Monday, February 15, 2016

Pontormo, Masaccio, and Ghirlandaio:

Throughout the past few months my mind and body have both been summersaulting in all directions, all over Amsterdam, and for about two weeks of that time, in Florence, Italy. This past week, however, I finalized my latest article for my last class, of my first semester. Choosing to study for a second master’s degree was such a wonderful idea. Every time that I go to class or find myself in yet another library–I smile and enjoy the moment happening. Often. More than learning to glaze bowls or cure AIDS, I am instead engaging with minds around me, who are, more than most, also interested in the same topics as me. In Florence I was among a group of just over ten other students; we spent all our days jotting from church to church; from painting to painting. A discussion, then dinner, wake-up: and do it all again. And while the art and architecture of the Renaissance is rather important–Pontormo, Masaccio, and Ghirlandaio I will not soon forget–the more comfortable setting for me within historical research, is that of Northern Europe. These past few months also entailed participating in my first university class, in Dutch; not that I’m fluent, but my time spent in Italy, where I spoke Dutch the whole time, certainly raised my abilities. Being Dutch, I’ve made it a point to this year speak it as often as possible. If I can take a class about seventeenth century Dutch print materials, as books and newspapers and pamphlets, then I can certainly speak Dutch, in daily life. That’s what I’m learning about Amsterdam and myself as I grow older, here; this city has had such an impact on my life and its direction, in ways I that I could not have predicted. Simultaneously, the city itself has changed so much since I first arrived: tiny urban reparations, new buildings and sometimes entire neighborhoods. Amsterdam is expanding, and rapidly.

Thinking back to when the Jordaan was still my favorite place within the city, and when it was still all new to me; all that seems so far away, as the city and my life within it continue, and I view it, as having been around me, all along. With the ending of the first semester, my mind has left a ball and chain behind, in 2015, as I begin considering new thoughts, new ideas, and new subjects to explore in 2016. The Supper at Emmaus narrative has been thumping around in my mind since October; I was assigned the topic and threw it against Jan Steen’s depiction of the scene. Steen is a painter whose work spans many genres; biblical scenes I will leave  to others, perhaps, to study further in the future. Or so I have learned, since October, that iconographic research, is not my thing. Next subject to study: pearls, their material, and them within paintings, Frans Hals, and the history of collecting artworks, by institutions or individuals… These subjects make me quite excited, and I am happy that I am able to structure my life in such a way, that allows me to view my studies, and the year or so that I have left of it, from a meta-perspective: the courses I take allow for explorations of my interests. And that is so very different from an undergraduate experience. Now that the tumult of the first semester is over, the end, seems almost near. I do enjoy spending so much time in museums and libraries; I do however, also know, that my articles and essays on Jan Steen, Frans Hals, or collecting, will more than likely not be of significant, groundbreaking importance. Yet they are for me. And that, I am learning, as I keep learning more, is what matters. I am studying because I want to; because I am able; and because I chose to. More important for me to take away for my studies, is the massaging of my mind and its thinking, by the new people I’ve surrounded myself with so far, and all the new people that I just know that I'm about to soon meet, throughout this new year, called 2016.