An Endless Art History Class

“…the whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music…it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything.”-James Thurber

There seems to be an endless amount of museums in Paris. I queried the official amount, and it totals 136 museums in the city of Paris! This is bountiful for a city that is actually quite small and walkable. It is only 6 miles long (North to South) and 7 miles wide (East to West). And therefore this past week, I checked out two additional art museums: Musee de Luxembourg and the Musee d’Art Moderne. One exhibit I had been excited about attending was the Vivian Maier exhibit. I first learned about her from the documentary Finding Vivian Maier. In the film, we discover a nanny who lived a double life as a minder of children and a street photographer. But the intriguing twist was nobody in her life was aware of this creative genius that existed among them. She hid her passion, and kept the beauty of her work for herself. The type of camera she had was a Rolleiflex, which could be worn on the neck and did not have to be brought to the eye to focus. It stayed stomach level, and she napped many of her subjects unknowingly. These were strangers on the street in cities around the world. At her death, most of her belongings were in a storage unit and were auctioned off. It was he who began to share her work with the world.

As I gazed at her works in the exhibit, I couldn’t help but wonder about the life of this woman. Why did she keep this skill private? Was she cautious of receiving criticism? How did she learn her craft? What went on in her head in her daily life? Was she satisfied in her job as a nanny because it covered the costs of her basic necessities of life and afforded her the opportunity to travel the world? My fascination with her continued as I walked past each image and into the gift shop that sold numerous replicas of her work as postcards or books. What would she think of this fame and her secret work being shared with the world?

I also began to think of the artists that exist among us. We are all creative beings, but why do some deny this aspect of themselves while others fully embrace it? What type of artist exists within you?

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