La Actuelle Vague

by jemma margaret

Remember the sixties?

I don’t. And before you remind me that I wasn’t actually alive during the sixties, let me interject that I remember the 1820’s very very well.

I was thinking about La Nouvelle Vague while walking through the older vague also known as French turn of the 19th into 20th century art at the Musée d’Orsay this evening. Since I spend most of my time thinking about history (and food), the paintings made me wonder what people at the time would have thought of them (and what the artists were eating).

While it’s easy to be empathetic to past shock and outrage over heliocentrism or non-Euclidean geometry or the uncertainty principle. I can’t quite put myself in the shoes of those who found pretty pictures offensive. Especially because impressionism and abstract art seems much more representative of my current life than say realism. Between French, mathematics, and extreme nearsightedness, I only ever have a blurred sense of what’s going on. So with all this opportunity for misunderstanding, I’ve learned to watch for the social cues of others, in order to respond appropriately. Are we laughing now? Clapping? Packing our bags to go? Picking our noses?

So if the artist says this is a nude descending a staircase, I will nod politely and step aside to let that individual continue on his or her naked way.