Monday, January 06, 2014

Can Artwork Keep You Awake at Night?

When I first heard the quote by Donald Hess, "I only buy paintings that keep me awake at night." I wondered, what does he mean by that? My inner class clown quipped, (inwardly) "Does he own a collection of James Turrell or Dan Flavin light paintings?" While it is true that there are many Turrell's in the Hess Collection, the paintings that Hess is referring to are the ones he has seen and then after seeing them is woken up in the middle of the night able to "clearly see the piece of art in front of my eyes" To me this suggests a strong sense of connection.

What in a painting would wake you up in the middle of the night?

Robert Motherwell Elegy to the Spanish Republic

Diane Marsh Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Would it be bold shapes, contrast or color, a composition loaded with internal tension? A compelling or inspiring message?

Or maybe, a painting that needs solving? As an artist these do keep me awake at night, but that's a different subject. In this case I'm thinking of paintings that seem to contain riddles or point to something...other, beyond language, and that perhaps the clues are contained in the artwork if only one could decode them.

Anselm Kiefer Am Anfang, 2002

The other kind of painting that I imagine keeps one awake is one that is very beautiful. Those that make me want to get up and turn on the light and see it again. To sit before it, maybe with a glass of something, while I stay awake and look.

What about you? Has an artwork ever kept you awake at night?


Kathryn Hansen said...

not trying to suck up here...but those two large paintings in your home...i have thought A LOT about them. when i win the lottery, i'll be knocking on your door!

also, last years Laguna Beach art trip, i saw a beautiful painting of a tiger i fell in love with too and thought a lot about if i could afford it, sadly with two college bound kids i couldn't.

so, i would say i have definitely lost sleep over artwork!!

Katherine Kean said...

Thanks, Kathryn - I appreciate that! Especially coming from someone whose work is as beautiful as yours is.

I know what you mean. My imaginary collection is immense,

Jean Spitzer said...


Also have extensive imaginary collection.

Latest is an old and overexposed one. Still would love to have it. VanGogh's Starry Night.

Katherine Kean said...

Jean, that's a great addition to your collection!