Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Old Friends

Yesterday I took the train into NYC. Hopped on a subway and made my way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I love New York.

Instead of frogs and guineas and goats and roosters filling my ears, I was assaulted by the sound of trains and cars and horns and voices. I like it! So many different colored faces, so many souls quickly walking from somewhere to somewhere.

Smell of hot dogs, diesel, expensive perfume and coffee remind me that I am not in Virginia anymore.

So many bodies so closely packed and able to avoid eye contact is also a sign I am no longer in the country.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is comfort food to my soul. When we lived here in New Jersey I would try to go in quarterly. Now it is a yearly trek. I thought about going to the Cloisters. Even considered the Modern Museum of Art. But I was hungry for some comfort food.

The familiar steps up to the entrance are littered with bodies resting, coming or going. We offer up bags to be checked, we make our "donation" to the establishment and then it is time. Time to examine the huge arrangements of flowers in the entrance hall. I consider the effort of the team in charge of daily flower arrangements that are sometimes as large as a chicken house!

Which way to go. That is the next consideration. Back in the day when I would take the kids with me we would start with the ancient Greek and Roman, head to the Egyptian section, then on to the masters. But yesterday I was all alone and with only so many hours. I made the executive decision to start with lunch in the Petrie sculpture garden cafe. Armed with the map and a notebook I made my plan as I ate a ridiculously overpriced salad composed of pan seared calamari, arugula and calamata olives. A glass of red wine and a hard roll with butter was a fabulous dessert.

First the sculptures. For some reason the sculpture of reclining Sapphos by Compte Prosper D'Epinay moved me greatly. Larger than life, lyre in hand by her side, I halfway expected her to breathe and stretch out her arms and legs. I never paid her much mind on previous visits, but this time she caught my attention.

Things have been rearranged at the Met. It was a bit disconcerting to not know where some of my favorite pieces were placed, but I had fun looking for them and met a few new acquaintances on the journey.

Cavalier and Nude by Picasso welcomed me back. So did the Man with Lollypop and Woman in White. Pierre Bonnard's works: After the Bath and Poppies in a Vase were a sight for sore eyesSo was his painting: The Children's Meal. Those red slippers always make me smile. Edourd Vuillard's painting Still Life with a Pheasant is one of my favorites. I love seeing the children under the tree in the yard outside the kitchen door.

I love portraits. The larger than life visages tell me it has been a long time since my last visit. Consuelo Vanderbilt looks fabulous with her little fellow, Lord Ivor Spencer Churchhill. I think Giovanni Baldini must have made her very pleased with that portrait. What a different world back in 1906.

One of my favorite museum friends is The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur, painted in mid 1850s. I can smell the sweat and dust, feel the tension and energy. What an amazing piece of art. My mom introduced that painting to me. It is one of her favorites. Back in the day, women artists were supposed to paint lovely things like flowers and soft landscapes. Not sweaty men and horses. She would dress as a man and go to observe the horse fair for weeks, making her sketches. She was not afraid to tackle a project that her peers felt better suited to male contemporaries. I love it.

I saw a new piece this visit. Jules Breton's The Weeders, 1868. Pale pink of evening, peasant women kneeling in the fields, pulling weeds in the cool. Lovely. If we dress up in peasant clothes and weed in the pale pink of evening will that make the job more fun?

Oh dear. I see my list is stretching before me, so many friends by Renoir, Monet, Inness Church and Bierstadt, Matisse. That is not even mentioning the joy I feel as I pause before the Garden landscape and Fountain by Tiffany. The jeweled colors remind me that God is a god of Beauty and joy. Even the mosaic columns stir me. The creaking parquet floors, the smell of history wafting from the old furniture, the hours pass quickly and before you know it it is closing time. Thank goodness. My eyes were fully saturated, filled to the brim with beautiful images. Shocking images. Some disturbing images. Memorable images. I want to close my eyes and lie down on the steps outside the museum. But I don't.

I take in the sight of the mountain high buildings, the lamp posts, the taxis, the hot dog stands. Briskly make my way back to the subway and the train station. Not once did I think about farm work. The train ride home was a pleasant time of rereading one of my favorite books: At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald. The commuters crowded in with their papers and Blackberrys and briefcases and backpacks. We rode together quietly.

Back in Madison, I arrived to our friends' home in perfect time for supper. Time to see the kids play silly games with Fred the dog. Visit and eat. Now it is time to go back to the farm. I think I am rested and ready.

Ready to hear and smell and see my family. Philip, kids, roosters, garden, stream, frogs, roses, goats, barn, Coco's warm flank, stars and weeping willow.

Home.

4 comments:

Jeff said...

Well, I guess you answered my question! (smile) I'm not familiar with some of the artists - I'll have to see what I can find out on the 'net. You are fortunate to live close enough to the museums to be able to visit them on a regular basis. Have you ever visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Wonderful place! Picasso, Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase", a room full of Constantin Brancusi - lots of great works of art. I hope you got full enough to tide you over until your next trip!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Ginger, I am so glad you got to go to the museum for both of us. I was right there with you reading this. I am so glad that my favorite painting is still there and you were able to find it. I still remember the excitement when you pushed me in the wheelchair down the hall and there it was. What a wonderful trip. Texas is such a long way from there. We will be there soon and hoping we can see more of VA.
love Mom

The Blue Ridge Gal said...

What a fabulous trip you had! I've never been to NYC and hope to go one day.

Di
The Blue Ridge Gal

gingerhillery@mac.com said...

Hey Jeff! I have never been to Phil. Museum of Art. I am sure I would love it. Any big room full of art does me wonders. I am pretty satisfied right now.

Hi Mom. Wish you were here. See you soon.

Di, I hope you can go sometime. Let me know if you do and I can make some recommendations. It is a great place to visit.