Check out this video in which Art Insight TV creator, Aladine Vargas, uncovers the design and composition behind Norman Rockwell’s Triple Self Portrait. It’s a left-brain approach to art that you may not be used to seeing. Is Vargas’s website the art-lover’s blog of the future, and how can museums benefit and learn from this type of website?
I’ve got to chalk up another point for social media.
I initially came across Art Insight TV through Twitter and I was immediately intrigued. It’s fitting that I stumbled upon the website through a social network because, as website creator, Aladine Vargas, shared with me during our interview, the website aims to evolve based upon the needs and understandings of the art-interested community.
That’s me; I’m an engaged member of the art-interested community! …So what exactly is Art Insight TV and why should I pay attention to it? Last week, I was able to speak to Aladine on the phone in an attempt to answer this question.
The web site’s tag line says it all: Art Insight TV- a behind-the-scenes look at what makes artwork- work. The site is composed of several videos collected and/or created by Vargas, that aim to give visitors the ability to see the intelligence and strategy involved in making art so that they may appreciate the artwork from a different angle. One method in which Vargas does this is by calling our attention to popular works of art such as Rockwell’s Triple Self Portrait (check out the video above!) or Charles Bargue’s Turkish Sentinel and uncovering Saint Andrews Crosses and root-two rectangles within the paintings. If you don’t know what these things are, check out these links and enjoy this public space for curious folks who want to learn about the careful design that goes into making artwork. The site also includes interviews, short lectures, and Aladine’s own artist ‘square-off’s. While this is certainly not the first or last website dedicated to inspiring an understanding of artwork, Aladine may be onto something with his video blog-like method of sharing knowledge.
Art Insight TV is very closely tied to the interests of its creator. When I asked Vargas why he created the website, he said, with regard to art, that many years ago, “we threw out the baby with the bath water.” Through this website, Vargas seeks to spread knowledge that will cultivate an appreciation for design; an appreciation that has been lost. He explained that the goal of the website is not primarily to teach or for him to assume himself an expert, but rather to serve as a vehicle to share his knowledge with the community. Critical themes in regard to his method of sharing knowledge are design, tradition and heritage, and composition. They generally outline his interests, and are things that, according to Aladine, make the artwork work.
The importance of design in creating and understanding artwork was the very first theme that Vargas mentioned in our conversation, explaining that “design is drawing, and drawing is design.” To Vargas, design is the cornerstone of successful art. Vargas says that if you want to read the art, “follow the design and it will tell you the story.” It directs your eye, and lets the viewer know what is important in a picture. His belief in this concept traces back to his own development as a professional artist studying under Myron Barnstone of Barnstone Studios in Pennsylvania. Barnstone continues to be a great teacher for Vargas, and several of the videos on Aladine’s website are attributed to the studio.
Vargas has a passion for the lineage of artists and their work throughout time. In fact, one might say that Vargas follows the same drawing tradition as Barnstone, continuing his heritage of design and serving as a link to Barnstone’s teachings. On Art Insight TV, Aladine shares the inner workings of his own professional artistic lineage, and hopes to uncover links within well known families of artists.
Composition is another important area of focus for Vargas, and it should come as no surprise that successful design, according to Aladine, is often the basis of a successful composition. Vargas discusses design rather mathematically, in a way that was refreshing for someone like myself who studied art formally, but didn’t spend much time focusing on the lines and geometry of masterpieces. The videos certainly do make me recognize and appreciate the work behind the artwork.
Who is Art Insight TV made for? To this question, Vargas said it was simply for the folks visiting the site. For better or worse, he is not aiming his videos toward a certain demographic, but rather sharing his knowledge in a way that makes sense to him. He admits that the site would be best understood by adult audiences who are interested in learning more about the design behind artwork.
Does Aladine Vargas’s website offer a sneak-peak into the blogs of art-lovers of the future? In these days of heighted social networking and personal branding, I suspect that it does. A recent post by the Center for the Future of Musems (which I find myself quoting quite a bit recently) states,
We are entering an age in which people don’t just want to be lectured to by experts, they want to contribute and curate their own content. In this environment, curators may evolve from being lecturers and authors to being moderators of discussions and editors of content.”
Art Insight TV’s mission is much like that of the traditional museum: to share knowledge in the hopes of inspiring interest in a certain area. The difference? Aladine creates a community based upon his own interests and findings. That is, this website is personal, but it also it seeks to create personal connections to site visitors. This is a website that I believe the museum world may benefit from following. There may be opportunities for community engagement on the rise from this kind of fact-based personal and interactive site.
Perhaps the most delightful thing about my interview with Vargas was his sincere ardor for cultivating an understanding of art history and his great hope to make a splash in the history of art history. He is a passionate speaker, groping with larger questions about the divorce between the artist and the public, telling countless stories of his personal experiences, and utilizing left-brained thinking that seems sometimes forgotten when examining artwork. For example, when I asked Aladine about the many lines, crosses, and rectangles that he attributes to good design and how they might allow the artist to practice creativity, Vargas had an interesting answer: he said that boundaries make you truly creative by providing an area for creativity. I nodded my head. How could I forget Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous quote, “Man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest?” But the truth is, I did forget this quote. Aladine and Art Insight TV made me remember and, in a way that I wasn’t used to doing, it made me appreciate the left-brain guidance in a generally considered right-brained practice.
Aladine’s whole site is like this. It’s a one-man show, sharing his knowledge of design and tradition with those who are willing to learn. Aladine has a deep love for Norman Rockwell, so don’t be surprised if more of those works pop up on the site in the future. Will we see any Pollock, Max Ernst, Kandinsky, or any members of the abstract expressionist lineage on this design-heavy site that values the rectangles and ratios?
I don’t know, but I’m excited to keep visiting Art Insight TV to find out.