“These are two of my favorites,” Emily said. We were standing in front of John Singer Sargent’s paintings, A Street In Venice, and Smoke of Ambergris. They are also two of the paintings I always visit when I’m at The Clark Museum.
I get lost in the white robe and background of the woman in Smoke of Ambergris. I feel like I could look at that painting all day, taking in all the colors that make up the white in it. I’m also drawn to the subtle texture of the brushstrokes, how they meet, one color pushing against the other so the line distinguishing them is lost.
Not surprisingly, Emily’s and my taste in art overlapped more often than not. We both liked the collage-like look of the modernist Japanese Woodcuts. And we breezed through the Renior gallery only stopping at a still life of apples.
But when Emily made her way to the gallery filled with porcelain, I was doubtful. Honestly, I don’t believe I ever looked at the small ceramic cups, plates, and teapots before.
But her enthusiasm sucked me in. For the first time, I was actually seeing the delicate cups and saucers and experiencing their beauty in a way I had either missed or just never noticed before. The dinner plate painted with moths was obviously something I’d like, but it was the small teacup with the tiny woman’s head poking up from the handle that really caught my attention. It was so strange and made me wonder about not only the person who made it, but who would have drunk from it from 300 years ago.
It was when I got home and was walking in the woods that I realized I walk through museums much the same way I walk in the woods.
In terms of how I “see” anyway. In the woods, I also visit certain trees or places, just as I visit certain paintings or sculptures in museums I know well. But I don’t limit myself to those pieces, I’m always also looking for something new. Whether it’s never been in the museum or woods before or it’s been there all along and I just didn’t see it.
Of course, the woods are constantly changing while museums can be somewhat more static. But I visit the Old Shagbark Hickory the same way I visit the Sargent paintings at The Clark. I expect them to be there.
Today’s Porceline Gallery in the woods came at the end of my walk when I scared the ducks out of the marsh and watched as they flew away. That made me stop long enough to see the footprints in the snow-covered ice on the pond.
The triangular duck feet, some with drag marks linking the shapes together and others, individual marks that mimicked the duck’s waddle. And then there were the giant chicken feet. That was my first thought, but it only took me a moment to realize they were the tracks of a heron.
All the footprints headed in the same direction, making their way over the ice from one small circle of water to the other. Not only did the marks make a lovely drawing in snow, but they told a story too. And one easier to understand than the small head on the porcelain cup.
Emily and I agreed we’d be going to another museum soon or maybe we’ll take a snowshoe in the woods. Either way, we’re sure to see things we both appreciate or discover something new.