Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Exhibition has Midwest feel

June 13, 2012

The Lois Dodd exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is like the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” — a must-do, must-see experience. Dodd’s work, created largely in New York or Maine, has a Midwest feel to it. Maybe because it has clotheslines, gardens or outbuildings, and windows, looking out; so many windows.

Or maybe because the lecture I attended was by a Midwestern curator, who spent her growing up years here in Bonner. Whatever it was, it had a Midwest feel to it. You look at Dodd’s paintings and you say to yourself, “I know you; you are familiar to me.”

The “Exotic Marigold Hotel” movie was like that; set in India; so far away, yet so familiar. Was it because it was about a group of so-called older people, who were looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we all seemed to find familiar, that seeking and not quite finding that particular something?

The Kemper curator at the time, now also director, Barbara O’Brien, opined that biography is destiny, that we all have an innate predisposition to be part of a community. Kathleen Norris, in her book “Dakota, A Spiritual Geography,” is of the opinion that geography or the landscape shapes our character, molds our souls.

In that sense, Lois Dodd’s art work; the “Marigold” movie, and Kathleen Norris all point to a common understanding of humankind: that we need to be connected, we need to be and feel part of a larger whole; that we need community — to feel connected, to belong. We seek and search and do not find, because it is right under our very noses; too close to be seen.

I was listening to the lecture on Lois Dodd, and was struck by how true Dodd had remained to herself and her art. After she learned the basic techniques, she developed her own, if she were a writer, we would say voice; perhaps of artists, we say style. Whatever it was, she developed her own way and stuck to it.

In the movie, those who were the most lost had, at some point in their lives, departed from some truth in their life, that had they stuck by it might have found happiness or least fulfillment.

I have a friend who is a writer. When I met her, I think she had published 50 books; she has now published more than 300. More than all the awards that she has won, and advanced degrees that have been bestowed upon her, is the basic truth that she stayed true to herself and to her writing. All her children are accomplished writers and artists as well.

There is contentment to being true to oneself and one’s destiny, as it were. It is after all our truth and our destiny. It was Willa Cather who said that what we all ascribe to is to be part of something greater than one self, to be part of a greater whole; our destiny.

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