Saturday, June 29, 2013

A trip to the MFA

I love going to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but there was an exhibit that I almost missed.  Through the end of the weekend, they have about 2 dozen pages from Michelangelo's sketch books on display.  The exhibit, Michelangelo Sacred and Profane, are figure studies for other works and architectural drawings for various commissions by patrons.

Because I went with Pi, I spent a lot of time laughing.  It started outside by the creepy baby heads at the entrance of the Fenway side of the museum.  When he posed by one of the sculptures, the smiles began, and it just kept rolling and growing as we went through the museum.

It has been a rough month for me as I face the reality of the mortality of my mom.  It's that theoretical "We only have a few years left...." sort of thing turned into "Oh shit, the complications from this stroke has really messed her up...."  Yesterday was a tough day and Pi came down to the nursing home/rehab center she's at with me.  The decision to go was last minute after we fought through a bunch of traffic and managed to avoid the worst of the Red Sox fans in the Fenway area.  I said, "If we find a space on the street, we'll go."

A space around the corner, ironically in front of the Gardener museum, opened up.  I also had enough quarters for the 2 hours we needed for the meter and the sun came out.  Yep, we were meant to be there.

There are plenty of reviews out there of the exhibit, so I won't bore with another, but I will say I was struck by a few things.

The first thing that hit me was the uncertainty of some of the sketches.  They were studies for bigger pieces and included things like Christ's leg drawn at different angles.  The one that struck me was the study of a horse's leg for a sculpture and the angles on it.  All I could think of was, "Wow, he didn't look at the rock and release the sculpture inside like I was always told."

See, I never really took up sculpture at any level because I was always told that whittlers shape objects to their will; however, a true artist looks at a piece and sees the sculpture inside waiting to be released.

I'm not say that he didn't do that, I'm saying that even Michelangelo needed to do his homework.  He may have looked at a block of marble and saw a horse, but he needed to make sure he did the horse justice as he released the creature.

Another thing that struck me, he drew on the back of available paper.  There was this beautiful drawing of a doorway in red chalk that he sketched on the back of a letter.  Over time, the ink from the letter bleed through and there was a really interesting result of text over the image.  There were a few pieces like that as well as the incredibly moving portrait of his dear friend as Cleopatra.

It was one of those small but important exhibits you don't really hear about until it's too late.  While it will show up in promotion and advertising, it's not an exit through the gift shop sort of merchandising show, so it quietly slips in and out without much fanfare.  Yet, it really was breath taking in a way I didn't expect and reminded me that even the best of the best are human after all.

We also wandered through the Samurai exhibit, the Blue and White exhibit and through the new contemporary wing.  My initial thoughts: "Wow, they did their best to make it feel like MoMA, didn't they."  Right down to the companion pieces to some of the ones in New York and the ICA on the other side of Boston.  Interesting stuff, but I still felt like the idea of the wing is unoriginal right down to the design of the galleries.

They do have an awesome Warhol piece in there, so that's kind of cool.

Pi and I were hungry so we decided to grab some food at one of the slightly overpriced options in the museum.  We always laugh when we're together and our meal was no exception.  When a couple that were obviously art patrons were seated next to us, Pi looked and said, "I want to buy your women," in his best John Belushi accent as a reflection of how he felt.  I may have been in suburban mom mode, but he was in Pi mode with his local band t-shirt, hat and black jeans.  He was more art student than patron... in other words, he was just Pi.

We enjoyed our meal and decided we needed desert.  On the menu was a "cookie plate" featuring chocolate chip, pb&j thumbprints and a couple of others.

Pi, reading the description, looked up at me and said, "What's a cookie plate?" and I replied, "It's one of those souvenir plates shaped like a cookie that you can bring home for an extra $5."

He lost it and began laughing.  This made me laugh.  Then he looked at me and we both started laughing again and this continued for a minute or so.  The woman at the next table looked gave us a dirty look, which set us off again.  Her husband (date, friend, whatever) looked over at me and smiled.  Again triggering another round of laughter for us that brought on a coughing fit from the asthma attack I had been fighting for a bit, which ended the laughing.

As we left, the two of us decided we need to spend a bunch of time at the MFA this summer.  It won't always be mocking the creepy baby heads.  We actually are pretty reverential when we're in there, even if we both looked at one of the pieces in blue and white and had the same reaction.  ("Oh shit, I did this wrong and it fell apart in the kiln... I know!  I'll call it a statement and act like I meant to do that!")  We didn't have to say it until there was no one else around, but we were certainly on the same wavelength.

The bottom line here would be this: life sucks at times but then throws a ray of sunlight for you to smile about; Michelangelo was human too and sometimes you need to laugh so even "important" people can remember life can be a joy as well.

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