Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You are not allowed to take pictures in art museums, so I didn't. (I.E.: YOU NEVER SAW THESE.)

Sunday, Mr F and Mr Bunches and I went to the "Chazen Museum Of Art" here in Madison.  

We began with the first gallery, which showed paintings from 1934, or something like that.  It was hard to get a feel for what the paintings were intended to show because Mr Bunches moves like lightning and while he seemed to get, on some level, that we were there to look at art, he is capable of looking at art at a higher rate of speed that anyone else.  He is like a hummingbird hopped up on caffeine.

For Mr F, the highlight of the first gallery was the bubblers, where we stopped to take an (artful) drink.  Then we had to go to the restroom, where Mr F and I entertained ourselves by taking his mugshot while Mr Bunches used the facilities:

By the way, these are in black & white because: art.

Also: I am aware that not many people choose to spend their Sunday afternoons taking pictures of their sons in public restrooms.  But because the museum was crowded I could not put into effect my plan to  actually start a new art project, one I've had in mind for some time, which is this:

"Children Standing In Front Of Art."

I mean, first of all, that's brilliant, right? How more artsy can you be than to take pictures of someone else's art and some kid(s) and then call that art.  It's "meta," which I can say because I am not really sure what "meta" means but I know that meta is where it's at.

Artwise, that is.

But I couldn't start that project on Sunday because (a) there were many people including one guard, in case someone tried to make off with a painting of a factory from 1934. (The painting, not the factory, was from 1934) and (b) also I needed to hold on to Mr Bunches and Mr F's hands as we got higher up, as you will see, eventually.

(That is called "foreshadowing.")

After our bathroom break, it was on to the "Jungle Room," as Mr Bunches pronounced the next room: 1934's versions of landscapes and the outdoors.

Mr F was, as the literary folk like to say,  "nonplussed."

All right, so I just looked up "nonplussed" and here is the official definition(s):

  1. (of a person) Surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react.
  2. (of a person) Unperturbed

Which, what?

Those are two completely opposite things.  So in saying someone was 'nonplussed' you are not telling the listener/reader anything because either Mr F was so surprised and confused that he couldn't even tell how to react, i.e., he wasn't even sure whether he should act surprised and confused, or, he wasn't affected in any way whatsoever.

Mr F was nonplussed, version two.  And we didn't stay long in that room.  Instead, we moved on to the second level, where the first thing we came across was a large screw lying on its side:

The little card noted that the screw is slowly shifting form.  If you look closely at the left end, you'll see that there's a little blob of drip.  The screw is not quite a solid, and it is slowly dripping so that someday, years and years and years etc from now it will not be a screw.  It'll be a pile of drip.

It reminded me of the pitch experiment, which I think is probably the same thing.  When I tried to explain to Mr Bunches and Mr F what we were looking at, Mr Bunches said:

"Go look at vases?" by which he meant the glass-enclosed displays of vases and other artsy things that were in the next room. so we looked at them.  Mr Bunches pronounced one display "vases," one to be "trophys" and one, after some contemplation, he decided was "fish."

Then we went to the drawing room, where the big attraction for me were the tiny framed drawings on the walls but the big attraction for the boys was the big window:

They did look at the drawings, a bit, but seemed not very thrilled with them at all.  

The second level was not all that exciting and Mr Bunches was eager to use the elevator again, so we headed back to it to go to Level 3, the permanent collection, and got into a minor dispute when Mr Bunches felt he should be the only person who gets to hit the button for "3" but Mr F wanted to as well so we decided that Mr Bunches could hit it first and Mr F could push it second, but then Mr Bunches blocked Mr F from pushing the button at all and got a lecture about taking turns.

And then we were on the third level, which begins with a terrifying experiment in trust, in that the third level is open-air.  It has a central atrium or something, a walkway that opens in the middle and the opening is surrounded by a four-foot-tall wall, the opening going all the way down to the first floor.  There is a spot where you can actually walk across that gap, through a path (with walls, too) but the floor isn't a floor, as such, it is plexiglass colored yellow and it's clearly meant to be walked across but it just as clearly didn't seem safe to me.  We took a step onto it and I looked down and thought "Man, I am not walking across plexiglass," and even though I was about 72% sure that the art museum wouldn't set up a death trap, we opted to go the long way towards the room with the giant jack:

Mr Bunches in that picture is looking at a sculpture that is more or less a horse on a roasting spit, and not a nice horse, but the kind of horse you wouldn't mind actually roasting, and he is, in that picture, 1 second away from rushing over to try to turn the spit, because that is what kids do, artists: when you put a big lever on your thousands-of-dollars sculpture and then put the sculpture in the middle of the floor where anyone can reach it, kids are going to rush over to try to turn that lever, and their dads are going to rush after them dragging the other kid bodily until they grab the first kid just shy of incurring a second mortgage to pay for now-broken art.

The point is, the entire third floor of the art museum requires a great deal of supervision, because not only are there walls that could be quickly scaled and fallen over to one's doom, but also there are plexiglass death traps and touchable art that cannot be touched, so that if you are me, you hold both boys' hands and keep telling them:

"Art is just to look at, not to touch.  Don't touch. It's just to look at.  WITH YOUR EYES."

And then you go into the next room and there is a display that expressly says you can touch it:

That is a dresser or curio cabinet.  It was actually very neat, in a gothic horror kind of way.  Those three glass bell jars have sculptures in them, each resembling something but not quite being that thing.  The one on the right, for example, has little bugs-ish things on it.  The two others appear to be almost-but-not-quite plants.  Like the kind of dresser that Edgar Allan Poe might have had a nightmare about.

Inside each drawer in the dresser was a different thing: some old photographs-- why are old-timey photographs so creepy? Probably because everyone's dressed up and it wasn't the style to smile in pictures back then, is my guess -- or weird combs, or a hand-written poem.  I didn't get to look at them all because the boys lost patience, but I could have spent a long time there.

It did hold their attention long enough for me to go around it and snap that picture.  They both seemed a little shaken by it, though. Nonplussed Number One, I'd say.

Then there was the big sculpture room, which featured a sculpture of a totally naked woman, done very realistically, and it wasn't inappropriate because it was art, I guess, and also because the boys paid it no attention, really. 

And as we walked through the room, Mr Bunches said "Now we can go down?" and we finally walked down the stairs which was what he'd been wanting to do all along, although whether it was because there were three flights of stairs into the big lobby or whether it was because he knew walking down the stairs would mean we were leaving and going home is anyone's guess. 


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Andrew Leon said...

And you didn't take an artsy picture of the naked woman? >shakes head in bemusement<

I think the issue with nonplussed is that, from the observers standpoint, you can't tell which one of those (1 or 2) it actually is.

Liz said...

Ah, you found a contranym. Definition: a word that can mean the opposite of itself.

And I only know this because of a Twitter game I play. It was the word of the day...March 3rd (I looked it up).

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Maurice said...

This is great stuff Briane! I actually tried to take a picture of my son in a museum and we got busted. I had never heard of it before, but it makes sense. Someone could take a cell phone pic of the Mona Lisa, sell the counterfeit on the black market and make a fortune. Till someone realizes its a cell phone pic for crying out loud.

Whatever. You've got a good eye bro.

Briane P said...


Thanks. I don't understand what the big deal is with pictures. So I take a picture of a picture, and sell it. Isn't that like photocopying a book and selling that? Maybe I am depriving the artist of some money, but anyone who will buy a cell phone picture of art wasn't going to shell out $20,000 for the piece. And if I just post it on the Internet, like I did here, the artist gets more publicity and people might know who he/she is.


Count on a teacher to know the name for a word! I'm going to try to find that Twitter word of the day.

Or do you do it?


I have the Internet. I don't need homemade pictures of naked women. NOT THAT I'M LOOKING, SWEETIE. Also, she was not Samantha Fox.

As for "nonplussed," even if I can't tell which reaction it is, it's still two entirely different reactions.

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