Vienna sausage and the arts

Okay, on second thought the title should have led with Vienna arts instead of sausage. But it would not have been as much fun. I just wrapped up a spring break from school and had a rejuvinating time in Vienna visiting friends, consuming schnitzel, sausage, and of course absorbing the arts. And if you are a fan of both, the best sausage shack in town is right behind the Vienna Opera House outside of the Albertina museum. Incroyable!

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But I digest.

When I roamed the fabulous corridors of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, I found myself as absorbed in the stories of the famous creations as the art itself. Did Rubens really have that much pain in his hands from rheumatoid arthritis that he depicted gnarled hands in several of his portraits? I became fascinated with the stories of the artists, the lives of the characters and the story behind the scenes in the paintings as I did the finished work. Process and product. Of course you know where this is going…

And then I saw this.

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And not just one person trying to copy a masterpiece, but lots of people. Have you seen this? It seems to be a fairly new phenomenon and can be quite interesting when you watch these people work, trying to painstakingly mimic the masters. Wow it’s hard to paint people, copy or not! I stood behind this woman above for over ten minutes as she touched up her strokes, carefully adjusted tone, and most of all stared at what she would do next. All in the hopes of creating what had already been created. Now I am not criticizing her efforts one bit. I cannot imagine the hours it takes to copy a masterpiece and have it look half decent. And these looked really good. What I was thinking about was the purpose of the product. What influenced her desire to finish other than to have it look like something else? The artists who created these works had something completely different in mind. They were creating. They were, in many cases, suffering as they brought their work to life. Process. It was so human and so interesting that it engaged me much more than the fascination with how they managed to get brush strokes to look so real.

As we head into the final stretches of spring, with the product of IB testing on the horizon, do we think of the process of our students (the artists?) Do we appreciate and engage their suffering as they seek to create, to learn and to bring their art to life or are they standing with an aisle, trying to copy something that has already been done?

I contemplated this as I stood outside this beautiful building, consuming the meat product of a process I am probably glad I knew little about. But with a fresh baked bun and plenty of mustard, it tasted so good.

Welcome back from break (or have a good one of you haven’t already). And keep in mind the process of those amazing artists in front of you.

Let’s wrap up this “AHA” moment with an all time AHA classic.

About Stephen Dexter, Jr.

Stephen is an international educator and administrator. A native of the United States, he lives with his wife Stephanie (a specialist in families in global transition) in Croatia along with his daughter and son. With a career that spans over twenty years in public, private and international schools, he writes when he can and is on a quest to discover if "text walking" is changing the human brain.
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