Thursday, February 12, 2009

Art Lovers, Unite! And Then, Disperse!

There's someone I'd like you to meet.

I'll call him The Silver Fox.
He's South African.  Ex-military. 

But he's got his sensitive side.  

The day that photograph was taken, he was on a romantic weekend away with his wife.  They'd left their three kids with a babysitter overnight, and were planning to take in the opera, then stay in a fancy hotel.

One more thing about the Silver Fox:  I'm sleeping with him.

Oh, don't be so shocked.  My squeeze the Cheez knows all about it.  In fact, Cheez is sleeping with him too.

Fear not—we haven't gotten caught up in the Twisted Triangle of Polyamory/Star Trek Convetions/Society for Creative Anachronisms.

We just went to the art museum.

Well, actually we went twice.  The first time was in November, for our annual SFMOMA visit, as part of our annual Thanksgiving sojourn to San Francisco.

The museum had an exhibit called The Art of Participation.  It included a re-creation of a piece by Jochen Gerz entitled The Gift, in which museum visitors could pose for a photographic portrait, which would then be hung in the museum gallery for the duration of the exhibition.  

Which, being the attention hound I am, I was totally excited to do.

So were almost 2000 other people.  They didn't all get their pictures taken that same afternoon, but still Cheez and I waited for about 20 minutes for our turn, chatting away with the people in front of us on the line.

And then we came home to Portland.

And then my brother and I were supposed to go to Mexico, the frequent flyer-ticket being his "let's get out of the gray Pacific Northwest winter for some Vitamin D-enriched tequila" birthday gift to me.  

Except he flaked out and the trip never happened.  Which means: 

1.  my brother may not quite be dead to me (yet), but he is definitely on the No-Fly-List with me.  

2.  I needed some fun in the sun.

So the Cheez and I decided we would go to California for a week.

Where we managed to personally end a two-year drought by bringing in rain 5 days out of 7.

We also managed to personally attend the closing event of The Gift, in which anyone who had their photograph taken got one of the photographs to take home, personally presented by Gerz himself.

Normally Jews have a general aversion to taking gifts from Germans.  But luckily, I got over it.

It was an amazing scene, somewhere between one and two thousand people lined up, waiting to get their pictures.

Which was a source of some consternation, because quite a few of the people in line thought they were waiting to get the photograph of themselves.  

Thereby demonstrating that Americans are suffering from an epidemic of:

1. inability to read a single page of information (i.e., the invitation to the closing event, which explained the project in full)

2. such a deep lack of appreciation for art, that they cannot imagine wanting to own a portrait of anyone but themselves

And this among SFMOMA patrons.  Who you'd hope would be a little more interested in fine art than their own fifteen minutes of fame.   But apparently even modern-day Rembrandts can't stack up in the age of Reality TV.
Still, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, even if the mouth turned out to not be my loud Jewish one.  

Really, most people thought it was cool to get a portrait of a random stranger.  Here's some Supersized-Swede displaying "his" portrait to us, as we waited our turns to get ours.
No way that could be him, not even in the Walk on the Wildest Side of Lou Reed's imagination.

For the rest of the afternoon, the portraits were everywhere.
Dining together like old friends in the Museum cafe.

Carefully filed away in the coat-check.  Be sure to keep your claim ticket, because now that you've been randomly given that photo, you want to be sure to get the right one back.

Caught up in spontaneous sidewalk converations.

Shlepped home along the city streets.

People quickly became attached to whomever they'd received.  

Mine is great one guy told us, holding the picture up so we could see it.  I can't even tell if it's a male or a female.
Just call it Kim Cheez suggested.

I stood outside the museum taking pictures of just a few of a thousand-plus people leaving with their pictures.  
Who'd you get? I asked this woman as she was walking by.  

She looked down at the picture in her hand.  

Then up at me.  

Then she turned the picture around so I could see it. 

I got you! she said. 
And she did!  We screamed.  Must have been pretty loudly, because Cheez had wandered around the block to make a phone call, and he heard us.

So now a piece of me is living in Burlingame, California.  

We have no idea where the Cheez's picture ended up.  

With all do respect to Benjamin Franklin, we do not hang together, so surely we must hang separately.

And the Silver Fox is here in Dutchboy, propped up on Cheez's dresser waiting for us to hang him on our bedroom wall.  

I was pretty thrilled when Jochen Gerz handed him to me, because he happens to be the person who got his picture taken right before me and the Cheez way back in November - the person we were chatting with while we waited, which is why I know his whole life story.  

Except for a few details.

Like his name.  And where he lives.

It's all the mystery of a one-night stand, except that now we're living together.

That's a heckuva finale to a week spent traveling around the Bay Area, seeing a lot of wonderful art and making some new friends.  

All because we decided to go back for the closing of the Gift.

Thereby proving that art is the greatest gift of all.

Or at least way better than the promise of a frequent flier ticket that never actually materializes.

1 comment:

bono said...

this is so extremely interesting and cool. now i'm glad i couldn't sleep.