18 September, 2006

a little art, a little salad, two little girls

Let's see, Avery's playdate with Jamie started out at the ice skating rink, went on into dinner at the Lucky Spot, and culminated in a sleepover! I am very glad for Avery to have a new friend, who was last week just a classmate. But Avery admires Jamie, and as far as I can see there's every reason to. The child just started chatting casually with the waitress at the restaurant, in ITALIAN. Fluent. And she can speak French! And is the least pretentious gull you can imagine. Really lovely. For some reason they decided to dress alike, so Avery's closet was ransacked and this is what they came up with. I think if we'd gone to a French restaurant they would have been made to wait tables. I was glad to see them have such a good time, although it's a close contest which gets boring more quickly: watching gulls ride ponies around and around, or skate around and around! I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time doing both.

Then I just wanted to show you this salad to inspire you to do the same. There's no recipe. But the cooking show "Celebrity Masterchef," on the BBC had a guy on last week who did a version of this salad, and topped it with sauteed duck breast. I think I will do that tonight. Avery will have to have leftover tomato sauce and noodles, since she is anti-duck. Or rather, I'm sure she'd point out, she's actually PRO-duck, and anti-eating-duck. Whatever. What you want is a number of crunchy vegetables, and a really sharp dressing. I sliced up purple cabbage, white cabbage, red bell peppers, and chives. Delicious and so good for you.

Finally, readers, I have a confession. Many of you knew me way back when, when I was either busily teaching art history, writing about art history, or selling actual art. What happened to me? It's almost like all that knowledge and enthusiasm and expertise was in some reservoir that's been drained. The exceptional experiences are just that, exceptions. There was the outstanding Carl Andre show I saw here last year, at Sadie Coles Gallery. That was simply stunning, black cubes in an ever-decreasing grid, or ever-increasing depending on which direction you looked in. Superb. I made a complete fool of myself, lying on the ground looking at it from a flat perspective. Then there was the Eva Hesse show in New York at the Jewish Museum this summer. But these are exceptions. In general I don't seem to have the wherewithal to go to a gallery or a museum, or once I get there to stir up much enthusiasm for what I'm seeing. The Kandinsky show, for example.

I don't even know what sorts of reviews it has been getting, so I cannot say if my reaction is typical. But Avery and John and I were out and about this weekend, trying to find something called the Thames Festival, which had been much hyped (sort of reduntant, that, sorry) in the "what to do" sections of everything. Well, we got caught up in some random, sort of scary parade of sad-loooking individuals apparently from some Fire Brigade club, or something. People of all shapes and sizes, wearing various ratty uniforms indicating their loyalty to something weird, and playing lots of shrill piccolos and massive drums, stopping up traffic and in general being like a freak show. I have no idea. Anyway, it ran all along the Embankment, as the Festival alleged to do, so we randomly followed it, with Avery covering her ears in dismay at the din, and me worrying about getting my wallet stolen. Finally we gave up, and John and Avery decided to see "Pirates of the Caribbean." I had actual negative interest in seeing it, would rather stick hot needles in my eyes, so I begged off and we parted at some bridge or other, which made me think, "Gee, maybe the festival's on THAT side of the river," so I crossed. Let me tell you now: do not ever try to go to the Thames Festival. Thousands of people, grizzling children, overwhelmed parents, disaffected youths, nasty pensioners, just awful. And the festival? Just craft tables trying to get me to buy birdfeeders from Uganda, tie-dyed t-shrits from Portugal, or to have my tarot read. And terrible food smells. Although I did have a good pork and leek sausage, carrying from my bangers and mash obsession.

Finally I thought, "You know what you need? A break from all that is horrible and massively crowded and smelly. You need a moment in the Life of the Higher Mind." And there I was, in front of the Tate Modern. Well, actually I could see the Tate Modern through a haze of billboards touting Insect Circuses, Trapeze Shows, and "If just 10% of all Britons turned the water off while brushing their teeth we could fill three gatrillion swimming pools in Ibiza," or some such righteous message. I have no idea what that was doing there. I remembered then that Jamie's mother, who takes life extremely seriously, had told me of her concern that she might not get to the Kandinsky show at the Tate. And there I was, just a mechanical bull away from the entrance to the show. So I went.

Now mind you, I used to be a kind of minor non-expert expert on Kandinsky. Seeing his gorgeous paintings in the Art Institute in Chicago, the big-city cultural mecca of my college years, I was inspired. Truly, they inspired me to major in art histoy and even to specialize in teaching 1900-1940. But the Kandinsky show left me quite chilly. I don't know if it is because so many of the paintings were under glass, old glass, so that all I saw was the crowds behind me? Or were my favorites not there? But I could not feel much enthusiasm or warmth toward the show.

Mostly I wandered through the rooms, lost in a sort of memory show, about how happy I was in those faraway teaching days, preaching to my besotted students at Hunter College, standing on my soapbox extolling the evils of patriarchal systems of teaching art history, forging new paths in feminist theory. And at the gallery, too, I was uber-passionate. I could have worked 25 hours a day, choosing artists, curating shows, going on studio visits, writing essays, meeting with clients. Where has it all gone? Over the summer, going through my boxes of books in the barn, when I came upon one that was art history books I felt very disconnected. There had been a possibilty that I would give a lecture at the Royal Academy on Camille Claudel, this autumn, to coincide with their Rodin show. The person who was meant to make the decision about the lecture series quit, or got fired, and my resume got lost among all the details, and now it's not clear whether I'll give the lecture or not. And I think I should care more than I do! I'll really be worried if I get to the Rodin show and I don't get excited. After all, I was excited in Rome to see the Michelangelos. Maybe I should just remember that I'm a three-dimensional gal, not a painting person, in general.

I've been invited to a dinner party Thursday night with some of the "Friends of the National Museum of Women in the Arts UK" group. Not a name that rolls trippingly off the tongue, but if you use the acronym NMWA most people are in the dark. Anyway, some Americans here in London are trying to get a UK branch to evolve, and this dinner on Thursday is bringing a bunch of them together. The organiser has even sent around an email detailing who the guests will be! Like that party at John's boss's house, where we got virtual resumes from everyone in advance. There are people whose occupations are listed as "suppporter of opera," and "supporter of theatre," plus an expert in Russian expressionism, so perhaps I can get her to re-invigorate my art passion.

Or maybe all my art passion got replaced with food passion? Certainly my cookbooks came along with me to London, where their poor art history confreres are left stagnating in a barn. Here's the rub, however. Many of my feminist-ish mother friends and I have often discussed the difficulty of finding, much less indulging, one's life passion when it will have to end every weekday at 3:30. And not happen at all if your child wakes up with a fever. So perhaps it's all right for my Avery passion to get the lion's share of oxygen for the time being. After all, she's awfully nice.

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