The Art of the Unexpected


Being an art major and art enthusiast I’ve seen so many pieces of art… in textbooks. In my classes I’m constantly referencing pieces of work that I adore, but have never seen in person. 

This semester, though, I’ve actually been interning in New York City. As an artist this has been a dream come true and I’ve had the chance to see so many of the pieces of artwork that I’ve read about for so many years. I still haven’t visited all the museums and galleries I would like to see, but here are my first impressions with some of the greats.

Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)

I saw one of Pollock’s paintings, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), at the MET. To get to this piece I had to ascend a staircase and then round a corner. When I rounded the corner I was met with a canvas the size of the wall. I was shocked at the size of the painting. I’d seen this piece so many times in books, but I never imagined it to be that big. Perhaps this shock is my fault for neglecting to read or retain the dimensions of pieces, but it was a surprise nonetheless. As I got a closer look at the iconic paint splatters and brush strokes I realized that some of the marks were blue. Pollock is an artist that I’ve heard about since middle school and all this time I thought Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) was only neutral shades of black, white, and grey. 

Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night

When I went to the Museum of Modern Art I got the chance to see the iconic Starry Night painting. To see this piece I had to patiently wait for the crowd around it to subside so that I could make my way to the front. As I got up close I realized that the black pillar or tree in the forefront of the painting wasn’t black at all, but a dark green. Once again, from photographs I had always thought the piece consisted of blacks, blues, and yellows. As I continued to look closer, though, I realized that green was sprinkled throughout the entire composition, from the tree in the foreground to the sleepy town in the background.

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at MoMA

Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory

This piece was also at the MoMA and when I saw this staple of surrealism I was stunned to find out how small the painting actually is. (Again, when reading textbooks I almost never read the dimensions, I’m sorry). When I say this piece is a staple of surrealism I mean it is a staple. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked about or referenced this piece and no offense to Dalí, but the edges of the canvas aren’t even painted! I thought for sure this painting was at least 24 by 18 inches, but it’s about half of that. In no way am I hating on Dalí, the piece is still amazing and incredibly detailed for how small it is, it just was not what I was expecting this grand piece to be.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí at MoMA

These are just a few of the major artworks I’ve seen and been surprised by. I guess I should’ve seen this coming because as an artist I can attest to the fact that a photograph is never as good as the piece in person. Being able to see artwork by so many artists I’ve grown up studying and admiring has been such a surreal experience and the factor of discovering the unexpected has made it that much more interesting. If you get the chance to see artwork do it! Whether it’s in New York City or your own neighborhood, you just never know what you’ll find. It’s the art of the unexpected.

Photo of Katie Shantz

About the Author

Hi, I’m Katie. I’m a studio art major, so it was a no brainer to join the Opus team. I enjoy looking at and discussing all mediums of art, but when I create it’s usually drawing, painting, or sculpture. I love creating and I love meeting other creatives. I think that’s one of the best parts of going into a creative field, the sense of community. We’re all just artists trying to get through this together. Cheers.

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