The Renaissance Man called last night to see if Learner wanted to meet him this morning at the local art museum for some research/appreciation of a current exhibit featuring the Hudson River School artists. (In addition to finishing up his last semester at seminary, TRM is a teacher at a classical school, and is planning to bring his students to the exhibit at the beginning of September.)
Having his Greek final behind him (“it went well enough,” he reported, in case you were wondering) and always one for culture (“despite growing up without much of any,” he mumbled), Learner said he would go, inviting me to come along as a chaperone.
We met TRM at 11:30, paid for the exhibit, and began walking through, looking at the paintings. Thomas Cole, Frederic Church – these men and others, TRM explained, lived and painted between wars (Revolutionary and Civil), when America was still being explored, but also beginning to be settled (think Lewis & Clark exploring the West and Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman waxing eloquent about nature, solitude, etc.).
Artistically, just about every painting was filled with amazing light and atmosphere (“a precursor of Thomas Kinkade,” Learner pointed out, though he did so with some disdain for his work – something about his paintings being “like velvet Elvises in 50 years,” whatever those are). And yet, the origin of the light (the sun) was never fully present in the works. The glow was obvious; the source, however, was not in full view, a metaphor, TRM postulated, for the Romantic period’s perspective that nature was supreme and truth existed, though not necessarily tied to one source.
It was an enjoyable hour, one in which Learner said he was glad to serve as a guinea pig for TRM’s field trip in a few weeks, as well as expand his own art education, which (like just about every other topic of study at his high school) was barely presented. This ever-increasing awareness of how poor a high school education he received has, in the past few years, become one of Learner’s biggest discouragements, as he feels behind the powercurve of what everyone in his or her mid-thirties should know about culture and the world.
Trying to be helpful, I reminded him that he at least knew a little about Thomas Kinkade and velvet Elvises.
“My point,” he said.