Sunday, May 20, 2007

I Go to Museums

Over the past few days a friend from Texas had been visiting me in Boston. It was great to catch up with him and learn about the news at my former Texas institution.

I really need to work on being a bit more gracious about leaving Texas, however. Even the mere mention of the state can send me into a diatribe about the lack of civil protections for minorities, women, and queer folk. Then I usually end with special attention given to certain people in my former department who just weren’t very nice (and this almost always includes the professors who attempted to eliminate the department’s non-discrimination clause). If I can’t even muster a gracious exit with a friend, how will I possible contain myself when I meet the people who were mean to me at that institution?

Regardless, we went to a few of the city's attractions while he was in Boston. We made it to both Harvard’s Fogg Museum and also the Museum of Fine Arts. The MFA had a special exhibition of Edward Hopper’s paintings. How can anybody not love Hopper? Tell me that his commercial-design style coupled with his vision of American urban-life’s bleak isolationism wouldn’t prompt you to make out with him for awhile.

Yeah, I know some of you out there are saying, “But, GayProf, he was nasty homely.” Look, I didn’t say that you had to take Hopper’s balding ass home with you. I just said that his paintings would make anybody make out with him for a bit. As if you never made out with some homely dude (or dudette) just because they had a clever turn of phrase. Or at least it seemed like a clever turn of phrase after four tequila shooters and six long-island ice teas.

If Hopper showed up at my door, he would at least get some tongue action based on his portfolio. Well, that’s also assuming that he wasn’t some reanimated-zombie Hopper who just wanted to feast on my brain. You can never tell about these hypothetical situations involving the dead.

Being in the MFA also made me wonder why I don’t go there more often. I had visited the MFA once on a previous trip to Boston, but had not set foot in the building since moving here. Why don’t I take advantage of such cultural venues? Oh, right... because I am a philistine.

Seriously, though, walking among the paintings and sculptures gave me pause to think about humanity’s creative power. Each art piece took an excruciating amount of learning, work, and imagination to bring to life. Standing in their presence filled with me with a sense of awe – kinda how I imagine you all feel when you read this blog.

Visiting museums, though, also brings out another trait of mine: The desire to imitate Madeleine’s (portrayed memorably by Kim Novak) visits to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in the film Vertigo. For those who haven't seen the film, Madeleine claims to be the reincarnation of a woman in one of the PLH's paintings. With little encouragement, I could toss my hair into a bun, put on a sharply tailored gray wool suit, and spend hours staring at a painting representing myself from a previous life.

Of course, that leaves a tricky problem for me. Which painting would best represent my former life? Here are the art pieces that I have considered so far:

Munch’s Scream

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: It pretty much sums up my experiences in Texas.

    Rejected Because: I am not sure that I want my former incarnated self to be the de rigeur art-poster for dorm rooms across the U.S.

Jackson Pollock’s No. 5

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Reincarnate Subject of this Painting: Critics would have a hell of a time proving that the picture wasn’t me.

    Rejected Because: I would like to think I was a bit more tidy in a previous life.

Edward Hopper’s Automat

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: The urban isolation of the young woman speaks to me. Also, referencing it makes the opening part of this entry seem less disjointed and helps make the post have the illusion of coherency.

    Rejected Because: I don’t think that I would ever have worn that hat in a previous life.

Michelangelo’s David

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: If I go to the gym from now until the end of my current life, I will never have that good of a body. It's just easier to claim to have had that body back in the day. Besides, if I am going to spend all day sitting in a museum, I might as well be gazing at a naked man.

    Rejected Because: In proportion to the rest of his body, David has a somewhat small penis. I am no size queen, but . . .

Sandro Botticelli St. Sebastian

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Reincarnate Subject of this Painting: It only makes sense that the very queer St. Sebastian would be reincarnated as a modern queer boy. Why not me? Besides, all those arrows might explain the persistent pain in my side.

    Rejected Because: It might interfere with my future canonization from this life.

da Vinci's Mona Lisa

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Reincarnate Subject of this Painting: If you are going to be delusional and claim a fantastical art-related previous life, you might as well go with one of the most recognizable images of all time.

    Rejected Because: My gravitas would never have allowed such an obviously saccharin smile.

Andy Warhol’s Jackie

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Reincarnate Subject of this Painting: I could get to claim two great previous lives for the price of one. Not only do I get to have been the inspiration for an art object, but also the woman who accompanied John Kennedy to Paris.

    Rejected Because: Jacqueline Kennedy and I were both alive at the same time. I am no theologian, but I think that reincarnation requires that one of us had to be dead first.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: Who doesn’t love the ironic use of comics as inspiration here? Plus, the painting would suggest that I got to be a pilot in a previous life – that’s cool. It could also be claimed to have been the moment of my death and the start of my new life. Finally, it’s just fun to say Lichtenstein.

    Rejected Because: While Lichtenstein’s adapting a comic-book motif fits well with the blog, we all know there is only one DC comic image that I will ever really consider from that genre. It’s Wonder Woman or nothing...

Vertigo’s Carlotta Valdes (artist unknown)

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: I could really, really imitate Kim Novak.

    Rejected Because: Well, it’s not all that great of a painting. Plus, the Palace of the Legion of Honor removed it after filming and it has seemingly not been seen since.

Alas, in real life I am not at all like Vertigo’s Madeline. I am really much more likely to be confused with Barbara bel Geddes' character, Midge.


tornwordo said...

Wow, Boston has the Mona Lisa? Oh, I see, famous art from around the world, not necessarily in Boston. Cohesion, dear. And yes, awestruck we are when we read your blog ; )

Signalite said...

I knew there was a reason I adored Hopper. And GayProf of course.

Also, I wonder if every gay art school student has done a self portrait of themselves as Saint Sebastian at some point. Um, not that I would know, I am just sayin'.

Antonio said...

When it comes to making out with homely people, I plead the fifth.

pacalaga said...

EVERYBODY wore that hat in the 20s, so I'm pretty sure you would have worn one. You would have looked fabulous, too.

Adrian said...

When I was in the PLH, I had the distinct feeling I wasn't the only person pretending to be Kim Novak.

Huntington said...

"Stupid, stupid, stupid!"

No one can call himself gay until he's torn at his sensible (but cute) short haircut like Midge after throwing himself at the wrong man.

GayProf said...

Torn: Actually, I originally planned this post to be centered totally on Hopper paintings. Then I realized, how many different ways could I talk about a single-female figure alone in an urban setting? Then I thought I would focus only on Boston's MFA -- That required too much work, though. It was easier to just find famous art pieces.

Signalite: If I knew how to draw even a little bit, I would so do a picture of myself as St. Sebastian -- Hunky, hunky, St. Sebastian.

Antonio: But is there video evidence?

Pacalaga: Oooh -- That makes it tough. Because I am a slave to fashion, I would wear the hat to be fashionable in the 1920s. Yet, being farsighted, I would wonder if the hat could stand the test of time... It's a GayProf paradox.

Adrian: The nice thing about Novak's suit is that you can also transition and play Jackie Kennedy as well.

Huntington: " Well now, Johnny-O. Was it a ghost? Was it fun?"

I am thinking of starting a totally unfounded internet rumor that Midge was originally written as a gay male character.

Rebekah said...

This post had it all... intelligence, charm, humor...

I love gayprof.

(But now I have to rent Vertigo, since I've never seen that film. Oh, the shame.)

Maria said...

hey -- check out the gardner museum before you live. i think it's one of the city's secret treasures.

dykewife said...

i'd love to be able to see george serat's paintings. since i saw 'sunday in the park with george' withe burnadette peters, mandy patinkin and brent spiner i've wanted to see his paintings. maybe someday...right?

jp said...

Cut David some slack. It was very cold that day.

GayProf said...

Rebekah: Do watch Vertigo! It will creep you out how far Kim Novack will go to please Jimmy Stewart in the second half of the film.

Maria: When Chad visited in the fall, we made a quick sweep through the Gardner. That woman had too much money, though I love her museum.

DykeWife:I bet Canada's national gallery has one of his pieces...

JP: It was an uncharacteristic statement for GayProf. I am actually a firm believer in the idea that it's not the size of the wand that matters, but the magic in it.

Anonymous said...

I believe "Sunday in the Park with George" was inspired by the Seurat painting "La Grande Jatte" which is in the Art Institute of Chicago. It's a HUGE painting, much larger than you would think.

dykewife said...

alas and alack, the national gallery is far away from me. if i were able to get there, i'd be able to get to boston. in fact, i'd probably be able to get to boston easier than to ottawa. though, if you want, they're doing a display of my other fav impressionist...renoir. it's there until september 9

marlan said...

GP, Nighthawks is in the Chicago Institute of Art. Perhaps you'll visit it sometime when you're here in the Midwest.

Tenured Radical said...

I think David actually had a bigger penis when he grew up. I think that the small penis is meant to signify the idealized classical "boy" who could be desired by both men and women.


Cooper said...

Seriously, I don't get the Jackson Pollard style of painting. I could tie a paint brush to Molly's tail and I'm sure she could do equally well. I know... I'm the philistine, not you. You're fabulous! Oh, and that Saint Sebastian is one sexy saint.

Doug said...

You used lots of big words in this post. Thanks for a little edjumication. ;)

Re: David: he was probably a grower.

Re: Jackie: You're talking about reincarnation. In this context, are you saying time travel or mutual coexistence isn't possible?