Each year, museums around the world celebrate Slow Art Day—a day when we encourage guests to slow down, take their time, and savor great works of art. I, for one, have always had difficulty taking my time exploring galleries. I want to see everything, so I sprint through admiring the whole, but missing everything great about the individual parts. Fortunately, I’ve recently had the discipline to slow down and really look.
The circumstances of my new-found patience may not be ideal—I threw my back out—but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I have spent the last week of my life doing things unhurried—I’ve been sitting longer, reflecting more, and prioritizing my time and energy. As a relative busy body, it’s been really refreshing. Everyone should have the opportunity to explore the world at a leisurely speed—it’s a fascinating place!
And so, I’ve celebrated Slow Art Day all week. Today, I gently shuffled into the galleries and perched myself in front of Asher Brown Durand’s iconic oil painting, Kindred Spirits. Durand painted Kindred Spirits in memory of Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole. The image depicts Cole with a sketchbook and flute in the midst of conversation with his friend, William Cullen Bryant. Bryant was a poet who often wrote about the same beautiful landscapes depicted in Cole’s artwork.
Plugged in to the audio guide, I listened to the voice of Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi as he introduced the work , saying, “In order to actually see a painting like this, you need to forget that it is Kindred Spirits—that iconic, famous, infamous image, and look beyond that… It’s a good starting point.”
He’s right. There’s just so much happening in that one painting beyond its iconic status and monetary value. It’s the story of friendship and loss; it’s a romanticized reality depicting a constructed landscape; it’s an exploration of the relationship between art, nature, music, and poetry. And then there is the detail, texture, and depiction of light—how have I not appreciated this before?
Having hobbled back to my desk, I feel inspired and excited by the knowledge that there is a wealth of artwork left to explore. I’ve worked at Crystal Bridges since the day it opened to the public, and there’s still so much I have yet to see.
Slow is a state of being that I’ve come to both understand and embrace. Join me and immerse yourself in Slow Art Day on Saturday, April 12—no back injury necessary. A full schedule of Slow Art Day experiences is available on online.