cannot.

Bechtle, soon to be featured in a retrospective by the modern art museum of Fort Worth, paints in a genre known as photo-realism. As the name implies, it is a step beyond the photo. Bechtle depicts a stark stillness and alienation to common scenes of everyday life: the house, the auto, and the people. His works capture first and foremost an experience postwar California. One will leave the gallery not with the remembrance of painted pictures but with the assimilation of postwar quotidian Californian culture.

Just as photo-realism is a step beyond the photograph, the evolution of art is connected and continuous. The modern artist, the impressionists, the minimalists have their roots in past. It is just that the artist is one step ahead.

What makes an art museum distinctive?

Art museums share an identity with all activities that are deeply interactive with the life and concerns of the community. They are a treasury and they display and share treasures. These treasures are more than objects; they are experiences.

Unlike most individuals, the artist is at play. He is driven to create an expression of the mind or that of reality that is of interest to his own self rather than one impelled by pecuniary concern. He is autonomous; he is free to create from the depths of his soul.

Our art museums are like the artist. Socrates tells us that the unexamined life is not worth living. Contrasted with most of the buildings that we see in our daily activities, dedicated in one way or another to the purpose of creating wealth, the art museum stands as a temple of nourishment to the soul where one can experience beauty, explore meaning, alter perspective, enrich sensory awareness, and play. Art can tell us something about ourselves.

Thank you Ms. Panky for sharing these ideas with us.

H. Louise Panky is the Assistant Curator for traveling exhibits at the Calquier Museum of Modern Art