Gertrude Stein and the Pharohs

We took ourselves into Manhattan yesterday for a dose of the hurried life, complete with angst about finding a free parking spot. We strategized to start on the upper East side and wind up at the Gertrude Stein Collection exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and then at a jazz/dinner club, "Smoke" on 105th and Broadway. The gods of parking were with us when we easily slid into a street spot at 91st and Fifth. A nice walk on a day that unexpectedly turned out to be beautiful.
Great signage on the Frick Museum undergoing a renovation and cordoned off with mesh and yellow banners. "Like everyone else living on Fifth Avenue, we are having 'a little work done.'" As we made our way toward the Stein collections, we lingered briefly in the Egyptian hallway to read some of the stories on the Egyptian murals---centuries of agricultural tales illustrated on papyrus. Was it true that the slave who scattered the grain was taller than the slave who tamped the soil down over it? Did the goddess who received the urn after the gods of rain invoked the opening of the heavens truly tower over all of the smaller people around her? That was ancient storytelling---pictures of reality they shared for historical reasons and personal communication.
Onward to the Stein collections. Now, I have a feeling I wouldn't have liked Gertrude. While I appreciate many of the artists she supported and nurtured, the collection is wonderfully annotated, and the writers have cautiously depicted the vicious feuds and killer ambitions of both the collectors and their chattel, the starving artists, ex patriots. Storytelling for me as a non-visual artist who has listened in personally on the "making" or "breaking" of a career in the fine arts (I had a boyfriend who was a powerful art critic) felt all too venal and self aggrandizing. The Steins were intellectuals and didn't have to work for the bread on their tables. If you didn't interest Gertrude, you may as well have become a shoemaker in Paris in the early 1900s. As you read between the lines near each grouping of paintings, see what you think. The paintings become so alive with the story, but so does their not so passionate motivation for each painting. Long live commercial value!

Yes, after riding around for a half an hour toward our jazz club we found a street parking spot on 108th and West End. Great teeny club, a jewel. Sat close to our neighbors on both sides. Ate like a queen. Listened to "Jimmy Cobb" recreate Miles Davis "Kind of Blue." Blue periods for painters and musicians, but for us, it was a rosy day.

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