May 8, 2004

Meet My New Friend, Duncan Phillips

Filed under: Art and About Me — admin @ 4:06 pm

I have never had an answer for the hypothetical question, if you could invite any three people from any period of history to a dinner party, who would they be? Then I saw “Renoir to Rothko: The Eye of Duncan Phillips” on PBS and now I know that at least one of the seats right next to me at the table would be saved for my new best friend Duncan.

There is a lot about Duncan Phillips that makes us soul mates. From the early 1920s until the mid-1960s, Phillips was a critic, collector and patron of the arts, and particularly a champion of modern art in America. He opened his Washington D.C. home to the public as the first museum devoted to modern art in the United States.

Although our artistic tastes are disparate, the core belief system to which Phillips committed his life makes me a great admirer. He believed art had the power to comfort, transform and redeem an imperfect world. He believed all works of art had this power, whether they came from major or minor sources, from a composer’s pen or a painter’s brush. He exhibited the art on his walls in a viewer-friendly manner, inviting people to sit in a comfortable chair and commune with the artist.

As I learned about Phillips in the documentary, and then continued my research about him on the Internet, I was continually whispering “yes, yes, yes.” But one of his tenets particularly struck me. He always bought local art because he thought it was an important marker of time and place.

Bells went off in my head as Phillips’ notion introduced me to this new approach to forging a relationship with art, no matter what a person’s personal definition of art may be. Seeing art as a marker of time and place appeals to both the history buff in me, and to the way I view everything in the world as potential fodder for a scrapbook. It is not, however, a concept that I have had in my conscious mind, although subconsciously is has been part of my modus operandi.

We already have a strict dictum in our house that nothing goes on the walls that doesn’t have meaning. And we call everything on the walls “art,” even though we may be the only ones calling it that. We find these objects to be beautiful, but more importantly, they are markers of time and place for us, and the people and experiences that go with those markers. We are surrounded by the scrapbook of our lives, we are enveloped by physical manifestations of our own personal history everyday. This explains why I have trouble taking down the small watercolor from San Juan, Puerto Rico, that we were given for our wedding by a friend. We have never been to Puerto Pico, but our friend grew up there and so while we are cohabiting with that watercolor, we are actually living our daily lives with our friend.

It makes so much sense now. When kids are growing up, the walls of their rooms are often the first place they post indicators of current passions – rock stars, movies, school events, photographs of friends. Siblings who share a room often bicker when their personal markers clash in the combined space. The artful reflection of ourselves on the walls makes a very powerful statement.

We may not all have Phillip’s eye or inclination for filling our homes with universally accepted works of art, but we are all founders of the (Your Name Here) Museum when we open our doors to the public.

1 Comment »

  1. 1archipelago…

    Trackback by 1thailand — January 12, 2022 @ 8:21 pm

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