Monday, February 20, 2017

Adventures at the Museum

It is no secret how much I love the Chrysler Museum. I would spend my entire day, every day, wandering the collections and studying every work of art I could. I love the quiet echoes and changing sunlight of the courtyard. I love Wisteria Cafe's Earl Grey tea. I love their knowledgeable and friendly staff and volunteers. Most of all, I love the scope and the strength of the Chrysler's permanent collection, and the insight they bring with their rotating exhibits.

Photo courtesy of Lavelle Etheridge
I remember when I was a kid growing up in Hampton Roads, the Chrysler wasn't something I thought too much about. I probably went on a field trip there once or twice, but I don't have any memorable moments to share. I honestly didn't think about it much because I lived in Virginia Beach and hardly ever went to Norfolk for anything. Fast forward some twenty years; I've rediscovered this often overlooked gem and am kicking myself for not appreciating it so much earlier.

For starters, they pack a lot of excellent pieces in a relatively small space. Eighteenth and nineteenth century American and European art is currently where my heart resides. There are so many magnificent marble statues and busts for me to draw it'd take me months to go through all of them. In the photo above I'm once more working on my beloved Wounded Indian by American artist Peter Stephenson. Another favorite sculptor is Hiram Powers, who clearly loves classical Greek and Roman sculpture as much as I do. (You can see his allegorical busts of America and California (respectively) flanking the doorway behind me. Best of all, it is such a friendly museum. Everyone is friendly, helpful, and excited to talk about their favorite pieces. It's truly become like another home for me, helping me shed stress, making me a better artist, sharing its beautiful silence and its even more beautiful works.

This particular visit was quite an adventure. I arrived around 10:30 a.m. and saw a kindergarten class gathered in the corner where I was going to set up my easel, so I set down my things and took a seat on the bench while the docent wrapped up her spiel. One of the teachers took notice of me and asked if it would be alright for them to come back through while I was working. I love talking to people - and kids are always a trip - so of course I assured them I'd be happy to see them back. That was the first of three tours that came through that room that day. The third was cool because the docent made me part of the tour! He talked about the grand tradition of artists like Stephenson traveling to Italy to study ancient Roman marbles that were often copied from even older Greek bronzes, and how today I, like Stephenson, was an American artist studying a great work, but with the convenience of such an awesome museum just minutes away from my home. I will tell you this: being in that setting, having the freedom to study first hand from such a well-curated collection, and feeling the history around me certainly does make me feel like an important part of the grand tradition. I am nobody in the history of art, but it feels empowering to know that I am still a part of it.

I was also approached by two different people who were also studying figure drawing. What a great place to strike up conversations that are so much more interesting than talking about the weather. You get to dive right in to the heart of the matter because all three of us were working toward the same goal: mastering drawing the human form. I worked on that drawing for almost five hours that day, and being able to take little breaks to talk with cool people energizes me. 
Photo courtesy of Lavelle Etheridge
The last mini adventure happened right before I started packing up. I had reached that point where if I worked any longer I would most assuredly start messing things up. I sat there contemplating my progress for a few moments when a nice guy approached and asked if he could take pictures of me working. Sure! I never have photos of me while I work because I never drag anyone along with me. He was kind enough to email the photos to me a couple of days later and I am ecstatic. I've shared a couple of my favorite images in this post.

So if you ever happen to find yourself at the museum at the same time I'm there, please do stop by and say hello. I love talking to everyone about what I'm doing, and which are our favorite works of art. And if you're ever interested in meeting me there to work in the same room, contact me; I am always up for it!