I’m completely fascinated by fascinated people. When it comes to museum exhibits, I tend to sprint through and overlook the art, choosing instead to observe my fellow patrons. Not long ago my sister and I went to SFMOMA to see what was dubbed “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde.” Making our way through the overcrowded exhibit, it was easy for me to appreciate these reputable paintings and their histories, but I found myself captivated more by the photographs of the Steins themselves. Displayed at various points throughout the exhibit, these wall-sized photos showed the Steins (and others) in various settings with the paintings on the walls behind them. Bless that different drummer of mine . . . people walked right by these amazing black-and-white stills with half a glance as I stood and stared, glassy-eyed. Photographs of the paintings were of greater interest to me than the paintings themselves.
When I’m fortunate enough to be the one on the “lost” side of art, my instinct is to keep to myself and treasure this unexpected, personal experience (that is, if I can avoid the fierce old ladies who must have been football players in their previous lives — they’ll floor you with one elbow if you get in their way). And when I stumble upon something outside of the museum setting, I’ll toss it in my mental pocket and keep it tucked away for as long as I can. But this time . . . this time I had to share my inability to put into words how one photograph knotted up my stomach, sent chills up and down my arms, and put a heartbroken smile on my face. If art is going to strike me with its lightning, it needs to strike my stomach, toes, and fingers before attempting to make a pass at my brain. I want to feel my reaction, not think it, and I have to confess that this one quakes me; it shakes me; it makes me feel goose-pimply all over:
I can’t say for certain, but I believe this photograph of Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe was taken at a Golden Globes ceremony in what must have been the early 1960s. An authentic moment that reveals a sliver of truth, or just another show for just another camera . . . once again my special tickle spot and I prefer not to know.