Sarah Jenkins (velvethadrian), 2016.
Though the onslaught of museums and gallery spaces all blurred together after a week in Italy, I think I captured this fellow in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. In his sumptuous gold frame, this sly, little Pope struck me early on in the visit as I prowled the endless line of small rooms.
Not only did I love the stark whiteness of the walls and how the frame and the background of the painting work particularly well together, but the expression on the subject’s face reached out to me as well. Any museum visitor can get burnt out on the endless series of small rooms, each a dignified altar to some great masterpiece or genius of the past. (I certainly did, and I study art for a living.) My advice is to wander around, linger where you’re interested or comfortable, move on when nothing seizes your attention. Let yourself be open to everything and move through the exhibits like you’re running your hands along a long piece of soft cloth. Stop when you hit a seam, a piece of brocade, or even a hidden thorn. Maybe that change in texture is a “masterpiece” with a crowd in front, maybe it’s the canny gaze of this Pope peering out from a painted panel. Enjoy a museum as much as you like, don’t bother trying to see everything (or even all the highlights), and experience it on your own terms.