I know how much art matters because, while still recovering from pneumonia, I stupidly spent hours wandering around the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
It began when the Rocket Scientist and I spent Sunday in SF to celebrate our anniversary. A lovely hotel room, a fantastic dinner, and a great breakfast the next morning all contributed to a lovely time. We had originally planned to spend a few hours at SF MOMA as well, but a slight emergency required him to leave early and head back home.
I decided to stay in the city. I was feeling pretty good, and I thought “What the hell? It’s not like I am going to spend a lot of time here.” I walked the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, centering and emotional as usual, only slightly marred by the tourists who treated it all as a game. Afterward, I grabbed a cab and headed for the museum. They had an Edvard Munch exhibit that I was quite interested in.
Edvard Munch’s work speaks to my soul. Out of all the Expressionists, I love his paintings. I love them even more than Van Gogh’s. Everyone is familiar with “The Scream,” of course, the ubiquitous masterpiece which has been referenced in everything from Halloween masks to crappy Chris Columbus movies. I love his other work, however, and was looking forward to seeing it in person, since it is unlikely I am ever going to visit Oslo. (According to the young man who sold me my ticket, Munch’s work has not been exhibited in the US since the early 1950s.)
I loved the exhibit. It didn’t include “The Scream,” but the works on display fascinated me. Among the art was “Sick Mood at Sunset. Despair,” the painting that preceded and inspired “The Scream,” as well as his beautiful and slightly disturbing “Madonna.” Like Rembrandt, Munch was a prolific self-portraitist, and again like Rembrandt, Munch’s self-portraits evolved through time and reflected the turbulence of his life.
My favorite paintings were reflections on love and sex. One, which featured a bearded wild-eyed man looking who has turned away as two lovers embrace in the background, absolutely encapsulated what jealousy feels like. (Guess what its title is?) The painting I loved the most, “The Dance of Life,” shows a ring of dancers, with two women flanking the central couple. One woman, dressed in white, smiles and reaches for flowers, while the other woman, dressed in dark gray, frowns sadly. Looking closer, you can see that they are the same woman. The audio guide explained that this represents a woman looking at both ends of a relationship: its giddy, joyful beginning, and its sad, lonely end.
I spent an hour in the Munch exhibit. Then I decided that I was a bit tired and headed to the café for a drink (in this case a blood orange San Pellegrino) and a snack. (The flourless chocolate cake is lovely.) I was a little tired, but hey! Museum! I certainly was not going to leave after just an hour.
After about twenty minutes in the cafe, I went out to see the rest of the collection. I didn’t see everything, but I needed to see the Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter sections. I love Close’s paintings: I named my current backup drive after him. And Gerhard Richter paints reflections on the world around us that are thought-provoking and often disturbing.
At the three hour mark, I hit the wall. I could no longer ignore the messages from my body reminding me that I was still recovering from pneumonia. I managed to get my stuff together and stagger outside. Narrowly avoiding collapsing from exhaustion, I caught a cab to the train station — so much for my plan to take a Muni bus.
I waited forty minutes for a train that would stop where I needed to, but there were seats and a stall that sold refreshments. Once on the train, I was able to rest for an hour, which I sorely (in more ways than one) needed.
I paid for my extravagance. I spent the next day, and the day after, hardly able to move. All of this because I just had to see an exhibit that is going to be on display until October 9. It was a wonderful exhibit, but was it worth it?
Hell, yes. It was stupid, but there are things worth acting stupid for.