Monday, October 31, 2005
Sitting the other day in front of Picasso's rapturous "Girl Before a Mirror" at the Museum of Modern Art, Rueben Rosen wore the dyspeptic look of a man with little love for modern art. But the reason he gave for disliking the painting was not one you might expect to hear from an 88-year-old former real estate broker.
"It's like he's trying to tell a story using words that don't exist," Mr. Rosen said finally of Picasso, fixing the painter's work with a critic's stare. "He knows what he means, but we don't."
This chasm of understanding is one that Mr. Rosen himself stares into every day. He has midstage Alzheimer's disease, as did the rest of the men and women who were sitting alongside him in a small semicircle at the museum, all of them staring up at the Picasso.
All snideness aside, art therapy does seem to be beneficial in dementia. Maybe it's because appreciating art relies on a different part of the brain than that involved in Alzheimer's. We tend to experience art, after all, on an emotional level rather than an intellectual level. (Although art critics and haute artistes would disagree, I'm sure.)
Other artwork in the story:
Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy.
Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World:
... he smiled, listened and at one point - after abandoning a wheelchair he had requested when he arrived - stood and speculated on why there was an ellipse of mown grass surrounding the haunting farmhouse in the painting's upper right corner.
"It's to let you know that someone lives there," he said.
.... That day at the museum, looking longingly at the figure lying in a field at the bottom of the Wyeth painting, she seemed to identify deeply with the thin young woman in the dress, her left hand reaching out toward the farmhouse.
"You can't see her face," Ms. Brenton said, "but looking at her you get the feeling she's happy."
She was asked why.
"Because you know she's going to get to the house," she said, adding: "I'd like to go into that house, too."
....he was asked to provide a title for the painting, and on a notecard wrote "Dance of the Beauties." He smiled rakishly when asked to explain. "I see a naked woman?" he said, shrugging. "I think it's beautiful."
Some things are never forgotten.
posted by Sydney on 10/31/2005 06:34:00 AM 0 comments