I had the best day at Cheekwood. It rained, but not too hard, so I dressed in my Seattle gear and was unfazed by it as we stomped through the gardens. The museum had a superbly curated American Impressionist exhibit. But the high point was the security guard. We were going to take a quick pass through the Fabergé exhibit, as I’d seen it before but my companion hadn’t and we stayed because the security guard was giving a long, impromptu history lecture on the exhibit to a bunch of wealthy, 60+ white women. He was a 40-something black man and his speech patterns and slang indicated sort of an average Southern, probably lower class background. But. Oh man, I can barely describe the beauty of the lecture he gave. He had clearly spent a ton of time researching the history of Fabergé, the Russian Revolution, the Czars and all. I sat on a bench with my phone and tried to transcribe notes of what he was saying. All I managed to get down was:
“Yeah, Fabergé don’t make no junk.”
“You on that internet? Get on Netflix and get ‘The Czar’s Eggs.’ It’ll tell you about this. About that Nicholas and his Czarina and that one boy he had with the hemophilia. He was okay, then this knucklehead, Rasputin, comes in and it’s just a shame that People’s Revolution killed all those people. Just a shame.”
“That artist [Fabergé] you got to give a high five too, the highest of fives.”
He went on about this one particular object , the Imperial Lilies-of-the-Valley Basket, and how there were 42 Fabergé eggs in the world but the Imperial Lilies-of-the-Valley Basket was the only one. He told the ladies how the Czarina loved it so much that she took it from room to room with her so she could always admire it. He knew, in depth, about each object in the Fabergé collection, he spoke how they were made and what they were used for. Talked about Fabergé using his art to gain favor with the Czar by pleasing the Czarina with gifts.
As we were leaving he was telling about how everyone should come back for the upcoming Chihuly exhibit and demonstrated a fairly extensive about of knowledge on the that subject as well.
It was so pleasing, so wonderful to hear someone who was clearly self taught, speak so eloquently (in his own way), proudly and so knowledgeably about art. Really, it was joyous and filled me with glee.
Afterwards we walked the water gardens and the Japanese garden in the rain. Sat for a while under the roofed viewing area in the Japanese garden while it rained harder.
Then I spent too much money in the gift shop. And had a lovely conversation with the woman who worked there (Mom, I think it was same woman as when you and I went) about art and about how Chihuly is such a marketing maniac that you can’t barely stock a gift shop without his say so (I didn’t get the impression that she cared for him much, heh).
Sometimes I think I could stay in Nashville forever if I could work at Cheekwood. I wonder if they need a digital archivist? I could maintain their botany library and the family’s private collections! Heaven!
Here are some of my favorites of the Impressionist pictures I saw today.
Luther Emerson Van Gorder – Japanese Lanterns
Lilliam Wescott Hale – An Old Cherry Tree
Edith Baretto Parsons – Turtle Baby
Charles Coutney Curran – In the Luxembourg Garden
There was also a William Posey Silva piece that I can’t find a picture of that was called “Garden of Dreams” c. 1925 That was lovely. Definitely want to see more of his work.
Yes, today was very good day.
Picture taken today with my phone, out the rain-streaked upper window of the Cheekwood mansion. The window was in the middle of the Impressionists exhibit and I thought it looked Impressionistic too.
March 24, 2010 at 9:28 pm
That’s awesome! I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve encountered similar situations, where security guards know more about the collections than the tour guides. It’s great when you find one who wants to have a conversation.