The Lady Gaga of Her Time

On Friday night, Christine invited me to attend the Pasadena Art Night, an evening where more than a dozen local museums and art galleries open their doors to the public for free. After meeting up for dinner, we started walking down a main street, hoping to find the first location, or better yet, a map of all of the galleries. Suddenly, Christine dashed toward a stranger and I heard her ask, “Excuse me, where did you get that?” When Christine returned, I asked whether that person had a map. “No,” she said. “She had a glass of wine!” Ah.

We followed the imbibing stranger’s directions and found a table full of glasses of free champagne. We drank our complimentary beverages – you know, to pay respect to the arts – and then I began to wonder where the art was. Christine pointed out the small triangular flags hanging above us and showed me a nearby sign that declared it an installation piece even though it looked like nothing more than crappy decorations from a party supply store. Unimpressed, I instead directed my attention toward a trio of Indigo Girl-types playing folk music on stage; inexplicably, they performed immediately behind a giant sign that read LATRINE, though that wasn’t their band name. Their music always seemed to be about two notes away from breaking into Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” so I grabbed another glass of champagne to cope.

In the meantime, I spotted a plump woman dressed in an embarrassing sailor costume helping herself to champagne. I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous she looked. As I chuckled, I noticed several more middle-aged people in equally absurd (well, actually, the initial woman still looked the worst) sailor costumes. Further investigation revealed that a Navy-themed tap troop would be on stage next. As amazingly awful as old people tap dancing in sailor outfits seemed, Christine and I opted to move on to actual art.

At the first real museum, I stopped at the first painting I saw and studied it intensely. It didn’t take long for me to give subsequent paintings a quick glance once I grasped how much art there was to see that night. But with that first painting, I felt obligated to learn everything about it… and was thwarted quickly upon reading its title: “The Birth of the Virgin.” Last I checked, virgins are born every day, if not exclusively. I suppose there’s a middle-school joke in there somewhere, like, “I’m no virgin, I was inside of a woman before I was even born!”

Buddhist statues, Asian ceramics, and more nude portraits than you can shake a penis at. I asked Christine whether people were naked more often several centuries ago considering the bare human form was so prominently featured in artistic works. Not three seconds later, we passed a sassy six-year-old who tells her mother, “Why are they all naked?! They need to put some clothes on!” It’s good to know that I have the same level of appreciation of the arts as a young child.

Later we encountered Johannes Verspronck’s “Portrait of a Lady.” Christine called the painting’s subject “the Lady Gaga of her time.” She then speculated that perhaps this woman had injured herself and received this collar to prevent her from licking herself like a wounded dog. Her insight is even better than something an art historian could provide. It was a great night, though I do still regret missing the tap dancing “sailors.”

No comments: