MOMA Bliss

 

At the MOMA today, I was completely dazzled (not to say overwhelmed) by paintings I have seen in books over the years, though now I was suddenly seeing them in full military regalia – the same paintings I’d seen in slides on projection screens during lectures in darkened rooms, in the shiny pages of art history textbooks, suddenly shimmering outlandishly, surreally, in front of my eyes – and I felt like I was seeing old friends, that these paintings were like partners I’d met in the past for tea, and they were rising up again to meet me, hands outstretched, smiling from ear to ear, ready to embrace me, the same way the city, as we were shuttled from the airport in the autumn morning to the apartment where we were staying, began to stretch itself towards us, disclosing in this stretch so many of its features – its colors (browns mostly, lit by the sun), sounds (horns, creaking of the bus, coughs, quiet banter), gestures, smells, sights, lives, like an enormous painting coming alive, waking up, being witnessed from varying perspectives, angles, distances. 

It seemed to me that, furthermore, amidst all the strangers in the museum, the buzzing profusion and confusion of people and children and parents and situations, one could still somehow enter into one’s solitude alone, as if entering an elevator or the entrance of the museum from outside, and proceed from painting to painting, Matisee to Picasso to Malevich to Judd, in what could be called an almost meditative or contemplative state; and the more one looked at paintings, quietly, in puzzled wonder, the more each person, each stranger, was a moving work of art, some secret artist of his or her own perceptions, whose surface appearance (scarf, hat, bright shoes) was like a tease, a hinting clue, suggesting inner hallways, interior rooms with good views, inner apartments in arrangements suggesting whole lives lived; and that we each carried around our own individual solitude like an extra apartment lived in, like a mask or a shadow, though we could not see these shadows, masks or apartments, and could only allude to them mysteriously as we passed each other, utter strangers, enthralled by the next fabulous work of art and lost in the labyrinth of our idiosyncratic privacies.

       

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