Happy July! Goodness gracious where did 2015 go? I hope everyone is having a masterpiece of a year.
I am an art lover, old art mostly. I was lucky to have free passes to a lot of museums in the city for a while. It was an amazing time and I saw the most beautiful pieces of many masters (see what I did there?) You don’t need a museum to appreciate art. I find that art is happening all around us but we miss it so often while searching for perfection. It is in the smile of the old lady behind me at the check-out counter, it is the swinging waist length braids of the self-conscious teenager sharing the elevator with me, it is in the curious eyes of the baby meeting me for the first time, it is in the stillness of the waters, the singing of the birds…
So therefore, I implore you, enjoy art today. Right where you are.
This one is for NYC- I miss you. And for Toronto – for blowing my mind away daily.
He is happiest in museums. These places that hold onto the past. These places that don’t know how to forget. These places that don’t know to let go, to move on.
He doesn’t know how to move on. He doesn’t know how to let go of the memories of his past or the dreams he once had for the future so he fits in perfectly at the museum.
The Guggenheim is his favorite in the city. There are other museums around the world that he prefers to it but they are in places like Rome and Greece and Palermo, places he doesn’t plan on visiting again.
He has been going to the Guggenheim since he moved to the city eight years ago. He has seen it through three refurbishments, five protests and two city mayors. It is stately and prosperous. It is open yet secretive. It also looks approachable unlike the MET
He enjoys visiting the MOMA too even though he isn’t much of a fan of “modern art”. He likes his art old and before his time. He wants to be reminded that even with all the change the world has seen, the yearning to be loved has stayed constant all through the ages. He discovered the MOMA when he changed jobs two years ago and his new office offered museum passes as a perk.
The days he loses more money than he makes on his hedge funds, he goes to the MET. It is a good place for reminding himself of how far he has come from decrepit rubber sandals and being cramped in a windowless classroom with a 100 other sweaty children in primary school in Lagos. It is a good place for inspiration to not to lose money tomorrow. It is a very good place to remain grounded.
The first time he saw her, it was at the Guggenheim. She had walked past him like the breeze and he would have forgotten all about it if he hadn’t seen her again three days later at Whitney, wearing the same grungy black tshirt with word “Hero” splashed all over it in white. She stood alone and silently; contemplating a painting that had caught his eye the week before for its brashness. It was by some contemporary Swedish artist. Like much of modern art, it had left him confused.
If you spend time around something long enough, you will know enough to identify it, even in a different setting. Anjola had spent enough time around masterpieces to know one when he saw one. Masterpieces are defined by their subtle details; the expressive faces of Da Vinci’s subjects, the godliness of Michelangelo’s humans, the earthiness of Wyeth’s landscapes that made the people in it seem like an afterthought.
The way she stood, arms akimbo as if fixing for a fight with the painting. The way she planted her feet like an egret poised for flight. The way she didn’t seem to be breathing as her eyes roamed the canvas. The energy that bounced off the planes of her body. The light that reflected from the bulbs overhead and christened her with a halo. For the first time in his life, Anjola wished he was an artist of any kind so he could replicate the scene before him. It would have been a masterpiece.
It had taken him a few minutes to summon enough courage to go stand beside her, eyes on the canvas, hands behind his back.
“Breath-taking” he said.
“Isn’t it?” she answered, her eyes never leaving the canvas.
“I meant you,”
“I know. The painting is bullshit”
She started to laugh then as she turned towards him and he felt like he was the sun and she, the flower.
She was in art school in Savannah and failing, she told him later that night as she walked him home after he had bought her dinner. She had come to New York to find inspiration. It had been over a year and she couldn’t bring herself to return to Savannah.
“No one has ever walked me home,” he told her when they finally stood in front of his building.
“I hear this city is a great place for first times.” She said as she turned around to head to the subway station.
“Will I see you again?” He yelled at her back.
“I hear it is also a great place for finding people again,” she yelled back.
She moved in with him two weeks after they met. She painted while he was away at work and after welcoming him with her body on his return. He watched her paint every chance he could. She watched him cook. He loosed her braids. She helped him shave. He bought her clothes. She helped him match socks and ties. He gave and she gave. They didn’t ask for more than the other could give. They were magic. For four months they were magic.
Magic meant the first argument caught them both by surprise. By the second argument, they were better prepared but only a little. The third time was on a Sunday and a freefall.
“Your Mom called again”
“And you answered. Again.”
“School is starting soon. You could go back, re-register, take a few classes. Your painting has improved. I will come visit every weekend. We could make it work, you know, if this is about the distance.”
She had stormed out of the kitchen before he could turn towards her for an answer. He waited for the curry he was making to simmer before going after her.
“You know what makes me so mad Anjola? The fact that you assume that I was waiting for you to walk into my life and then everything would fall into place, that I would finally realize the next and right step to take in life. The fact that you are probably right. I was waiting for someone, someone like you to love me, to accept me. I have always been waiting for someone like you. But unlike you, that someone wouldn’t need be to be more than I am right now.”
“You want me to get a degree so you can take my arm proudly and not hesitate when your upper East side friends ask what you what it is that I do when we go for the parties and galas they invite you to. It is why you buy me clothes I never wear. So I can fit into the masterpiece of your future that you have painted in your mind. This isn’t about me, it is about you. You want perfection; it is what you look for in the art you go to see in the museums. I am not perfect, I am not art, I am life and flawed.”
He tried to refute her words but his argument sounded hollow to even himself so he made love to her instead and stayed awake long after she fell asleep, wondering where the magic went, wondering if it was possible to love someone as much as he loved her and not want their lives to turn out perfect, in tune with yours.
The fourth time they fought was the last. Before they could fight the fifth time, he came home to find home had fled and in its place a painting she had done of him feeding the doves at Central Park.
He doesn’t go to Whitney anymore now. It holds memories that are a cross and he is a vampire.
In the painting she left him, she had painted a dove on his shoulder. Unlike the other doves on the ground that were waiting to be fed, this dove was brown, not grey. It stood proud on his right shoulder, its beak close to his ear as if advising him on what direction to throw the seeds he had in his hands, as if whispering sweet nothings in his ear, as if telling him it was all going to be alright.
She has left him a note too.
“It is called a ‘Master-piece’ because pieces come together to make it beautiful. You are a piece of me forever as I am of you.”
He is seeing someone else now. He met her at a nondescript art gallery in Brooklyn. She doesn’t know it but he had been looking for his dove there. He found her instead. She has a degree from one of the country’s finest art institutions. He is never hesitant when he has to introduce her at parties or galas sponsored by his office. She is a partner at a law firm and he would never dream of buying her clothes or asking her to help match his ties with socks. She paints but it is rare- the criminals she represents leave her no time for this pastime. He still cooks but she rarely watches. She has never walked him home.
She is someone like her but she isn’t her so he keeps the painting she left him on the wall of his living room and master pieces of those four months hanging in the museum of his heart.
He is happiest in museums.
Photo Credit – UNICEF Photos
Song of the Day: Israel Houghton – Speechless