When I left you, dear reader, I had just left Teesha at the very warm welcome carpet she had rolled out for me at The High. Teesha, if you are ever applying for work with the Defense Intelligence Agency and need someone to vouch for your facial recognition talents, let me know, please. The art world will miss you, but girl, you have a gift that you might as well be paid real money for.
The current marquee installation at The High is The Allure of the Automobile, and features some truly lust-worthy examples of automotive art including the rarest of the rare, a 1937 Hispano-Suiza Xena. This charmer, the Bugatti, The Dusenberg and the Aston Martin will stay on idle for another trip though. My thinking was that the crowds for this exhibit would be too thick and a little too testostone soaked for my appearance. I would feel terrible about causing any blown head gaskets. Or something like that.
I took the less beaten path therefore to the permanent exhibits and passed by a pair of security personnel who were very complementary of my appearance. Being from a cold place, and born of reserved northern European stock, I have always envied the freedom and gusto with which southerners in general, and particularly Atlanta-based women of color greet the world:
“Uh-huh, Looking good”
I could only smile and return the kindness. Long time readers will know that I pass from far, but close inspection alerts people watchers that I am a bird of a different feather. This is not a matter of despair for me: there are limits to my art after all. Museum staff spend more time watching the visitors than they do looking at the exhibitions. These two strolling staffers seemed to enjoy the effect I had on their space. God bless ‘em.
Museum visitors have their focus on the stuff up on the walls though. This is part of the “why” I wanted to visit The High en femme. Museum crowds, such as they are, are prone to getting lost in thought, and this was part of the appeal of this setting. The feminine sounds and silhouette I was presenting would likely be in the background of the other patrons minds. Why look at the pretty woman when there is so much else to stop you in your tracks? I felt as though there would be enough happy distractions within the museum for me to get lost, and not attract too much attention.
Lost not only to my fellow visitors, but also to myself, and this is the other part of the “why” behind this adventure. The part time Cross Dresser is often very self-conscious, and I am no exception. When looking at a work of great beauty though, I happily tend to forget myself. I wanted to see whether Petra would disappeared to me, as much as I suspected she might to all of the other awe-struck strangers.
A little Monet goes a long way towards that end, and The High has a couple of beauties in the permanent collection. My favorite (above, click to enlarge) comes from very early in his career, before his eyes started to fail, before tragedy took his wife, and long before the grotesque machinery of modern war would display its ability to ruin whole landscapes. The Canal at Zaandam, painted a full four decades before the famous Water Lillies of Giverny displays the beginnings of his long travels along the border between imagination, perception and the limits of brushes and paint.
This picture, and others of this prolific period seems to me a perfect reaction to the camera. I never get tired of looking at it. A completely original response to the question that the simple perfection of photography posed: Why Paint? The artist struggles with technology, and emerges as necessary. This is to me, a happy story.
It is a story that repeats itself. I took a long walk from the 19th century European galleries to the modern/contemporary spaces on the fourth floor to measure my Monet against a Chuck Close self portrait, where a similar approach, an assembly of geometries is employed to create a vivid reproduction of the subject of the painting. Close, like Monet before him wrestled against the inevitability of technology, now in the digital age, and found a way to express life in a way that pixels cannot, and found a way to mock pixels along the way.
Yup. That is where my mind goes when let off the chain of the everyday. I completely forgot who was doing all the wondering. Then back to wandering, still lost in this contemplative space when I blundered in front of a massive mirror and shocked the hell out of myself. Clearly, 20 well lit yards away stood a smartly dressed person I did not recognize for a moment. She really caught my attention.
And she brought me more or less down to earth again, not fully, but much of the way there. I took a quick picture of her, wanting to remember the moment, and to have something to look back on in the future.
It felt amazing. I did get lost. The sound of my heels, the press of my skirt, the touch of my hair had all become background elements, outside of my senses for long happy moments. Such is the power of art. I recommend such a visit and experience to you, dear reader, regardless of how you chose to present yourself.
Enjoy your art.