Thursdays are for Crying
Every Thursday the Art Institute of Chicago grants free admission after 5 to Illinois residents. So, naturally, as a broke college student, I go every Thursday to get in for free. It’s an absolutely unbelievable place; every time I go in, I find myself lost in a different piece of art. I’ve been three times so far, and I haven’t come close to discovering every piece of art, let alone understanding or appreciating each unique piece the museum has on display. They’re an excellent museum, and when I visit, there is something new, moving in and out of display. Among the rotation and constant evolution of displayed artworks, one thing remains a constant fixture: me, in the contemporary art section, sometime after five p.m.
I’m a huge fan of contemporary art, and although I could never even pretend to know what each piece is representative or symbolic of, I still find myself acknowledging the artistic visions that go into all the works on display. I usually accompany myself with my headphones, drifting from painting to sculpture to photograph until I find one that catches my eye. This past Thursday, while I didn’t take a picture of the piece unfortunately, I was drawn to a photograph set. The set featured three girls and one boy, each with a distinct set of lighting and scenery available to all of them. I sat on a bench, played this wonderfully slowed and stretched version of Sigur Ros’s Untitled 3 , and began to think. I can’t possibly begin to transcribe the incredible and awe-inspiring sense of emotion that washed over me in that moment. Swiveling from picture to picture, I gazed into all of the subjects eyes.
One was lying down on a floor, with no backdrop, the lighting only illuminating her. The lack of anything around her drew an intense focus to her and her experience. She had what appeared to be sweat dripping down one of her arms, almost as if she were going through withdrawals. There was a blank gaze on her face, the face of someone who had been hurt so often that they had become numbed to the pain. I will never be able to empathize with her, I don’t even know her name. But there was a deep connection drawn. I understood the pain she was feeling. I may never know the cause, or how long she’s been feeling this, but from one human to another, I understood her pain.
Another lay in bed. This one, with more lighting, cast more of an emphasis on her surroundings. She too, had a look of hurt on her face, one that, to me, suggested she’d been hurt emotionally by someone else. With her eyes wide open, in a paralyzed state she clung to her covers, pulling them up tight and close to her. The photograph told this story of a young woman, stuck in time because of the hurt someone else cause her. She lay there, using the covers in futile attempt to cover and shield her from future emotional scars. It spoke to me, telling the story that every one, each unique individual and passerby, whom we may never see again, can lie in bed at nights, trying to hide from our emotional pains. A human connection, that we all subconsciously share.
The next was a boy, who held tight to his blanket. He wasn’t in bed, but he was on the floor, and had some of his background illuminated, but not all. He too shared that face, where the eyes are wide, and the mouth is left slightly agape, showing vulnerability and a unique blend of fear and sadness. This boy, in his grasp of the blanket, conveyed to me, a sense of fear, an anxiety of losing youthfulness. He was somehow aware of his childhood innocence, and how it’s fleeting. Clinging to the shreds of his reminders of childhood, he quite literally did not want to let go. While not sharing in that same face that conveyed to me a sense of hurt caused at the hand of someone else, he connected with the other two previous individuals, all of them sharing a face of openness, an unfiltered insight to their emotions.
The final image was once again a woman. This time she lay outside on a brightly tiled path. Her attire and shades of orange in the tiles portrayed a time past, perhaps the sixties, where she lie flat on her back, eyes towards the sunshine. There was a sense of fullness in this photograph, a wholeness. The photograph, unlike the others, was a vertical shot, over the top of her, continuing the theme of likenesses and differences. The photograph called to mind closing shots of movies where the camera zooms out vertically. Perhaps, her movie was over. Whatever unique sense she had of her own story, her movie, had left. She seemed in shock at being told some bad news. This photo again gave that sense of humanity, the sense that even though the details of our own unique and personal decisions are different, the overarching feelings, the sadness, the hurt, the fear, the anxieties, remain the same for us all.
Of course, these are simply my own musings. Maybe they were what the photographer intended, maybe not, but something this insightful to me moved me to tears. For almost twenty minutes, I sat on the bench, and just cried. That’s why Thursdays are for crying, because each Thursday, I find something new, that can make me think in a new way, inspire me, or describe emotion to me, all without words. It’s truly beautiful, and I’d encourage you all to go and look at some art today, whether you’re googling photos of a Michelangelo, or looking at Jackson Pollock original, maybe that art will inspire a sense of awe into you. I know it does for me.
Until next time,
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