Ballerinas and Bathers

There’s something about Spring that gives me this need to surround myself with Degas’ work. The gold frames and pastel canvases always the mark the beginning of the season for me, so imagine my surprise when I saw that the Norton Simon Museum had moved their pieces around to create a gallery solely dedicated to the artist. Usually, his work can be found throughout (and it still can) but they moved the Little Dancer into a space of her own, and surrounded her with many of Degas’ most beloved works of art.
The dark gray dimly lit walls were perfection. It created the mood for what much of Degas’ work is known for – voyeurism (Oh, hello. Don’t mind me. I’m just creepily standing behind you. Keep bathing. Keep dancing). Many would disagree, and have argued that he simply enjoyed the ballet and was just capturing a moment. And that his bathers were just studies of form, not much different from his horses. I say, it’s not such a black and white topic. From what I know, he did not have relationships, he frequented brothels and spent most of his life painting. It’s not so far fetched to believe that a person who lives a life with no intimacy would be a voyeur. Today’s online culture is a key example of many desensitized people displacing intimacy with images, no?
One thing is for sure, Degas’s work ethic is one to be admired. He is proof that you must never stop being a student, and that it takes many tries (drawings, sketches, models) before completing your final product. Everything today is go, go, go … Looking at his study pieces is almost meditative for me and a reminder that the process of creation is far more important than the result (and many times, more beautiful). His sense of endless inventiveness and artistic curiosity is a huge inspiration for me, and I simply can’t imagine the month of April without a Degas fix.
I think it’s so crucial to not only surround yourself with art, but to make it a part of your life in some way. It awakens the senses and inspires the soul. I always leave a museum with a new take on the world and my surroundings, and still find it hard to believe how many artists like Degas were scrutinized for their vision. Yet, their masterpieces live on to inspire.

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