The New One

Spring                                                Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

(50th anniversary of human spaceflight)

An encyclopedic museum like the MIA has such a broad collection–by definition–that gaining familiarity with all of it is a practical impossibility.  This may sound like a disadvantage, but from my perspective, it’s pure joy.  Why?  Because it means I get to discover new art and new artists, even if they’ve been in our collection for a very long time.

Case in point.  John B. Flanagan, a graduate of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (1916-1919), a hard luck story wedded to artistic success and an early death.  The New One, brand new to me, has been in our collection since 1951.  I found it because I have a sculpture tour on Thursday and, since I’d never done a sculpture tour, I had to poke around the many, many sculptures we have.  In the process I discovered this artist and our example of his work.

He attempted to keep the personal distant from his work which he saw as searching for the unity that exists in nature.  This unity led him to the belief that a powerful organizing and vitalizing force could be found in all creatures, not just humankind.  This small sculpture, 6 x 11 x 6 inches, shows the unfolding of a fetus.  His work shows no identifiable influence, so wrapped up he was in this quest for what nature could reveal.

Flanagan and his search for the heart of the natural world expresses in stone a search I identify as my own.  How do we, all of us, living and non-living, express a link, a bond, the link, the bond that finds us all born of the same atoms and, in our decay, returning those atoms for use again and again and again.

This is not pantheism, as one art critic labeled Flanagan’s perspective.  It has no need for a deity, rather, it grasps the kernel of sameness that makes us all one:  star, toad, stone and whale.  What a wonder to find someone on the very same path as your own, someone skilled enough to turn stone into personal vision.  Miraculous.  Delightful.

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