Museum Sketches

Sometimes art practice is like an idol threat. I live very near a great art museum, the Nelson Atkins in Kansas City. Despite living here for quite some time I've only been to the museum twice, once to see a traveling Egyptian exhibit that was basically unremarkable, and once to see a really fascinating exhibit about the industrial revolution through art that spanned late 1800's to late 1900's that was really cool.

Exhibits come through the museum pretty regularly, but the Nelson has a large permanent collection spanning the whole breadth of art history. I've been threatening for some time to take a weekend afternoon to wander around the rest of the museum.

The museum itself is a large classical looking building that could just as easily be mistaken for a Federal Reserve Bank or something, except for the fact that on the laws around the museum there are giant 2-story tall shuttlecocks scattered about. They're sculptures by Claes Oldenburg. The art classes I've been taking meet right across the street from the museum so every night when I park my car I can see the shuttlecocks beckoning to me. This weekend I finally caved.

I brought along my sketchbook hoping I could spend some time drawing from the paintings or sculptures. There were a lot of things I wanted to stop and draw, but it turns out Saturday afternoon is a busy time for the museum so there where too many people for me to comfortably stand around drawing from any of the European paintings.

Lucky for me tourists think Asian art is boring because the Asian wing was all but deserted. After walking around a bit I came to what is now my favorite thing in the whole museum. At the back of a large room of Chinese sculptures and pottery the curators have created a sort of truncated Buddhist temple. On the back wall is a huge crumbling mural taken from the wall of a real temple, there is a carved and painted wooden ceiling about 20 feet high, and scattered about are 4 or so carved wooden bodhisattva statues.

The "temple" is dim and quiet and empty and fantastic. I could live in there. I made a few brief sketches of the statues. They have very interesting geometric facial structures and pursed lips.