At the Museum

I have absolutely no idea what the point of this story is. It seems like there might be a point. Maybe by writing it down, I’ll figure that out.

Rebecca and I were at the Museum of Russian Art, standing in front of a very large painting,  probably seven by five, maybe bigger. The subject of the painting was a sewing factory, a poorly lit room with several women sewing by hand. The central figures, standing in a pool of light, were an older man dressed in a long ornately embroidered red tunic with matching pants, no doubt the factory owner and a young woman dressed similar to the other workers. She didn’t look happy, her gaze was on the floor, head turned away from the boss. He had his and on her arm. The other seamstresses were all looking in their direction and they all had anxious expressions.

As we moved through the museum, I had been trying to impress my wife, and in my exhibitionist fashion, any bystanders that happened to be eavesdropping, with my vast knowledge of art. This particular painting reminded for some reason of the Brothers Karamazov which started me thinking about what the story behind the painting might be. My first impression was that this was some kind of romantic characterization of peasant life. “What’s going on here,” I said to R, “is the boss showing the ropes to a new comer, who’s anxious about her new job, or is he reprimanding her for some kind of misbehavior?”

“It’s much more sinister than that.” I hadn’t noticed the well dressed young asian woman standing next to us. “Read the explanation.” She pointed at the sign next to the painting.

“Really? What’s that?”

“He’s the landowner and she’s his Serf.”

“Serb?” I’m looking like an idiot now, old man hearing fails me again.

Serf. He owns her, she has to do anything he asks. He’s taking her away for…..” She did some verbal tap dancing, probably unsure that she wanted to shock this old man and his daughter (I always assume that people mistake R for my daughter) but finally she got to the point. “He’s taking her away for sexual purposes.”

I immediately started trying to form a snappy comeback. I had nothing, the tiny interval of snappiness had passed. I went for wisdom, got nothing. I stood there gazing at the painting feeling very much the dorky suburban old white man.

The pretty young Asian woman moved on, leaving me thinking about social commentary in art, oppression of women, and why one should always read the signs.

Recommendations: a couple of cool sites for you.

Couples: Photography served. from photographer reclarkgable, a series of portraits of the same couple posing as various segments of society. I identified junkies (left), nerds, rockabilly revivalists, I’m not sure which one would be the hipsters. I’m interested on what segment you would put each of them in. These are brilliant.

The Third and the Seventh a short CG film by Alex Roman. Thanks to Paul Schupanitz for recommending this beautiful piece. It’s a bit long, watch it when you have some time and are feeling contemplative. And be sure to watch in full screen mode.

Lot’s of architecture, the only building I could identify was the Milwaukee Museum of Art, one of my favorites. I never realized before that the wings flap!

Thanks for dropping by.

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