A few weeks ago, the New York Times Travel section had a picture
of last year's New Year's Eve fireworks along the Thames in
London. The row of gigantic plumes of sparks shooting into the
night must have been thrilling to see. As I looked at the photograph,
I said to myself, "Am I so obsessed with art that I missed
seeing this?" After spending a good part of the day at
the Royal Academy of Arts and having an early dinner, my husband
and I were asleep in our hotel room.
That day, we had seen "China: The Three Emperors,"
an exhibition of artifacts from 1662-1795. In my journal, I
wrote about a large vase that was given to an emperor on his
80th birthday. I noticed it because it was covered with 10,000
symbols for "long life" and because it was also my
In our four days in London, we went to the Tate Modern, the
National Gallery and the Tate Britain. Sure, we saw two plays
and walked around a lot, but we missed the fireworks on the
31st because MY focus was on ART! At the time, I felt happy
that we were able to begin 2006 by seeing that many museums
in just a few days.
In March, I wrote about being underwhelmed by the David Hockney
portrait exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I
complained about not being able to connect to portraiture. Even
so, I dutifully studied each drawing and painting and wrote
in my journal: "I need a major boost in attitude."
In April, I saw the paintings and mixed media in the "Art
of Injustice" exhibition at the George C. Gordon Library
at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and it reenergized me. Yoshiro
Sanbonmatsu presented his interpretations of Russian, Japanese,
Chinese, American and German 20th century atrocities. At the
artist's lecture, Sanbonmatsu said that there would be no human
rights violations if we all had empathy. Such a simple and true
insight stunned me as much as his work did.
In July we visited the Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg with my
sister Jennie and her husband, David. We saw their fine permanent
art collection and the exhibition, "Pests," which
showed how animals and insects were depicted in paintings. I
complained in my journal that I thought the curators had stretched
the concept by including Degas's pastel of "Race Horses"
and a Chardin painting of a horse being frightened by lightning.
In August, spent a week in Washington, D.C., which could be
the art capital of the United States. We toured the Hillwood
Museum, and after seeing Margorie Merriweather Post's Russian
collections, I wrote: "What money and a love of beauty
can buy. And I think I'm obsessed!" We visited the Phillips
Collection, the American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery,
the Hirshhorn, and the Asian and Freer museums. Pages and pages
in my journal are filled with insights, observations and complaints.
For example, the American Art Museum visit resulted in this
comment: "Because of this being an all-American museum,
there was no competition from artists outside the United States.
I did not know some of the artists whose work was shown. They
must have been famous once, at least second-tier artists. It
makes me question (once again) the concept of fame."
One October day, we visited the Russian Icon Museum, a new
museum in Clinton, Massachusetts. Industrialist Gordon Lankton
has refitted a factory located on the common in order to display
over 200 pieces of his Russian icon collection from the Middle
Ages through the present on three exquisite floors. There are
magnifying glasses throughout the museum so that we were able
to study the finest details.
At the end of the month, we went overnight to New York City
for a tribute to poet Marie Ponsot at the 92nd St. Y, and we
managed to see the Comic Book Art exhibit at the Jewish Museum,
Ferdinand Botero's Abu Ghraib paintings at the Marlborough Gallery,
the Folk Art Museum (bigger and more extensive than we imagined),
and the International Photography Center before we got back
on the bus the next day. In my journal, I complained, "October
must be some kind of landmark: one month with no new painting
Museums, yes. Reading about art, yes. Entering group
exhibitions and having an exhibition, yes. Getting accepted
and rejected, yes. Working on my poetry manuscript, yes."
I dutifully recorded two painting ideas, one a revision and
another a series (both of which I competed in December).
In November, we visited the Cleveland Museum of Art and saw
the "Barcelona: Picasso, Gaudi, Miro, and Dali" exhibit,
and the next day to Youngstown's Butler Museum of American Art
and a trip to BMAA/Trumbell to look at Charles Hinman's 3D wall
paintings. More evidence to support the known fact: "If
you exhibit it, she will come."
We ended the year with another overnight in New York City,
this time to attend the third evening of tributes to poet Frank
O'Hara. One of the many great thrills on that warm night was
going up to the archives on the 6th floor to hang out (literally)
on the balcony overlooking the sculpture garden, and looking
out at the glass walled museum opposite, seeing all that great
art lit to perfection. We had spent the day inside MoMA, but
this point of view was spectacular. The next morning, we went
to the Neue Galerie to see rooms designed by Josef Hoffmann.
The galleries were hung with paintings by Egon Schiele, Otto
Dix and Gustav Klimt. Then, on to the Metropolitan Museum of
Art, where we saw "Glitter and Doom," an exhibit I
will not soon forget because of its unflinching look at war
torn Germany. We took in a lecture about Islamic art, given
by an amazing docent named Josephine. Because of her, I will
always remember the four features of Islamic art: calligraphy,
vegetation, geometry and horror vacuo (filling in every bit
of space with design). We also saw THE Christmas tree and crêche
from Naples, with all its groups of people and animals.
Am I "arted out," as my journal entry from early
December asks? I don't think so. Several years ago, I told someone
this: "My life's ambition is to see every art museum in
the world." I don't think I am "arted out," but
only exhausted and saturated with the privilege of excess that
Next month's journal will have a writing theme. You can contact
me with any comments or questions about poetry or art: firstname.lastname@example.org.