I didn't make it over to the Met today, was busy helping clean up the remnants of a slumber party. But I was there on Tuesday, and got to spend about an hour and half wandering. When I was young, I was, as all of you know, a hip-hop head. I consumed everything I could about the music, poring over liner notes, laying on my bed trying to pull something--anything--from the cover art. This was before the internet, and so when you got a new album you were, for the most part, left only with the art.
I remember looking at the cover for Illmatic and wondering, What is he trying to tell me? Likely not much, but it was nice to imagine that there was some kind of deeper revelation waiting to be uncovered. It was nice to not know and spend the time trying to figure it out, and when you couldn't figure it out, imagining. When the culture of celebrity changed, and hip-hop morphed into that culture, my relationship with it changed--suddenly I knew too much. I miss the old "not knowing," and have gotten some of that feeling back in my time in the museum. There is so much to imagine. So much to wonder about.
This is Massacre of the Innocents, by Navez. I saw it last week, and it stayed with me, and then, a few days later, my Bible reading took me to Herod, who killed all the male children in his kingdom, in hopes of staving off the coming of the Messiah. I hope I have that right. Anyway, with the lore in hand, I wanted to see the painting again. I hoped the colors would mean more, that they would be deeper to me.
This was easier said the done. The Met is a universe, and each wing is a galaxy, and in each galaxy there and stars and planets tugging at the imagination. You come in with your heart set on seeing Hercules shooting his bow, but instead you end up staring at a nomad queen's golden crown.
Toward the end I finally made it there, but I had to push myself, and it is true, I did see more, but I'm not sure I saw better. I guess it was nice to know what the painter had in mind, and I did hone in on details that I'd missed before, but the story really didn't feel essential to me.
Whatever. The painting is gorgeous. The woman in the back futilely trying to shush her young son, is just arresting. I love this piece.
Also, I suspended my account on Facebook. I think the voices are right.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.