Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Do Not Touch
When I was in junior high my art class took a field trip to a museum in Oakland, California. Our teacher, Mr. Mestemacher, told us we’d be seeing some interesting work by world-renown sculptor Henry Moore. I went to the school library and studied up on this Moore guy. His work was bold and only vaguely realistic, but I was intrigued by a quote I found in a book, where Moore stressed the tactile qualities of his sculptures and invited viewers to fondle and caress them to receive the fullest experience possible.
I piled into a school bus for the hour-long trip to Oakland along with other future artists from Jefferson Junior High. When the bus screeched to a halt in front of the museum, Mr. Mestemacher told us we were free to wander on our own. I proceeded to explore the various art-filled rooms until I happened across a stone sculpture of a reclining woman. She was massive. Had she been flesh and blood she wouldn’t have had the proper anatomy to stand or even sit up. Her features were indistinct. Her breasts were larger than my head but tiny in proportion to the rest of her. She appeared to have risen from the primal stuff of creation.
With Moore’s words echoing in my head, I ignored the Do Not Touch sign and hugged one of the sculpture’s colossal arms. I waited a few moments for the “full tactile experience” Moore had described to kick in, but my experience, while memorable, was not what I’d expected. A museum guard grabbed me by my shirt collar and pulled me off Moore’s behemoth female like a dog breeder yanking a randy mutt off a prize bitch.
“What the heck do you think you’re doing?” the angry-faced guard growled. “Didn’t you see the sign saying Do Not Touch?”
“Then why’d you do it?”
“Henry Moore said it was okay to touch.”
“I don’t know this Henry Moore character and couldn’t care less what he has to say, but in my museum we don’t allow touching.” He held me so high that my Keds no longer touched the ground. "You’re one of those kids bused in from Jefferson?”
“Go wait in your bus for the rest of your class.”
“But I haven’t seen hardly anything. This isn’t fair!”
He didn’t seem interested in fairness as he pushed me toward the exit.
Before leaving I spun around and caught a parting glimpse of Moore’s “Reclining Woman.” In spite of the fact that her features were indistinct, I swear I saw her wink at me.
Years later I’d remember that guard. I was again fondling a reclining female, but this time the subject of my attention was the woman I was destined to marry. In this instance the Do Not Touch sign was written in the eyes of her father.
Another sign I disregarded.
Posted by Stephen Hayes