Often, when I am in a museum, I feel the same way I do when people discuss a fine meal.
I do not have a discriminating palate, and there are many things for which I simply have no taste. My interest in fish pretty much stops at fried clams and fish and chips. I will eat mushrooms and spinach, although, when ordering a meal, I have never understood any reason to include either of these things.
To this day the notion of putting broccoli on pizza is unfathomable to me.
So it is, often, with art. I love the idea of museums, and am glad to pay taxes to support the arts. I genuinely believe that art is vital to society. I love that notion of anyone producing art for any reason.
I just wish I appreciated it more.
Here I am, at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, outside the exhibit “Ansel Adams in Our Time.” It is an exhibit of work by one of the most celebrated photographers ever. The man’s images of national parks are legendary.
And I know, absolutely know, that as I walk through this exhibit there are people who feel these images touching on their most primal senses of beauty. People linger on these photographs for a long time, no doubt breaking the images into separate areas of light and shade. These people look at these images, and feel a transcendence that takes them beyond the moment that they are standing in front of them.
And there I am, looking at them, and thinking to myself “yes...very nice. Very, very nice.”
These are masterpieces, mind you. They are iconic images. The photographs of Ansel Adams are legendary.
“Yes,” I think to myself, “they are nice. Very nice. Really. They’re really very nice.”
I sometimes wonder if, when we’re young, we sort of get this one shot to really take in finer things and appreciate them in a way that will stay with us for our life. When my father was studying for his Master’s in speech pathology, he told me about those cases of children who, for whatever horrible reason—imprisonment in a basement, being raised by wolves—didn’t learn to speak at a young age. And they never will; we all get one shot at language, and if we don’t take in a first language before the age of five or so, the opportunity is forever lost.
I often think that there are a lot of things like this. Okay, maybe you get something of a second shot at taking things in during, say, the late teens or early twenties, but it just seems as if everything after that is just a sort of flat line in the whole “taking in new things” area. Yes, I’ve started numerous things late in life, but sometimes it feels as if my taste for certain things—food and art come to mind—is something where I kind of missed the chance to cultivate it when I was younger, and, as a result, I’ll never be able to truly appreciate them.
Museums are lovely places. I love walking through them. I love going to them.
And the art is nice. It’s very, very nice.