American artist Cy Twombly recently passed away. This news saddened me, as I have been a big fan of his large-scale, scribbly, graffiti-style paintings.
One of the aspects of Twombly’s work that is so appealing is the childlike application of paint. Each painting is so charming in the primitive way that colors are layered on top of one another. In many works, you can see Twombly’s hand prints. Others have drippings and scribbling. Bright, striking – what’s not to love about this unabandoned experimentation with color?
As part of my homage to the late artist, I paid my respects at the Cy Twombly Gallery at the Menil Collection. The gallery is impressive – expansive, filled with light, and designed by architect Renzo Piano. I took a moment to admire the larger-than-life canvases. Then, a father walks into the gallery with his daughter. She must be about 4 years old. At first, they are in awe of the large scale of the work. They then begin to talk to each other. The father points out some color combination. I smile, saying “Don’t tempt her too much, she might want to do this at home! She’ll transform your walls in a few hours.” He laughed and asked her what she thought. Immediately, the little girl said “Daddy, I can do much better than that!” and pointed to the wall.
It’s easy to understand why Twombly’s work is deemed mysterious, inaccessible, or ineptly executed. It’s experimental. It’s fun. And it accesses a primitive form of expression. Everyone can scribble and play with paints, but few of us “can do much better than that“.
Or can we?
Twombly’s artwork can become more meaningful when you see how fashion designers, like Diane Von Furstenberg and the Salvador Project, re-interpret and utilize his paintings for garments.
Twombly’s work is a celebration of spontaneity, creativity, and experimentation with style that isn’t concerned with”right” or “wrong”. Rather, art – and fashion – should remove limitations . . .it should make you feel happy, daring – more like yourself. Only happier.