If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I am putting in a bid that in my next lifetime I come back as a visual artist. I have an eye as they say, but the coordination with my hand is just lacking. Well, my sight ain’t great either after a bout of rubella at age eight. But one of the magical memories of my childhood was going on visits to art museums, in particular the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I am not sure why we never made it into the one in Philadelphia on visits to my siblings at college in the suburbs. But that has become an ingrained habit to visit art museums in the cities and towns I visit or live in. When in Leeds, I would sometimes visit the Leeds City Art Gallery on my lunch hour and do a bit of writing on a bench inside. On a lay over in Chicago I hot footed it to their Art Institute before catching my train.
And while the Louvre left me strangely unmoved (perhaps I was over-tired seeing as I had slept top to tail in a single bed with a college buddy when there was a problem with our reservation.) I have rarely been so moved as by the Vincent Van Gogh’s in Amsterdam. Washington, DC was a playground during my own college years, with so many riches acquired by the Smithsonian. London’s Portrait Gallery drew me back again and again on rainy Sundays.
I first saw Andrew Wyeth as a print hanging over the piano in my childhood home. I next saw his work in a retrospective at London’s Royal Academy. Later, I was able to visit the Wyeth collection in Chadd’s Ford. Likewise, Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party was first viewed in an article in MS magazine. I saw the real thing in London’s Islington in a venue whose name I no longer remember. That installation has a permanent home now in the Brooklyn Museum. I have been back two of three times since.
I suppose I am a bit of an art pilgrim. And I do give thanks to those philanthropists who decided to give back by endowing museums and donating collections. Sometimes robber barons do things that can redeem some of their greed.
So, today’s poetry practice returns to free, or open, form.
Lessons in Art
In terms of scale and scope-
height and breadth and depth
of light and shading –
those are never captured
in the postcard bought in the gallery shop.
Which I would take home as relic
Similar, but not quite the same
to the driftwood, pebbles and shells
brought back from an outing to the beach
once the sand had been brushed off.
There I had been conversing directly
subject to object
with Creation’s mind
for a moment.
There it met with
human hand and heart.
That was the lesson in the art museum,
the difference between
studying something from a plate in a book
and then standing before it.
The hush and awe being in
the cathedral of creation
knowing the theory of the existence of angels
and feeling them brush past you,
the proof of their wings.
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018
Today’s featured image is Snowfall at Slimasaku, by Utagawa Hiroshige. It is one of the thousands of Open Access, Public Domain images that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has released online. I encountered haiku and Japanese print art around the same impressionable age.