Sunday, September 14, 2008
Today we went to a place we visit all the time, the North Carolina Museum of Art. It was a bit special today, because HWWLLB's parents were with us. I followed them into the European gallery, a section I would never visit on my own, because in my opinion once you've seen a dozen or two hunting portraits, you've seen them all.
But there was a wonderful surprise waiting for me there amidst the portraits in the Spanish section: this photograph.
Thomas Struth's Museo del Prado 5 is a wonderful photo of schoolgirls in front of Velázquez's Las Meninas in the Prado in Madrid. One of my favorite things about this photo is how the viewers of the photograph are reflected in the mirror at the back of Velázquez's painting (where he had intended to reflect viewers of the painting). Struth's view plays so beautifully with all the tricks in the Velázquez. The longer you look, the more you find, and I kept laughing and jumping up and down whenever we noticed another parallel between them, like the girls in funny costumes in both pictures, or the viewer at the edge of the frame in the Struth.
The coolest thing about seeing this photo by chance, is that I once met Thomas Struth by chance in a museum in Budapest several years ago while he was working on this project (the museum photographs series). We were talking in German, and I had recently been living in Vienna and had developed a pretty gnarly Viennese accent. I remember he got annoyed at me because when he asked whether I was from Vienna, I told him no, from North Carolina in the U.S., and he clearly thought I was messing with him and told me he was from Florida (he's actually from Düsseldorf). He didn't tell me his full name (not that I would have recognized it, because I'm just not that hip), and I remember at the time thinking that his project of taking photos inside museums was kind of goofy when he explained it to me. I remember later telling my traveling companion that it sounded like a great way to get your around-the-world trip paid for.
Anyhow, I always remembered that random meeting, though it never occurred to me that I might get to see any of his museum photographs, or that they would be so wonderful. Turns out the guy's a genius! And one of the museum photos is hanging in my very own backwater hometown art museum, to boot. I'd really like to see a larger show of his work some time. But for now, it was a delight to find this photo right under my nose.