Publisher's Gallery: I should have consulted The Thinker during planning for Family Fine Arts Day

Dec 1, 2002

Mike Morsch
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

We have always tried to provide our children with opportunities to be exposed to the fine arts. Unfortunately, our family usually consults the Book of Stooges for all things cultural, of which I am immensely proud because I live in a house full of women.

Still, this did not prevent us from taking a one-time family outing to the Museum of Art and to the Rodin Museum, both in Philadelphia. Among other things, we would see all types of art, as well as Rodin’s famous sculpture, The Thinker.

It soon became apparent that I should have consulted The Thinker during the planning stages for Family Fine Arts Day. He might have thought up a better game plan.

We received an early sign of discord when Eldest Daughter decided she would rather spend a day with her nose in a geometry book than go to a museum. While on the surface this might seem like a teenager’s ploy to avoid spending a day being annoyed by her uncool parents and her little sister, it was not, because she is one of four people on the planet who actually likes geometry. Besides, according to us, we are not uncool.

Conversely, the outing was an easy sell to Youngest Daughter, who can be talked into anything attached to the promise of an N’SYNC compact disc.

Now, lest you think our children are lacking in artistic graces, let me state up front that the youngest is a singer, the oldest can produce a piece of artwork good enough to hang in my office and both are dancers. Not only that, they are both smart, beautiful and look like their mother, for which everyone is thankful, especially me. Besides, neither can hit a curveball, and we were forced to steer them toward other interests.

So our museum excursion group was reduced to three family members and two friends from Illinois. The Museum of Art is housed in a huge, palatial, gold-plated building that can be seen from the highway leading into Philadelphia. It was also the backdrop for a famous scene in the film Rocky, which was enough to impress me right there.

Unfortunately, we were less inspired inside the museum. Youngest Daughter did find a room that housed some kind of papier-maché display that she thought could have been produced by any of her elementary school cohorts. Across the room, on the wall, was another display, the meaning of which escaped me. It was a plain kitchen sink. Protruding from the wall above the sink were two female legs, hanging down into the basin.

“Oh Dad, that’s gross,” said my daughter.

“What’s gross?” I countered.

“Those legs on the wall. They have hair on them. I think I’m gonna throw up,” she said.

“Well, then step over near the papier- maché display and maybe nobody will notice,” I said.

Meanwhile, my wife had wandered into a room that housed a large canvas, approximately 25 feet high and about 10 feet wide. The vertical painting was half orange, half black. Nothing else.

“Holy cow, I could have done that,” my wife said to nobody in particular after studying the piece for several moments. Those who know my wife know that that’s not exactly what she said during her critique, but decorum forces me to paraphrase her in this instance. Not only that, my wife has a range of volume settings that begins with “Sounds Like My Dad,” and gets progressively louder. This time it was set to “Informs the Whole City.”

“Well, harumpfffff!” said one woman as she turned and stomped out of the room. My wife took this to mean that the woman agreed with her critique on the artwork. I let her think that because I’ve been married a long time and have learned that sleeping in the garage is not much fun at all. 

While it appeared that wife and daughter had each found something to entertain them, I still was searching for my niche in the museum. I wandered into the areas that contained the paintings, and discovered some original work by Van Gogh and Monet, which I initially thought might have been the Cardinals double-play combination in the 1940s. That turned out to be wrong, the tip-off being that those guys had all their ears.

Thus I was reduced to looking at the paintings, thoughtfully rubbing my chin, and saying “hmmmm” and “ahhhhh” a lot.

I eventually worked my way into the modern/abstract art area. This was slightly more interesting, if for no other reason than it raised several questions about the decision-making process involved in selecting which art will be displayed in the museum.

It was in this area where I finally found a piece of art I could relate to: a wall with a urinal. It took me several moments to figure out that I hadn’t wandered into the men’s room. 

There you have it, the sum total of The Hillbillies Go to the Big City Art Museum: daughter was ill, wife was ill-advised and I was ill-informed. That certainly should put us at the top of the invitation list for the museum’s next black-tie fundraiser.

But our family will not be dissuaded. We will continue to invade the likes of the museum, the symphony, the ballet and the theater, where we will promptly try to entice the crowd into doing the wave.

 

Mike Morsch can be reached at 217-206-6521 or by e-mail at morsch.michael@uis.edu

 

Illinois Issues, December 2002