quite a few months ago now, i turned 31. around the same time, the detroit institute of arts was loaned a rather nice van gogh... bedroom in arles. my birthday request was to visit it. and one thing led to another, and people are pretty busy, and there's a house to be built, and it looked like we weren't going to make it. so i took advantage of my position as head of oh, albatross and gave myself the day off to wander the dia.
let's start with the building. frankly, it's breathtaking. there's light and space, and dark corners to reflect in, and courtyards that glow, and another that feels like a castle. it winds and changes and you can wander and daydream for hours. also, perhaps sadly, but enjoyable nonetheless, it's rather empty of people. so you can listen to the click clack of your heels as you step-step-pause-step-step-pause your way through.
the van gogh collection was wonderful. i really don't have the correct words for the way he paints. small, deep, friendly and wild. little did i know, our little detroit museum actually owns his self portrait. (but of course, our destitute city is currently mulling over selling some art to help run the economic side of things, and i fear that little piece is first on the auction block.)
i was not allowed to take photos in that exhibit but it's the sort of thing you want to absorb, not document.
as luck would have it, i also hit the very beginning of the ellsworth kelly exhibit. (again, no pictures.) his more geometric work leaves me a little blank, but i do absolutely love his botanical drawings. simple twisting little sketches, complete in what they omit. and to stand in a room full of them... i think i didn't know how high that really was on my bucket list.
the modern art collections have grown tremendously. or else, not one of my teachers ever thought to acknowledge that side of things during school field trips when i was young. a graveyard of camel leg bones... and one must really acknowledge the perfect setting and lighting for this installation. that seems to be an art in itself.
i sat in a room of religious iconography and rested my feet a bit. not my favorite type of art, but the architecture matched the period, and i tried to place myself in that time. the way one must act in that type of hallowed hall. how your physical body becomes insignificant to the greater things around you. space really does dictate certain feelings. it's easy to ignore, but hard to deny if you pay attention for a moment.
there are hundreds of little joys tucked away in the dia. the puppet collection of course, caught my imagination. (though, horribly displayed in a blaze of purple light. i tried to hide the stink of it with a black and white photo.)
the most overwhelming feeling i had though, was a sense of frustration at what most of my teachers had left out. the people behind the paintings. it took rather stupid things (a doctor who episode and a christopher moore book) to remind me that there is a person behind the paint brush. as you learn about these things growing up, they are mainly a list of names and dates. and i don't think many of us in our tender youth have any sort of appropriate reference for time and place in that scale. (imagine my face palm moment when i realized i had been lumping picasso's timeline in with all the ninja turtle artists. he died in 1973... he's barely even gone.)
i need to know more. tell me about the painter. tell me about their life. did they paint by themselves in a frenzy of inspiration or did they paint leisurely, with friends. were they happy? were they sad, anxious, angry? did they turn to drink when something did not turn out well or did they work through it? make the people real or the work never will be.
just a thought... if you haven't been to a museum on your own, please do. while there is loveliness in sharing the experience, chattering thoughts and cherry picking opinions (and i would love to see it with you) there is a wider, deeper experience to be had letting your mind float in your own ether for a bit.