January 09, 2009

Pausing to people watch

Backdrop

On a winter day in the city, after walking briskly through the cold wind, I like to step into the warm air of a museum and thaw slowly as I look at works of art. At the Famous Circular Museum Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, I walked around and around, my hands feeling less frozen at each level. At Small Museum that Hosts Art Collected by Some Guy Now Dead, I sat on a bench in the courtyard of a mansion the art collector once made his home, a building with lovely windows right near Central Park. At Huge Art Museum, I meandered from room to room, from wing to wing, from floor to floor, feeling overwhelmed by how much there was to see.

After about an hour of looking at artwork, I'm usually saturated with colour and imagery, and that's when I take a break to sit on a bench and people watch. Museums are wonderful for people watching, because everyone is so focused on looking at artwork that they don't notice if you stare right at them.

In a room full of Egyptian art, I watched people posing with the statues, friends taking each other's pictures — for facebook, I presume. "I'm going to pretend I'm friends with the pharaoh!" Near the sandstone temple, two women sat with sketch pads, working furiously. They would stop to look at each other's drawings and talk in low voices, in that intimate way that two close friends do. In a lovely room of the Mansion-Turned-Art-Museum, I watched two young men study a painting intently. The curly-haired man seemed to be the expert. "Note these edges," he'd say in a low voice, and the other man would nod seriously.

Couples sauntered around statues, arm in arm. A father held his daughter's hand as he pointed to objects in a glass case. A group of friends clustered around a tapestry, talking and laughing and teasing each other as they admired it. Even in a huge museum, filled with throngs of tourists and herds of school children, with so many floors of artwork that it would take a lifetime to look at each piece carefully, intimate conversations take place — on benches, in corners, or often just in that little piece of floor dominated by a favorite work of art.

Pause

11 comments:

Lorianne said...

That first picture (well, both pictures) show what I think is my favorite place in Big City Like No Other. Well, that and the Big Green Space Designed By the Landscape Architect Who Designed Everything: I think you know where I mean, although you might know it by some other name. :-)

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

These photos are fab!

Great pix!

You really need to get some air time for your photos as well as your wonderful writing!

NICE WORK!

liz said...

"Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash."

liz said...

And Lorianne, did you mean The Big Green Space Designed By the Landscape Architect Who Designed Everything in Manhattan, or the one in Brooklyn? I like the one in Brooklyn better, myself.

jo(e) said...

I went for walks in both Central Park and Prospect Park. I'll post some photos ....

Julia said...

I knew exactly where that first photograph was taken the moment I saw it. Slightly more than a year and a half ago, with our hearts still newly broken and very raw, we escaped to that city for a weekend. On our anniversary, we went to that museum and discovered the huge room with the pool and temple that somehow escaped our notice all the times we'd been to that museum before. It was a perfect thing to find that day. We laughed as we made up stories about the 19th century graffiti on the walls of the temple. It felt strange to be in that moment, but oh how we needed that...

Later that evening we saw a play that is now a movie many critics love. I want to see the movie, but keep wondering exactly how much baggage it comes with in my head.

Anonymous said...

Okay, the big art museum is the Metropolitan, and the famous circular museum is the Guggenheim, but what's the museum full of art collected by some guy now dead?

KCB said...

Man, I want to visit New York again.

jo(e) said...

Anon: It's the Frick, on 70th Street near Fifth Avenue. It's an old mansion that houses some artwork.

Lorianne said...

Liz, I meant the Manhattan one, the Big Green Space Once Draped in Saffron by the Artist Who Decorates Landscapes. I've not been to the Brooklyn one, although I've heard it's wonderful & rivals the other place. Maybe on my next trip...

Silver Creek Mom said...

I dream of going to that Museum to study the works of art in the City like NO other.


I also want to so and plays upon plays on the street of Plays.

One day.
I people watch all the time too.