Saturday, September 6, 2008

Standing On Shoulders

Tropical Storm Hanna decided to indulge us with some rain and heat from the tropics; so we decided to forego the airshow at Westover until tomorrow, for an indoor activity. (buddy Tom Daponde made it to the show though, and brought back some pics and video). Plan B for us was to head out to Boston for a look at the Museum of Fine Arts.

They got us good at the parking garage right nearby; $22 for the afternoon. At first that bill put a little crimp on my enthusiasm, as we were also expecting to pay 17 bucks each to get in to the museum itself. With the gas cost getting there, it was starting to add up. But then as we entered the building, the lady at the counter informed us that the museum is free every first weekend of every month, if you can present them with a Bank of America credit card..! Enthusiasm restored.

We had a good four hours to spend, so we managed to get an overview of most of the exhibits at the extensive museum, with time for some closer scrutiny at some select pieces. Four hours is plenty to get a superficial look at it all, but to see it all well, you'd need countless hours. There's a lot of stuff here. The past couple of times, I went straight to the paintings and spent most of my time there. There's a great American art section, including a room full of 18th century paintings and several famous Revolution Era portraits from Boston painter John Singleton Copely:

Jack Black. I mean, Paul Revere:

The rabble-rouser Sam Adams (the Reverend Al Sharpton of his day) in his trademark red outfit. The undermining, scheming, driving force behind the colonists' impudence, early on...

And there's part of the original treatment for the movie Jaws.

There's another room dedicated to the great Winslow Homer. The kid's below are working off childhood energy playing a game of 'Snap the Whip'. According to the informational panels accompanying all the art pieces, to Homer the rapidly disappearing one-room schoolhouse became a subject of several of his pieces in the post Civil War years. Many of the male schoolmasters had died in the war, leaving the task to women, and there was a tendency among artists and the public to romanticize and idealize the innocent years of youth.

The museum allows photographs (no flash) to be taken in about 90% of the exhibits. But some exhibits, like Winslow Homer's, are off limits to photography. I learned that right after I took the above picture; when a museum caretaker immediately came over and gave me a stern whispering...

This time around, we got a better look at the Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman, and Greek exhibits. How lucky are we, to be able to scan and compare thousands of years of artistic development, in a couple of hours.

It's simply amazing that we're able to glance, in well lit air conditioned comfort, at the tombs of Kings; from thousands of miles away, and thousands of years ago.

In this age of audio-visual overload, and NOW! mentality, it's often difficult to comprehend what we're looking at as real, and old. That's partially why I love museums. They're not just showcases for artistic talent, they're windows into real lives of the past.

Real people that were here.

Real tools, toys, clothing, furniture, jewelry. Articles of all kinds, that speak volumes on the way things must have been like, and how people must have felt and thought.

We're able to look into some lives that were magnificent, and into some lives that were common, and speculate what it must have been like.

All of it, concerning people that were here and are now gone. Just like us.

Something to think about...

Or not.

Back in the here and now, closing time had arrived, and we exited the museum setting out in search of something good to eat. We jumped on the the subway, the 'T', and were carried off into the heart of our own modern marvel, the city.

Emerging from the subway tunnels, the rain was really coming down.

We crossed over where the old highway used to cut right across the middle of Boston, before the whole system was buried underground with the Big Dig. Parks now exist where there were used to be a huge, ugly, noisy, elevated highway.

The dark wet concrete of the Bunker Hill Bridge provided a contrast with the steel support cables along it's length.

Luckily I had brought my thoroughly useless mini-umbrella, and we both got a good soaking by the time we made it down to Salem Street, where there's a row of Italian restaurants to choose from.

We were soon digging into tasty plates of old-world Italian fare, and reflecting on our own day in time...


Mary E.Carey said...

That DOES look like Jack Black!

Elizabeth said...

I love the MFA! I'm glad to know that they allow photography in there. My favorite part is the Egyptian section.

Tony said...

Egypt is a good one. I also noticed a lot of artists, probably from the nearby colleges, go there with pencils and pads to sketch the art pieces too..