Written by 4:37 am Art Is Essential

Art is Essential Essays vol. 1

Writers on the art that matters to them

Longing for the Storm

Arjun G. Sheth

I’m lucky to live near the Brooklyn Museum. The last time I went, at the end of summer, I browsed their latest photography exhibit. While it was impressive, what always stands out about my trips there is the museum’s most majestic piece, Albert Bierstadt’s A Storm In the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie.

As usual, the piece held me in place as I scanned every brushstroke. I’m not a big fan of landscapes, but this one has always stood out. From the way it towers over me, to the range of light dappled on the lake contrasting the shadows on the cliffs, looking at the piece feels like breathing in mountain air. It makes me want to step into the painting and swim in the waters despite the incoming thunder. The peace combined with the electricity of the approaching storm gives the work a dynamic quality that always keeps me mystified. 

During that visit, a tour group approached, and the guide explained that this piece was once part of a traveling exhibition—that people would pay a lot more than the Brooklyn Museum’s admission price (adjusted for inflation) to see nature rendered so extravagantly, the way we all pay twenty dollars now for a movie.

At the time, I understood on a literal level how and why people would pay to look at a painting like this. I didn’t understand it on a visceral level until I’d been stuck at home with every movie I could ever want at my disposal, but no physical art anywhere in sight. I miss that feeling of standing in front of that landscape, taking in something that isn’t being projected electronically, being pulled to a stop, drawn in by the energy that can only come from the force of a brush against canvas. I can’t wait to stand shoulder to shoulder with other onlookers again, arching our necks up as if wind from that mountain canyon were blowing through our hair.

Arjun G. Sheth is a freelance fantasy writer and sound editor for films in New York City.

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) was a German-American painter who traveled to the American West on at least two surveying expeditions. One such trip in 1863 led to the creation of A Storm In The Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie. 

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