Monday, April 30, 2012

We are Suckers for Light

On Saturday it was rainy, windy, kind of cold. Alexis and I went to the Museum to see the Rembrandt exhibit. She picked me up at 3, and it was just cold enough that I had to wear my bright blue hoodie and get coffee. We stopped at the place at the end of my street and ordered, pulled around to the window. Alexis got hers and I paid, and then we just sat there talking waiting for my coffee. Sat there until someone came back and asked if we needed something else, and then of course I got my coffee for free, and the pattern of Us Versus Obliviousness was established for the day. Supposedly it had hailed that morning. But I never bothered getting winter clothes this past season, since we didn't have a winter in the first place. It's just been sweaters and layers and leggings, even in the snow. So now it's just less or more. Everything I own looks like pajamas now. It's all jersey, seriously. Really brightly colored jersey. Gray skies, blue dresses. 

We drove around the circle looking for parking in the afternoon gloom. At first we found a place on a side street behind Western Reserve, but then there was this woman just waiting in her car behind us as we drank our coffee, and she made us nervous so we drove around by the fraternities and back to the Circle, and found a parking spot right across the lawn from the Museum, the luckiest of all spots. 

We got our tickets and walked through the concrete art classrooms to get to the galleries. The museum's been under renovation for such a long time, I'm worried I'll forget how the layout used to be, all the hallways and landmarks I had sorted in my tiny child head. The painting of the woman in the car that hung above the staircase which took you to the Mummy rooms, and the dark gold lit Buddha rooms, the delicate courtyard garden, the room behind the Armor Hall which was a whole room taken from a monastery, all wood moldings and gilded lettering. That tiny little alcove they put all the Tiffany in, which made the glass glow hypnotically, to be so close to it and unable to step back. 

I used to know that to get back to the lobby, I had to look for the cafeteria and then it was around the corner from the gift shop and down the stairs were the bathrooms which sat across from a bank of pay phones. 

I'm just saying, I'm the nostalgic one who's going to be a hard sell on the new look when it's finally done. I like sitting in the glass Rodin room when it's raining, but that's so far been it. Whatever, it's the art museum. Nobody stops going to the art museum because they don't like the layout. 

It was a Saturday afternoon, but also a bit later, so the Rembrandt gallery was crowded but not as bad as it could have been. People were in general being pretty respectful, standing a minimum distance away from the paintings, being cognizant where other people were in the space around them. The exception being everyone with a black tour recording box held up to their head. Those people become uncoordinated zombies, they are the ones that lean in so close to look at a piece of lace the seven of us all standing around have to stand there and just wait for them to be done, cause it's a museum, what are you gonna do? Start shit? Then there's the worry when you don't want to look like you're following someone, but they are just on the same rhythm as you, and you have to wait for them to get a few painting ahead, so you don't look creepy. Once or twice old people with tour recordings actually walked right into me and then just walked away. We didn't get angry, who can be angry around great art? But Alexis and I did laugh a lot, maybe chat a bit too much about people around us. Sorry, but if it's going to be a walking around and into people like pinballs kind of party, then I'm going to talk to my friend as casually as I want.

 I went through all the way one time, and then started from the beginning again to see my favorites, when most of the crush was up ahead and the gallery was closing in 30 minutes. Then I was able to stand still and center as long as I wanted, as close as I wanted. There's something about putting your face close to an object like a Rembrandt. It is a slap in the face. Not just this artist, but any really amazing piece of art, something that's been so famous and renowned for so long it's now actually magical, it's spewing magic from every pore of it's old frame, and it's glowing magic paint or pearl or marble, the lingering electrical traces of genius. The weight of it's venerability is physically impressed on your body. It's like reaching out to touch an elephant. 

Rembrandt is not overrated, you know. He's amazing. The faces and emotions of his characters - the wrinkles in their foreheads and sleeves, the individual hairs of their eyebrows and eyelashes, the shading of their shadows. If you ever wonder why I'm just standing there looking for so long, what I'm doing is imagining those faces with modern hair and modern clothes, I'm stripping them of their lace collars and frizzy fros, and then I'm trying to correlate them with people I know in real life. I'm looking for the nose or curve of mouth that I recognize. I want them to be people I've fought with, or wanted to sleep with, or ignored at a party. I never read the placards. I feel like the placards place them in a timeline, and I'd rather think of them floating outside the bridge of history, above the falls, hovering in our cultural memory.

The next day I got wasted going in between wineries, and threw a glass of wine in the face of the guy I was with for implying something that is probably true, cleaned off the streaks of mascara on my face, then got more drunk at a bar with my sister for her birthday, and hit on people inappropriately (I gave my number on a napkin to a really cute guy who I was just too drunk to talk to and who now i have a sinking feeling I've actually met before), and Emily pretty much heard WAY to much about our family dynamics, and the whole day was horrible, tragic, and yet okay and awesome. Sometimes I'm just a bad girl, well alright it happens, we're all bad people. And the light yesterday was immaculate, it was wonderful. I'm amazed at the range of emotions one fucked up girl like me can experience in one day, and that those days exist at all is a work of art, painful but tangible and real.

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