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There’s more to art than meets the eye

How art history taught me to be more open and accepting to new experiences

Cecy Juárez is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.
Cecy Juárez is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Art has taught me that sometimes, you just need to look at something through a new lens to gain an appreciation for it. My journey to this realization began when I was young. My older sister displayed a high proficiency for art, so my family thought that maybe I also possessed artistic skill. They placed me in the same summer art camps with my sister in hopes of cultivating some hidden talent within me. Spoiler alert — it never came out. 

Turns out that I am a horrible artist. I think I was born with two left hands because no matter how hard I try, I can’t even manage to sketch a measly stick figure. My older sister, Susie, on the other hand, is a professional. She has been perfecting her craft from a young age through acrylic paintings on canvas. In high school, she began to commission and sell large-scale paintings. Currently, she is a fourth year here at the University, with a few of her artworks on display in the 1515 on the Corner — I highly recommend checking them out online or in person, when circumstances permit, since they are pretty cool.

My sister’s consistent artistic success in contrast with my own spectacular art failures made me grow bitter towards art. I was angry that I couldn’t be good at it and swore that I would never touch art again. I completely shut out every possible aspect of art that I could think of, and I didn’t try to come up with another solution to my dilemma. Jealousy and resentment clouded my vision — I thought that all art was pointless.

I stayed true to my promise until my senior year of high school. I realized I had to fulfill a mandatory art requirement in order to graduate. Begrudgingly, I signed up for an art history class with the expectation that I would hate every second of it. What I didn’t know at the time was how wrong I was.

The class sparked something inside of me that I didn’t know I had before. I quickly developed a fascination with the intricacies of art history. Learning about why and how ancient civilizations represented themselves on different mediums mesmerized me. Instead of scoffing at how “bad” artists back then were at depicting humans, I learned the reasoning behind stylized and idealized art. I hadn’t known that even though most artists in the past had every ability to depict figures realistically, they deliberately chose to distort or alter certain characteristics to emphasize a virtue such as fertility or beauty. Most importantly, I discovered that I had a knack for analyzing and identifying works of art and architecture from ancient to contemporary history. I was genuinely excited to learn more about everything. 

Even though we had to transition to online learning because of the pandemic and take the exam from home, I studied hard and earned myself a five on the AP exam — another pleasant surprise I took away from the class. Now, I am in love with art history. Social media has made various facts and analyses more accessible than ever, and my feeds are filled with an abundance of different art history accounts on Instagram such as @painters.paintings and @arthistoryfeed

I even printed out and colored in a sheet with the outline of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Olive Trees” when quarantine had initially begun. I’m itching to go back and visit all the art museums my parents had dragged me through when I was a kid. Now, I can truly appreciate the value of historical artworks and understand their meanings. As of right now, I am taking an ancient art history class called “The Garden in the Ancient Mediterranean” taught by Professor Janet Dunkelbarger. This class explores ancient Mediterranean gardens and their artistic depictions. I’m looking forward to learning more in depth about these cultures and their artworks. 

As I reflect on my journey with art, I realize a very important lesson. There will always be things in life that I just won’t be good at or enjoy as much as other people do. And that’s okay. But, it’s also important to note that, sometimes, we just have to look at things from a new angle. If one way isn’t working out, try a different approach. For the majority of my life, I thought appreciating art in any shape or form was a lost cause. But it just turned out that I hadn’t tried all of the possibilities. My only regret was not recognizing sooner that all I needed to do to quit feeling bitter was look to at art from a different angle —  pun intended. 

I hope to carry on this idea of looking at life through different perspectives so that I may live life to the fullest and appreciate all the world has to offer. 

Cecy Juárez is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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