Cari Wolfe talks about looking at art 2010.03.24

Written by David Green.


With every work of art, there’s the visible and there’s also the invisible.puryear.ladder.jpg

Cari Wolfe, a curator and educator with Michigan State University’s Kresge Art Museum, challenged her audience last week at Morenci’s Stair Public Library to  go beyond the obvious and look for the invisible.

“You can’t have the visible without the invisible,” she said. “Think about what you’re visibly seeing but also what you can’t see.”

With the visible, Wolfe spoke about the struggle to set aside existing knowledge.

“Tell me what you see, not what you know,” she said. “It’s very difficult with art.”

She used Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother, 1936” photograph as an example. The iconic photo shows a mother and her three children, suggesting the despair experienced from continuous poverty.

Don’t think about your preconceived notions of the Great Depression when studying the photo, Wolfe said.

“Sit with it, relax with it, spend some time with it,” she said. “Art isn’t doing anything; you have to do the work. When you think you’ve looked enough, look again.”

Wolfe spoke of the need to search information about the work to uncover the invisible. What’s the background of the artist? What was the intent of the artist? Was there a patron involved? What was the culture in which the piece was made? Is there a theme?

“These are all things that are invisible at first when you look at a piece of art,” she said. “To make the invisible visible, I think you really need all of these things together to be able to truly read a work of art.

“It’s fine to walk by it and look at it and find the color beautiful and then you walk on by. But to fully appreciate it, you need all of it. It puts another perspective on it.”

Wolfe explained the background of several Picturing America reproductions and she asked audience members for their ideas.

Wolfe sees the Picturing America as a powerful program for understanding American culture.

Many of the 40 reproductions of American art are on display at Morenci’s Stair Public Library and many other libraries and schools across the country.

Although Wolfe is a promoter and educator with the Picturing America program, she’s quick to point out a shortcoming.

“Go to the museum,” she urged. “See the texture of the painting. See how the paint was applied. See the depth of the photo.”

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016