August 17, 2015

Artful Bliss

When I decided to major in European Humanities, I was constantly asked "Ok, but what is humanities?" In some ways it is hard to define such a broad topic. When you refer to studying history it is still broad, but people understand that you are learning about the past. The humanities often encompasses a study of antiquity, but goes a step further. I chose my major because I wanted to study culture, and that is the focus of a humanities major. Literature, architecture, religion, art, and all forms of human creativity are studied, both past and present. I like the way that the Stanford Humanities Department explains it:

"The humanities can be described as the study of how people process and document the human experience...Knowledge of these records of the human experience gives us the opportunity to feel a sense of connection to those who have come before us, as well as to our contemporaries."

Since graduation and the onset of my post grad crisis, I have sometimes stopped and questioned if I chose the right major: "Maybe I should have majored in something more judicious like Communications or Business". However, despite these moments of self doubt, I am still sure that I chose the correctly in following my passion. Nothing makes me light up like the opportunity to see a great work of art, some great feat of humanity, and that's the kind of zeal I want to build both my future career and life around. 

My trip to Europe was, of course, the ultimate way to feed my love of art, Paris especially. 

Our last day in Paris was a wonderful and eventful one, beginning with crepes. 

Crepes and café au lait, naturally. 

Having satisfied our appetites, Brooke, Lindsey, and I headed to the Musée d'Orsay for the one thing (other than the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame) I was absolutely adamant about seeing. 

By some wonderful stroke of luck, while we were in Paris there was a special exhibit on Vincent Van Gogh going on, "The Man Suicided by Society"

To say I love Van Gogh is a drastic understatement. I adore his work and am fascinated by the man himself. To see an exhibit that so well encompassed the humanity of the man himself, connecting to his work, as well as, Antonin Artaud's body of work & life, was a dream come true. 

Pictures inside the exhibit were not allowed, but just imagine rooms full of famous works like Starry Night Over the Rhone and Church at Auvers. It was bliss. I could have spent the whole day wondering in circles around that exhibit. I would later spend days upon days writing my senior thesis on Van Gogh, so to have seen the actual works was the one of the most memorable experiences I had while in Europe.  

Eventually we had to leave the museum, as we had a long list of things to accomplish that day, but luckily, that was only the first art experience of the day, not the last. 

Before venturing to our next destination, we wandered around the Saint-Germain-des-Pres area, happening upon La Palette, a café of the Lost Generation where Picasso and others could often be found lounging.

You may think that after all my spewing about how wonderful art and the humanities are that the one place in Paris I would have not missed is the Louvre. Well here's my confession: we skipped it. 

Four days in Paris is not remotely close to enough time to see everything, and the idea of visiting a museum with some 70,000 pieces of art was just too overwhelming. Knowing myself, I would have made Brooke & Lindsey enter every room and examine every piece (this is probably literally impossible, but I would have tried). Still we didn't want to completely miss the sight, so we agreed that we would go to the Louvre, just not in it.

The world famous museum is quite the awe-inspiring sight, even without entering. 

Not completely losing the humanities theme of the day, we sat in the Cour Napoléon of the gargantuan building, examining the fascinating architecture.

The most notable piece of construction is the world famous glass pyramid entrance of the Louvre, which was not even inaugurated until 1989, and was fairly controversial before erected. Today, however, the work of Ieoh Ming Pei, the architect, is praised for his innovation and creating such a spectacular example of the possible synthesis of modernity and antiquity. 

It's hard to even imagine the Louvre without the pyramid, today. It has become an iconic beacon of what is arguably the greatest collection of art in the world. 

Just reminiscing about the splendor of Paris and its great collections make me long to return. I need to venture back so I can spend days upon days looking at all of the masterpieces that went unseen. I need to sit along the Seine, contemplating the marvelous nature of Paris, a city that has drawn in the world's most creative minds for centuries. I need to fall in love with the city all over again, though it seems I've never fallen out of love with it. Van Gogh got it right when he said:  

"There is but one Paris and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even, the French air clears up the brain and does good-a world of good."

Don't worry Paris, I'll come back to you one day. I made a deal with the Seine, but more on that next time.  

Yours, Kenna 

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