Museum Adventure by Susan McCollum

While accompanying our husbands on a work conferences in Chicago, another wife Ann, and I spent an afternoon exploring downtown.  I really wanted to see the Art Institute of Chicago; Ann was willing even though she was not an “art nerd” like me. This was her first visit to an art museum and as we wandered through the exhibits, she seemed to be overwhelmed.  I needed to find a piece that would engage her and glancing around I spotted something I was sure she would know. We drifted over and stood in front of the original 30”x 25” painting that had inspired so many reproductions. As we stood gazing at it, I asked her if it looked familiar. Ann nodded, murmuring “yes”.

“It is called “American Gothic” and this is the original. Isn’t that amazing?” I blurted
Ann replied “Really? It is amazing. “

We wandered upstairs to some smaller, temporary exhibits, one of female nudes that led to another gallery of original contemporary prints that I wanted to see. Unfortunately Ann did not want to walk through the first gallery because she did not want to see paintings of naked women. Leaving her alone was out of the question so I racked my brain for a solution. I proposed that she close her eyes, hold my hand and I would lead her through the nudes to the print gallery. Surprisingly, she agreed. Midway through the nudes, Ann exclaimed “These aren’t so bad!”
“Yes” I responded, “these are paintings of middle aged women like you and me, painted by a middle aged woman showing the effects of time and life on their bodies.”

We looked at the nudes, then moved on to the prints. The nudes were much more memorable because they were an authentically shared experience between Ann and me; we could both relate to the effects of time on our own bodies.

We explored a few more galleries and Ann seemed to enjoy her visit to the Art Institute but truth be told, I experienced more pleasure from helping her explore the wonderful world of art.

Do you have a memorable visit to a museum or gallery?
Have you seen an original piece of famous art that surprised you with its power?
Have you identified with a work of art that depicted your state of being?