Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

Water Lilies at the Nelson

Last weekend Marc and I found ourselves at the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City. We had two reasons to be there: three panels of Monet's Water Lilies are on exhibit through the summer, and last year the museum renovated the rooms around the American Indian collection.

The Water Lilies was amazing, of course, but Marc and I couldn't help but feel a little conflicted about it because we're so used to celebrating starving artists depicting the raw pain of life, and here we are looking at giant panels painted over a course of years in a serene garden. Oh but not just any garden, one owned and cultivated by the famous artist and his hired gardeners.

My favorite Monet piece at the Nelson is definitely Boulevard des Capucines, completed in 1874, 41 years before the Water Lilies panel they have was even started. It's a painting of people on a Paris street on a gray dismal day, with only a few bits of color from street vendors. All the people are just going about their activities, living their lives at that moment, captured as if you can feel their mood. The space around them is beautiful.

Water Lilies is plants, painted over a period of decades. Investigation has shown that Monet painted and re-painted over them, making the piece more muted and watered down over time, if you ask me the repainting made it feel more like a memory. I don't feel like any concrete emotion was communicated. It's too broad. Of course it made me feel tranquil and serene but is that really the point of art?

Mom's going to hate me for this entry, she loves Water Lilies. The more I think about that the more I find it to be a little ironic, since this is the same woman who loves folk & protest music from the singer-songwriters in the 70s. She and Dad both have implied to me that it was vain and naive for disco to come around and divorce real messages from the music of the day... people liked disco because they could go dance and move with the music and forget about the wars and inequality and turmoil that Woodstock-era songs were about. So here's Water Lilies, painted while world war I was starting to spin up... is abstract expressionism the disco of the 1920s?

Anyway I'm not an art expert, haven't studied it extensively, all I know is how I feel so take my ponderings with that salt. I'd still recommend the exhibit because there's lots of good information about the paintings and they're displayed beautifully, on a curved wall, low to the ground, you can get three feet away from them and feel really "in it". But Water Lilies is not going down as my favorite thing I've seen at the Nelson.
Tags: kansas
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