The Fox at Dawn


January 27th: SLAM

The St. Louis Art Museum is a wonder, a real wonder.

Jess spent the night with me in the hotel last night, her first night out of McCallum in a few weeks. Happy, strained, nervous, back to the parent/child dynamic. The parent wants the child to eat. The eating disorder wants control of the child. Parent and child are armed with the help of therapy, the doctor’s orders, the routines set up by her treatment. Now we just have to stay on the same team. EDie, the eating disorder, is good at dividing and conquering. This morning Jess went back to day treatment and I escaped to the St. Louis Art Museum.


16th Century Eagle. Damn.

I never love humans so much as when I’m free all day in an art museum. My heart swells for all the centuries of artists compelled to create, record, explore, express, defy and celebrate their worlds. Oh God! I love you al!

St. Francis Contemplating a Skull. 1635. Francisco de Zubaran.

This blessed Museum is free every single day. Sitting atop a hill looking over Versaille style reflecting pools, a gray cold winter day, absolute stillness. My heart sings. A great blessing after the anxiety of the week, a grumpy girl in the hotel room this morning who still wants to cast me as the bad guy. Breathe, look. I sit before two large Japanese silk screens painted with geese, resting, preening, flying. Glorious. And the scroll of a water color on rice paper- Rice and Grasshopper, the most delicate of paintings, with a feather in it suspended from a string. Exquisite. I have this yearning to paint and draw feathers. It’s been with me some time, this desire.

Burning Rods by Anselm Kiefer. One of my very favorite artists.
Detail of Burning Rods
Detail.

I first saw Anselm Kiefer’s work here in this museum decades ago, the only other time I was here, stumbling upon a whole Kiefer exhibition. I was electrified by it, stunned, charged with emotion that I could not explain then and cannot explain now. I’ve sought out his work ever since. And here they still have two monumental works on display: The Breaking of the Vessels (which I only took video of and alas this blog will not let me post video) and Burning Rods, a huge piece that Kiefer created after Chernobyl. A landscape devastated, peeling away, furrows of crops that will never again be harvested. Look, he says, look. Look what we’ve done.

In my mind, Kiefer’s work is linked to the novels of Gunther Grass, the music of Gorecki, and the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski. They just all want to be together there inside my head.

I eat lunch and read and work on a drawing of the hawks along the highway. Certainly you feel like the star of your own film when you draw in a sketchbook and read Patti Smith while eating lunch in an art museum restaurant.

After lunch I return to Burning Rods and notice for the first time the broken tea cup shard resting on the shelf of peeling lead and the rusted remains of an ice skate . Devotion, the Patti Smith story I began at lunch, is about a skater, from Estonia, orphaned by war, and this coincidence seems to be of tremendous importance, a clue somehow to alert me to the existence of all the fine fine threads that hum and vibrate, connecting all there is in the universe, all there is.

Ben Shahn
Stephen Greene
John McCrady

These lovely things I share here because I want to think about them again. And then there are some things I just love the shape of-

This Egyptian cat, older than old, reminds me that Jess got her ears pierced by a thirteen year old friend in her bedroom at the treatment center. I admit, he did a good job of it. And they don’t seem to be infected, thank god. But Jesus.
I swear to god, every museum in America owns a version of this statue “Nydia: The Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii”. Is that the volcano I hear? It just makes me howl. I need to take one more look at Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer.
Thank you St. Louis. I needed today.

1 Comment so far
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I LOVE that museum…one of the very best in the country…and FREE!! I got to spend time there alone once too. It was life altering.
I have been thinking about you both so much!!!! Much love. xoxo

Comment by Letitia Usher




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