It’s Day 2 of the deluge that is the remnant of Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Inconvenience Isaac. Apparently the rain is supposed to last for 3 days, but because of the shape of the storm, we get a downpour and then nothing, a downpour and then nothing, et al. The meteorologist on the news said the storm was shaped like spokes on a wheel, so the bursts of weather would only occur as each spoke ticked through the area. It’s a useful image, I think, and I’m glad I can appreciate it as opposed to people in the future who won’t know anything about wheels because they will have hovercars.
So Labor Day weekend is pretty much rained out, and if you didn’t already know about my preference for staying inside with Netflix and the Internet, you might think I’d be bummed. Graham’s finally off on a Saturday, though, so instead of staying in the house all day, we’re going to the Art Museum. I haven’t gone with any regularity since I was unemployed. Having a job means money, security, and, if you’re lucky, insurance, but it really robs you of all the other things you could be doing to nourish your brain during the week. Weekdays at the museum are great because nobody’s there except a few students and old people. Weekends at the museum are probably terrible, and I say probably because I’m not the kind of lunatic who goes to tourist attractions on weekends so I guess I won’t find out for sure until later.
BUT this is the last time we’ll have a chance to go, which means it’s the last time I’ll be able to visit my favorite pieces, and the last time I’ll get to walk through the “Dedicated to art and free for all” statement that always chokes me up. I’m leaving St. Louis for a lot of reasons, one of which is not the reasonable price of our terrific public institutions. If you live in St. Louis and aren’t going to the Art Museum, then what in the hell are you waiting for, it’s amazing and you should go feed your soul. If you don’t live in St. Louis but find yourself in it, then I encourage you to see the museum. It’s better than the Arch and everything about it is free. Plus you get to visit my favorites while I’m away:
Edited: I guess SLAM’s archives aren’t very smartly linked, so some of the below pieces may not link to the exact work or at all (for fuck’s sake). In this case, please visit here and type any part of the artist name or title.
Monet’s Water Lilies. Yeah, I know it’s cliché and, next to Klimt’s The Kiss, probably the most common piece of girl dorm art and I know that this piece is just one of many, but the piece at SLAM is massive and beautiful and if you can stand in front of it and not experience your own Cameron Frye moment and feel your optical nerve just spasming to keep up with the colors and light you keep discovering within it, then I’m sorry, but you might be a sociopath and someone should put you in jail.
Gerhard Richter’s October, November, December, and January. The Art Museum has a surprisingly substantial Richter collection, as well as a lot of Max Beckmann. If you’re into contemporary German artists. What I love about October-January is that it’s a lot like Water Lilies in the way that the colors, light, and, in Richter’s case, textures just continue to reveal themselves the longer you study the pieces. Kind of like how Beckmann is a lot like Matisse in some ways – at least he is to me – and the longer you look at his paintings, the more similar they are even though they were painted nearly 100 years apart.
Gerhard Richter’s Betty. Anyone who posts links of hyper realistic paintings or drawings online needs to just bow down, okay?
Bartolomeo Manfredi’s Apollo and Marsyas. Apparently, Marsyas was a satyr who bet Apollo that he was better at playing music than a god, and because this was not America where “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is every white trash girl’s stripper song, Apollo won. As punishment, he flayed Marsyas himself. The expressions of the characters in this painting are so arresting – Apollo’s face is cold and cruel, and Marsyas is a little like “dude, are you seriously shitting me?”
Auguste Rodin’s Saint John the Baptist. For the outstretched hand, and the way the wrist tenses it into a come hither pose. It’s also cast from bronze, so the patina is now dark and shiny and almost intimidating to regard.
John Martin’s Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion. This painting is a representation of a story from Tales of the Genii and depicts the most impossible struggle. It makes me tired to look at it, but it makes a single scene from a single story so epic in scope.
Zana Briski’s Brothel #8. I don’t spend a ton of time in the photography collection, but I love this shot because of the subject matter (prostitutes) and the setting (the festival of Holi, which is the one with the colors). It’s also shot in black and white, which mutes both the subject matter and the setting but still communicates the image.
Enthroned Virgin and Child. As a former Catholic school student-turned-atheist, there’s a comforting pit in my calloused, guilty heart for religious art. I mean, I know the absurdities of religion and the historical crimes of Catholicism in particular, but I still know and appreciate the beauty that faith (and, ahem, money) can create. St. Louis is a Catholic city, so it stands to reason that SLAM has a very impressive collection of religious art, including this crude-looking piece from 12th century France. 12TH CENTURY FUCKING FRANCE.
Reliquary Arm. Another one of my favorite religious pieces, and another piece that is old as balls.
Giorgio Vasari’s Judith and Holofernes. The presentation of the image is just a sum of the representation of the image’s parts, and I love how Judith’s back is so masculine and her face is so placid as she prepares to bravely decapitate Holofernes. Who probably deserved it.
Giovanni Paolo Panini’s Interior of St. Peter’s, Rome. I think it’s nice, but this is my mother’s favorite painting so I always go see it for her.
Bearded Bull’s Head, Sumerian from 2600-2550 BC. Can you fuckers even believe that. It was made over a millennia ago and it still exists and it’s beautiful.
The Highlands Arrows from Papau New Guinea. Possibly it’s just the presentation, but they’re very striking and can kill you very dead. Still.
Gebrüder Thonet’s Rocking Chaise. I don’t know how to enter an umlaut unless I Google it first and then copy-paste. Anyway, this chair is in the Decorative Arts gallery with the crazy parquet floor, and one time I was in there on mushrooms and got a little overwhelmed.
Rothko’s Red, Orange, Orange on Red (best image available). So then I sat down in front of this painting and even though it was pulsating which was still a little trippy, it felt warm and full of light and I felt better.
I don’t do that kind of thing anymore, and I’m not just saying that for the parents who read this blog. I mean, come on. I’m thirty. Besides, I’ve gone to the Art Museum sober far more times than I’ve gone anything else, and I’d recommend that you do the same if you want to make a connection with any of the pieces there. Also, drop a few bucks into the donation boxes on your way out. It’s entirely worth it.