About twelve years ago, I was employed by a local modern art museum as a gallery guard. Security was my job. I was to ensure that children did not climb on, grab, yank, pull down, or lick any of the pieces. Adults were not allowed to do any of that either! I learned a great deal about modern art during my two-year stint. I even had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with artists Nancy Graves and Melissa Miller, which was awesome!
One thing I heard from one docent after another was that modern artist Mark Rothko wanted his viewers to look into his paintings and have a spiritual experience with him. I knew exactly what those docents were saying, but I am hard pressed to find anything about it on the Internet.
When I put the words "Mark, Rothko, spiritual" into search engines, my research came up snake eyes. In fact, I found a quote at PBS about Rothko that summed up my research: “Seeking to represent a spiritual experience, Mark Rothko invoked the power of color in his work.” While I like the colors used in Rothko’s work, I was not talking about them. I was not talking about the colors or the geometry, the abstract, the depth, the feeling, wash, dry and rinse. None of that. No.
I was talking about a spiritual experience with the artist, the kind of experience that could only be had by placing yourself squarely in front of a painting (sit or stand, as is your preference) and looking past a square of color, for example, and be with the artist. Exist with Rothko, just for a short period of time. I actually did this with a few paintings and was able to ascertain time periods, dispositions, and mental states.
It was real. It was reality. It was what he wanted.