Why Can’t I Touch Art?

I have a confession. 

It happened a long time ago, but the memory remains firmly entrenched.  I touched a work of art.  I cannot use the excuse of youth, because my mother, Frances, was very specific about art gallery etiquette.  I was to stand a few feet away from the work of art with my hands firmly behind my back. 

If I remember correctly, the artwork was a quilt of vibrant colours with exquisite hand stitching.  It seemed so soft, so inviting.  I placed my small finger at the edge of the material. That was when I realized a great truth that only comes to the very young.   The quilt became a living entity, asking gently, whether I would like to have people touch my shoulder – over and over again?   

And that was the last time I touched an artwork…

At least for a few years. Things have changed.

Art galleries are doing what they do best – exploring and delivery new ways to connect art and viewer, inviting fresh insight into the creative process.  Some art is meant to be experienced with all our senses – touching, seeing, even smelling. 

Art reflects who we are at a specific point in time, functioning as a crystallizing force.  We continue to evolve as individuals and as a global society.  What we become seems to find home in our creative endeavours.

Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) Scottish The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston L
Oil on canvas

The Reverend Robert Walker (1755-1808) was the minister of the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. He joined the Skating Society in 1780. Family tradition claimed that Raeburn painted the portrait in 1784 for his own entertainment and gave it to the sitter's widow in 1808. Recent research had suggested that the picture was painted some ten years later and might be by the exiled French painter Henri-Pierre Danloux, who was in Edinburgh in the 1790s. Majority opinion, however, has retained the attribution to Raeburn.

Purchased 1949 (NG 2112)

14 Replies to “Why Can’t I Touch Art?”

  1. “Gifted and perfect daughter” and while Ms Frances knows better, I can say gifted to the bone!
    I can’t tell you how familiar this urge to touch art is to me too, but I love that realization you had too!
    Still, to this day, my best moments while creating are the ones when I use my hands to place paint on canvas. Even if this is from the painter’s point of view, I think it is very much related. On another note, eventhough I do like some installations and interactive art pieces, I really can’t compare them to say a Rembrandt whose paintings I’d feel it sacrilege to touch. You see all masters works work in the mind. Interaction happens in our brain and imagination. Senses follow.
    Thank you for such a beautiful post, my dearest Rebecca! Many hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this insight: “Interaction happens in our brain and imagination. Senses follow.” I had never thought of that idea before – you have given me something to thing and reflect upon in the coming days. I wonder in this applies to other art forms – dance, poetry and even science and philosophy? Thank you, my dear friend, for sending my mind into new directions. Sending many many hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would argue that this applies even to dance. Do we not close our eyes and let the music ‘control’ our body? I remember my singing teacher saying to me “before you let that note come out, feel it fully in your mind and then let it out… then it’ll be exactly right!” 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. No, No, Rebecca (Clanmother), You were a gifted and perfect daughter. I remember your pre-grown up days with joy and tears (they went by far too quickly). I will treasure the times we can get together and remember and talk about those precious days! ! ! With this stressful time of Covid almost over, and we all have our two “shots”, we will be able to remember and talk over our times with our coffee and goodies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am looking forward to having coffee again. The coffee shops are opening up and our favourite garden in North Vancouver – Park & Tilford Gardens is now open. Thank you for being an amazing support and encouragement over the years. I have a feeling that you are somewhat biased because I never remember being a perfect child. 😂😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, there are still so many changes to tell since we were young. I find your final sentence “What we become seems to find a home in our creative endeavors” quite aptly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your visit and comments, Ernst! Hope all is well on your side of the world. We are in a heat wave on our side, and I believe that you have had floods on your side. Take care and stay safe.

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  4. Oh Rebecca, I love your confession. 🙂
    And I have never thought of it in quite that way! How would I like to be touched over and over again; and by strangers?
    Haha… I definitely would not.
    I doubt I’ll ever be the same again. When next I am enjoying an outing with art I’m most certain your words will remind. Do not touch. How would you like………….
    xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They say that confession is good for the soul, Carolyn. Wouldn’t it be fun to visit an art gallery together. Art has changed over the years, especially how it is coming out of the galleries into the streets. When I visited my father in hospital they had art in the hallways as they now understand that art supports the healing process. Sending hugs and more hugs!

      “It was really all about the healing power of art,” says McLellan. “It was a way of creating a calming and attractive environment that if someone was having a bad day, whether it was staff or a patient or family member or visitor, it just gave them a different perspective for even just a short time.”https://www.nsnews.com/living/the-healing-power-of-art-2985633

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just read your mother’s comment. How lovely! It is said that the best of us remember, most fondly, the best of us. It seems your mother forms part of that grouping. Very sweet, indeed.
        As for visiting a gallery together. How about Giverny to start?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, she read my mind; or did I read hers. As I watched I thought – his garden was his most precious work of art.
        One day, my friend, one day!

        Liked by 1 person

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