Sunday afternoon, I ventured over the river and through the Mall to the Edward Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. I decided to go alone, because it was easier, and because I've realized that I am an antisocial gallery goer-- a revelation came at the expense of a guy who once suggested we go to the Portrait Gallery together.
The whole Portrait Gallery experience, which I have since termed a pseudo-date, was deeply awkward. Am I walking too quickly? Too slowly? Does it matter if I want to look at the Louisa May Alcott bust for five minutes? Do I care if it matters? I don't care, because I am awkward. I embrace it. But ill-advised pseudo-dates in galleries go south in a hurry when people start talking about art. In the case of Portrait Gallery Guy, his comment on a painting of Sandra Day O'Connor confirmed it: he was blandish.
But on Sunday, alone in a room full of people, I witnessed a crash-and-burn that far surpassed PGG's uninspired remark. As I wandered around the last room, I fell into line next to Fratty. Fratty was wearing the uniform, of course-- khakis, button-down, sweater, crew cut. He was clearly there with the woman to his left, and he was clearly trying to exercise his wit and insight. As they shifted their attention away from "Nighthawks," he turned to her.
FRATTY: [excited] I don't know. I just feel like all the people in his paintings are talking about... I don't know, something cool, you know?
WOMAN: Really? I feel like they're not talking. At all.
[beat. FRATTY looks like he has been slapped in the face.]
It hurt. Even through the schadenfreude, I felt bad for him, just a little. I mean, he tried. But didn't he read the notes on the exhibit? Come on now.
Debacle-watching aside, the exhibit was amazing. I struggled with the paintings from summers in New England. The isolated houses and Coast Guard stations seemed out of step with the shoreline in my mind-- a shoreline not of houses, but of children running out of houses toward the beach to play in innertubes or to the creek to catch crabs. I was struck by the winter-ness of the scenes. No matter how many times I reminded myself that they depicted summer, I found myself transported to the beach in February, when there are no cars at the cottages and the marsh grass is brown and the sun is bright but not warm. It made me excited to go home for the first time in three-and-a-half months.
I have more to say, but it is late, and the alarm clock will sound too soon. Before I go, though, a few notes about upcoming posts I have begun to formulate in my mind:
*On seeing Tamburlaine: How my love of theatre has made me a terrible theatre goer. No really, I'm a ruined audience member.
*The Game 2007: I am optimistic that I can keep this from becoming a catalog of mishaps and bad decisions, but it wouldn't really be me if that stuff were completely absent.
*Remembrance of Times Past: I have done a lot of ridiculous things, some of which are suitable for publication. Those stories will appear here.