I saw Lincoln’s poor threadbare hat in the American History Museum, but my heart wasn’t open until I saw a Degas, a very rough Degas in reds and browns and blacks with awful lines and a turn in it that grabbed me. Somehow looking at paintings teaches me about form in writing, moving my eyes around the lines of a piece and seeing the pacing and the structure of it and the risks it takes or doesn’t.
I saw that Degas, and I knew I was home. The National Gallery, bloodless as it is, is my church on the mall. (Of the other museums I know well, the Nelson is cheerful and proud, the Met is bloodfull and heavy as hell. The Whitney is devious. MoMA is beautiful and insecure as new money. Our Kemper is a fancy rooster.)
I love the Capitol, the monuments to Jefferson, FDR, and MLK, but art is more important. Americans remain suspicious of Fine Art. It is European, snobbish, profane, or worse, a waste of time and money. Still, we have a National Gallery with Calders galore and I.M. Pei and the best part, a cafe that feels sidewalk, being in the tunnel between the museum’s two buildings, with a view of a waterfall.
I remember the National Gallery’s cafe as the first place I ever saw baby bottles of wine for sale, and I thought, someday, I’ll be the kind of person who lavishly drinks a baby bottle of wine at an art museum. Twice on a three-day trip, I had coffee and cake instead. Sorry, past self. I needed an upper, not a downer.
We had our last snow this week. We thought the previous one was the last, but this one, I’m sure was really the last. I like walking in the snow. It is slower. The unity of color intrigues me, white, white, white. I know I will return to my house, a circus of color, my poinsettia, red lilies, pink violets, my yellow walls. So all that white is a rest, a void. It’s my own modern art museum, Guggenheim or Nelson’s Bloch building, the modern (eh, contemporary) white.
At the Museum of the American Indian I only got to see one section, Our Universes. The displays showed different groups’ big-picture structures: there are four directions. The world is like a pyramid. North for white and old age, bears for courage. It was just the right section for me to see, Jungian that I am.
I thought I needed “bear” to take with me, vicious courage, but as I left, I passed the display about the moon, and I thought, no, I need the sun. Doing his thing, no matter what the weather suggests, warm and showing, always showing. Even on the snow. Especially on the snow, those lavender nights that are almost over, when the night that is never dark, in my city home, that dark goes so soft with the snow whispering back light.