instagram is today’s impressionism.
i know this statement is going to make my friend jeremy—the purist, resident “artiste,” designer, painter, guardian of the craft—go ballistic.
he’ll call BS. accuse me of blasphemy. and probably send me a single-spaced tirade about the sanctity of art with a capital “A.”
and he may be right…
maybe i’m just trying to justify my insta-addiction. but just hear me out and then you can be the judge.
capturing a moment
my office is literally a stone’s throw away from the art institute of chicago. the museum houses one of the most renowned impressionist collections in the world. from monet to manet, degas to seurat, the halls are lined with gorgeous paintings that capture moments, “impressions.” far from realistic, they express the light, the mood, the feeling, of an instant in time.
there’s no denying that these masters were genius in their application of color to canvas. and i wouldn’t dream of implying that a canned set of filters can fill that chasm. but in the end, moments captured and shared are what instagram is all about.
some go #hashtag hogwild in the quest for social likes—and surely this fuels the argument for why insta can never be high art. point taken…but to me, it’s not a numbers game.
measuring what matters
in our digital world, technology has given us endless tools to measure ourselves, add up our value in the form of numbers: likes, followers, tweets, retweets, fuel points, klout scores, calories consumed and burned, and on and on.
the trend is called the “quantified self,” and the theory goes that by giving us the data against which to benchmark ourselves, we can track and continually improve our health, fitness, and even self-esteem. thanks to facebook, we can all queue up sally field at the oscars: “you like me. you really like me!”
here’s the thing: i’ve never been a numbers person. yep, even though i was in honors calculus, i’m that girl, who pawns off the check to anyone at the table just so i don’t have to calculate the tip. for me, and i think most of my friends who are passionate about it, instagram is not about quantity at all—but rather the totality of your perspective.
the big picture
consider seurat’s “sunday afternoon on la grande jatte.” in the impressionist wing, the massive canvas pulls you in to one of the most famous scenes painted during the period. seurat pioneered pointillism, the technique in which dots replace brushstrokes, and are meticulously assembled to reveal the larger image.
each point on the canvas is finite, yet essential to the entire composition. i don’t care how many dots there are, but i see what he sees. i feel what he is feeling…in the moment. and i gain a glimpse—from this single impression—into his perspective on the bigger picture.
moments that make up a life
instagram is similar. it’s about capturing the mood, the feeling, your impression of a moment in time. but what really matters is those impressions over time. instead of focusing on the number of shots (and yes i have thousands) or likes or shares, one of my favorite things to do is zoom out. look at the broad mosaic of images—monumental and mundane—that make up a life. it’s not about the quantity, but the quality of those moments, and the satisfaction of knowing that i was present in them.
that, to me, is art. the art of living.