February 19, 2011

I Did. I Did Go Back.

I told you I'd be back soon. Wednesday I was again at my beloved Metropolitan Museum of Art- one of my favorite places in the world.

It was a lovely day. Spring has blessed us with a premature visit (how long she'll stay, who knows- but I'll take what I can get). I spent the bus ride down chatting with my art teacher (whom I adore). She entrusted to my oversight four students (for various reasons- one had some sort of disability, another she hoped would pick up some of my enthusiasm). How could I not be enthusiastic? -to be back in that great room (they too were overwhelmed), to be back on those great stairs (they could not but help but like them), and to again sit before the product of brilliant genius?

This time I decided to critique my favorite- Graziella by Lefebvre. I wonder if he knew- Lefebvre did- when he painted for the Paris salons- that a hundred and fifty years later a college student in a leather jacket and Indian scarf would sit at his painting's feet in a museum in New York and fall in love with his fisherman's daughter (forlorn, wistful, her blue dress and black hair flowing in the wind- scarlet flowers in her hair and at her feet)?

As I sat there- those who passed marveled as well. Fellow classmates told me they'd considered my piece for their own work. A three year old girl commented to her mother, "She's be-oo-tiful." (I agreed, and the girl hid behind her mother's skirt.)

It was not like in past times where I could go where I wished- my group members needed to spend time with their paintings and we had a list of works to see scattered all over the museum. Still, I tackled my task of instilling enthusiasm in my group and I think, even had I been apathetic, the sheer beauty and grandeur of the place would have won them over on its own.

I had an uncanny moment when I was taking them down the circular staircase in the Medieval Wing to the Cafeteria- I again pointed out the Renoir painting across the way (this time making sure to note that it'd graced my childhood bedroom wall). It was the same time of day. The same stair-case. The same phrasing. And again a guy said, "You should be an art major." Oh, the predictability.

We went on our art-hunt. [We EVEN went to the Egyptian wing. The Egyptian guys are cuter than the Geek and Roman dudes. Just sayin'.] We plagued the guards with questions. "Where is this one?" And where is THIS one? And THIS one? And THIS one? It was surprising how unhelpful they could be- even when they knew what we were talking about. Normally I probably would have gotten a kick out of making them work for their money- but after talking to about ten guards I just wanted to get the whole thing over with. More on guards later. [Villa of Publius Fanius Synistor is, by the way, not just a painting. It an entire room painted from the floor through the ceiling and found in the left side-gallery adjacent to the Roman gallery.]

Our pilgrimage ended in the American Wing. I've never been fond of the American Wing- despite my love for writing desks I just. can't. spend. hours. staring. at furniture. But the American Wing does happen to have my favorite of the Met's statue gardens. 

I was exhausted. One of the girls wanted to go see the furniture. The other wanted to talk on her cell phone. The guys were still in the European wing critiquing. I curled up on a high-backed stone bench (over which cascaded ferns and vines), cast my eyes on the meditating Cleopatra across from me (and at times studied the intricate delicacy of a goddess's ivory fingers), listened to the soft, echoing murmur of the occasional person passing by... was vaguely conscious of a painter a few yards away... and at last fell asleep.

It was a sweet sleep.

A guard woke me up. "EXCUSE ME!" Her voice was harsh, grating, and  strained. "EXCUSE ME!" I sat up with a sudden grace which surprised me. "YOU HAVE TO SIT UP IN THE MUSEUM!" I replied with a cheerfulness I usually don't possess upon being just woken up.

I was awake. And refreshed. But I wondered if there really is a rule about sitting up in the museum... (After all... the STATUES lounge around.)

The gift shop was calling me (and the pair of earrings I have these long years coveted.) I looked for them. I even contemplated buying them. But they were gone- bought, I suppose, by somebody with more money than me. So I looked at hundred-dollar jewelry boxes, seventy dollar wallets, and priceless art replicas before being informed there was a calender sale (it is, after all, almost March) and I got an arsty calender thingy for two dollars.

The bus was leaving. I ran through the Egyptian exhibit. I ran through the lobby. I danced down the front stairs (glancing out wistfully at 82nd Street) and ran past the fountains to the bus- where my teacher stood  alone, waiting. She smiled. "Did you see anyone on your way out?" "No." She teased me- something to the effect of- "We were probably waiting for you."

And again we were gone. Good-bye, Met. See you later.

*Head photo by John Glines. Used by permission.

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