Spring break with the kids, we get to the Chicago Art Institute a few minutes after opening on a Tuesday morning. There are no lines to get into the museum. When we get to the exhibit hall the lines for the members only and the non-members are about the same because they haven’t opened the exhibit yet. Once it has opened, the members line moves five times faster than the plebe line.
Because the kids have seen Simon Schama’s “Power of Art” van Gogh segment (with Andy Serkis aka ‘Golum’ as Vincent van Gogh!), I tell them to skip the time line claustrophobia corridor. We proceed directly to the painterly influences and it is crowded. Also crowded is the Paris influence room, but no where near as bad as the Saturday excursion. I am emphasizing to the kids that Van Gogh did not paint when he was psychotic. He could only paint when he was reasonably sane and the reason he was so productive before Gauguin ever arrived was because Vincent van Gogh had hope. I also remind them how well Theo van Gogh took care of his older brother, providing him with canvas, supplies, and encouragement.
By the time we get to the bedroom paintings I have lost my daughter. I can’t find her in the huge crowd and I can feel a creeping panic begin. I abandon the boys telling them I am going ahead in the exhibit to look for her but they should proceed at their own pace and see everything. I keep walking ahead, scanning the crowd, not seeing her, and worried that I have missed her because of her size. Finally, I see her hovering near the door that leads out to the gift shop. She has seen everything and is ready to shop. No! I march her back through the exhibit, plonk her down on the bench that is in front of the forensic analysis movie and make her watch the short film. I haven’t seen it myself, so this is a good excuse as any for me. The boys catch up with us and when the film finishes we gather and walk through the final rooms together.
At the gift shop I buy the jigsaw puzzle of Van Gogh’s bedroom. It is the Paris version- the painting intended for his mother.
My children tell me they “liked the exhibit.” My middle son says, “It was good” and he sounds surprised. I am surprised. This may be a first- Mom’s weird cultural outing was actually ‘good’?. The more likely explanation is the exhibit is actually a testimony to the power of Van Gogh’s art- able to break through the hardened veneer of teenage coolio attitude.