Day at the Musuem – Week Two

Museum clip-board

I spend one day a week at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I carry a fold-out chair, and my baseball scoring palette for taking notes. Each week I share my notes.

My aim is to provide a reaction from which you will receive a desire to come get your own reaction to the work in reference.

In my first week, I purposefully skipped many galleries. Saving them, if you will. Today, I was drawn to renaissance paintings, as in week one I was drawn helplessly to paintings of the American frontier (which I plan on revisiting thoroughly).

If anything, take my week-two reactions as nothing more than my own self-acceptance that simply walking around walls strewn with beauty changes everything, in a few minutes.

Jack Gilbert was talking about his wife dying in the room behind him, when he wrote this line, “How strange and fine to get so near to it.”, and I echo the same sentence when abandoning myself in the museum.

“How strange and fine” is as close Jack could come to it. It’s how close I can come to it.


Day Two:

Bust of a Scholar or Prelate - Torrigiano
photo – Hans Ollermann

Bust of a Scholar or Prelate – 1545 – Italian Follower of Pietro Torrigiano (Terracotta, painted decoration)

Its funny there is everything left of this man, before me, in terracotta. The wrinkles on his benevloent face don’t bear the baggage of 500 years. The windows in this room look down into the museum cafe, where riggers set a stage for a gala of rich.

This man was not a butcher or miller, clear from the uniformity of his lips. They are dry and unforgiving. I assume he is a prelate and not scholar because of the narrow shape of his head. Men of the cloth don’t strike me as having proportionate heads, physically. One of their features is always jutting out. One thing is always larger than the rest. Something about them is always reaching out beyond their bones and skin.

This time, I sat for thirty minutes with him. Next time, I will spend an hour attempting to get to know this man. Then, I will move to the suits of arms, and try to understand their smallness. I won’t think of modern athletes and their size, or the state of the union. I have the sense this prelate accepts me, whether I accept him, or not.

If this man were sacred, no one would have painted him, sculpted him – given him timelessness in a glass box, in a gallery, in Detroit. No one would have attributed his averageness to this terracotta mass. He would have been given a pretty face.

An artist can only be praised if he/she is willing to tell the truth. What I am looking at is the truth, and I have Torrigiano to thank.

I don’t feel comfortable leaving the gallery without making an appointment to visit the prelate again.

Booked. See you next week.

The Crucifixion - Maerten von Heemskerck

The Crucifixion – about 1530 – Maerten von Heemskerck

I am not liberal when it comes to the color of my city, either, especially when it comes as a backdrop. I have lived my life hiding from what’s important. Ask me now for forgiveness?

There is only the one, the ultimate HE, the first sailor, the last one to be forsaken. And, even in a renaissance of ideas the weepers’ weeping is painted but the man on the cross is just the man on the cross.

I don’t like it when the sun does this, either.

It’s not for the eyes to see.

I’ve never seen such a lonely person on a cross. All the others in my life have been surrounded by the other guilty. There are more weepers. There is a sense that it’s for the better. There is a sense that the horses should be calm. The horses should be calm.

The hills should be alive.





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