This weekend I found myself in a throng of people, some carved in marble while others were shaped by muscle and bone. These masses were assembled in the Seattle Art Museum, our forum for the day. Rome has finally arrived from the Louvre and it is magnifique.
The exhibition has a nice range. The artifacts span three centuries and cover everyone from the plebians to the princeps, the emperor of Rome himself. Slaves are here, as are barbarians, gladiators and actors. I lost myself in the ceremonial arches, mirrors and statuary. The Lusty Lady, a strip joint across the street, even celebrated the opening with a twisted classical quote on its marquee: “Veni Vidi Veni.” Dirty jokes in Latin—the Romans would have approved.
They loved a good time, and they lived an artful life. Several mosaics adorned the collection, astounding with their tiny tesserae. I wondered how they were removed from the original sites—did the archaeologists carve out the floor around them and lift the whole assemblage up, or was each tile painstakingly transferred to a new display surface? The otherwise thorough educational blurbs were mum on this point.
I had two favorites—the first was a larger-than-life statue of a centurion in astounding detail. The sculptor had reproduced each buckle on his armor, each ornament on his breastplate. The soldier seemed ready to defend the empire—or the museum—at a moment’s notice.
My other favorite was a small group that studied him. These teens were dressed in the Japanese fashion known as “Sweet Lolita”—think Bo Peep with bows in her hair and you’ll see them. I’d heard about this subculture, but this was the first sighting I’d had. These kids were not Japanese, either. I have to admit that I find the style a bit creepy, but these girls were willing to make an extreme statement in a crowd of strangers. This is the courage that fuels art, and I admired it. Surrounded by masterpieces created two millennia ago, it’s nice to see we are still creating ourselves, even when we are creating a spectacle. The Romans would have approved of that, too.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
37. There are the things that you set out to do, and the things that you find along the way. Did you gather any new experiences in your travels today? Did you create a buzz of your own?