I was reading the New York Times this morning and noticed an article about a Burchfield retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This, of course, caught my eye because I’m a fanatic for the works of Charles Ephraim Burchfield. In my opinion, no artist expresses what the senses perceive better than this artist. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Burchfield was an American watercolorist (1893-1967) who commented in his work not only about nature, but also about the effects of industrialism. Edward Hopper once said "The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best." Yes, this is personal expression at its best.
I wish I could see this fifty-year retrospective, and maybe I will since it’s up until October 17th. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of helping an artist friend of mine with her own fifty-year retrospective. Her work hangs in museums around the world, and now that she’s very advanced in years, it’s important to do this soon so she can appreciate it. One noted gallery is hanging a retrospective of her work next summer and has already printed out the first copy of a hardback book of her work that will be sold at the exhibit. I was delighted to find in it a quotation of my analysis of one of her sculptures!
Anyway, discussing this retrospective with the artist I found that she had mixed feelings about it. She’s delighted and intimidated at the same time. Who wouldn’t be? More than that, she’s now seeing through “fresh eyes” her works that she hadn’t seen in decades. They were either stored away or in some museum no easily accessible to her any more. Viewing her reactions to seeing these works again for the first time has been enlightening. She’s thrilled; they’re like old friends that have returned to embrace her.
I would like to reach that place one day. Now, when I look back at my work I want to change it. They don’t return as old friends, but as developmental stages that are half-baked and need improvement. This is a sign of my own growth, but will I ever look back at my work with satisfaction? That remains to be seen.
What are your thoughts?