Google Art Project:
I bet everyone tracking new cool online toys blogs this today. Ah,
well. Google seems to always be rolling out the next cool thing. I
can't imagine how they can keep it up, but tomorrow I am off to a NDA
protected presentation all day at the local Google headquarters, so
obviously they still have more up their sleeve!
Today's cool new Google toy is the Art Project. This is a high
bandwidth toy, and it is good if you have a good computer, fast
browser and fast internet connection. You can get by without all of
that if you are very very patient.
The Art Project allows you to browse highlights of collections of
selected famous museums. This incorporates extremely hi-rez images
browseable at varying levels of detail, with varying levels of
embedded information. When I popped into the site, I stumbled into the
Starry Night by Van Gogh.
The Starry Night (Vincent Van Gogh): MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art,
Art Project, Powered by Google
This happens to be a piece I love unreasonably and am fascinated by on
many levels. I was blown away by how clear the brush strokes are when
you zoom in. It really did succeed in making me think about the piece
in new ways. Part of what fascinates me about the piece is how the
design and construction of the painting reflect Van Gogh's
psychological trauma and challenges. Even when zooming in as far as
possible, I saw reflections of this.
In my own art work, I have very gradually become more forgiving about
tiny flaws. Part of what holds me back from doing more artistically
has been this compulsion to have everything perfect. My daughter seems
to have inherited this, since she refuses to sell any of her fine art
in case she changes her mind and doesn't like it anymore, so she can
destroy it if she chooses. Uh, ouch. For me, as I've gotten older, and
have less time for art, I find I am more tolerant of small errors.
When zooming into Starry Night, it is impossible not to notice the
gaps in coverage, the appearance of raw canvas inserting itself
between the strokes. My first and most powerful thought in reaction to
this closeup view was, "I could never have done this." Not so much
thinking of the design and artistry as that I would have been driven
crazy by the canvas showing through and would have felt compelled to
go back in and touch it up until the canvas was all covered. I
remember doing exactly that back when I was working in oils. Of
course, it would have completely ruined the piece. I also started to
think, "What if this reflects a change in his own awareness of these
details in his art? Was this a change in Van Gogh's style and
attention to detail, to his ability to preserve attention to detail?"
With the Art Project, I am able to go find selected other works by the
same artist (or in the same museum), and I could, if I wished, address
my curiosity on this issue by zooming in equally close to his other
paintings, and tracking the canvas coverage over the progression of
his career. I can't wait to see what actual art faculty and students
do with this.
Now, what the Art Project doesn't do and doesn't have? Community. I
wish our local museum could contribute works. I wish I could tag
things. I was terribly disappointed by the one poor lone tag for the
Starry Night - Post-Impressionism. That's it. Not Van Gogh's name, not
the museum's name, not the colors, not the date, none of the other
myriad quirky details that individuals might want to add. It says you
can create your own collection, but they don't mean of your own art.
In their words:
"Create your own collection: the ‘Create an Artwork Collection’
feature allows you to save specific views of any of the 1000+ artworks
and build your own personalised collection. Comments can be added to
each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends
Your own art is what Flickr is for, I guess, which is fine. I do wish
there were public discussion forums associated with the works of art,
and other interactive, engaging, immersive aspects of the project.
Still, I am grateful for what it has. What a wonderful, wonderful
gift. An excellent start, a marvelous foundation upon which to grow. I
am hoping they'll integrate something like the PhotoJPL techniques for
viewing 3D objects, architecture and sculptures. I remember with
profound tenderness being able in Second Life to walk into 3D replicas
of some of Van Gogh's paintings and wander through them, looking at
them from new angles and perspectives. Now that was immersing, as well