Welcome to a new series that we are starting here on Chronicles of Fitness. We work in an ecosystem of influences, writers, bloggers, and people trying to voice a subject of importance. With that I interview Alec, creator of Western.Art.History, a page on celebrating the history of visual art from the western world. Below, you’ll find Alec’s message of sharing the importance of studying art, maybe even taking part in art as well.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well I’m Alec. I’m 18, currently a senior in high school in California.
What inspired you to start western.art.history?
What inspired me was actually an AP Class I took my Sophomore year. It was AP European History, and we covered quite a bit of artwork. So I decided to take an Art History class my Junior year. It was one of the most amazing experiences ever. I learned a lot from it, how to identify an artist, their style, and even the history and meaning behind all of it. Growing up, I was surrounded by paintings and sculpture in my house, and went to quite a lot of museums with my family as well. I think that really contributed to my desire to start the page.
I was really intrigued by your quote in your bio, “art is not what you see, but what you make others see,” by Edgar Degas. Could you tell us a bit about the meaning behind it?
For the meaning behind that quote, I saw it as a way of not trying to force someone to see and understand the message you, the artist, are trying to convey. Rather, it’s how the viewer chooses to see it.
For example, Jan van Eyck’s, “Arnolfini Portrait,” contains an elaborate Latin signature on the wall behind the couple, “Jan van Eyck was here 1434”, while in the mirror above, two tiny figures, visible only with a magnifying glass, stand in the position of the artist looking at the scene, one of them – generally presumed to be van Eyck himself – raising his hand in greeting to viewers.
One can wonder why van Eyck put that message in his painting, who the real figures are, and why he even made it. It’s up to the viewer to determine for themselves the reason for all this, and for the artist to create that sense of wonder and intellectualizing.
Now, Our audience is both fitness and history oriented, where even learning history helps to build our ability to perform in our lives. What do you see as the relevance of art in daily life of the modern person? Both past and present?
Art is very relevant in society today. However, I do not see much of modern art to be art at all. For example, at the Tate Modern Museum, an Indian artist took car fenders and tied them together with human hair and hung them from the ceiling. I don’t see how that would be considered “art.” This may contradict may previous answer to the quote by Edgar Degas. And it certainly does. But what meaning does all that form of art have? I don’t condemn all modern artists.
For example, “En la Barberia no se Llora (No Crying Allowed in the Barbershop),” by Pepon Osorio, has a true message based on male masculinity. But what makes it so good too, is the fact that Osorio put in a lot of work into this artwork. Simply slapping objects together doesn’t convey true meaning nor appreciation for the artwork. But, this is my opinion, and doesn’t mean that it’s fact.
How important is art history, especially in today’s age?
I now think that Art History isn’t a necessity. But if you’re into the Humanities like me, or are wanting to become a more intellectualized and more intelligent person, then I highly recommend learning it. Also, you’ll be exposed to a whole range of new ways of thinking, and really see the world through a new light.
We talk about how learning history builds empathy, how would you describe learning art history in building this skill?
Learning art history builds the skill of empathy by giving one an appreciation for the world around oneself. One can now look at nature and architecture and sculpture and other art forms and really understand what it’s all about. If more people were more interested in art history, I’m sure we could all be able to really realize the true beauty of the world and how it’s presented.
What’s the future hold for your page? A blog?
Finally, I hope my page will be able to take off. I also run another history page and website, both on the same subject. Armor of War they’re called, and they’re all about armored and mechanized warfare from World War 1 to today. Those have done very well, I’m only a few hundred followers away from 10k on Instagram. Not too sure where Western Art History is going to go, but I hope more people will come and really realize what I’ve got going on here.
Also, has your interest in art, ever pushed you to take part in art yourself? Or do you see your Instagram page as a sort of art? As well, would you say that art can be interpreted as limiting towards a perspective/idea/subject?
Anytime! It was a pleasure. And no, I’ve never had any desire to really make art. I’ve never really found the time nor the talent to do so. So I believe this page allows me to express the art I love with other people as much as possible. And I would not say that art is limiting to anything. Art can be not only in painting, but in literature, music, furniture, accessories, etc. Art is really all around us. We just have to determine for ourselves whether or not it truly is art. And I do have something you could use. Enjoy!
Awesome! Thank you for that and thank you for coming along with this interview request. Its been a real pleasure getting to know some of the history enthusiasts on social who are trying to raise awareness about historical topics. Finally, are there any last words that you would like to impart on our readers?
Absolutely! And honestly, just do what makes you happy. This is what I’ve found to be a passion in my life, and if you can do the same, then go for it! Thanks again.