My most successful venture into the dating scene as an adult started with pretty ladies.
Not with real pretty ladies, but with an oil painting of the same name by Eric Fischl, part of the Denver Art Museum’s permanent collection.
I had looked at that painting probably hundreds of times. And each time I loved it. I loved the three, off-kilter canvases, the nude black woman lying on the white satiny sheets, the ethereal blue window set against the dark of the bedroom, the retro, portable television set her eyes seem intent on.
And then someone helped me see it differently.
“It’s allowing you to see the background in the foreground,” said my date. At that time, we had only known each other for a few weeks, and I wanted to find a way to get to know him better.
An artist himself, my date pointed out that it looked like Fischl had first painted the canvases as a sort of teal/blue abstract, and then painted darker colors and details over them.
It was my first time back to that museum and that specific painting since I had split ways with someone who I had shared my life with for eight years. He also loved that painting.
Art has a way of forcing people to have conversations, real ones. Not just the emojis or the Tinder and Facebook kinds.
The atmosphere of an art museum gives you the opportunity to ask the good stuff: “What do you see? What do you think? What are you drawn to?”
If someone goes straight for the oceanic art section, I might question whether or not this is really going out work out. I’m more of a “check out the contemporary and end with the masters” kind of gal. And maybe slip the oceanic section somewhere in-between.
Some people like to talk about how much they know about a specific painting, genre or artist. And often, these same people also want to make sure everyone around them can hear them talking about it.
Other people like to only spend a few seconds at each painting so they can make the most of their visit and see every floor. And others, they want you to be in the same rhythm as them, not stalling too long at certain paintings, not letting you out of their line of sight.
I personally don’t like to have everything interpreted for me when I visit an art museum, which is why you’ll never see me wearing an audio headset. I like to read the titles and descriptions if I feel like it and also just kind of wander. I like musing over weird details: an eye, a color, a brushstroke, but not necessarily having an intellectual boxing match with someone else.
How someone behaves at an art museum says a lot about how they behave in real life. If they seem rushed to see every painting, they’re likely to behave similarly when they’re on vacation.
They would need to stick to a schedule when visiting Paris, I bet.
Being that person myself to a degree, I know I need someone who will help me lose or crumble that piece of paper I’ve written my list of things to do and improvise. The best vacations I have taken have always been the least-planned, and the ones where my best-laid plans are left at home.
Art has a way of cutting through the small talk, which is why a date night at a gallery is the perfect antidote to the modern ills that plague pretty much every other dating scenario.
It’s hard to ask mundane questions like, “What do you do?” when gazing deep into an Expressionist still life of a giant beef carcass set against an exquisite cobalt blue backdrop.
“It’s either lapis lazuli or cobalt blue,” my date whispers to me. Both, he says, were used in France around the turn of the century, cobalt being very popular with French impressionists.
I like what he pays attention to. I like wrapping my mind around the words “lazuli” and “cobalt.”
Art museums are one of the last vestiges for these kinds of shared experiences, where just for a moment, we can kind of forget who we are and, sometimes, even find someone else in the process.