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[Today a Month Ago] BART and Art

December 13, 2014

Since Cyan would have to go back to work during the last week of my stay, I had to learn to get around on my own. So after a day of rest, the plan for this day was for me to learn to use the buses and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).

The first part, taking the BART to Powell Street, went according to plan, but then instead of taking the bus, the guy Cyan is dating (henceforth referred to as GCD) picked us up with his car and we had lunch together. I think I didn’t talk very much, and I feel a little bad about it. (I always worry that I might seem rude or disinterested. But I just need some time to warm up to new people – a lot less now than I used to, but still more than we spent with GCD, especially when I was also trying to adjust to being in another new place.

A new place I should maybe have prepared for the previous day by deciding what I wanted to do and see, but I hadn’t, so any questions about what I wanted to do after lunch were answered with, “I don’t know.” But we managed to come to a decision eventually and GCD drove us to the de Young museum.

I’m trying to remember if I’d ever actually gone to an art museum before, and I don’t think so. I was always much more interested in words than in pictures. But this was a really interesting experience.

I mean, most of the things we looked at have already blurred into an indistinguishable mass of paintings and odd and unfamiliar Oceanic art. But there are a few things that will remain in my memory for a long time, like the one painting with the unrecognisable animal – not unrecognisable because it was a species we didn’t know, or because of the painting style, but because the painter apparently sucked at painting animals. He might have been good at painting people, but I still have no clue if that was supposed to be a dog or a cat or a particularly short-eared rabbit or what.

And this painting:

Frederic Edwin Church - Rainy Season in the Tropics - Google Art Project

Frederic Edwin Church – Rainy Season in the Tropic

This doesn’t really do it justice. That rainbow… That rainbow is so realistic, so vibrant, I had to actually lift my hand to it, only just not touching it, to check there wasn’t any light falling on it from somewhere. It’s stunning.

And then there were a lot of objects from… yeah, from where, actually? Papua New Guinea, I think, and Indonesia, and also Africa, sculptures and masks and tools and chairs and so much more I don’t remember, a blur of dark wood and strange shapes in my memory. They made me have a lot of thoughts that are very hard to put into words.

The easiest one to put into words is probably the lack of context for these things. All the things made by western artists had signs with some background information about why and when and by whom it was painted, but these things… they only got “mask” or “bowl” and a country and an age, and it left so many questions unanswered – is this a typical bowl for when and where it was made? Or an exceptional one? Why was it decorated this way? When and why was this mask worn, and sometimes more importantly, how was it worn? I think this was the one we looked at for a long time, and talked about a lot afterwards, about how heavy it would have to be, and how it would even stay upright.

But also much harder to articulate thoughts about how I’ve grown up surrounded by art that tries to be as lifelike as possible, and this is such a completely different way of representing the world, in symbols more than lifelike pictures, and how this is such a completely foreign way of thinking and making art for me, and how I wish I could understand it.

And then that turning into other thoughts about how, as a fantasy reader, the books I enjoy are full of nonhuman races, and yet they are still all rooted in out western culture and have never felt as foreign as this.

I didn’t remember to take out my camera until we got to the observation tower:



One thing I recognise, far off in the distance:




After that, I finally got my lesson in taking buses in San Francisco and we made our way back to Cyan’s home.

(I think that is all that happened that day. My journal is a hopeless mess. After a few days of not writing, there is a chaos of “this is what’s happening right now” and “this is what happened a week ago” and completely random musings and things that happened twenty years ago.)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2014 03:33

    I really enjoy these observations, Ivy.

    • December 14, 2014 21:34

      (This made me laugh, because your comment looks a lot like the spam comments I’ve been getting recently, but with better spelling. “Observations” would probably have been “ovsterbaiotns” or something like that.

  2. December 15, 2014 18:40

    I get those spam comments, too. I really wonder why they bother. Most of mine get filtered straight to the spam folder. It’s very rare that one makes it through. WP’s spam filters are actually really good.
    And when I was posting that, I actually thought it sounded like some of the spam comments I get. But if it *had* been, I would have said, “I really enjoy these ovsterbaiotns! If you wnat more vsitors to your blog, susbscirbe to our mnothly newsletter!” 😉

    • December 15, 2014 21:32

      The funny thing about the ones I’m getting is, the links don’t actually go anywhere.

      • December 15, 2014 21:43

        I think WordPress must disable the links by default. Otherwise, those spammers are incredibly inept. Which… is possible. ;/

        • December 15, 2014 22:00

          There are links, but they are just random combinations of letters, and when I hover over them to get a preview, it just shows an error message. Very weird.
          Although in the last day, I got a hundred spam comments with links to car insurance sites.

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