I mean that as more than just going to a show and staring at Paintings. That is experiencing it, and that used to be how I thought it was to be experienced.
And then in early 90’s I discovered a different type of experience. Something that was more immersive. Something that touches you more deeply and that sears itself into your memory as a result.
I went to visit the Dale Chihuly exhibit at Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center. Its nearly impossible to describe it. Chihuly put together an experience for his viewers and then he forced them to feel it. You walked into a long tunnel where the very low ceiling and the walls were completely filled with individual shaped sculptures. Each one part of a collective whole that was the piece of art. Each individual piece was lovely. But that wasn’t the art. That wasn’t the experience. The experience was wandering quietly through a multicolored hall without an apparent end, with colors almost floating in front of you. That was a moment when I stopped thinking about anything but the moment. I was there and nowhere else. All of my brain was focused on experiencing that moment.
Many years later I went to see the Bellagio’s ceiling piece, because when I describe that exhibit to people they always mention it, but it’s just a faint thing – too high, and not immersive.
I also went to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg. Not too long after it opened. There was a room there, filled with enormous silver pillows that floated. You walked into the room and you could play with the pillows – hit them about and just be part of the art. It wasn’t crowded that day and there was only one other person in the room. Everything stopped in that room. It was a simple silly thing, but I stopped worrying about being late, I stopped wondering about lunch, I stopped thinking and I was just pleasantly in this place – with silver balloons.
That is the gift of experiencing art in an immersive way. It removes you from the observer and makes you part of the magic. A magic you will remember for a lifetime.