This WordPress prompt is a few days old, but I dig it, and better late than never, and all that jazz: Is there a painting or sculpture you’re drawn to? What does it say to you? Describe the experience. (Or, if art doesn’t speak to you, tell us why.)
In college, I minored in writing, primarily as a justification to myself that it was OK to take all the poetry classes, and Young Adult Lit, and other classes that were for no other reason than this: They were fun.
During one of my poetry classes, I discovered that paintings were a muse for me. One weekend, just for fun, I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art, and I brought my journal. I didn’t really expect to write, but I hoped something might move me.
Oh, it all moved me. When I saw the Hagrid-sized suit of armor, I imagined where it had tread. When I saw a Gustav Klimt field of flowers, I imagined lovers beneath the brightly hued petals, trying to hide, but not really caring who saw their stolen kisses.
But nothing I saw compared to the Thomas Cole painting, View of Florence.
Online, it’s not much to look at. There are some buildings, some mountains. The color scheme is kind of dull. Everything is so small, it’s hard to see details. Full-sized, however, the painting is other-worldly.
I remember the piece was in a small room. We were almost ready to leave the museum and were ducking into these tiny rooms off the main galleries to see what hid inside. View of Florance quite literally stopped me in my tracks. I felt my breath catch, and it seemed as though my eyes drank in the piece, and it coated my veins and made me drunk.
At first glance, all you see is a scenic print. But I couldn’t help but study the foreground: the goats, the musician, a flower left on the wall by a lover. I felt very mesmerized, very feet-glued-to-the ground.
I’ve only been back to see the piece once since then, and the experience was not hindered by how much my brain played up the experience. The second viewing easily could have been a let-down, but it was just as moving a view as the first time.
On a trip to an art museum in a different city (Pittsburgh, maybe?), I came across a similar scene that made me stop dead. It wasn’t View of Florence, but it was similar. When I looked closer and saw that it, too, was painted by Thomas Cole, I felt excited to run into my old friend again. I am aware of how silly that sounds, but it was like signing into a meeting, and noticing a friend’s signature a few above yours. You haven’t seen the friend in a while, and you feel that rush of excitement that you’re actually in the same place.
I haven’t been back to the Cleveland Museum of Art in ages, but I have a weekend trip there in mind sometime within the next year. The hubby was an art major — I think he’ll be down.