A Visit to the Museum

I came to college to study economics, but mentioned to an advisor at orientation that one of my hobbies was photography. My orientation advistor convinced me to live in the Fine Arts Living Learning Community. I took an Art History class and a drawing class with the girls on my floor, and that fall I fell in love with art and photography. I dropped my Economics major, and picked up Arts Management. My parents were skeptical about my choice, thinking it was impulsive and impractical.

Earlier this year I sat down with my mom and told her all about the different interesting jobs that I could do for a museum. She came to visit this past week, and I took her on a tour of the museum. She was amazed at the size of our collection and the interesting facts I’ve learned about many of the pieces. She saw my passion for this subject matter and really enjoyed my tour of the museum. I have always felt that my mother and I have very similar tastes, but found it really interesting to learn she had very different tastes in art.

Portrait Bust of an Emperor Septimius Severus
ca. AD 201-211
IU Art Museum 75.33.1

I began to notice the differences very quickly. I could spend hours in the Gallery of Art of the Western World, but she preferred the Arts of Asia and the Ancient Western World gallery. She focused her attention on works that were incredibly detailed and ornate, like the golden Necklace with Eros within a Herakles-Knot Clasp and the Portrait Bust of an Emperor Septimius Severus. She loved the realistic detail of the hair in the bust, praising the technical skill in making a slab of marble look so realistically like a human. I prefer works a little more abstract like Stuart Davis’ Swing Landscape and sculptures like Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s Bust of a Woman, where the figure is simplified to a more pure, implied form.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck
Bust of a Woman
ca. 1913-14
Cast stone
IU Art Museum 81.31.29

Despite our differences in taste, we both could appreciate Balthus’ The Window. I explained that it is believed to be a parody of a German Romantic motif featuring women meditating at windows. She loved learning that the expression captured on the subject’s face was real because Balthus threw himself at the model to provoke this reaction.

The Window
Oil on Canvas
IU Art Museum 70.62

My mother is not as passionate about art as I am. She never showed any particular interest in the subject, so I generally stuck to other conversation topics. Walking her around the museum, I learned I was wrong. She loved hearing me talk about something I am so interested in and really made an effort to connect with me. The great part about art is that it can provoke basic human emotions that make it easy to connect with others, even if you have no no previous interest in the subject.

For my mom and me, it was a great bonding experience. Although we rarely felt the same way about a piece, the conversations helped me connect with my mom in a way we were never able to before.

S. A.

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