Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Getty Center

Earlier in the week before my birthday (way back in September), I also went to the Getty Center. It's one of my favorite places in L.A., after all. It's a bit of a drive, but it just means that I have more time to listen to Patti Digh's 'Life is a Verb' CDs.

I'll spare you the whole driving-there part.

If you haven't been to the Getty (along the 405): The gardens and architecture are stunning. The art collection is flat out mindboggling.

I was on a mission, though, since my favorite painting ever, Jean-Léon Gérôme's 'Pygmalion and Galatea' was on display. Click here to take a peek at the whole collection that was on display. The 'Pygmalion' painting is about third or fourth from the end.

There were rooms and rooms of paintings, reproductions and statues. I wasn't expecting that much work to be shown! I went speedwalking through the rooms - and through each new room, walking a little faster and with a steadily growing concern - trying to first find the 'Pygmalion' painting. I was a little panicked.

Wouldn't you know: This lovely painting was in the last room of the exhibit.


Maybe it was the relief of finally finding it; getting to see a painting in person that I've admired for so very long was ... well, it was quite the moment.

I recall doing a paper on Gérôme in high school. He caused a bit of a controversy and still does. In a time when artistic movements were emerging and gaining great strength and acclaim (oh, Impressionism, for example), Gérôme was a hold-out, continuing to paint in a very realistic style. Also, he was criticized (quite sharply) that he chose his subjects for commercial gain, not necessarily for artistic expression. You could compare this to a great new musical artist that is edgy and uniquely experimental in the beginning, that in his/her second and third albums seems to play it far more 'safe' to cater to a wider, more lucrative mainstream audience. Even today, to imagine Gérôme creating his art at the same time as the other Impressionist paintings in the Getty, you can clearly sense that his work was more than just a bit out of place.

All the same, the paintings were spectacular, technically bursting with aching realism, and full of theatrical gestures. Woo!

After swooning over 'Pygmalion and Galatea' for a nice long while, I walked back to the beginning of the exhibit and took everything in, in proper order.

Afterwards, I had a little bit of time to pass before heading back home, so I thought I'd sit in the garden, which is just gorgeous and well worth a trip to the Getty, all on its own. While I was sitting there, contemplating doing a painting, a tour group passed by. The docent commented about the problem that the garden designers had with deer.The local deer, they were concerned, would come through and nom their way through this huge, well-tended feast of blossoms and greens.

[I mean, heck, wouldn't you?]

And the museum couldn't do anything to actively 'harrass' or harm the deer to deter them.

So the garden designers planted huge drifts of society garlic, to deter the deer using the pungent smell of garlic. 'Huge' as in 'On a HUGELY OVERWHELMING scale'. I'd heard this before and had dismissed it without trying to decide if it would be an effective strategy or not. It's one of those things that makes you go, "Heh. Interesting", and you keep walking along. But that particularly fine day in September, while I was sitting among all those dainty purple blooms ...

... waiting for the tour group to clear away so I could take this shot...


... I almost KEELED over from the fumes. The memory of it all lingers, violently! I was woozy for days afterwards.

Be glad - very glad - there's no more Smell-o-Vision.


Kimberley said...

I adore the Getty! We were there last year when one of my daughters came to visit. So fabulous.

Though I can't say I've had the "pleasure" of smelling the garlic.

Jane LaFazio said...

oh yea! I remember seeing that painting! wouldn't have know who the artist was...thanks for the mini art history lesson...
and I love the getty, but haven't been in ages, you make me want to go now--especially with that stunning (sans smell-o-vision) photo of yours.

suzanne cabrera said...

I guess it keeps the vampires away too?!? I had no idea that garlic would smell so strong when growing. Obviously, I'm not the farmer that I thought I was ;)

Wendee said...

@Kimberley and @Suzanne - Yes. The garlic. Egh. No vampires, Gua.Ran.Teed.

@Jane - A mini art history lesson? I wouldn't have bothered, but really could put it all into perspective, seeing so much work at once. It was quite striking; you could appreciate the criticism...