I spent yesterday at the Art Institute with my mother.
I took the obligatory photo of the lion out front.
The steps of the Art Institute may be one of my favorite spots in all Chicago. I have held three different jobs that were less than two blocks away from these steps. I don’t think it was on purpose. But I am drawn to these steps. If you sit right in the middle of the steps, you face a city street where traffic comes right at you, but then, at the last moment has to turn either right or left on Michigan. The buildings on either side of this street sort of hide behind one another. It is very orderly, until you reach the Sears Tower which is just like BAM! right at the end in the middle. And it’s quite a sight.
It’s a really great mix of people walking by. Obvious tourists, hipster art students, distracted business people, and me. And there is a homeless dude who sells Streetwise on that particular corner and has as far back as I can remember, at least ten years now. He has this whole spiel where he makes people listen to jokes and he asks you to skip across the street with him and he asks you, of course, to buy a Streetwise. He is obnoxious, but I love that guy. I mean, deep in my soul, I love him.
My mom got there and snuck up on me and kicked me in the back. My mom is fond of the “sneak up you” move. She does it a lot. And it always delights her. Sometimes she pretends to be stealing my purse. Yesterday, she just kind of gently kicked me in the back and shouted “HEY!”
We started with the Impressionists. The Art Institute has, in my opinion, a great collection of Impressionists. My mom was eager to see a Renoir. That’s her guy. I don’t know who my guy is. Probably Edward Hopper. Who is not an Impressionist, I don’t think. They had a whole room of Hopper at MOMA, and I spent about an hour in that little room once. One of the most memorable hours of my life.
Anyway, we hung out with the Van Goghs and Monets and Renoirs and Serauts and Picassos for a while. They’d moved around a bunch of the paintings since the last time I was there. At least, I think they did. Anyway. I got caught up in this one, which is a portrait of Picasso’s mistress.
Before I admire any painting from far enough back that I can really take it in, I like to get up as close as they’ll let me and look at the brush strokes and all the little details. I like to stand on the side of a Van Gogh or Pollock and see the mountains of paint, the third dimension of it. And when I stood up close to this one, there was a strand from Picasso’s paint brush stuck in the paint, right on the belly of his mistress.
It was really just about all I had in me not to pluck it right off the painting.
Then, if you turned around you sawthis more classical portrait that he did of his wife and son.
Could those two paintings be any different? It’s astonishing. Look at the idealized version of his wife and son. And then look at that wacked out color and shape in the picture of his mistress — so jarring – it was only right to leave a bit of his paintbrush in the portrait. I desperately need to know if he left it there on purpose?
After the Impressionists, we were trying to find a place to eat lunch. And we stumbled upon Marc Chagall’s famous window. You know the one. It’s where Ferris and his girlfriend have that little romantic moment.
I don’t think I’ve properly looked at the windows before. I only spent five minutes in front of them yesterday, but they moved me to tears. Next time I go to the museum, I am reserving at least 30 minutes to take them in. There is so much to see here.
We had lunch.
And then we tackled the Modern Wing. I haven’t been in there since they built it, which is a crying shame. There were, of course, a few paintings and installations that made me laugh out loud from their ridiculousness. Don’t show me a white canvas, dude. I am not interested. Also, artist who made a string of light bulbs hang on a wall, go spend some time down in front of Chagall’s window. Or, even just check out a Rothko if painting actual things is too much for you to handle.
But there was this huge golden beaded curtain. And it was… compelling. Again, the urge to touch it. My mother and I didn’t dare and had many jokes about what might happen if we did touch it. And could you even imagine??!? And then like 500 people walked right through it and posed in it and took pictures of it wrapped around their heads. That guard didn’t say a thing. We were in shock. But we still didn’t touch it. Because. Just no.
Then I saw my last favorite painting and I have no idea who did it or how to describe it. I thought it was Joan Miro, but I was wrong because I have looked through just about every Miro I can find online, and it is NOT it. I am very upset that I can not remember the artist who did this painting, because it was the hardest one of all not to touch.
I think Henry’s instincts are rubbing off on me.
Anyway, what an anti-climactic ending to a positively enchanting day!