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Things that Make You Cry, Even When You’re Not Real Sad.

June 28, 2010
Liquid weakness.

Tears of joy -- I'm not a nurse, but I sure did look like one at the Pride parade this weekend. Photographer: Martha Holmes, LIFE magazine

As I approach the end of Juhani Pallasmaa’s Eyes of the Skin, I cannot help but anchor one more post on a tidbit of this writing. This is a profound little book that I am sure I will read over and again. At the very least, I’ll buy myself a copy so I can underline and doodle the crap out of it. If you are interested in how our senses function, in metaphysical discussion of what our senses are and how they relate to art and architecture – buy this book. I mean, you can probably get it on Amazon for something like 49¢ anyhow, right?*** Now, take it away Juhani…

“A work of art functions as another person, with whom one unconsciously converses. When confronting a work of art we project our emotions and feelings on to the work. A curious exchange takes place; we lend the work our emotions, whereas the work lends us its authority and aura. Eventually, we meet ourselves in the work.”¹

Hot damn, Mr. Pallasmaa – you really have a way of nailing it. My entire life long I have regarded objects, plants, works of art and works of architecture as silent ‘others’ that populate our world (yes, I anthropomorphized the heck out of my toys as a kid). That is, dialog with my environment has always been central to my way of thinking and has now matured into a crucial element of my artistic and architectural practice. I want to share three works and atmospheres below that have drawn me into “curious exchange” and indeed, inspired overwhelming emotional experiences in which I have, incrementally, come to meet myself.

No. 1:  Leda at the Art Institute of Chicago by Constantin Brancusi

This piece inspires lust, romance and the obligatory tears of overwhelming emotion - I leer at her ravenously for at least a quarter of an hour (if not longer) every time I encounter her.

No. 2: Mies Van der Rohe’s S.R. Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL

I will admit crying on these stairs more than once - in gratitude and awe at arriving to study architecture at IIT and in despair when I had to leave prematurely.

No. 3: Death Valley by God, Physics, “Energy” or the Great Nothing

Photos by ME! The profound silence one encounters in Death Valley is enough to make one double over. That's precisely what happened to me and the motivation for these photos..."Oh no, guys, I'm not weeping, I'm just photographing these little clouds and desert plants..." (*boo hoo hoo*)

Thanks for reading – and dry those tears, you big baby.

*** Okay, I lied, it’s more like 20 bucks. Do it anyhow, it’s worth eating Ramen for a few days.

¹ Pallasmaa, Juhani. The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Chichester: Wiley-Academy, 2005. Print.


Brancusi’s Studio in Paris:

Warhol in Crown Hall:

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie Graves permalink
    June 28, 2010 10:25 am

    Favorite part (besides amazing photographs) : Neverending Story reference….thank you!

    • June 28, 2010 10:52 am

      I am SO pleased that you caught that! I’m trying really hard to load my entries with lots of “surprises” (read: only loosely related images and links that are very sneakily noted in RED!) like that one – so be on the look out.

  2. Chris Wood permalink
    June 28, 2010 11:25 am

    Hey! You should check out this book written by Chicago’s very own James Elkins: “Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings.” It is partly about the relatively tearless twentieth century. Way to bring back crying, Trudy!

  3. Chris Wood permalink
    June 28, 2010 11:33 am

    Whose paintings have most often been cried in front of, of twentieth century artists? Rothko, of course. (Though, perhaps that is including Rothko himself.)

    • June 28, 2010 12:28 pm

      Mm-hm, and now I’m crying because I don’t know squat about Rothko. I feel a researchy lunch break coming on…

  4. June 28, 2010 3:44 pm

    Two reasons why I am compel to participate in this blog:
    1) Inexplicable telepathy occurred [the supposed communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the known senses] when amongum’s premiere arrived.
    2) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses was fundamental to the production of “sleep-ing beauty” _a 2007 short story that Shai, other colleagues and I produced as a short time lapse with someone who studied under Pallasmaa.
    Are you in Chicago?

    • July 1, 2010 12:14 pm

      I am in Chicago. Sent you an email – perhaps it didn’t make it through your spam filter? Looking forward to talking.


  1. My Favorite Sardinians « amongum.

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