Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Welcome to the Ashmolean

I see the Ashmolean museum as a kind of art buffet. When I'm in the mood for a touch of culture after class or before dinner, the Ashmolean is always waiting. I might choose to tiptoe down the hallway of Greek sculptures, though really, there's no point in tiptoeing since its benches seat large groups of teenagers texting, men napping, people reading their homework, and even folks having lunch. I might run up the stairs to the Dutch gallery and commune with wealthy 16th century ladies in stiff collars or ice skating parties captured in paint in a moment of fun. Perhaps I'm in the mood for the "Treasure Room", the Italian Renaissance instruments, or the English china. Whatever I want, good old Shmo has got it. 

Today I went in search of paintings, and discovered a gallery of modern artists. While many of the paintings turned me off with distorted lines and strange colorings, one jumped right out as a thing of beauty: Pablo Picasso's "The Blue Roofs", painted of the view from his Paris apartment during his blue period, in which he used no colors but yellow, blue, and white. 

What an astounding concept, to paint in just three colors. What if, as a teacher, I chose to teach with just three books, sinking into them and finding absolutely every way to explore them possible. 

What if a baker chose to make just three kinds of cookies. Think of the intricacy she might arrive at if she baked just different types of white chocolate cookies two days every week. White chocolate with crushed pistachio nuts and cranberries, topped in dark chocolate marzipan swirls. 

What if a photographer chose to take photos only at 6:45 am, 12:01 pm, and 7:13 pm. He could capture anything in the world in any light and any weather, but only at those times, using whatever filters, lenses and developers would help.

I found myself intrigued by Picasso; though I smiled at a Matisse painting a few steps beyond it, nothing else captured me in the same way throughout my tour. I considered a small print of "The Blue Roofs" in the shop, but settled for the Dutch skaters instead. Somehow the postcard version didn't do him justice. 

Take your own virtual tour of the Ashmolean at:

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