I admit I've been doing a lot more work this summer than I usually care to. Also, driving my daughter back and forth to camp for the past four weeks has taken its toll on my nerves due to the wretchedness that is DC-area traffic.
However, yesterday I dropped her off with her grandmother, who was taking her to a performance at the Smithsonian Ripley Center. Rather than heading back home to "do work" I decided to take the day off and stay downtown to visit the many free galleries that are the DC area's greatest attraction for me. In the past, when I've taken my (now) 5-year-old with me, we end up walking short amounts, resting quite frequently, and I have to endure much tugging and "how-much-longer?" distractions. We usually end up looking at exhibits geared towards children.
So, yesterday I had the ability to wander galleries and museums filled with famous paintings, sculptures, and artists I had not seen in probably a decade. I was able to wander at will. Thither and yon. For hours. Photograph at leisure. Be moved by a Renoir. Read the Hesse biography I brought with me as I ate lunch at the Pavilion Cafe (a lunch space I highly recommend!).
As I wandered the National Gallery Sculpture Garden, with its enormous Claes Oldenburg eraser and its trick-of-the-eye Roy Lichtenstein house, it struck me how grateful I am for artists who bring joy and humor to art. I remembered an exhibit at the Corcoran -- featuring Walt Disney, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol -- that highlighted their work to make art that could be appreciated by anyone, and not just rich collectors (though originals of their work do sell for a pretty penny now!).
But it makes me think about parallels in the poetry world -- poets who are damned for being accessible, for not being "academic" enough. I believe there is room for all varieties of art and writing, and that the key is fostering a love of something because of the pleasure it brings, not just its usefulness or practicality or difficulty or exclusivity. As Oldenburg pointed out with his sculpture, and Warhol showed with his Campbell's soup cans, there is beauty in even the most mundane objects. Sometimes it just takes an artist to point it out to you.