Seeing Things in Person: More HD Than HD


Mark Rothko, No. 14, 1960: photograph by rocor, Creative Commons license

I’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but being there is worth so many more, maybe a jillion or so.

Last month I visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I’m not a fan of modern art, but I loved Mark Rothko’s No. 14. I really loved it, which was surprising, because normally all I really care about in painting is the Italian Renaissance.

I came home and showed a picture of Rothko’s big painting to my wife and my kids. They were all utterly unimpressed. I searched for more pictures to show them and was amazed at how little the pictures look like the painting. This painting has heart and soul that cannot be captured in a photograph.

In a photograph, Rothko’s 14 looks like two big blobs, one orange, one blue-back. In person, I felt this painting. The top part is the warmth and love and happy noise of my kitchen at home. The bottom part is that vibrant, magical, deep, deep blue of the sky an hour after sunset. It’ll mean different things to you, of course, but if you have a chance to walk through the SFMOMA, spend some time with this one.

Blogger skierpage has captured the feeling of this painting exceptionally well.

It’s not the Titanic, it’s the iceberg that sank the Titanic. It’s suffused with pure emotion, but it’s a receding internal burn.

Skierpage’s pictures don’t capture No. 14 either, but take a moment to read the rest of the post, “Rothko coolly torches SFMOMA.”

All I’m trying to say is that the Internet is great, and technology is great, and your mega-megapixel camera is great, but but don’t forget about the real world. It’s so much more HD than HD. It’s so much more 3D than 3D. Spend time away from your screens. Savor the real stuff.

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