The NYC public schools were closed this past week for the February break. I’m cursing this break when school is still in session at the end of June, but in the moment? Yeeees, so necessary. For the most part, the girl and I spent the week resting and ate half-priced-post-Valentine’s Day chocolate. But yesterday morning Husband needed to get new glasses, so Art Child and I went with him to help pick frames. Since we were going to be on the east side anyway, I figured it was a good day to hit a museum.
The Upper East side has been (marginally) more resistant to change than most other residential neighborhoods in Manhattan, so there are still a few old gems left to wrap me in the nostalgia of remember when. Like this one.
Art Child and I said goodbye to Husband, I grabbed my camera, she grabbed her sketchbook, and off we went. The Guggenheim isn’t one of the museums we visit regularly, it is not one of the suggested donation institutions. Those types of museums can quickly blow a week’s budget. Eat before we go. No, we aren’t buying anything in the gift shop! No, we can’t go again before the installation leaves. The saving grace is that flat admission price doesn’t exclude any of the temporary exhibitions. If you’ve never been, the building itself is well worth a visit. All curves, you spiral your way up a continuing ramp to see what’s on display. Certain floors branch off to more permanent exhibits and/or smaller installments.
Every time I go I think of being there with Man Child when he was a little guy, an installation of motorcycles. Very cool, even if I still don’t understand why they were there. Mostly I think of it because Nerd Child was an infant. They didn’t allow strollers/carriages along the ramps, and Nerd Child was a champion puker–one of those babies where every spit up looked like an audition for The Exorcist– so Husband and I took turns carrying him while zig-zagging around the bikes.
The current primary exhibition is a retrospective, a collaborative effort from Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss that spans over thirty years, “How to Work Better.” Huge, the sheer number of sculptures, photographs, videos, and instillations left me overwhelmed at times. Art Child tells me I’m supposed to be. Some of it I really liked, some not so much. The first thing you see is the costumes the artists wore while making their films THE POINT OF LEAST RESISTANCE and THE RIGHT WAY. umm, ok. I didn’t take a ton of photos, I was busy trying to understand what I was seeing, but I’m glad we went.
In the Thannhauser Gallery there are an assortment of paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cèzanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and others. Regardless of what else is on exhibit, whether it’s something I enjoy, understand or not, I’m moved and satisfied sitting in that gallery. I love Picasso, his paintings, his etchings, his sculptures. Not all of his work, he starts to lose me with swaths of his Cubist period. Does that mean I’m déclassé? Maybe just a peasant. That’s ok, I don’t mind.
One of my favorite paintings is there now. Sorry, I must have knocked the dial on the camera right before I took this photo, it’s way too yellow.
Woman Ironing, by Pablo Picasso. Can I say it again? I love this painting. From his Blue Period, there’s something about it that has always drawn me in. I don’t remember the where (pretty sure it wasn’t the Guggenheim) or when (I was a child, for certain) I first saw it, but I will never be tired of this woman. When I hear people refer to a work of art speaking to them, this is one of the paintings that comes to the forefront of my mind. Maybe I always knew I was destined for drudgery. And scoliosis. And shadows. Take a closer look with me, the shadow along her neck is delicious, makes me shiver.
This was the first piece of the day that Art Child chose to sit and sketch. I can’t say what I enjoyed most, being able to sit down and enjoy the Ironing Woman, the girl sitting at the end of the bench and sketching her, or the museum visitors stopping to watch her sketch for longer than they looked at the painting in question. Perfect moment.
After we had moved on, and were back to Fischli and Weiss, I felt my phone buzz. A text from Nerd Child, frustrated and disappointed about a lost opportunity. No fault of his own, one of those life-happens things. Still, I’m a mom, which means through the life experience that enables me to understand the whys, hows, and frequencies of disappointments, my heart aches for each of my kiddos, every time they’re faced with one. In the middle of the gazillion clay sculptures I happened to be standing in front of a representation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. I walked past the donkey to the inner wall of the museum and looked down.
Something had clicked for me, and the artists’ spent Rat and Bear costumes lying on the lobby platform made sense. Trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t, philosophical questions that don’t have a right answer–or any answer at all, dreaming about success. Yeah, these are the things we need to do, to experience, the questions we need to ask. These are the moments we need, perfect or otherwise.