A Peculiar Place

Winter                                                                  Waxing Moon of the Cold Month

The last Thaw tours are over and they were good ones.  I’m glad I leave the exhibit with a positive feeling.   This art, important and beautiful as many of its pieces are, doesn’t engage my heart in the same way European and Asian art does.  Individual pieces and cultures do, but not all of it, though I suppose that’s really not too different from the rest.  This was an opportunity to see and become familiar with some remarkable objects from an unusually broad and deep collection.  If I’m ever in Cooperstown, I’ll stop in to see the rest.

The museum is such a peculiar place, bricks and mortar, bureaucracy and guards, elitist opinion all woven around the true stars, mind bending, heart wrenching, beautiful, disturbing works from all over the world.  Many of the works are old friends now, The Cardinal, the Man of Sorrows, Germanicus, Doryphoros, Song dynasty ceramics, the collection of Chinese paintings, the Tea House and the tea wares, the ukiyo-e prints, the Benin head and the Bierstadt, Moran and Copley American paintings.  Dr. Arrieta.  The Delacroix, the Cezanne, the Monet.  Kandinsky.  the tryptych Blind Man’s Buff.  the Bryce Marsden.  The strange and disturbing telegraph operator.

When I come into the presence of these and many other pieces, we pick up things where we left off the last time I visited.  Hello, Cardinal.  You’re looking serious today.  Does Jerome bother you or does he give you inspiration?  Mr. Marsden, are you there behind the surface, the paintedness?   You gods, the jam session must have been a good one, you look exhausted.  Yes, your colors still move me today as they did they last time, Mr. Kandinsky.

Do you ever wonder what the paintings and the sculpture think after the lights have gone out and all the art lovers have gone home?  Many of them are, after all, of vampiric age.  Lucretia is a spry 345.  The Jade Mountain 225.  Doryphoros?  2,100 years young.  A real antidote to that sinking feeling when you turn 64.  As, for example, I will do next month.  Over all those years they must have accreted some wisdom, some knowing.  Think of all things they’ve been around for.  To be in their presence is to inhale the passage of not just days or months or years, but centuries and millennia. As I said, the museum is a peculiar place.

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