Home Arts art historian Janne Sirén on her greatest cultural experiences

art historian Janne Sirén on her greatest cultural experiences

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If you could live with just one piece of art, what would it be?

I am constantly hypnotized by the painting of Arshile Gorky The Liver is the Comb of the Rooster (1944). In this kinetic landscape of memories and experiences, Gorky, a refugee from war-torn Armenia, celebrates life, love, and the convergence of myth and reality. Painting continues to uplift me, while inspiring a deep sense of humility and gratitude. How could Gorky, who had seen so much tragedy and suffered so much loss, paint such a joyful landscape, and what about those of us whose backpacks of hardship are much more light?

What cultural experience changed the way you see the world?

I left Europe for America in 1989 with an unshakeable will not to get involved in artistic matters – Coming from a line of three generations of artists, I felt like Obelix [in the Asterix graphic novels], who was overexposed to the magic potion from an early age. It shouldn’t be. A particularly transformative moment during those years was a visit to MoMA in New York in the fall of 1991 with my mentor, Professor Joanna Ziegler, and a few other students. Abstract expressionism and non-figurative art in all its incarnations have become my lifelong passion.

Which writer or poet do you come back to the most?

Eino Leino, Finnish national poet, because he makes this Finno-Ugric language sing. He plays the Finnish language like Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello, creating from scratch verbal images and windows that open onto unforeseen yet familiar landscapes.

Do you listen to music or other audio while you work?

I listen to music on my daily walk or jog to and from the museum. These soundtracks range from classical to rock, depending on my mood. Listening to music helps me collect my thoughts and decompress. Music also makes me think of others, of those who are, have been or could be.

What is art for?

Art in all its various manifestations tells us where we come from, who we are, what we aspire to be and where we could go. Visual art, despite its historically perceived exclusivity, speaks to everyone, but unlike music, it speaks to the crowd in a way that prioritizes individual delight over universalization, shared emotions, and applause. collectives. Visual art allows the individual to become the poet.

• Buffalo AKG, formerly known as Albright-Knox Art Gallery, opens May 25

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