In Sacramento, California there is an art gallery I love to visit. It is not huge and it doesn’t have a lot of big-name artists, but I think that is why I like it more than, say, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. Yeah, sure that is a crazy thing to say because MoMA has art from ultra-famous artists like Jackson Pollack, Vincent van Gogh, and Andy Warhol (a snake-oil salesman if there ever was one). My favorite museum is the Crocker Art Museum and my favorite work of art there is “Portrait of My Father” by Stephen J. Kaltenbach. Last Friday I went back to The Crocker just to sit for an hour and studying this painting.
“Portrait” is a depiction of the artist’s father, apparently at or near death. It is a reverently and lovingly painted work that displays a complex depth of imagery and gives an aura of shimmering beauty that I’ve only seen in works by Renoir and other French Impressionists I admire.
Kaltenbach spent seven years on it. The detail in something as simple as a strand of hair is like nothing else I’ve seen. Each hair on this huge painting has been highlighted and shadowed and given a “personality” so to speak. The attention to detail is heroic.
As I sat there on a bench I could not take my eyes of of it. It was towards the end of the day and the guards left me alone. If I had tried this at MoMA the crowds would have disturbed me continuously. Instead, I just sat there and quietly took it in. I recommend this activity to anyone who wants to really enjoy art: find a not-so-large art museum, go there when the other visitors are few and find one work that intrigues you, then study it. You know the artist spent many, many hours to make it so why not invest a little time to appreciate just one art piece?