Rumi, the Whirling Dervish Sufi poet. (Coolest sounding sect ever, yeah?)
Rumi, whom Elizabeth Lesser likes to quote. She’s where I first bumped into him.
Rumi, as in:
Learn the alchemy true human beings know.
The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.
Hold on to that thought. We’ll come back to Rumi.
Have been working on making my Christmas list on the moma.org online store (You guys, a moment of silence for museum gift shops. They are so good.), and I ran across a book about Jackson Pollock, which prompted me to do a little digging into my trip to Italy in 2008.
Jackson Pollock and I had a moment at The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, my favorite museum I’ve visited in Europe.
Now notice I said “favorite” and not “the best”…because they’d have to be two different things…I’m kind of spoiled rotten in European museum ticket stubs from the last few years. (oh okay, I’ll tell you: Picasso Museum—Barcelona; PGC, Uffizi, Accademia, Vatican—Italy; Tate Modern, V&A, British Museum—London; Pompidou, Louvre, Musee D’Orsay—Paris. I think that’s all…and there’s still so much I’d love to go back for.)
Oye. I know I might sound like a travel snob… Not meaning to. Trust me, I realize how lucky I am that I’ve seen so many kick-ass places in the world before I turn 30. And when I feel the need, I qualify it to people this way: I prioritize my money. I don’t drive a super-baller car or carry Coach purses; my watch is from Target. I’d rather save money for experiences. And whatever, it’s my life. I do what I want! (Pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever quoted Cartman in my life ever. Felt kind of good.)
So I’ve seen a lot of museums. Lucky to have seen some famous ones. But this one in Venice, smaller and not as well-known as the others, is my favorite for the story.
I visited the PGC on my 25th birthday, during a trip to Italy with some of my wonderfulest of friends. I woke up that morning earlier than everyone else (Christmas morning style) and wandered around until I found a little Italian bookshop. (please. just.) Wasted a happy hour there exploring and buying. Solo bookstore browsing is one of my favorite activities, so solo bookstore browsing in Venice… The day was already wonderful and could only get better. After that, we all had cappuccino and pastries before exploring the city a bit, trying to woo pigeons at St. Mark’s, and having the best little sandwiches of my LIFE. And then we found this museum, with its beautiful modern iron gates leading into what could be a residence, but surprise! it’s this gallery right on the water (like most everything in Venice), so you’re walking along like, “oh look, a Miró!” and then, “Oh look, a window and VENICE.” Gorgeous.
The birthday continued to be magical. I’ve mused about it before. Our perfect waiter that evening and otherworldly tiramisu, see this happy/sad post from January 2009.
(ps: Someone please call 01/09 me and tell her it gets better. Or don’t. She’ll figure it out eventually. I think I still am. Rumi knows what’s up.)
Because I can’t afford real art (a Guggenheim I ain’t… ps, do you know where the G. family made their fortune? Mining. Squirrel that away for your next NYT crossword.), I bought these four postcards at the PGC gift shop, which now sit on a miniature easel in my living room:
Marcel Duchamp Sad Young Man on a Train
Max Ernst The Kiss
René Magritte Empire of Light
Jackson Pollock Alchemy
Aha, it’s all coming together now… Alchemy.
(It’s becoming a thing with me. Incidentally, I just finished reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which I described to someone as “follow-your-dreams porn.” It’s a lovely little quick read that feels an awful lot like a Disney fable. I understand the hype.)
Back to Italy. I scribbled a lot in my journal that day. Here’s what I said about that painting:
“I don’t even care because it’s FRENCH!” hahahaha what a dork I was / am.
Seriously, though. There’s something unbelievably moving to me about seeing these paintings up close. Here’s what I wrote the first time I saw Pollock in Chicago, spring break 2007: “There’s an energy. You feel warmer. You can almost hear it hum. It’s huge. I could dance on it. Roll around in it. Dive deep through it. Stare at it. Like one guy is, perched contentedly on the side corner of a bench. Unblinking. Sublime smile.” (Y’all, I can dork out on some art. That is what I am saying to you.)
My grainy little photobooth postcard pic doesn’t do it justice. Here’s the Guggenheim page all about it. *the more you know*
“It’s chaos and it’s beautiful,” I wrote—I think that’s what is becoming so appealing to me about this idea of alchemy. It’s making something beautiful out of the chaos.
Making gold from the everyday.
Magic from the mundane.
The paradox true human beings know…
(Do tell Rumi I’m sorry that this post had little to do with him. But contrariwise, it had everything to do with him, didn’t it? I think he’d be cool with that.)