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LOVE THURSDAY

Cindy Maddera

Last week or the week before last (something like that), Mom called me up and said that she was coming to visit. She was very business like on the phone. "I am coming to visit. I will be there Friday and I can get a hotel room if you need me too." She was so serious about it that I worried a bit that she had something to tell me that she couldn't tell me over the phone. Like I'm adopted or I ate my twin sister in the womb. The reality was that Mom was just tired of her surroundings and wanted to see our faces. This was great news to me because I was supposed to be at a softball game at 6:30 AM Saturday morning and there was no way I'd get Michael up at that time to go with. I knew that I could drag Mom and she'd be a great cheerleader. Then the game got moved to Sunday because of weather, so we decided to go to the Nelson instead. 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has a Folk Art in America exhibit that's running right now and I really wanted to see it. The thing was, I was the only one exited to see it and I just haven't had the time to say "hey! I'm going to the museum by myself!" I knew this exhibit would be right up Mom's alley and was really happy our game got canceled so I could drag her to it. If you were planning a trip to New York and asked me what I'd recommend seeing while there, I would suggest two things. First the Ellis Island Museum with the guided headphones (free) tour is amazing. Ah-Ma-ZING! You will laugh and cry as you here true stories from people who passed through Ellis Island in search of a better life in America. Do this. Secondly, I strongly recommend the American Folk Art Museum. Not only is this museum filled with delightful exhibits, it is small(ish) which makes it feel more intimate and personal. New York City is full of big museums and the city itself is just BIG. There are times that aspect of New York can seems overwhelming. The first time I walked by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I thought "No way!" That place is huge and contains a lot of eye candy. You have to be prepared to give a museum like that most of a day and then some. The AFAM is a charming and wonderful oasis in the middle of a big city, but it also holds an art collection that is pure and tangible. 

My sister-in-law had a framed print of Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog hanging on a wall in her home. I grew up staring at that painting and noticing all the little details. I never grew tired of it. There are parts to it that seem so flat and then sections like the girl's fingers and arms that have a roundness to them. When I was small, I even believed that girl was Katrina as a young girl. The actual painting itself lives in the AFAM in New York. I squealed in delight when I saw it. Besides the portraiture, American Folk Art includes pieces like quilts of calico, braided rugs made from plastic bread bags, ducks carved from wood and painted to look real. In fact the exhibit at the Nelson was full of intricately carved wooden figures and furniture. There was a wonderful carousel elephant that I desperately wanted to liberate from the museum. 

American Folk Art is one of my favorite genres of art. It is the art of everyman and is a true example of the melting pot that is America. I feel a sense of great pride for our country when I'm looking at this kind of art because it is such an expression of American creativity and ingenuity, but yet you can see aspects of other cultures in the art. This is and was the land of opportunity. Most of this artwork comes from self-taught individuals, people like you and me. We are all American Folk Artists in some way or form. Thousands of years from now, we'll have Pinterest Art Displays of the 21st Century. Mom and I studied all the details of the portraits in this exhibit. We both reached out fingers to hover close to some of the wood carvings because we wanted to touch them so badly. We marveled at the details and vibrant colors. And we declared it an afternoon well spent.  

Happy Love Thursday!