Thursday, April 16, 2009

Art and death in Boston

Last week I was in Boston and managed a visit to both the Museum of Fine Art and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It was fun to revisit old favorite artworks and discover some new ones. The ISG has a beautiful courtyard with plants and sculptures at its center and it was looking particularly pretty with orange Nasturtium flowers trailing from the upper balconies. This museum is not just a building for housing art, but an artwork in itself. The very floors, walls and ceilings are covered in fascinating decorations ranging from silk wall coverings, gilded and painted leather panels, and flemish tapestries to a reproduction of a silk ball gown fabric worn by Isabella Stewart Gardner. The side galleries house cabinets with displays of dozens of interesting letters from all sorts of society people who visited Isabella. One person said he hoped she wouldn't mind if he brought a knife next time and cut a few paintings out of their frames to take home! (Unfortunately that actually happened several years ago when 13 artworks were stolen from the museum by 2 thieves masquerading as police officers).
I discovered an interesting phenomenon while sitting in one of the MFA galleries. Some people came in and looked at all the art studiously from about 10 feet away. Others came in and went directly to the labels next to the art and spent a long time reading. They might then glance at the art for a second before moving on to the next "label". I thought it would be interesting to interview these two different groups and see what opinions they had about the art!
My daughter and I had an interesting visit to Mount Auburn Cemetary wandering amongst the graves. There is a hill in the center with a tower on top, and you can get a magnificent view of the Boston skyline from up there. Gravestones are facinating reading, often giving long lists of family members, their ages and place of origin. Looking at so many graves for tiny children and young people from the 18th & 19th centuries makes you realize how lucky we are to live in an age of good heathcare.

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