January 09, 2009
Pausing to people watch
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.
Posted by jo(e)