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A visit to the new MoMA (from the perspective of an art novice).

I’ve never understood art. It was as much of a mystery to me as the Bermuda triangle is to modern-day scientists. I believed that no one can appreciate art and act logically at the same time but as I walked through the various galleries at the Museum of Modern Art on a Saturday in October, I realized that both the ideas are synonymous if nothing else. 

However, as I stepped into the newly renovated Museum, I felt a sudden rush of uneasiness, like I had just entered a different world I had no idea how to live in. The only artist I knew of was Vincent van Gogh and only because my friends made sure to remind me of Starry Night and how important it was for me to see it when I visited the MoMA. If I said that the moment I saw the Starry Night was the best moment of my life, I would be lying. In fact, I didn’t feel anything. After everything I had read about it, it made me sad to not be feeling on top of the world when such a renowned painting was right in front of me. I blamed it on my inability to appreciate the best things in life and I moved on. Dejected and nervous, I wanted to run away and find solace in my Malcolm Gladwell collection or even my calculus textbook. But leaving would have meant giving up on any hopes that I had at understanding art and depriving myself from a gift that mankind has to offer. 

I walked through several galleries, but this time with an open mind. I made a mental note to not look at the description before I had a good look at the piece itself. It wasn’t about finding the most well-known paintings but about connecting with a piece that wants to connect with me. Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 was puzzling but energizing. Rhod Rothfuss’s Yellow Quadrangle had an almost unsettling sense of organization and structure to it. Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Physichromy 21 was intelligent and inspiring. Ellsworth Kelly’s Colors For A Large Wall was baffling and innovative. I could go on and on but words would never be able to do any justice to the experience I had.

So to all the people out there who are skeptical of their abilities to appreciate art or even understand it, I would like to tell you that it’s okay to not be able to feel what someone else feels about something, but to deprive yourself of a chance to learn about it is not the answer. When Georgia O’Keeffe asked, “What is art, anyway?”, it wasn’t a question. It was a statement that described art in its entirety. To define art is to limit it but to me, art is feelings and emotions, it’s that invisible sensation that washes over you every time your brain detects delight, every time you become less and more curious at the same time. 

Images: author’s own.

Palak is a sophomore at NYU majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She currently serves as the Social Media Director for the NYU Chapter and has previously been a staff writer for the campus team. Have a question for her? Email @[email protected] !
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