Friday, August 3, 2007

No one told me...

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.


  1. (sorry if this is a duplicate - having trouble posting)
    Sounds just like my mother in an art museum - quick trip around each room and after a slower contemplation of selected pieces. She had lots of hand over mouth gasps, tears and even hopping up and down moments. She particularly liked to see Bonnard and Mary Cassett. Once I was old enough to appreciate her excitement it was great fun going to galleries with her just to watch her expressions as she travelled around the exhibits.

  2. Were you in St. Louis to see INTERPOL by any chance?

    I can't do that - only go to a museum for an hour. I hate feeling rushed.

    I've really been wanting to take Stella up to Kansas City to see the Nelson Atkins. It's a highly underrated museum, in my opinion.