I blame it on the Art Museum. I spent thirty hurried minutes in there the other week. Taking frantic pictures and answering my children’s questions, I was also trying to absorb the sights for my own soul.
“Where is ‘my’ painting?” I murmured. I was looking for a very specific painting by Catherine Wiley – one that I remembered from my visit two years ago. They had another Wiley, just as breathtaking, also of a mother with a child outside, but not “my” painting.
My son got really, really close to the paintings, without touching them, but giving me a reason to exercise my firm-but-gentle tone in a whispered voice. Ah, the joy! My daughter wanted in my arms – because she is four and it was a completely new building for her. Sure, she had been there before, but she did not remember.
To an outsider, a waste of time. All this effort of driving for one hour, parking, walking, pointing, introducing, explaining, rushing out of the museum to get to our violin lesson on time. All this. For what?
Even I wondered if my kids got anything out of the visit. If I got anything (besides stress) by walking through those doors.
And yet, those thirty minutes refreshed and inspired me. Next thing I knew, I was pouring over Pinterest boards, basking in baskets newly acquired for back-to-school organization in style, and making a fall wreath. Me? An DIY-er?
A recent comment by a second cousin made me chuckle. We were catching up on Facebook after many years with no direct contact. She was shocked that I chose to homeschool. “I always thought of you as CEO-material,” she said. “But,” she added, “children are more important than a career. That’s where the heart is. I get it. I am so interested in what my son is doing and learning in school. I understand your choice.”
I suppose my transformation is complete – proof positive that children form and shape their mother just as much as she hopes to form and shape them.
So, yes, I blame it on the Museum of Art, this sudden interest in baskets and burlap. Art is a dangerous thing. So is motherhood. Both transform and change you for life. They liberate whatever parts of you may be stuck somewhere without direction.
Back to “my” painting. The lady in the gift shop could not help me. Thank God for the Internet. After some detective work, I found out that “my” painting, the one that gave me hope and beauty about maternity, while my children were both under five, was called “In the Sunlight.” I still have to find out who owns it and how the Knoxville Museum of Art managed to have it on display two years ago. Obviously, it does not belong to them.
The one Catherine Wiley painting they have on display now cost them $107,000 at an auction seven months ago. It was so dirty when they acquired it, they did not even know there was a hat in the grass. A professional conservator spent months cleaning the painting. Aren’t you glad generous donors made it possible for us to behold such beauty?
I promised myself to go back there on a regular basis, now that our violin lessons happen about five minutes away from the Museum. Please hold me accountable.