23 February 2011

Eleven in '11 ... No. 6 (the museum)

No. 6
the museum.
Malibu by David Hockney (LACMA)

Soundcloud: No.6 (The Museum)
When I was a junior in college, I went to DC to visit family, and of course make the circuit of all of those great museums in our nation's capital.  Before I went back to my brother's house for some Maryland crabs and coleslaw and fries and beer, however, I decided one quick visit to the Library of Congress was in order to see the exhibit of the Gutenberg Bible.

I don't know if it was a lull in the crowds, or just a lack of interest that hot, humid afternoon to see this first book to come from Herr Gutenberg's press.  Whatever the reason, only two people were there examining the Bible (under thick, sturdy glass) at this particular moment: myself and one striking, olive-skinned young woman dressed in similar prepster garb to yours truly.

The Annunciation, Cloisters (The Met)
We were both standing on a makeshift platform, she and I in our loafers and khakis, overlooking a masterpiece that represented a move from the dark ages into a modern age of learning and knowledge based upon The Word, yes, but also "the word."  Ah, the power of the printing press and the written word and the freedom it gives to the individual, necessarily, of course, threatening the powers that be by a civil abrogation of their power base.  Knowledge = power, baby.

Matching woven leather belts and tortoise shell Wayfarers tucked into her chambray shirt and riding atop my dome holding bangs in place (the bangs on my former head of hair actually went down past my chin once upon a time).   It was almost embarrassing how similar we were dressed ... and our bags -- I had a worn leather backpack that I would use all through college and then give to my nephew; she had a huge (ginormous?) leather bag also, and we both almost started to giggle over the serendipity and convergence and ridiculousness of the moment.

Yellow Cow by Franz Marc (Guggenheim)
She was the first to speak.  "So, can you read this?"

"No.  I don't read Italian.  Not yet.  I'd like to someday," I thought that'd sound winning, evince a desire to master another romantic language.  This was before the ole porkster was Fat or a Scribe of any shape.

"Well, can you read Latin?  Because this translation is in Latin."  Thud.

The Wounded Indian, P. Stephenson (Chrysler Museum)
"No.  Can't read Latin either."  Sweating now, more from embarrassment than the heat.  Awkward.  "I'm just kidding, I knew this was in Latin.  You would have thought Johann would have printed this in German," trying now to say something that connected some of the exhibit's literature and ephemera into our conversazione.

"I'm not expert, but I'm pretty sure all Bibles of this time would have been printed in Latin since that's what St. Jerome translated the Old and New Testaments into working on the Vulgate," she said.

Blank stare from me, slight knowing nod.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (Belvedere)
"But, that's probably information overload, huh?"  she said.

"No, no. I'm fascinated by vulgarities of all varieties.  Even Latin ones," I said.  Long pause.  "I'm kidding. Yes, I know about the Vulgate."  Which I actually did, surprisingly.

Paris Street; Rainy Day by G. Caillebotte (Art Institute of Chicago) 
She smiled, either from pity or flirtation.  I figured I had nothing to lose revealing more of my assured ignorance on this topic.  "How do you know so much about the Vulgate and St. Jerome and the Gutenberg Bible?" I asked.  It was high-summer in DC which translates into high-90s temp and damn near 100% humidity.  One could tell that both of us had been trudging from a previous museum in the area.  She, however, made the perspiration on her upper lip and her slightly ruffled ensemble fashionable.  The tiny droplets on the lips of this goddess reminded me of my girlfriend back home, the hairdresser with whom I was greatly disenchanted but still committed to (she the cheater; I the cuckold), who would lay out in her backyard and work up a good sweat with baby oil and other skin-cancer-causing oily catalysts to get her "tan on."  Ah, the Southern California hairdresser, er, cosmetologist.  The stories do abound, but, we'll have to bound them over for another time.

Portrait of Antony Valabrègue by Cezanne (Getty)
"My class is here studying in DC for 10 days for a directed research project," she looked around and I noticed for the first time a few other co-eds milling about the exhibit in pairs and clusters.  "I'm an English major, but minoring in Romantic Languages," she said matter of factly, not putting on any airs whatsoever.  Gawd, was I smitten as you might imagine, Dear Reader.  Here was a juxtaposition of monumental proportion: the vapidity  of hairdressing (no offense) against a soon-to-be writer of serious contribution to the Western cannon who was also studying the Romantic Languages to complement her erudition, and who (more importantly) needn't lay in the sun baking to a crisp in order to beam like some glow stick that had been left under a lamp to be used later that night and then tossed aside.  Too harsh?  If you knew the truth, you'd think me a gentleman still.

"So, what does that say there?  It looks like we're in the New Testament.  Matthew, right?" I asked.  "And, sheesh, I recognize the number 7 here."

Mulberry Tree by Vincent Van Gogh (Norton Simon)
"Very good," she gave me a polite head nod and purse of the lips.  "But, that's not text from the Gutenberg Bible, that's a Romanized Latin version."

"Ah.  Yeah, well, I don't read Italian or Latin, but a little 9th grade Spanish goes a long ways for this version."

Purple White and Red by Mark Rothko (Art Institute of Chicago)
"The Gutenberg itself can be a little unwieldy, to read anyway, with its textura and ligatures smashing it all together," she said raising her arms pointing at the blow-up of the pull quote in Latin and making a smashing motion like one was playing an accordion . "It says, I think, 'Do not give to dogs what is sacred or holy; do not throw your' -- uh, I don't know that word -- your whatever 'before  pigs or swine might be better, I guess'"

"Pearls," I offered.

Lunatic of Etretat, H. Merle (Chrysler Museum)
"Don't throw your pearls before swine.  You know, what Jesus said."

"Yeah, of course," she looked around the exhibit to see if there was a translation she had missed.

"Sunday school. Five years," I offered rather puffily.

Lansdowne Herakles by unknown (Getty Villa)
She smiled a perfectly toothy grin.  "Nicely done.  A little 9th grade Spanish and Sunday school and you're translating Gutenberg's Bible."

Several others were queuing up behind us (to our side actually), so we shuffled off the platform together.  When we got to the bottom she made my day.  "Want to take a walk around the Library of Congress for a bit?"

Yama and Yami (LACMA)
I won't bore you with the rest of this story, dear friend, this has gone on long enough, I'm sure, save to say that it was a day filled with pangs of everything yearnful, sweetness, regret and plans for another day that never came to fruition because of yours truly.  I will tell you that I did ask the question that may be on your mind: "You don't happen to have a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy in that monstrous bag of yours, do you?"  Eyes widened, smiling, "You mean La Divina Commedia?  Of course."  This goddess went to university in a southern state with humid climes, where all Botticelli's are birthed, reared and educated.  Sigh.  Youth is wasted on the young, Dear Reader.

"The Divine Comedy" by Dante
Now, some men have a time-tested "go to" move when it comes to the first-date.  Dinner and movie.  Lunch at the beach. Hiking up to the Hollywood sign or mountain biking in Malibu canyon.  Some say mine is "the museum."  Not so. "I mussa protest, Missa Gorightry!" (Name that movie.)   If we're being honest here, I'm a drinks, dinner and movie guy for fun.  The museum, for me, is sacred, not like the sanctum sanctorum of relationship building, but I posit that a trip to the museum is at least a highly useful filter to help weed-out inscrutable projections that we all put on display on first dates ("there ain't no future in yo' frontin', never was 'cuz").  The museum is a great conversation enabler, and that's all we all really want, a useful device to get to know each other.  Am I right?

Do I collect?  Uh, no. (though I did buy my ex-wife a triptych as an anniversary gift during grad school.)  Do I paint or draw or sculpt?  Uh, again, no.  Do I buy art books?  Of course.  Love them, and I actually read them, the autodidact that I am.

Whenever I travel for business, if I am anywhere (2 hours drive) near a presidential library, I will go pay my respects whether liberal or conservative, impeached or not.  And, like you, Dear Reader, if I have any free time when on the road, I will always make time to visit or revisit a local museum or two.  That's just the way we're wired, you and I.  And, you never know, a friendly, engaging and brilliant adonis or goddess might step off the canvas to spend an afternoon with you.

Some favorite museums for your consideration:

The Met
Has over two million (2,000,000) works of art housed in its collection.  

Interestingly, the Hermitage Museum in Russia has over 3,000,000.  How much of it due to looting and plundering by its brutal forces and corrupt leaders during and immediately after WWII?  Much.  Let's see ... goes like this:  the Germans looted the French and shipped untold priceless works of art back to Berlin from Paris and occupied France (some of it going to the Swiss).  Oh, and don't forget what the Nazis took from Italy!  The Russians then plundered the Germans and shipped untold priceless works of art back to The Hermitage (some to the Swiss).  I'm sure a good bit goes back to Sotheby's or Christies and the UK and the States there somewhere, with some to the Swiss and Japan and now China.

Has over 100,000 works housed in its collection.  Great way to spend an afternoon listening to jazz, have a cocktail, and then visit some great art.

The Guggenheim
Frank Lloyd Wright.  Enough said.  Oh, and art too.  I've linked to a great video on the "great upheaval" in the art world in the early 20th century.

Getty Center
A billion dollar campus that always impresses me each visit.  I flew home from grad school on its opening, with something like 30,000 people that day.  The stone/marble on this project cost a half-billion alone.  Art work is great ... my favorite Cezanne is there.  Decent restaurants.  Spectacular views, especially on a stormy afternoon.

The Chrysler (Norfolk, VA)
Over 5,000 works housed in its collection.  It has a best-in-class Tiffany glass collection that is extraordinary.

Getty Villa
A great place to while away the day.  About 30 minutes from the Getty Center, it's the original museum, and houses the Greek and Roman collections.

The Norton Simon
Small museum that packs a punch.

Gorgeous museum ... and they have the Klimt (bastards).  LACMA had it for a temporary exhibition.  Awesomeness.

Downtown L.A. across the street from the Disney Hall and down the street from Our Lady of Angels church.  If you're in the area, all three are worth the time.

Art Institute of Chicago
Over 450,000 works of art are housed in its collection.  Rothko, Chagall, Caillebotte, Seurat ... cripes this is a great museum. 

Up next?
No. 7.
the Bible.


Anonymous said...

"Nature and tyrants abhor a vacuum. And, when this wide-body kleptocracy of Mubarak exits the Sinai Peninsula, I predict we will have radicals entering the vacated public square ready to bring new direction and dictates to the masses that don't have the rights of man on their agendas. I'm afraid that radicalism will replace corruption, and then the West will have both to contend with. -- FatScribe"

Agreed. And now add Libya.

Julia Christie said...

Sigh...now I am the one filled with longing and envy... Such a feast for mine eyes, each and every one of these beautiful pieces of artistic soul. I am a lover of museums and have been planning a dream trip with my daughter to The Louvre - maybe in two years - and we want to spend several days just soaking it all in! Thank you from this artistic soul for the magical story and the wonderful sampling of art!
Just what I needed!

christian soldier said...

my Mother used to load us kids on the bus and we went to the Detroit museums at least once a year!
Thank you for bringing those memories to mind--
I remember a 'huge' black armored horse and armored rider-in the main foyer of the museum-the sculpture was probably life sized but -to me-still a child-they were giants---
I - in turn- took my son to the various CA museums several times a year--
One of our favorites was the Getty -when it was still on the PCH --
Now-lucky us- we have two sets of Getty museums!!
Beautiful post - my friend--

Divine Theatre said...

Funny thing, when I go to a museum I end up browsing the patrons!
As an aside, we are attending the wake of my husband's fellow officer tomorrow, dead of a heart attack at 39. I will never be as eloquent as you, Master Scribe, but I urge you to seize each moment as if it were your last.

Caleb S. Garcia said...

Nice work G. I love reading about your young self. Your early romantic endevors (although I could hardly call that a romantic endevor) are splendid. I had thoughts of "The Wonder Years" flash through my head.

preppyplayer said...

Loved the tension of your story!
As for museums? Meus ventus?
Musée d'Orsay

arachne said...

A bautiful story.I love museum ,too.If you come to Madrid, do not miss the Prado museum

Shelley said...

I was looking forward to this post! Don't think I've been to a single one of your listed museums. My favourites would have to include the Smithsonian, the V&A and the Burrell, and a few that I don't remember their names - a small museum about life under Communism in East Berlin, a small place in Prague run by Mucha's grandson. It's only the last few years I've come to appreciate museums, really. I also like looking at the clothing in very expensive shops - e.g., V. Westwood, as art, not clothes, not clothes for me anyhow. Museums are great places to talk with and learn about a person, but I find I learn a lot about myself as well. Thanks for a great post!

Kathy said...

FatS....another great Sat. night read...bonus points for the Chrysler mention....the anglophile in me dominates, so it's the Tate Modern and V&A for me....enjoy the rest of the weekend {not sure whether I'll tape the Oscars and watch the finale of "Any Human Heart" or vice versa}...k

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Flo -- yes, watching Libya and Egypt with bated breath. thanks for the comment (i see you over at Toad's place often)

Julia -- yes, the Louvre. excellent choice, friend. and thank you for getting my picks to present here for that visual feast!

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Carol -- you're the second person to comment on horse armor! (Joan was the other). My kids have suffered/enjoyed the trip to the Getty since they were both babes in strollers with dad trudging them about.

Andrea -- yes, patron peeking is awesome. i've done the "what are they saying" bit a few times myself. and thank you for the reminder to seize each moment. very biblical, no? for our days our numbered ...

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Caleb -- "wonder years" ... now that brings back memories. hopefully my sepia trip down nostalgia lane was a bit less comical; but then again, maybe not!

Preppy -- bonus points, girl, for the latin. great faves!

Jg. for FatScribe said...

arachne -- would love to get to the Prado! excellent choice, amiga.

Shelley -- yes, the V&A. never been, but it's now on the list!

K -- left you a msg. or two about tomorrow's "Any Human Heart" v. The Oscars. the Tate Modern was also a great choice. Knew you'd appreciate the Chrysler mention since you're back in the Old Dominion. LOVED my time back there during grad school. Miss our little

Kathy said...

FatS...re: anglo-accented "weekend"......reminded me of the line of the year...Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey...."What's a weekend?"!!! k

Barbara said...

As I may have mentioned, my daughter owns an art gallery in NYC. As a result, since her college days, I have received an education in art which I never received from my parents, boarding school or college. (Thank you daughter Tracy.) I have been dragged willingly (and sometimes not so willingly) into every museum of every type in NYC, Miami, LA, Washington and in most large cities in Europe.
My favorites? the Thyssen in Madrid (interesting story there, I imagine), Musee d'Orsay, Smithsonian, The Uffizi in Florence, Victoria and Albert in London. An eclectic list, to be sure.
Though museums would probably not make MY list of 11, oddly enough.

I am enjoying your lists, my dear JG.

(Algonac is about an hour northeast of Detroit on the St. Clair River.)

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

Just so brilliant! Loved every single word. And, art. Particularly the Hockney - so perfectly California. What a romantic memory tied to beauty all-around!! Wonderful... ; )

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

Lovely dialogue--I got a real sense of your frustrations! And a well thought out list of museums. I haven't been to any of them (not for lack of will) but I have been to a decent handful on the European side of the pond.

Lou said...

Awwww... I wanted you to kiss her.... Then you could have taken her to breakfast at Tiffanys... te,he, see what I did there?!!

You are an inspiring writer...btw you are also a winner over on my site... xx

Sandy K. said...

Raised to love all things country, except music, and appreciate living near a city, 1960's Detroit, I didn't get my first real museum trip until my senior your in high school (though the Detroit Art Institute would have been fabulous had my parents known it was there.) Then to New York and Washington D.C. A world had opened. One of my favorites? Chicago!

Jg. for FatScribe said...

K -- yeah, maggie smith is a national treasure (my alltime fave is her in "room with a view"). her son is a very talented actor in his own right. just read in the trades that he signed on for an american tv show.

Barb (moveablefeasts) -- really enjoy your faves, and am jealous by your travels to get there! so, you have gone from north of motor city to now south of motor home city! (i exaggerate slightly about how much those floridians love their RVs pulling all those hondas around the US.

My Dog-Eared -- Barb, you are always waaay to generous. thank you! hockney is a very unique talent (and yes, he does love his california moments!)

michelleoui -- thx for the visit across the pond! you have such great museums in your neighborhood; look forward to your sharing your list!

lou -- thanks for the entry and for the win! i'm really enjoying your blog (especially the shropshire reference!) ;)

sandy k -- always a pleasure when you come by for a visit. glad you found some inspiration for your students on that blog referral. seems like everyone is from detroit today (barb above)! i'm with you on chicago art institute ...

Prutha said...

i have the yellow cow on a coffee cup and i love looking at it

Karena said...

Jg, you have chosen some of my very favorite workds of art! The Rothko, the Klimt, Franz Marc,& the Hoclney!!

Thank you for this fabulous feature on fine art and museums.

Art by Karena

Barbara said...

Glad to see your comment on Coffee and Pie....knew you'd like each other.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

I so wanted you and the mysterious preppy student to end up carrying each others leather bags into the sunset. Like so many brief encounters, just wasn't meant to be but none the less stirs the heart. My knowledge of great museums is not worthy of commenting. My favorite of course the Louvre, Seatte's Frye and Houston's Menil.Jg I adore this story but then again, I adore everything you write. Great rest of this week to you my friend ~ deb

Dumbwit Tellher said...

guess I can't spell my home town tonight, "Seattle"!!

Anupama said...

Very Good website. I like the contents. From www.puneonlineflorists.com

quintessence said...

I so so so loved this post!! Was like the start of a wonderful novel or romance or both!! And so perfectly paired with the beautiful art - I think you managed admirably and clearly so did she!!

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Hi, Prutha -- yes, that's a great painting. Need to get me one of them mugs. Btw, really like your website (i think we both visit thesartorialist.com, huh?)

Karena -- coming from you, wow, that's a compliment. loved your last show. it's so nice to see so many talented artists blogging and sharing with the rest of the class their talents!

Barb -- yeah, coffee and pie is a tremendously talented blogger. jealous. thx for the lead!

Deb -- glad your Em's troubles with the laptop are finally resolved! and, thanks for the visit and nice words. you deserve your 22,000 followers and success!!!

Anu -- thank you.

Quintessence -- thank you. really glad you found my little anecdote interesting. and she was ... lovely. you have an amazing website. btw, you should visit the Internet company i founded at LuxeMont.com (justluxe.com is the main site, but there are other luxury websites going as well). We've been going for almost 10 years now ...

anni said...

just discovered your blog and am happy I did.
this is a posting that I will bookmark
greetings from brussels

Penelope said...

I was hoping the story would end differently- ah well. Youth really is wasted on the young, lol. What did we know?

GlamorousGirl said...

love the art pieces here! nice blog :)
come and check out mine on:

Emm said...

I certainly share your love of museums and art galleries and have gone to some of the most amazing exhibitions in DC, New York and London. My very, very favourite places are libraries. Old and new, modern and ancient, books, books, books. ♥