One of the things I always lamented when my family lived in areas further removed from an urban center was the lack of access to museums, particularly art museums. You’d think that the years of deprivation would have ha td me running straight for the Nelson-Atkins museum the moment I unpacked.
I’m ashamed to admit that my first trip? Was today.
Granted, I’d tried once before, last summer, but went running when the place was jam packed due to a new exhibit opening.
This time I wasn’t to be denied. All three panels of a triptych of Monet’s Water Lilies were being displayed together (Nelson-Atkins owns one, the other two panels are owned by museums in Cleveland and St. Louis) for the first time since I was born. And, Water Lilies was the first of Monet’s paintings I ever encountered (in Picture Memory when I was a first grader). And on top of this, I had to settle something with myself where Impressionists (and Monet in particular) are concerned.
I once had an encounter with a more art-cultured friend who gave something of a derisive snort when I said I liked Monet and several of the other Impressionists. It was followed with the phrase. “Not a surprise. Most average people do.” The thinly veiled message was that liking Impressionists was something that only the bumpkins would do. That they existed like pop entertainment for the masses who couldn’t appreciate finer things. It’s kind of haunted me since. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time avoiding the Impressionists, trying not to like them.
I figured this was the test. I’d go to see Monet, and while checking off the once-in-a-blue-moon experience, I’d look at this thing and make up my mind how I really felt about it. If I enjoyed it, no more shame about what I liked. If it wasn’t as impressive? Well, then my artistic sense would have clearly matured and I could look at the entire Impressionist movement as another school in the history of Art, no more or less good than the others.
So, I walked into the gallery room and…
I enjoyed the hell out of it.
If this is a sign of my lack of culture in the realm of visual art, so be it. Because I spent over an hour having a total moment of zen staring at those panels, and I’d do it again. I’m pretty sure it’s a color thing, especially with this particular work. Blues and greens and purples and tiny bits of red masquerading as pink, all squished together into something I could stare at like a semi-catatonic moron for hours on end. I may have drooled a little.
Maybe it’s a sign that I’m an uncultured lout that I couldn’t get the same feeling about the arrangement of orange acrylic boxes in the modern section, or the million takes on “Madonna and Child.”* However, I’m pretty much over my self consciousness and I’ve embraced my back-water nature.