This post is going to be a digression, being mostly about art and movies and hardly about food at all. On the other hand, the subject of this post could be considered cultural food, which art in all its wonderful variety—movies, dance, music, theater, literature, visual—most certainly is. At least to me. While we need actual food for the body—and lord knows how food obsessed I am—we also need cultural food or else, as the late great Canadian writer Robertson Davies put it, we will get “cultural rickets.”
I have realized the importance of art since I was a teenager, and I have known it is something I need and crave almost as much as I need food. My husband, Clif, feels the same way, and once upon a time, we were diligent about going to plays and art exhibits. Although we live in rural central Maine, we are within driving distance of many places that host cultural events—the art museums at Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin, the Theater at Monmouth, and the Public Theater, to name a few. Clif and I took full advantage of our many opportunities.
But then, as the saying goes, life happened. The recession hit, and like so many baby boomers, we got hammered. Clif lost his job, but luckily, we did not lose our house. My mother died. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Clif broke his arm. Unfortunately, the usual stuff of life. We rallied, somewhat, from these challenges, but in dealing with all these things, we got stuck in a bit of a rut. Part of it was financial—our budget has never recovered from the hit it took during the recession—but part of it was that we just stopped making the effort. (The college art museums are free. There is no reason not to go to them.) We hunkered down, and home, family, and community became our world.
Now, home, family, and community are not bad things. In fact, they are very good. To use a food metaphor, you might even call them the cake of life. But cake needs frosting, and when I saw the movie Museum Hours, I realized that’s what our life was missing—the frosting—or art, if you will. (Do watch the trailer if you have time.) Several posts back, I wrote about Museum Hours, where a museum guard befriends a Canadian woman who has come to Vienna to be with a cousin who is critically ill. The movie is very leisurely, and much of it was shot in the fabulous Kunsthistorisches Museum. Some of the museum’s art was examined in beautiful detail—in particular work by the painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Vienna is also featured, and the movie’s gist is that art is all around us. It never stops. We just need to take the time to look. I felt as though the movie were talking directly to me and that I’d better darned well find the time and the energy to start looking at art again.
And so I have. To begin our return to art, a couple of weeks ago, Clif and I went to the Colby Museum of Art, where unexpectedly, we met our nephew, Patrick, who is majoring in art. We walked around the museum together, where we looked at art in the fabulous new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavillion. It was one of those special evenings where everything just clicked—the art, the company, and, yes, even the food. (There was a reception with some very tasty appetizers, among them little biscuits with ham and mustard, and chicken with toasted coconut and a tangy dipping sauce.)
It took some effort to do this. We only have 1 car, which meant that I had to bring Clif to work and then pick him up again in the evening. But the evening was terrific, and the effort was worthwhile. A very auspicious return to art.