I’m the kind of girl that would be more than happy with going on a date to the Art Institute of Chicago. True story: I gave my number to a cute waiter in KC and he texted me while I was at the Nelson-Atkins art museum. Not only did he chirp his approval but, he gave me detailed directions to his favorite piece of art in the museum and told me how it made him feel. I swooned.
Art museums have always been a place where I lose myself and find myself all at the same time. My creativity class took us to the hidden gem known as Mizzou North to the Museum of Art and Archeology. We were prompted to just walk around and find what piece of art spoke to us and then mediate on it. I was on a mission to find some “glass dress” that my friend mentioned was there, but I hit another piece before it that really sucked me in. It was titled “Grabbing Snatching Blink and You Be Gone” by Carrie Mae Weems
This work was a part of a Black American exhibit and it was supposed to evoke the feelings of Black Americans and the slave trade in and out of America. It was the strangest thing, but I felt the air sucked out of me when I looked at it. I felt panicked, afraid and alone. I felt my eyes blur and the words from the middle canvas flashed across the two canvases. With a blink I could breathe again. The work reminded me of my white privilege and how I could easily snap out of feeling that way and how that is reality for other people. It was one of the strangest and deepest reactions I have had to a work of art in a long while.
On my journey to find the glass dress, I ran across some Grecian vases and pottery. The description intrigued me because it talked about Greek Symposiums, which were just gatherings of dudes to drink and enjoy entertainment that was usually female prostitutes. I giggled because it reminded me of the premise of a Greek fraternity party that I have been to. Women are there for the entertainment of drunken men and there is inevitably some men who get with each other instead of women. History tends to repeat itself. Art reflects function and form, but it’s fascinating how something so beautiful and delicate had the purpose for something so raunchy and rowdy.
I made it to the glass dress and I was just as enamored as I thought I would be. It is called “Sleep” by Karen LaMonte. It was created by creating a glass mold around a human form and then a piece of clothing. The human form is removed so the dress is looking like it is floating in space but carries the life and action of being on a person. I stood around the dress got close enough to almost touch it by accident. Clothing is a huge source of life for me and it is my main art and expression. It is a huge part of my identity and it can be changed depending on my mood or how I want society to see me. This piece spoke directly to that because it showed how clothing can be something that covers up your body yet is a window to your self-expression. Your identity has layers, like the layer of clothing and the layer of your body. The fact that it was made in glass also is a form that always fascinates me. Glass is so brittle and fragile that it hardly seems like the material to use to express flexible things like clothes or the active movement of a body. But, that probably makes sense that is was used to show this very human concept because humanity is so fragile and layers of identity can be easily shattered.
This trip to the art museum opened my eyes to what I knew I loved and was drawn to (i.e. pretty clothes) but it opened my creative eyes to how materials are used to express a variety of feelings and thoughts. I can’t wait to get lost again to further open my mind to what is my own truth.