Art has never made me feel so deeply that I cried, until yesterday. I was standing in a ridiculously long line to see the Michelangelo exhibit at The Frist in Nashville. Two teenage girls were behind me bumping into me as they talked about the last time they visited this museum when they were in fourth grade which was a very long six years ago.
I was scrolling through my instagram feed when I heard, “People have been leaving crying.” I turned and it was an older women dressed impeccably who worked at the art museum. She was of course talking about the Michelangelo exhibit. The exhibit we were all waiting patiently (increasingly impatiently) to see.
It had been an hour when I reached the line’s halfway mark. The same stylish older women came around asking if people were members. I have never been so proud to be a member of The Frist. As she led me to the front of the line I felt like one of those VIP assholes with that stupid smile on their face. Move to the side peasants; artist coming through.
As I walked through the Michelangelo exhibit I wrote down in my notebook ways I could relate to this art diety. His sketches were small. Some of them not symmetrical. Some were too faded to see. I’m not trying to subtract from what I was looking at. The magnitude.
Some of them truly did take my breath away. To be fair, I did see some women gasp. I saw grown men with shaky lips. But no tears were shed.
I moved on through the Islam art exhibit. I poked my head into the contemporary art exhibit. The kind of art that people don’t get. Me included. Then I made my way to the final exhibit upstairs called Phantom Bodies.
I know that I am biased because art is important to me. But this was more than that. I could tell the second I walked in that this was going to be special, but I was unprepared. I did not bring any tissues and I had worn eye liner.
Here is an excerpt from The Frist website:
"The third in a series of exhibitions about the human body in contemporary art organized by Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala,Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art includes provocative artworks that address themes of trauma, loss, and transformation, while considering the possibility of an animating spirit that can exist independently of the body"
I could take all day to explain each photograph, sculpture, and video but it would not do it justice. It would also be ineffective. The real magic comes from the viewer's experiences. I think we all have experienced trauma, loss, and transformation but the events and meaning are our own experiences.
The last thing you see in this exhibit is a video by Bill Viola called “Isolde’s Ascension (The Shape of Light in Space After Death)”. The room is small and dark. There is small bench in the middle which fits maybe two adults. The video is on a loop and is a dark blue. In the video it appears a body is slowly ascending from water. As the video ended I turned to see I was not the only one with tears streaming down my face. Everyone was crying. I walked down the stairs, right past the Michelangelo exhibit exit, wiping mascara off my face.
I had gone to The Frist for inspiration. To see the master's work. When I left I was emotionally drained. I drove home in silence. How am I supposed to go paint little green men flying on space ships, I thought. And then I realized that’s the beauty of art.
Art can be beautiful centuries later. It can tell the story of a different religion and culture. Art can be a bag of clothes hanging on a rope. It can be moving. It can be funny. It can make us cry. It can be dumb. It can be whatever it should be. And it all depends on who is looking at it.
I'm Jackie, an artist, illustrator, and friend to ghosts, monsters, and aliens. This blog is full of DIY projects, stories, and things I think are cool. Stay weird.