Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Problem


I have this problem.

When I go to museums I always, and let me stress the word – ALWAYS – get into trouble. Last summer I went with my buddy Joe to the Detroit Institute of Arts. On the way in I warned him that I ALWAYS get in trouble when I go to a museum. I ALWAYS get yelled at no matter how hard I try not to.

I confess. I have this compulsion to touch the paintings. I know it’s baaaaad. I know they’re worth millions of dollars. I know I shouldn’t do it. I don’t mean to do it. I don’t try to do it. But in my heart I want to do it and as hard as I try not to, I discover that I’m doing it again when the guards yell at me to get away from the paintings. It happens every time. It happened with van Gogh. It happened with Dali and Picasso. And it happened again last summer. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

We went into the DIA. They had a display of paintings by Norman Rockwell. A very humble and kind man who was an astounding painter. If you ever get the chance to see his paintings up close and personal be sure to do it. The colors are amazing. The expression and realism are incredible. He’s a modern magical realist of the painting world.

Are those enough superlatives for you?

The thing is that paintings are tactile things. They are a product of touch. A brush is just an extension of the hand. And when you see a painting up close you see how it was so carefully touched. You can see the brush strokes and the movement used to make shape and shadow. Light and the lack of it imitated on a flat surface. On some of the paintings by Rockwell, you could almost feel his hand moving across the canvas. There were also tiny little lines where a brush wouldn’t work so he took a pencil or a pen and used that instead. Sometimes you could vaguely see the shape of his original sketch behind the paint on the canvas.

From a distance you can’t see any of that. So you want to move in. You want to touch the canvas like Rockwell did when he painted it. Well, maybe you don’t want to, but...

It’s like looking at the paintings of the impressionists. The paintings seem to be a splash of odd shaped pixels across the canvas to make an image. The farther you stand from the painting the more “concrete” the image becomes. But if you really want to enjoy the painting, you also need to see it up close and get a feel for how the image was formed, piece by piece. You have to get your eyes right on the canvas. Your hand just wants to . . . touch it.

Which is when the security guards start yelling at you. Trust me, I know. And it seems almost criminal to me that we would have an art form that is so tactile, but you can’t touch it! It’s like torture! Oh, the humanity! The colors cry out to my phalanges!

You can pray for me on this. I thank you in advance.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010


  1. Funny! And not unreasonable. When touching a painting, you're in contact with the actual physical material that the artist placed on the canvas...not a recording, like a movie or music. The person who created the painting might even appreciate your long as your hands are clean, of course....

  2. I can almost hear you recounting your tales, with a laugh and a bright, menacing smile, remembering the countless guards that have been ticked off and/or troubled by meddling fingers... Good work.


All comments are subject to my approval. All profanity and disrespectful comments will be deleted. Be nice or I will pretend you are not there.