Archive for the 'museums' Category

When teachers get in the way

December 5, 2013

A friend of mine took me to the Museum of Fine Arts yesterday, and we saw the exhibit of Sargent watercolors.  The paintings were wonderful.

The exhibit was crowded.  It was difficult to get a position to view a painting from a distance from which one could see the detail, and it was difficult to get a position to read the supporting information on the wall.  The written material I thought was especially helpful, more so than these explanations, pointers, and interpretations often are.

I was standing close to a painting, reading its explication and looking back to it from time to time as I did so.  An older woman walked up and stood herself between myself and the wall.  I waited for her to do what she had come to do and then move so I could resume, or for her to realize she was blocking my view and move in some way so that we could share access.

She didn’t.  She remained there, pulled in the group she was leading, which then blocked even more of my access to what I had been trying to view, and commenced a lecture on the painting.

When I realized she was acting as if I weren’t there, I moved on.  I did not see having even a polite confrontation in a museum.

I looked at some more of the paintings in that room, and when I got to the doorway, I saw a museum guard, so I went up to ask her about whether groups are allowed to displace single viewers.  I explained to her what had happened and she told me she sees it all the time, it bothers her a lot and it is not acceptable behavior from the museum’s point of view, and that the process is to let the Visitors Center know.   I came to find out later that the person leading the group was actually a docent under the museum’s auspices — I had been willing to believe they were an ignorant visitor leading a group she had organized to bring to the museum.

This was not the first time I have found my access to viewing art at the Museum of Fine Arts blocked by the staff.  It happened a year or two ago, I think it was, when I wanted to see the colossal statue of Juno and they were setting up for a lecture in the hall and had closed it off.

In the iteration of the pattern that occurred yesterday, the woman lecturing on art got between me and a source of information provided by someone else.  She was quite self-assured, in her presentation to her group, of her own interpretation of the painting, but she was excluding me from having my experience of the painting.  I was reminded of people I am related to getting between me and spiritual resources, and instead insisting that Art and Culture were the only way to go, that I had to accede, as well, to their controlling my access to what art and culture were available to me, and that I was not part of the preferred  audience.

In the version I experienced yesterday as a grown-up who has found her own way back to what sources she needs, the whole thing was reduced to an annoying but almost silly incident.  I had some distance and detachment and it didn’t feel existential, more like a metaphor to help me process a past, more painful experience.  And when I did mention the incident to the Visitors Center to get some clarification about what the customs of the place are, and they insisted that I fill out a form, I thought later, “Ah, there’s the ‘Complaint Department’ my relatives were always telling me to take my complaints to.”  The kaleidoscope had turned enough to give me closure through a literal enactment on the physical plane.

That night I was fielding my mother’s regularly scheduled phone call, and, as usual, it was all about everybody else, and when I brought up a current consumer fraud issue that is on my plate and not getting resolved quickly enough for my emotional comfort, I got the response of her changing the subject.  We talk about other people’s consumer fraud issues ad nauseum and I am required by her to troubleshoot them and provide referrals, if not outright help.  It does not feel like a healthy role for me to play, and it probably isn’t, but what came to me last night is that if I put aside the issues of unfairness, unequal treatment, and even my own distress, I can make the case that the situation doesn’t work because I don’t actually need her help — the universe gives me another resource and that is the one apt for me.  What I do about being pulled into service on behalf of everybody else, willingly or not, is a separate issue, and clearly, if one looks at my life, a central one.  That will take me longer to sort out.  In the meantime, I will see what today brings.


Big Raccoon

November 12, 2013

Last night I realized I had left a garbage can open outside.  It was full of bags of paper towel wet with cleaning solution from my having stripped the old finish off my kitchen floor, and I though ventilating ammonia was a good thing.  But then I learned it was going to rain in the early morning hours, so I intended to cover the can before I went to bed.

I forgot, until I was falling asleep, so I got up, went downstairs, and was about to step outside (I had left the can right near the back door so I could conveniently add to it as I cleaned).  Then I saw a dark thing on the back lawn.  I didn’t have my glasses on and I thought it might be the bird bath, but it moved.  Then I saw it scamper after another, smaller and much lighter critter.  I don’t think it hurt the other animal.  Anyway, the larger animal walked onto the patio and it was a very large raccoon, I mean really big.

The raccoon walked up to the backdoor and looked like he would have come in if I had opened it, but I didn’t.  I watched it until it wandered off towards the garden.

I covered the garbage can early this morning, but it was raining already.  Still, I’d rather have water in the garbage can than an encounter with a raccoon up close, especially one involving an open door to my house nearby.

There’s a tradition of thinking of ourselves as a house, with our baser characteristics as residing in the cellar, our higher selves in the attic.  I have dreams about large attic spaces I rarely use.  I once dreamed, when I was a child, of a side room I didn’t know I had, after visiting the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and being struck by the layout there.  Anyway, having an intruder try to gain access through an open chakra I don’t think is too unusual, so I can put that together with this episode if I want to.  Or I can read it as a reminder to take care of the garbage before I go to bed at night and the nocturnal animals come out.

The spam issue, cont’d

October 31, 2012

This morning I was standing in front of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, waiting with a friend for it to open.  I had made this commitment years ago to go with this friend, who grew up in Boston, is a member of the Museum of Fine Arts — which is a few blocks away — and had never been to the Gardner.  It’s one of my favorite museums, but I have to confess I hadn’t been there in years myself.  On the one hand, I have all sorts of extended-family stuff on my plate, on the other, it is not clear to me how much of it is mine to deal with.  And I had made this commitment, so there we (finally) were.

While we were waiting (my friend is not a big talker), it suddenly occurred to me that the pattern of the spiritual email being regarded by spam after the well-meaning interference of a third-party (my computer guy) — please see my previous post — reminds me of a version I encountered as a small child and which did not feel as benign: family members deriding my sense of the spiritual realm and regarding it as spam I created in my head.  (We had a record at the time about a little boy who was confident in the face of family members who derided his faith that “Carrots grow from carrots seeds,” and that seemed to me, as a younger sibling, all too familiar a position to be in.)

So that’s my resolution of the issue in my previous post: it’s another iteration of the pattern of someone categorizing faith as nonsense.

(And when we had lunch afterwards, my friend drew my attention to a poster in the diner for a concert in the area by Jerry Douglas next week — please see my post before the previous one — which was a nice piece of something or other, too.  I bought a ticket later.)

Juno revisited

May 4, 2012

I went back to the Museum of Fine Arts today and saw some beautiful things (including some wonderful jewelry and statues from Egyptian tombs), but when I tried to go see the colossal Juno statue again, I met with disappointment:  they were “setting up for a private event” and visitors were not being allowed in.

When I got home later, I remembered that I had received an email, after my first visit on this ticket, asking for feedback.  I wrote a brief note about both visits, what I had enjoyed, and today’s disappointment.  I received a reply soon after, offering to mail me a pass to visit Juno another time if I send along my mailing address (which I then did).

I am pleased, not just to get another chance to see the statue, but to have experienced that somebody is really at the other end of what can come across as impersonal pro forma requests for information (the genre of follow-up emails inviting the recipient to rate their experience or the product or the vendor), and that the person is actually listening.  I ended up feeling grateful for the mechanism I had originally not cottoned to.  Without it, I probably would have remained just disappointed.  Its availability allowed me to work out a resolution that leaves me feeling happier.

Juno’s wraps

April 27, 2012

I realized that the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is just a stop before the medical area where I was headed to hear Martin Guggenheim speak on reforming our approach to child welfare, so I got off a stop early and went to see Juno first.  I’m glad I did.

The statue is big, looks great from afar as you approach.  I got caught up in trying to understand her clothing.  The wall placards said she was wearing a heavy-ish mantle folded double and fastened with a pin at the right shoulder, and a filmier chiton underneath that pooled at her feet.  There also seemed to be another level of hem a little way up from the fabric that was pooling, and I was trying to figure out how to understand that.  The sculpture reveals her thighs and legs and breasts in places in a way that implies the filminess of the chiton, so it would be odd if this double hem was suggesting a double layer of fabric to the gown.  I don’t think it is the “mantle” (my mother wondered whether it was actually a stola when I asked her about it — her area of expertise is Roman art history), because it’s too far down, I think, at that place in the front — the mantle seems to drape down at the sides but not in front, and again, how would the legs be so revealed beneath its heavy cloth?  I’m thinking of showing my mother a picture of the statue when I go down to visit next month to see if there’s an obvious answer I’m missing.

I also loved some of the Asian sculpture I saw — a Buddha who looked like he was saying “Hi” and a Bodhisattva who also had a playful or mischievous expression around her mouth (and a posture like a child, with her stomach slightly thrust forward).  And some home furnishings from China long ago I liked a lot, especially the way they are arranged in the exhibit.

I doubt I’ll get back there again within the ten days my ticket, I think, is good for, but maybe, I’d like to.