There’s something marvelous about having a day off, no plans, and the option of deciding to stroll over to the nearest museum you can find. Because what better way is there to spend your leisure time than to tuck yourself into a peaceful, quiet gallery while the outside world hustles and bustles?

There are two options when it comes to staring at artwork for hours. First, there are tons of galleries in Toronto and in the GTA that offer pretty impressive collections. Any art lover’s thirst will be fulfilled almost immediately.

The second option is that many museums now allow viewers to take a virtual journey of their collections, allowing access to nearly the entire collection online. Museums and galleries offer a glimpse of pieces in their exhibits and also compile entire databases of images. But is that enough?

I find that I usually head on over to museum websites when I want to check out what kind of pieces they offer, or if I’m just curious about what they have to say about a certain piece of art. However, I’m not sure I’m really much of a fan of exclusively experiencing art on a website.

The Art Gallery of Mississauga has a pretty extensive online list of works featured at the museum, which is located right beside Square One.

I have found that a few pieces on the online site have worked to the pieces’ advantages, and some have not. For example, the website features George Watkins’s painting of the Sheridan Park United Church. I found that a painting like this one does not lose its artistic value online. Looking at a good-quality photograph of this painting is much the same as experiencing it in its physical form, chiefly because this painting is not particularly textured. It is quite a beautiful painting, but a watercolour like this one exists in two dimensions regardless of where or how it is viewed.

In contrast to Sheridan Park United Church, Four Maidens Watching by Drutz Selznick doesn’t work as well online. It is highly detailed, and the already distorted perspective would be more impactful when seen in real life. It’s the kind of painting I want to be in a room with so that I can see it up close and from farther away and really embrace the optical illusion qualities within the piece.

It is great to check out the website’s online gallery—it really is. With a couple of clicks, one can be introduced to various works that the museum has showcased within its gallery. This is especially useful for research and equal access. All you really need to see the art is a computer with Internet access, which can be found at a public library if not at home. Also, these databases mean that you don’t have to live in a metropolitan area to be able to see great art.

But while scrolling through the images, I realized it would add something special if the artworks could be experienced as more than just “images”. What if they could be looked at in a way that gave a better understanding of their three-dimensional nature? Because that’s what most people are looking for when they immerse themselves into the world of art. Looking at the paintings online, it’s easy to notice that many of them have a lot of texture. A lot of feeling.

That being said, I’m not sure it’s any easier for me to explain this to you in a print newspaper article. Maybe an installation art piece would be better.

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