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Deep in listening mode

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Before I became a museum director, I was an art history professor, and made my living by communicating ideas—and then coaxing them back out of bright undergraduates. I was truly happy as an art historian but realize in retrospect that listening carefully wasn’t necessarily a rewarded virtue, and even less a guarantor of success in the classroom. Reading, thinking, and speaking passionately about art and its complex intersection with history was stimulating in itself, but ultimately it didn’t require reciprocation from my audiences, except for asking them to write exams, papers, and fill out teaching evaluations at the end of the term. Since I usually got very good feedback from my students, I confess I didn’t spend much time worrying about what my own active listening might mean to those constituents. I feel differently today.  

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Andrew Wyeth, Rebel

<i>Overflow</i>, 1978, Andrew Wyeth, American, 1917 – 2009, watercolor (drybrush) on paper, 23 x 29 in. Private Collection

Overflow, 1978, Andrew Wyeth, American, 1917 – 2009, watercolor (drybrush) on paper, 23 x 29 in. Private Collection

On Wednesday night at SAM, my colleague Patti Junker delivered a sensational lecture that she titled “Andrew Wyeth, Rebel.”  Few people think about one of the premier realists of the 20th century in terms of rebellion, but SAM’s curator of American art made the case that received wisdom has tended to gloss over the more challenging, less seamless narrative surrounding Wyeth’s long output. 

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