Confronted By a Mirror on Canvas

As I walked through the hallways of the Tate Modern, I wondered if I was experiencing what history books mean when they say, “The artist was misunderstood in his day.” Most of the artwork in this modern art museum, I just did not appreciate. I wished I would have. I looked at one piece and said to my friends, “This is famous.” (I’ve said that about a lot of things on this trip.) And they looked at me and nodded. And then we walked on, as if nothing happened. The shapes, the meanings, and the purpose just confuse me. I wonder if one day people will marvel at the brilliance of the artists of the 2000s. Will I be one of those commoners that never appreciated true art?


There was one piece that caught my interest. It was a canvas with a mirror on it. One of my friends chuckled, “A mirror.” We stared into the mirror as we read the description. This particular piece is by Michael Baldwin. It was completed in 1965. The caption read,

“Since the Renaissance, painting has often been likened to a window upon the world, with central perspective giving the viewer a sense of surveying what is contained within the picture frame. In a bold gesture, Art & Language turn this century-old convention upside-down by replacing the painting’s surface with a mirror. Rather than look at an image of the artist’s making, viewers are now confronted by themselves, thereby questioning a long-held notion of painting transcending reality.”


I faked the confrontation when I stood before the picture. But now, in retrospect, I do feel the meaning behind this “artwork”. It caused me to think. I look in a mirror and wonder about who I will be to the future. Will they shake their head and wonder why I did not understand? I do question painting and reality. The Tate Modern achieved its goal. Now, what should I do with these questions? I’ve been sneakily confronted, what should my action be? I may not be the next patron for art such as this, but I won’t disregard it so quickly. And I will continue to think. Because isn’t that the purpose of all art? To cause thought?  



One thought on “Confronted By a Mirror on Canvas

  1. Pingback: The Unfinished Stories of the Tube | Mayhappenstance

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