Saturday was Slow Art Day, an event that's been going on worldwide since 2009. It basically goes exactly opposite what many people's interaction with art is these days. Instead of shuffling through a museum trying to see as much as you can, or squeezing through a crowded gallery opening or First Friday event glancing at what you can, it encourages participants to really slow down and look at art. Instead of the average of less than 10 seconds, people spend 5 to 10 minutes with a single piece. After the specified time, they move to another, and so on. Afterwards participants get together to discuss their experiences.
The Slow Art Day event that K and I attended on Saturday was hosted by Jan Watten of Gray Loft Gallery in Jingletown. The gallery is currently featuring The Big Painting Show: Layers of Abstraction by 8 Bay Area Artists. There are 15 or so large pieces on display, and there were fewer participants, so it was a peaceful rotation to a new painting when the time had elapsed. The whole experience was very contemplative. Jan had classical music playing softly in the background, and a gentle harp sound to let us know when the time had elapsed.
K had to leave before the discussion (and sadly, before the lovely vegetarian lunch Jan provided), but to me the first part was worth experiencing and doing again, if nothing else. After spending 10 minutes of so in front of a number of pieces, we gathered for lunch and to discuss what we'd seen. Although most of the people in attendance were artists, only once or twice did the conversation veer into the off-putting "well this person clearly studied this artist/school of art, and what I learned in art school was..." Mostly it was about what people noticed in the paintings by slowing down to examine them carefully, what they liked or didn't, what the paintings made them feel. To me, it was simply a great opportunity to be forced to slow down and examine paintings I might not have given more than 10 seconds to otherwise.
Six 10-Minute Silences With Art
1. The blue-green places of rest
within the movement:
how beautiful that a stranger
created this space
2. It's a story, and I'm in it:
I've bitten the white part of the rind,
startling, pale, and dry
but I also know about the juicy red
3. How embarrassing to like it:
the cherry-chip cake I always
asked my mom for on my birthday—
obscenely sweet frosting—
I have to stay here:
a cloud-shrouded island
floats under the pink—
the "accidents" of the paint,
its omissions and splatter:
these are back doors left unlocked
to let in possibility,
a quiet midnight visitor.
5. Leave me alone with this:
If I speak of it now
it might disappear...
by K, 2013
Read more about Slow Art Day on Artnews.
More photos from Slow Art Day at Gray Loft Gallery: