Sunday, September 18, 2016

Day 12, Art and memories

After a nice breakfast in the hotel, we set out for the day. For me this was a big day.
You see, when I was a freshman in college at St. Olaf in 1974, I took a Philosophy of Art course my first semester, merely to satisfy a liberal arts credit. I was nervous, because of the word "philosophy." I ended up loving the course, which turned into a visual tour of art though the ages and the philosophies that helped create them. I actually ended up with a second major in art history.
By November of that year, I had convinced my parents to let me go on a J-term tour (January-it was called "interim" when I was there- a chance for a concentrated study of something) for more than four weeks. It was to be a study of Renaissance art in Italy. As I remember, the whole trip cost about $1000 with everything included, except incidentals. Even though I had taken one course, I still didn't really know much about Renaissance art. I traveled with kids from St. Olaf, Macalester and Augsburg and an art professor from St. Olaf called Mac Gimse. He was probably in his late 30's or early '40s and incredibly knowledgable about art. We saw it all, and I remember thinking that if I never went in an old Catholic cathedral again, it would be fine. Haha.
What I found out was, although I had a wonderful time on the trip, traveling with only a backpack, Renaissance art was not really my thing. Intellectually I knew that it brought art out of the dark ages, and that the talent and the medium used was amazing.
 But then we got to Florence.
 And  I saw him.
David. (Pronounced Da-Veed)
It is Michelangelo's statue of the young David, preparing to fight off the giant Goliath.
 It took my breath away. It stands in its own duomo in the Academia museum, very well lit.  It is at least 15 feet tall, not counting its pedestal, and the anatomical detail is beyond any adjective that I can use. The sinews of his arms etc...extraordinary. Especially when you realize that he carved it out of a piece of marble that all the greats-Botticelli etc- had rejected because it was too narrow.
My young 18 year-old-self remembers thinking that I had to see it again someday. You know about "somedays"- they turn into graduation, jobs, careers, marriage, children, etc.
I realized as we planned this trip, that my "someday" could happen.
I was apprehensive that with the way the world has changed since then, (then we were able to walk right up to every famous sculpture in Italy) that David would be isolated now. There is plexiglass around the base, but it doesn't ruin it.
I rounded the corner, and I had the same experience as I had 42 years ago. I actually put my hand to my chest and took a deep breath. It was an emotional I never thought I would have again. I paused before I could move closer.
(On the same trip, I was privileged to experience the Sistine Chapel in Rome while the St. Olaf College Choir sang. The first Protestant choir to ever sing there. We won't get to Rome this time, but
I mention it because of the genius that was Michelangelo. What a gift to the world.)
I spent a lot of the day thinking about the fact that our children can no longer go to college just for the sake of learning...about  history and the larger world around them. I understand that the emphasis now has to be on earning a living, but what a shame. The liberal arts make people more whole and create in them a bigger global perspective. To think that much of what we have experienced happened hundreds of years before the US was even a blip on anyone's radar.
The rest of the day was spent in the markets of course, and the Pontevecchio.
Tomorrow, our last day, is the Duomo and the Uffizi.
Now for some dinner.

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