Today we toured the New Mexico Museum of International Folk Art. The main exhibit is in the room the size of a basketball court. It is filled with part of the Girard Collection, the life time acquisition of Alexander Girard and his wife. Mr. Girard was a designer who worked for Herman Miller.  The room we toured had 10,000 pieces of folk art, toys, miniatures, and textiles. It is only 10% of the entire collection, which the museum has stored somewhere. Mr. Girard arranged the collection display.  There are textiles on the walls, and cases of incredible miniatures and folk art figures from about 100 countries.  It is arranged to demonstrate the universality of folk images and folk life.  We were so overwhelmed with the sheer visual density and the colors and places of origin crammed into interconnected display cases that we could only view a small part of it.  It is not something you can ingest in one visit. Every display was full of meaning. If you get a chance, look up Girard Collection for some photos of this overwhelming collection.

 When have you been overwhelmed by art? What art is accessible and what art is difficult for you to appreciate?

37 thoughts on “Overwhelmed”

  1. The Girard Collection reminds me a little of my favorite museum, the Shelburne in Vermont, although the Shelburne collection encompasses full-size folk art objects and even buildings, not miniatures. This article aptly describes its attractions:

    The John Kohler Museum in Sheboygan, which celebrates folk and outsider art, is also fun and well worthwhile.

    Another fascinating collection, although not collected in the usual sense is the Steamship Arabia Museum in Kansas City. It’s a display of the cargo of a steamship that sank in the Missouri River in about 1854 and was quickly buried in the mud. When it was excavated, the river had shifted and the ship was deep beneath a farm field. The anaerobic quality of the encapsulating mud kept the cargo in amazingly good condition. The museum comprises room after room of the sort of goods going to the frontier in the early 1850s—many tons of it. The quantity and variety is overwhelming and the collection continues to grow as items are stabilized (they otherwise deteriorate quickly now that they are exposed to air). The Arabia Museum is unique in that everything on display is from the same exact year. It’s a slice of time.

    Regarding accessible versus inaccessible art, even though I’ve been involved with art all my life, I still prefer representative art, including folk art, to abstract art and especially to pretentious abstract art. I have difficulty accepting art that is valuable and deemed museum worthy because of who created it and not for any apparent qualities of its own. That includes much of what poses as conceptual art.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I have been to the Girard, out on the edge of town with some other museums. I agree, it is a very busy museum, but I also really enjoyed it and did not feel particularly overwhelmed.

    I feel emotionally overwhelmed when I go to exhibits of Native American art—not the gooey, big-eyed romanticized art, but the exhibits of past and present art by real Native Americans. The Heard Museum in Phoenix, etc. There is just something about it that hits me hard.

    I had difficulty feeling overwhelmed by the Louvre in Paris, as well. It is so large. We tried to see it without a docent tour, and I think that was a mistake. While some tours do not provide much of anything, the Louvre might be meant for a tour just to highlight some information and to provide context. The main thing I wanted to see in the Louvre was the Mona Lisa. Hung immediately below it was a voluptuous nude which attracted the attention of some pubescent French boys, who were clustered in front of both paintings, snickering and interfering with my sight-line. So irritating. Maybe a Docent could have elbowed through.

    We did a tour of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. That helped me understand the development of art in the city during the Renaissance, and before that. This was 2004. The Docent was pre-occupied with the re-election of GWB, and he also pegged us as Americans, clearly assuming we voted for the guy. Therefore, his artistic insights were peppered with barbs about the state of politics and governance in the USA. Can’t imagine his comments now!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I also was in the Uffizi in about 2004. I was disappointed that the Botticellis were under heavy plexiglass. It seriously obscured the paintings. I understand that the plexiglass has been taken down since then.
      Did you also go to the Bargello?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I don’t know if I’ve told this story before but when I was in Paris with a client we had about an hour for the Louvre which is absolutely ridiculous. But we had a small French guide with us and she was fierce. We got into the Louvre, saw the Winged Victory, The Frieze of Archers, Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa and then we were out!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I am far more likely to be underwhelmed than overwhelmed by art. Examples would include rap music, abstract art, much modern dance, techno-music and any form of absurdist art (music, poetry, theater, painting, novels). I’ve tried hard to like (or even tolerate) such things. At my age, that seems a wasted effort.

    The one time I was truly overwhelmed was when I toured the House of the Rock (although the collection of objects there is “art” only by accident). Words cannot describe that place. It is a bogus home turned into a phony museum that was filled to overflowing with faux antiques manufactured to be museum displays. The whole thing started as a project to spite Frank Loyd Wright, which is a clue to the deceptive and malign spirit that founded this thing. The sheer number of sham historical objects is ultimately staggering, and the only word that seems to fit is excrescence. The relationship of the House on the Rock to real historical collections is like the relationship of Donald Trump to authentic political leaders.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have heard that about House on the Rock.

      Poetry is difficult for me to appreciate. I haven’t exactly figured out why, it just is… too many words maybe! 🙂

      My dislike of Christmas music is well know; can’t appreciate that either and I don’t know why that is either.

      Can I talk about lighting as art and the concerts of TransSiberian Orchestra? Fun music and fun presentation, but so SO MUCH! It is overwhelming; just too much to take in at once.
      It is “spectacle” for good or bad.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have a hunch, Ben, that one reason a lot of people struggle with poetry is because at some point in high school they had a teacher whose approach to poetry is described in the last two stanzas of this Bill Collins poem. I suspect you’d feel a lot more comfortable and playful about poetry if you had had a teacher like Mr. Collins.

        Introduction to Poetry

        I ask them to take a poem
        and hold it up to the light
        like a color slide

        or press an ear against its hive.

        I say drop a mouse into a poem
        and watch him probe his way out,

        or walk inside the poem’s room
        and feel the walls for a light switch.

        I want them to waterski
        across the surface of a poem
        waving at the author’s name on the shore.

        But all they want to do
        is tie the poem to a chair with rope
        and torture a confession out of it.

        They begin beating it with a hose
        to find out what it really means.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Thank you Garrison Keillor and Writers Almanac I used to hear a bit of poetry and I do know of Billy Collins.
          I like the verse about “Tie it to a chair and torture a confession out of it”. Yep; That’s the mindset I come at them with.

          Here’s one I know:

          “Coffee Cup Café,” by Linda Hasselstrom from Land Circle: Writings Collected from the Land (Fulcrum Press).

          Coffee Cup Café

          Soon as the morning chores are done,
          cows milked, pigs fed, kids packed
          off to school, it’s down to the café
          for more coffee and some soothing

          “If it don’t rain pretty soon, I’m
          just gonna dry up and blow away.”
          “Dry? This ain’t dry. You don’t know
          how bad it can get. Why, in the Thirties
          it didn’t rain any more than this for
          (breathless pause) six years.”

          “I heard Johnson’s lost ninety head of calves
          in that spring snowstorm. They
          were calving and heading for home
          at the same time and they just walked
          away from them.”

          “Yeah and when the cows
          got home, half of them died
          of pneumonia.”

          “I ain’t had any hay on me since that hail
          last summer; wiped out my hay crop, all
          my winter pasture, and then the drouth
          this spring. Don’t know what I’ll do.”

          “Yeah, but this is nothing yet.
          Why in the Thirties the grasshoppers came
          like hail and left nothing green on the ground.
          They ate fenceposts, even. And the dust, why
          it was deep as last winter’s snow drifts,
          piled against the houses. It ain’t bad here yet,
          and when it does come, there won’t be so many of us
          having coffee.”

          So for an hour they cheer each other, each story
          worse than the last, each face longer. You’d think
          they’d throw themselves under their tractors
          when they leave, but they’re bouncy as a new calf,
          caps tilted fiercely into the sun.

          They feel better, now they know
          somebody’s having a harder time
          and that men like them
          can take it.

          Liked by 3 people

    2. Steve, you got to the House on the Rock before I did. That was so overwhelming it was almost torture. I prefer smaller exhibits with more unique pieces then tons and tons and tons of stuff.


  4. I have a sneaking suspicion that part of being overwhelmed was due to altitude. I became quite physically worn out walking around the museum and the busy art really did me in.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Most visual art museums are overwhelming to me, probably because there’s just too much to absorb in one day, which is what I try to do – of course, it’s usually on some vacation and that’s all we’ve got..

    So the ones I really enjoyed were the little Russian Museum (one of the Baboons’ first outings) in S. Mpls, and the Georgia O’Keefe in Santa Fe. I also enjoyed some of the smaller cathedrals in Paris, which were treated like museums.

    Poetry – I have to have someone accessible – if I have to read a stanza three times to get it, not gonna happen. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of great stuff, but …

    Music is the one where I can appreciate ALMOST anything, exceptions being the ultra-modern-discordant or heavy-metal-loud, and some voices where they just seem to be yelling (forever). And dance – I frequently share unusual dance things of FB…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m seriously enjoying the return of The Writer’s Almanac. For some reason Garrison Keillor and I are on a very similar poetic wavelength. I often really like the poems that he’s chosen for the day.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice post, Renee. Glad you’re taking advantage of free time to explore the environs of Santa Fe and what it has to offer.

    I’m assuming the header photo is from New Mexico Museum of International Folk Art? If that’s true, and your description of it is accurate (which I’m sure it is), I’d be able to take it in only in very small doses. To use a phrase from the film Amadeus, “too many notes.” Visually there are just too many details to take in, and if you don’t, you really miss the essence of the display.

    While I suppose some would consider it a major faux pas to not visit “the” great art museum(s) when you happen to be in town, I think it’s also true, that it’s impossible to take in these museums in just one, or even a few visits. The mere scale of them is forbidding.


      1. I heard a new one today, PJ, that fits this theme: Eat the biggest frog first. Translation: most of us from time to time face the need to do things we’d rather not do. What, then, should we do? Eat the biggest frog first.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. This is how I like to live my life. I like to do the hardest stuff first. To get it over with. I also eat the cake out from underneath the icing and save the icing for last. To savor.


  7. I don’t know if overwhelmed is right term to use for how I felt the first time I saw Rodin’s sculpture The Burghers of Calais, but it stopped me dead in my tracks. It is such a powerful piece. Even if you know nothing about it beforehand, the anguish and utter despair that it captures is almost palpable. Here’s a link to it if you’re not familiar with it:
    It’s an incredible story told in bronze.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was thinking, the movie ‘All that Jazz’ with Roy Schieder and Jessica Lange is powerful to me. I have the complete audio soundtrack on my computer and as I get into tech week next week I’ll start listening too it. So many thing strike home of putting on a production. I pick out new tidbits everytime I listen too it. And I’ve heard it a hundred times.
    This exchange is one of my favorites:

    Joe Gideon: No, nothing I ever do is good enough. Not beautiful enough, it’s not funny enough, it’s not deep enough, it’s not anything enough. Now, when I see a rose, that’s perfect. I mean, that’s perfect. I want to look up to God and say, “How the hell did you do that? And why the hell can’t I do that?”

    Angelique: Now that’s probably one of your better con lines.

    Joe Gideon: Yeah, it is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t mean it.

    and this one always makes me giggle uncomfortably:

    Joe Gideon: I always look for the worst in other people.

    Angelique: A little of yourself in them?

    Joe Gideon: A little of myself. And generally, I find it.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. i am a huge fan of abstract. mondrian picasso pollack all started out doing subjects like bowls of fruit then they got it. it not the bowl its the vibe. if you want it to look just real life a photo is the ticket.
    if you want the soul to shine then the bowl is a vehicle. little dolls dresssed up like grandpa could be art or it could be scrap booking. i like folk art whirley gigs and patterns of fabric but a room full of dolls is like pez dispensers in house on the rock… meh…
    my cousin dan jones has an opening tonight in st paul at grand hand gallery. i am sorry to be so late posting. i had my earlier post wiped out twice by the wp gods. he does landscapes as art but to the educated art eye it is abstract expressionism done with landscapes . he studied art history and plugged in all the stuff i blew off. he can paint like the masters but chooses to do it like this. (dan jones studio).
    mondrian, picasso pollock all started painting still lifes and models . it evolved into soul. if you want a picture of the bowl of fruit its good and
    you get to study lighting and perspective and color relationships but for soul the fruit becomes the vehicle and if the bowl disappears altogether its ok
    collections are ok but baseball cards bottle caps hub caps pez dispensers dont do it. collections of art . yes folk art yes, classical art yes, abstract art yes. conceptual art i will give it a shot but i dont often get it and dont like being preached to. if you have to explain it you lost me.
    pollacks splattered paint looks like you can do it yourself… you can . do it..its wonderful..

    Liked by 2 people

  10. One of the times that I was most awestruck by art was seeing the David by Michelangelo in Florence. I’ve seen many pictures over the years of the David and I even have the David magnet with the magnet outfits, but I was unprepared for how unbelievable it is in person. They had to drag me out after 45 minutes of just standing there.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. the one in the plaza or the room where they had it in 4 stages of its progression?

      the carving was remarkable when you saw the stuff he had to deal with to get it done

      unbelievable and remarkable

      amazing what you can did with vision


    2. david…the one in the plaza or the room where they had it in 4 stages of its progression?

      the carving was remarkable when you saw the stuff he had to deal with to get it done

      unbelievable and remarkable

      amazing what you can did with vision


  11. Yesterday I went to the Art In Bloom event at the MIA. It was my older niece’s birthday, so the whole family went and had dinner afterwards. A pretty nice day, although the weather was less than perfect. The museum was probably less crowded because of the weather.

    The floral arrangements are a nice addition, because they make you look at an artwork with extra attention, as well as the floral arrangement itself. I’m always amazed at how creative people can be.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. The Sistine Chapel is breath taking. I walked the stairs up to it. Entered through a small door. Looked up at the ceiling. Looked right at The Last Judgement. Sat down in silence.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. i went on the tour of the ceiling of the dome in florence where i was up where the paint was on the ceiling . where the finger going across the ceiling is the size of a bus. it was incredible
      makes you realize how painting with a brush the size of a garage broom is an option too.

      i love painting

      Liked by 2 people

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