"THE LONELY PALETTE"
For each episode of host Tamar Avishai's independent art history podcast, "The Lonely Palette," the host focuses on one work of art, often a painting. Charmingly, the host camps out near the artwork in question and records the commentary of passersby, whose comments about a particular work range from honest banalities ("It looks pretty chill") to more thoughtful observations ("It just exudes peace."). Avishai's unpretentious approach and hushed passion are ideal for a series that carries the tagline, "the show that returns art history to the masses one painting at a time."
The latest episode focuses on a sculpture, namely "Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion," currently reclining at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, where Avishai is an adjunct lecturer. Before we even get to hear about the work in question, Avishai talks about the way museum rooms are "deliberately curated" to make sure the viewer gets the most out of the artwork. She talks about only realizing she'd been "handled" by curators after walking through the low lighting and taking a seat directly before the statue. Museum curators, it seems, need a handle on empathy to guide the public, who can often pass right by a work if it's not presented in a beguiling or flattering context.
And then there is "Guanyin" itself, sculpted with undefined sexuality, combining male and female sections in one body as it casts "the warmest, most loving face that’s ever been carved out of empress tree wood gaze" ever so slightly downwards. The statue was designed to capture one of the tenets of Buddhism, namely the acceptance of "gentle impermanence." With this in mind, Guanyin is mean to be seen contemplating the moon in a pool of water. Avishai goes deep on the piece's history (it is layered with gold leaf, which would seem to contrast with much of Buddhism's message), but condenses the most interesting info down to about 20 minutes of storytelling that sounds less like a lecture and more like what the best museum buddy of all time might whisper to you as you passed the benevolent icon. The easygoing intimacy Avishai sees in "Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion" (which she compares to Van Gogh's "Postman") is a trait her own storytelling is graced with. And now, via "The Lonely Palette," so are we.
Title: "The Lonely Palette"
Episodes Available: 19
Episode Length: 30 mins
Where to Download: Soundcloud
Host: Tamar Avishai