Growing up, I spent every Saturday at the Toledo Museum of Art, from the 4th or 5th grade through the 9th or 10th. This Museum was the very first to establish children’s classes in this country and my siblings and I were signed up every year for all they had to offer. In the morning was music appreciation class. In the afternoon art classes. In between we would eat our salami sandwiches in a small room in the basement. Olivia and I became good friends there. Saturday friends. We never saw each other outside the museum.
But my favorite time of all on Saturdays was all the time in between classes. Olivia and I literally felt as if we owned the museum— it was our turf, our neighborhood. We played tag in front of the El Grecos and Rubens. We played hide and go seek in the Cloisters and the Manuscript room. We gazed at the mummy musing through its stained and brittle wrappings. We curled up at the top of the 16th century porcelain heater from the Netherlands that you had to climb porcelain steps to reach and played house in the replicated cottage in which it sat. We danced in between the netsukes and the ink stones. We would check weekly on Blakelock’s Moonlight, painted about a 100 years before which was dry on the surface but still wet underneath. (The museum had to turn the painting upside down every once in a while in order to allow the wet paint to accumulate at its opposite end.) We shared stories and plays in front of the Cezannes and Monets and Van Goghs. We imagined playing with the fragile-looking wax dolls, though neither of us really played with contemporary ones. Sometimes we were lucky enough to get into the Peristyle where concerts were held and the ceiling was lit in such a way that it looked like we were outside gazing at the sky. We knew all the guards, who would occasionally scold us for our wild antics, but mostly engaged us in playful conversation. It was like living in a palace. Every Saturday. There was something so magical and precious and utterly precocious about playing around, in between, and with the artifacts and artistic expressions of high culture and civilization. The names of the artists and images, their styles, their peculiarities were the fuel of our gossip. We and the artists and the guards were the inhabitants of a glorious and opulent enclave. Olivia and I felt absolutely boundless, powerful, and immense.
And so, here it is Saturday…I’m pretty caught up on papers. The weather is beautiful. And I get to work in my studio without feeling guilty about all the school work I should be doing. There’s a project on my drawing board that has been tempting me for some time now. And if any of you have ever visited my studio and home, you know there are plenty of artifacts surrounding me. I have all day, all Saturday, to feel utterly and creatively boundless.
I hope Olivia, wherever she is, is doing the same.