Ever since I was a little girl, I have found it fascinating when people’s last names have something to do with their chosen profession. Sometimes the names are directly linked—a Baker will open a cupcake shop–and sometimes it’s a little farther-fetched, but all the more intriguing, like William Penn becoming an author. Is it serendipity? Does that person really come from a line of ancestors who liked to cook? Or does having to write their last name from the time they are little somehow stimulate their subconscious mind to seek out that line of work?
On my last visit to Chicago I was pleasantly surprised to see an exhibition at the Art Institute by one of my favorite contemporary Spanish artists, Joan Miró. His last name, it seems to me, fits this paradigm of choosing work related to one’s name. In Spanish, “miró” means “he looked”, and first and foremost, all artists I’ve ever known are keen observers of our world. How Joan Miró saw our world, and how he chose to portray it in his works of art, is an interesting study and I’m sure there have been many art history dissertations written on it, so I will only brush the surface, if you will.
Miró’s works are often in bright, primary colors which are punctuated with black or white lines and spaces. I’ve seen his whimsical statues and captivating mobiles, and I could look at them all day. And his paintings, well, I’m not big on modern, abstract art, but these are really very good. His style is so fun that I think that if Dr. Seuss had ever decided to outsource the artwork for his wonderful children’s books, Miró would have been the ideal illustrator.
Like Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali, Joan Miró was also born in Catalonia, in 1893. (It’s amazing how many gifted artists have come from Spain.) Miró knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist. He studied in Spain, and then after a trip to Paris in his early twenties, became a surrealist painter. He lived to be ninety years old, passing away just three years before I got to Spain, and created a wealth of works. He was one of those artists so entirely devoted to his work that he never stopped, continuing to create masterpieces in his 80’s.
When I had a chance to go to Barcelona as a graduate student, I went to his museum, the Fundació Joan Miró, and was intrigued at how his sculptures seemed to be 3-D representations of his paintings, as if they had gotten tired of the canvas and jumped out so they could stretch into their full forms. It was stunning!