This House is Mine, Bob Thompson
Looking at art and looking around art are two completely different experiences. I had thought that working as a gallery attendant would afford me more time to look at art, to think of the world as centered around art, to pin my fulcrum down on the lofty goal of Looking at Art. Instead I machinate, whirring this way and that as people pass by, following them from room through room as their eyes glance over works. Instead I attack with my eyes, gauging the threat they pose to these large squares of paint on cotton within wood. Instead I sit on my phone, wondering when my shift will end, when I can leave the gallery, when I can strategically plan a bathroom break so I don’t have to be around these towering neon silhouettes that scream at me from the temporary walls.
Falling out of love with art is one thing. Falling out of love with art through art is another. And falling out of love with art through art that everyone is praising is a wrenching feeling that wrings you out and sinks you.
There’s a piece in the Bob Thompson that I do like, the one in the small tucked-away room that needs its own attendant because you can’t see into it. It’s a six-foot-long oil on canvas with the horizon line two-thirds of the way up the length, scraping just above the head of a tall visitor or someone far away from it, perhaps. A scattered trio stand at the forefront, watching a lynching. And what I like about it is not what’s in the painting or even the painting itself: it’s what I’ve been told about it. In my art class, we talked about how the piece draws you in, implicates you — you are with the trio, watching, now what. Today, at work, one of the attendants toured two guests around, said, “This piece just pulls you in,” and I thought, she’s in love with the art.
In falling out of love with art, I think I’ve managed to fall in love with looking at it all over again.