Those Who Stay

Umberto Boccioni, study for "Those Who Stay"

On my last trip to Milan, a local friend suggested that I visit the Museo del Novecento which is located just a few steps from the Duomo. So I did, and I highly recommend it to anyone that would like to spend a few hours looking at some wonderful 20th century works of art. It’s also a beautiful building, with an interesting layout that includes a winding climb and lots of escalators. In fact, the building’s layout was so interesting that I had to get help a few times from the kind security people on a couple of the floors (but what else is new?).

One piece that stopped me in my tracks (causing me to hover around it for so long that I drew attention from the security people) is this one titled Those Who Stay by Italian artist Umberto Boccioni. It’s sort of one of three pieces that make up the series titled States of Mind about parting ways at a train station. And when I say “sort of” it’s because this is actually a study and not the finished version of Those Who Stay, but I like it better. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Futurist movement as much as the next guy with all of those geometric shapes and Cubist flavor, but this one seems much more compelling to me for a specific reason: it oozes heaviness and sadness. The other two pieces in the States of Mind series are titled Those Who Go and The Farewells.

The reason I’m drawn to this painting is because I’ve always hated goodbyes, and I think it captures that sadness completely. I’m talking about final goodbyes and the emptiness you feel when your loved one is no longer in this world. For me and a lot of other people, the loss of a pet has the same heart-ripped-out pain and devastation and the only thing that helps me heal is to remember that I’m not alone in this. In this painting, all of the left behind streaky figures share the sadness of loss and goodbye together. It’s amazing how art can affect you that way whether you like it or not, pulling you headfirst into a sea of emotion with a language of its own, but without any words. Like a sad, sad song that matches just the way you feel inside, you can gaze into a painting like this whenever you need to and just feel sad because you must.

One of my dogs isn’t well. His name is Nicholas, and I haven’t featured him on the blog yet because he’s been declining since I started it in July and it’s just been too hard. I don’t know how long he has left, I don’t think there’s anything else I can do, and I’m facing that awful decision. But one thing I do know is at some point I will be spending a lot of time gazing into Boccioni’s Those Who Stay.

Visit Museo del Novecento.
This link will take you to MoMA’s Collection page, where you can see the Boccioni series (click NEXT when you get there to see all three paintings in sequence).
A good article on Umberto Boccioni can be found here.

San Francisco Artist Mark Ulriksen

Jack Russells by Mark Ulriksen

As a graphic designer, you’re pretty much constantly bombarded with self-promotions from illustrators and photographers. And your desk is always buried with 3-inch thick directories of the same (that really only get used for either flattening something that’s being glued down for a presentation or, in the case of one firm where I worked that shall remain nameless, as trivets for hot and steamy pizza boxes on the conference table). So when you come across someone’s work that’s really great AND memorable, it definitely makes an impression and you keep all manner of pizza toppings far away from it.

I remember the first time I saw something by San Francisco-based artist and illustrator Mark Ulriksen (and yes it’s because the subject matter was dogs, you got me there). I had picked up a copy of a newsletter titled The Berkeley Bark at the vet’s office, in Berkeley no less. At that time the newsletter was a black and white folded tabloid, with Mark’s work on the front cover. It wasn’t too many pages in length but it was good and so I would always eagerly await the next issue. It wasn’t long before The Berkeley Bark became the now-famous Bark Magazine and I’ve loved seeing Mark’s work there and other places, like The New Yorker where he’s a regular contributor, ever since. His work is also in the permanent collection of The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. High fives.

Images of work from San Francisco artist Mark Ulriksen

Now I should probably mention that not all of Mark Ulriksen’s work is about dogs, but I like them (and I’m pretty sure he does, too) so I’ve gone to town here. In addition to his illustration assignments he also does private commission portrait work, so one day I plan to send him an enormous shoebox full of photographs of all my dogs and a giant sack of coffee for the long haul.

If you’d like to check out his site and more of his work, click here. If you’re interested, under “Show-and-Tell” click “Work in Progress” of the dalmatian painting featured above. Gosh, it almost makes you think you can do one yourself. But no.