Fried? Scrambled? Baked?: What Julia Roberts Taught Me About Art
By Cathleen Elise Rossiter
“I love Eggs Benedict, I hate every other kind.” – Julia Roberts as Maggie Carpenter in Runaway Bride –
In many ways, art can be intimidating. I remember my first visit to an official museum (as an eight-year-old, the various living history museums we regularly visited were too much fun to be seen as a museum to which sophisticated adults went). We left early that late spring Saturday morning for the trip into Boston. It was Family Day at the Museum of Fine Arts.
We found a parking spot on Hemenway Street, a stroke of rather good luck as we had only a short walk to the museum and the parking garage was full. Everything about the visit was larger-than-life; the 500-foot-long granite façade that would swallow my whole neighborhood, the front stairs cascading into the circular entry drive like rapids over the Merrimac River’s fish ladders, enveloping an oval lawn the size of my yard at home.
Towering over all who approached the museum, standing watch, arms outstretched, head tilted heavenward was a bronze statue of a Native American man on horseback. This ten-foot tall man and his horse seemed to me so real, so welcoming that I kept waiting for them to wake up, lead us inside, and show us around.
That day in the museum, I remember being mesmerized by the grandness, the greater-than-one-person-ness of the art from every age and culture as well as the building that housed and protected it all. Even this monumental structure was decorated elaborately, grandly, yet the decoration never competed with the art within it. I just knew that I would want to do the same if I were part of building something to protect and display the artwork I saw.
The overriding feeling of that day, for me, is one of being swallowed by greatness, beauty, and the souls of the people who created everything around me. I could not tell you the specifics of which pieces were my favorites, although I do remember wanting to make friends with the daughters of Edward Darley Boit, because I could not process the specifics. I was too in awe of the experience. I was too in awe of being allowed the privilege of the experience, I mean, this was serious stuff for adults, and sophisticated ones at that.
As a result, I went for years not having the courage to admit to myself whether or not I liked
a particular piece of art because it felt as though I was betraying the privilege of entrance into the world of art. I felt as if I was spitting on the souls of the people who put the best of themselves into work that did not speak to me. Therefore, like Maggie Carpenter in Runaway Bride, I adjusted my tastes and opinions to suit the people I was with at any given moment.
It wasn’t until I finally realized that just because I am not drawn to a particular work of art (pardon the pun) does not mean that the artist cannot speak to me through that particular piece. All I have to do is listen and look for the message to me in the moment and I will honor the artist as well as the work itself. I still don’t have to like the piece but I will have chosen to walk away a better person because of it.
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