I only had an hour, and I wasn't sure who I would see as I had never been to the St. Louis Art museum. It is almost sacrilegious to only have an hour in a museum, but that is what I had, so I had to make the most of it. I knew before I went that I wouldn't have much time, so I scoped out the collection headings online. Modern, Contemporary, and Photography- these collections would be the focus during my time there. We got the floor map as soon as we arrived, scanned it nervously and we were off; scurrying up to the 3rd level.
A curious behavior takes over me when I am in a museum, a sense of urgency rushes through me (perhaps it was anxiety at only having an hour). I want to see as much as I can, and I become a hunter. I search for certain old friends that I must at least give a cursory nod to before I can leave.
At first, I get to the section and I kind of rush through it, "Hello Beckman, I then run into my gang... Motherwell, Rothko, and Kline, (they do always keep you guys together, don't they) Hello Anselm Kiefer... ah, Diebenkorn -west coast in the house." I rush through like I am collecting stars. "Got it, I see you- you are more than a color plate in a book, more than a name and date I had to memorize. You are real, you are a celebrity and around you I am nervous, but because of you I know myself."
Then something in me shifts, now I can relax- I can walk a little slower. I step up and into each piece, I breathe them in, I have my picture made with a few of them, as if it is the artist themselves. "Hey can you take a picture of me with Rothko over there."
I walk around and around the same section. I don't want to miss anything, I want to see the work one more time to make sure I really saw it. Just when I think I have seen it all, I step
into a little room off to the side, and I see a hint of something so familiar that it calls me forward. Oh, my... is that, it is... a Modigliani.
Tears come to my eyes, I am overwhelmed to see a piece of his in person, it is my first time. There has always been a Modigliani print somewhere in the background of my life, so he feels like an old friend. His portraits of women seem like family members to me. I am so excited to find him, it is a painting of a woman but to me it is him. I am standing next to the artist. I imagine his hands moving over the canvas, I imagine his sadness, poverty, sickness and struggles. His tragic life comes out as I look at this lovely and graceful painting before me. Is that why the tears come; because I know of his torturous existence, or do I tear up for the beauty and hope his painting represents? I hope while he was painting he was captured up in a good moment of his life, and transported away from any disappointments and regrets... The painting was made one year before his death. I wonder how was he feeling then, did he have any idea that his life would end so soon. I take it in and I breathe.
No one told me, I would meet you here.