The Art of Life

  • Denise Horton
  • November 16th, 2014

The most powerful memory I have of  my mother was holding her hand as we walked up the steps to the Detroit Institute of Arts. I was five years old.


Mom, my little brother and me 

Once you buy your ticket at the DIA, you enter The Rivera Court, a grand hall showcasing the Detroit Industry frescos painted by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957). His murals are a tribute to Detroit’s manufacturing base and labor force of the 1930s. Rivera completed the 27-panel work in 11 months, from April 1932 to March 1933.

The Detroit Industry frescos are considered the finest example of Mexican mural art in the United States, and Rivera thought it the best work of his career. I remember, at five years old, standing next to my mother and looking up in awe.

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The Rivera Court, Detroit Institute of Arts Museum

Last Sunday, I opened the New York Times’ Arts section. The headline, Museums Morph Digitally: The Met and Other Museums Adapt to the Digital Age, immediately caught my attention. The article showcased museums, universities, digital artists and researchers experimenting with new technologies for creating art and enhancing the museum visitors’ experience.

The article featured The Google Art Project, a global initiative that has catalogued 7.2 million artworks in 500 institutions across 60 countries. A selection of paintings are available in ‘gigapixel’ format, which allows online viewers to zoom in to see details, down to brush strokes and scratches, in a way they could not in person.

You can tour cultural landmarks virtually, create your own galleries and learn about historical events using digital content from the world’s most prestigious institutions.  I “toured” the Paris’ Musee d’Orsay and the Pera Museum in Istanbul, perused the Banksy gallery (a brilliant street graffiti artist) and curated the Sharon Riordan McAvoy gallery.

I felt like that five-year old girl in the Rivera Court again. But instead of standing wide-eyed in front of Detroit Industry frescos, I am awestruck by digital technology that empowers me to explore cultural wonders and artists from around the world. Indeed, the joy of discovery is @ the heart of The Google Art Project.  If you love art, it is terrific fun.

From an early age, art has been my source of joy, grace and hope in my life. Museums and galleries are quiet, contemplative spaces for me.  My mother, Sheri, was an art teacher in a Royal Oak, Michigan elementary school. Her paintings grace the walls in our home in Colorado.

I was incredibly lucky to be an artist’s daughter. The idea she instilled in me – “Your life is a canvas, Denise, paint it with big color” – has guided me in my travels, education, career and relationships.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”  The Google Art Project brilliantly democratizes art and carries us all up the steps to an artful life.










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One Response

  1. Kate McGhee says:

    Your post took me back to when I worked as a bartender in a pub. Between the lunch rush and my dinner shift, I’d take the bus to Trafalgar Square, walk into the National Gallery, and sit quietly in front of Delaroche’s Execution of Lady Jane Grey, resting me dogs and losing myself in the story. Frederick Wiseman has just completed a 3-hr documentary on the NG. I can’t wait (12.19 at the Sie FilmCenter).

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