Curiosity / by Jeannine Cook

One of the aspects of the Telfair Museums' exhibition, Modern Masters. American Abstraction at Midcentury, that I found very stimulating was the quotes from each artist on the labels beside their paintings or sculpture. They were not only well-chosen, but in of themselves, they are thought-provoking and insightful.

An example of these quotes is one that accompanies the painting, Sea Image, (reproduced here courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum) by Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997).

This early Abstract Expressionist New Yorker wrote, "Nature is so vast, with so many moods and the ocean is so large and every wave is infinite. And as long as we have the curiosity of children (and sometimes we have to be children), discovery is not only possible, but indispensable".
The need for curiosity is, I am convinced, absolutely central to life for everyone, but especially for an artist. Not only is it rewarding to find out about how something works, or is put together, or what it is made of, how it smells and feels, but also, this knowledge gives depth and distance to everything in life. Such insights help us determine what we want to paint or draw, how we want to portray things (whether realistically, abstractly, in two or three dimensions, in film, paint, video, whatever...) and why we are moved to do so. Every single day - ideally - should bring new knowledge, fresh enrichment and stimulation, more possibilities for fun and fascination.

Watching a kitten explore its world is a perfect metaphor for this curiosity. Everything is new and worth investigating, exploring, evaluating... We artists can be as bright-eyed and curious as any feline. It pays off too!

(Two curious kittens sniff out a tortoise. Image courtesy of