"I see sculpture and I feel like I'm looking at a Being, It's not just a picture of something. It is something."
This Saturday, I went into New York City to see the Picasso Sculpture Exhibit, at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I planned to meet up with my good friend, Kat. She lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts, and we try to meet up in New York about once a year to look at art together. She is a poet at heart, and maintains a wonderful poetry blog called "Dragon's Meow."
I helpfully texted Kat my location:
"I'm near Walgreens and a violinist and someone selling flowers."
She did end up finding me, in Penn Station, and we had lunch together. As we dined, we talked about our creative endeavors. Kat confided that she hasn't been writing poetry much lately. "I'm in a 'fallow field' stage," she admitted. She seemed to be at peace with this, cultivating patience with herself and her life circumstances, and trusting that things will change.
"I'm not trying to control the process," she explained. "My reasons for writing are changing. It's going to have to come from within me."
We talked for awhile about the similarities between poetry and painting, and how creative work requires sensitivity and awareness, and can't necessarily be forced.
"I think creative people go through this all the time," Kat explained to me. "You need to 're-fill the Well.' In a normal situation, you could do that on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. But I think I had a leak in my Well for a long time, and I didn't notice. An earthquake happened, and my well got cracked."
For some reason, I had taken a dislike to Picasso, and also, strangely, to sculpture in general, but nevertheless, I allowed myself to be swept into the museum, riding on Kat's enthusiasm. She had been looking forward to this exhibit for weeks! I decided to try my best to see the museum through her eyes, and leave my prejudice outside the door.
Kat really loves sculptures. She has written two poems about sculptures. My favorite is The Garden Man.
"I feel like I could speak for them or to them," she said.
"I see sculpture and I feel like I'm looking at a Being," Kat said. "It's not just a picture of something. It is something."
A guard came over and chided Kat for being too close to The Jester.
"Put that in your post," Kat laughed. "I always get in trouble in museums for getting too close to art!"
Many of the sculptures resembled musical instruments....sort of.
"I love abstraction," Kat said. "It's like poetry; you get little hints, but you don't get the whole picture. You have to fill in the gaps."
"What kind of music would this guitar play?" I asked.
"Spanish," she said. "Flamenco."
In the next room we found one of Kat's favorite sculptures: Woman in the Garden.
Even though it was kind of crude, with harsh lines and metal bits, it had an organic, natural feeling, which Kat admired.
"I like that you can tell what it is, but it's still abstracted. I like the gestures a lot. Her hair...it's blowing in the wind, it seems fanciful. That leaf shape...I think it's her. I think she has become part of the garden."
"It's totally different from different angles. It seems more complex the more I look at it...Maybe I can see myself in her a little bit. I like to be outside with flowers. "
We came to a room filled with plaster and cement sculptures, evocative of the classical statues from ancient Greece. Everything was rounded and smooth.
"I like how asymmetrical you are, my dear," Kat told Head of a Woman.
Head of a Woman said nothing, only returned her gazed, knowingly.
This sculpture of a crane caught Kat's attention.
"It looks like it's made of repurposed materials. It's cool to take something so un-crane-like, so industrial, and make it so natural. It's a crane! A metamorphosis: one thing becomes something else."
We found this small sculpture of a woman, lying on her stomach, engrossed in a book; we both loved her!
"Delicate and beautiful," mused Kat. "Her face...her hair...She's having a private moment. She's not nude. I think it makes it stand out. It's notable."
I agreed. It was refreshing to see this sculpture, after so many sexual nudes. I personally found it a little irritating to see Picasso, again and again, sculpturally reducing women into overblown caricatures, like walking breasts, wombs, and vulvas.
"Um, excuse me... my eyes are up here!"
You can imagine.
In general, it was a pretty macho exhibit.
The last sculpture we looked at was Sylvette, a two-headed woman painted on sheet metal. We spent a long time looking at her. On one side, her eyes were opened. On the other, her eyes were closed.
We talked a little about what this sculpture meant to us. Could it represent me? Do I have two faces, one that I present to the world, and one that I keep hidden? I often struggle with a feeling of being divided, or a desire to divide myself, to separate the woman with responsibilities from the woman with passions.
Kat was fascinated by the way Picasso continually messed with "reality."
"It's like he could see things that aren't there," she said. "Or he saw them differently."
Completely exhausted, we took refuge in the museum cafe.
"Did you like the sculptures?" I asked Kat, taking a sip of my cappuccino.
"I don't know if I liked a lot his sculptures," she said. "I thought they were really interesting. I think Cubism makes me think and look at things differently, and to wonder... I don't take things for granted so much. It's an example of seeing things differently. He has a unique vision that calls things into question. If someone can look at a woman and make a sculpture of her, with all her features in the wrong place...then how could I see things differently? How could I not see things in the normal way? I don't think I could see things that way, so it's fascinating to see things through his eyes."
We sighed, exhausted and satiated from a day filled with art. Soon, we would part, by bus and by train, but for now we had this moment, utterly filled to the brim.
Our food came, and we ate dessert first.