Paris Diaries: Why I Hate Other Americans
(Since it's been a while I will refresh your memory-after a fairly uneventful first three days-I take a lover back to the hotel and have a very dirty but fulfilling encounter. After I manage to dispose of him, I wake up the next day ready to embark yet again on the enforced cultural death march.)
The Musee D'orsay is and will always be my favorite place in Paris to go. It is because of a statue that was in that very museum that I first went to Paris. I went to Paris with a remembered image in my mind of a photograph I had once seen pinned to my fiance's wall and the knowledge it was somewhere in the D'orsay. I didn't know it's name or how large the D'orsay was. All I knew was that I had to find that statue and see in person before I died.
It was that wish that sent me to Paris for my first time.
I hadn't been back to the D'orsay since my first trip. On Tuesday almost all the museums in Paris are closed so I planned to visit the D'orsay that day. What I hadn't thought about was that every other museum goer in Paris would have the same idea. So I stood on a long long line even though I got the museum only shortly after it opened.
When I finally got in I found that the museum was the way I remembered. There was the statue "une femme pique par un serpent" by the entrance, and of course the statue that I love, the one I came to Paris for, La Jeune Tarentine. In one of the rooms I confronted two paintings and immediately recognized one painting as the work of Ingres and the other as a work "in the school of Ingres" but not his. This recognition-three years after I saw these paintings for the first time and long since forgot seeing them confirmed that in my just stand and look at art approach, I had absorbed and understood more about these works than even I appreciated. I was delighted when my guide confirmed my identification of the paintings and moved on.
While I walking up the main isle, I came across a group of deaf students being lectured in sign language. Nothing in Paris seems real to me-it always seems like some huge Dada-ist play and so the beauty of these silent hand gestures in this place of such overwhelming work seems to be in itself an amazing work of art. I wanted to stay and watch, to see how these deaf teenagers dealt with the art, but moved away allowing them to carry on their class in peace.
There was a special photo exhibition going on and I wandered into a hall way where I found myself being confronted of Ellen Watts reading to her Little Sister in a Window taken by non other than Lewis Carroll. I hadn't expected to see such a photo and to suddenly be witness to it filled my eyes with tears. Another room featured a self portrait by Alfred Steiglitz. Of course under the photo is a plaque which proclaims the title, the artist, and the location in this case Hoboken, NJ. How I longed for that plaque to lie to me. I did not come all this way to see art from New Jersey. Still the beauty overwhelmed any rage I felt at being reminded of the place that housed the very man I had come here to forget.
One of the things I can bond with the French over is their hatred of Americans. I can even help them out by providing them even more reasons to hate us. The main reason I come to Paris is because I rather like being in place where I don't understand the language. The way my mind works, I have to think, listen, and analyze everything I hear. I can't shut out moronic exchanges on the subway, domestic discussions on the sidewalk, incensed arguments about reality television shows in outdoor cafes, the list goes on and on-if I can understand it I listen, but mostly I stifle the urge to throw large household appliances at the heads of other people.
So I flee to other countries where I can enjoy art in the relative white noise of unintelligible language. Unfortunately, in May the museums in Paris are about as populated with Americans as the 6 platform at rush hour. Before you wonder if it's really THAT bad, let me regale you with some examples of American idiocy at the D'orsay.
There were three college age students. They had that grungy "Yeah we haven't showered since spring break, but it's for aesthetic reasons what of it?" type of look. They were in heavy earth tones completely inappropriate for Spring in Paris. They stood in contemplation in front of a Monet.
Girl 1: Every one of these paintings has a gold frame.
Girl 2: You know, I think I'm going to do my thesis project on this. 'Cos, I mean, I was up in the air, but I mean look at the surface area of that painting. The surface area of the frame is WAY larger than the painting. I mean seriously, that has to have an impact on the painting.
Girl 1: Yeah.
Girl 2: I'm serious. There is a definite thesis in this.
At which point my eyes threatened to roll back into my head. Yet they stood there continuing to discuss surface areas and how the color (gold) and detail of the frames change the viewer response to the painting. In fact, the only thing they apparently refused to discuss was the paintings itself. Their conversation was ridiculous I had to walk away and wait for them to move on before I could go back and look at the painting in relative peace without having to consider how the surface area of the frame changed the painting.
Also on the first floor, I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt wearing a t-shirt that Oral B type face has proudly emblazoned BE Oral. He proceeds to use one of the benches for visitors to carry out a series of runners stretches. I'm going to make a statement here-he never deserves to get laid EVER. Nope, no sex for him. Incidentally if I ever catch any of you, dear readers, going into museums wearing t-shirts with cheap sexual humor, well, let me just say that retribution will be swift and effective unlike the clean up process which will take a remarkably long time as well as quite a bit of clorox.
Near the end of the first floor pondering my favorite statue was a middle aged woman whose accent was clear Midwest. She pondered the statue for a moment before declaring "That's nice" and moving on. "That's nice"? That is an appropriate response to a new coffee table or perhaps a well brewed cup of tea, but it is not an appropriate response to some of the best works of art of this century. "Nice" just isn't a word that should be used in the D'orsay.
By the time I reached the end of the first floor my right ankle and left knee were on fire. Which meant skipping most of works on the third floor including a small painting by the famously disturbed mysogynistic playwright August Strindberg. Or at the very least holding them off until after I hit the fifth floor. I've hobbled and hopped my way by some of the best works of art in Paris before, but generally injuries confined themselves to one leg. In my current condition, walking in any form was an exercise in stoic suffering. Still, I made through the first floor, and the works on the first floor seem impressive until you hit the fifth floor. Or to put in another way Pissarro looks amazing until you see the Monet.
The fifth floor of the D'orsay houses the famous works, the ones that everyone is clamoring to see although most of them aren't sure why just that these are Great Works and therefore the ones they can brag to their friends about: Whistler's Mother, Monet, Seurat, Van Gough. The real bigs of impressionism. Everyone is jostling and pushing so they can look at the paintings with their little audio tours pressed to their ears.
I walked through slowly-the Monets are my favorite particularly the painting in which he reworks the same subject with different colors, like Rouen Cathedral. But the impressionist paintings are definitely something you have to see in person because the texture of the paint...it just doesn't translate onto film well.
I managed to ignore the fire in my knee and my ankle for five hours so. Long enough to even enjoy the view of Paris from the fifth floor of the D'orsay. You can see all the way to Sacre Coeur not to mention the Louvre. Before I left, I went and sat looking at La Jeune Tarentine before I left.
The first time I went to the D'orsay it was still a bitter sweet triumph, I still thought of Eric and felt a bit lonely sitting in front of the statue without him. This time I was glad to walk through the museum alone, to go at my own pace, look at what I wanted, not worry about some other person and what they wanted to see or how long they wanted to stay. I began to feel, pain be damned, that I was beginning to find my way again in Paris.
Finally I hobbled to the metro station and began to wonder about dinner.
Labels: musee d'orsay, paris
Bad Bunni posted at 9/01/2007 06:03:00 PM