To say it was standing room only would be to imply one could enter the building to find a standing position yet many who chose to attend the 7PM lecture at the exact allotted time found their first view to be through the giant picaresque window. Having never been known for punctuality, I was still in the car at 6:54PM driving by the Five Points Art Gallery, searching for legal parking. By the time I walked from the municipal lot at the library to the event, I was looking through that window, and wondering how I could squeeze in the side door and find a place in the back.
The lecture was being given by Ann Temkin, the chief curator of paintings and sculpture for the Museum of Modern Art, who was a hometown cultural hero. No doubt if she had given her lecture in Bristol or Waterbury or Hartford, the event would have been equally attended but the fact her roots were in Torrington made the visit all the more joyous and significant. The topic of the lecture was the 21st century artist and even though I live in the present and create art as I can, my taste in art, culture and whatever fashion sense I may possess are firmly fixed in the prior century. I looked forward to learning something new.
Before the first speeches were given I gathered the nerve to walk sideways through the door but I soon discovered there was no standing room that didn’t block someone else’s view either due to my height or width, only one of which is really my fault. The door needed to be shut due to air conditioning and I moved further still to the rear and when the lecture officially began I found myself, though deep in the back of the standing attendees, in a point directly opposite the lectern and l enjoyed an excellent vantage point of the giant screen that displayed the images Ms. Temkin had brought for illustration and discussion.
The lecture was on ART and it began with the brief history of the foundation of the Museum. Actually it started with kind acknowledgments and then a joke but the actual lecture began with the history of MOMA, an institution that obtained amazing treasured art pieces early when what was “then” contemporary galleries did not care for upstarts like Van Gogh and Cezanne. Great art is often less appreciated in its time, which gives us contemporary creators hope that even if we are not appreciated fully now, history will one day “retweet us”.
Sometimes museums get it right. Sometimes they get it wrong or at least, they may find they obtained pieces that do not stand the test of time. Sometimes art is a performance or an idea. Sometimes they do not obtain a physical piece of art to display; instead they receive instructions on how to build something. A popular exhibit is a map of humanity where visitors measure each other’s height and make a mark on the wall. Of all these high concept ideas, there were some that I liked and some that did not speak to me. Of course I am happy when others find value in works of art that I may not really appreciate so long as I believe that the art had a sincere vision.
As I stood enjoying this hour long class on contemporary art, it made me all the more happier to know this discussion was happening in Torrington. Torrington has art deco buildings within walking distance of working factories. Torrington has the Nutmeg Conservatory and Snapper Magees. There is sincerity in Torrington. Sure, there may be franchises of branded fast food and donut shops but that’s not what comes to mind if one says the name “Torrington”. It is the local business or a neighbor who helps with the mail. It’s the ability to say no firmly but nicely to the guys who show up to the door to see if I want to change my electricity provider.
There is an art to life in Torrington.
When the lecture ended and the Q and A session began I availed myself of some cheese and pita bread left over from the reception. I considered how what I’ve learned can inform future projects. Then I received a text and knew I had to stop at the store before getting home to put the kids to bed. Once the children were asleep, I drew a quick cartoon of the event under the banner of Nutmeg Junction, the cartoon that fellow artist Jessica Ponticelli and I create in homage to our beloved Connecticut. And later still when all was quiet in the house, I took out a fresh box of crayons I had stashed away and found all 24 crayons in their standing room only positions in their box…and began to draw…