By Kristin Hoerth
As I write this, the Winter Olympics are in full swing, and it’s fascinating to watch as the national conversation shifts to focus on this event. Suddenly, discussions in the media and around the dinner table turn to topics that few people have thought about for four years, and which few people will think about again for another four years: A sport called skeleton? Just what is “nordic combined,” anyway? A Facebook friend of mine just posted a long note about how much he’s enjoying the curling competition, mentioning various teams’ records and highly anticipated upcoming matchups. I suppose it’s a combination of novelty, discovery, and national pride that makes it so easy to get swept up in the excitement.
And I’m right there with everyone else. The other night I stumbled upon the ice dancing competition, which stresses rhythm, interpretation of music, and precise steps. I have to admit, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Instead, I was immediately captivated by the creativity of the skaters’ elaborate costumes and choreography, inspired by everything from flamenco to country to folk music. The routines were smooth and flowing (worlds apart, in my opinion, from more traditional figure skating, in which the jumps don’t always seem very well integrated). When the announcers pointed out the importance of the circular patterns left on the ice by the skates, I realized just how artistic this sport really is. I was watching the intricate footwork so closely, in fact, that I didn’t even notice one couple make a pretty serious mistake: The man lost his grip on the woman during a lift, but my attention was on the steps and the rest might as well have been invisible.
Thinking back on this experience a few days later, I was struck by a parallel in the world of visual art. I had been so focused on beautiful movement that something less attractive escaped my notice. Artists, I think, do this intentionally all the time—they put their attention (and their viewers’ attention) on the beautiful and ignore the other aspects of a scene that don’t move them. Landscape painters do it when they play up the glowing quality of a sunset; figure painters do it when they emphasize a model’s striking eyes. Taking artistic license, they enhance the aspects of life that matter most to them, and that’s what makes art such a wonderful way to communicate. -April 2010
CORRECTION: In Sculpture of the Rockies, the recent book from the editors of Southwest Art, the cover photo of TOPAZ LACE by Andi Mascareñas was credited incorrectly. The photographer’s name is Alexander Harvey. We regret the error.