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A family walks through the outdoor artwork on the terrace. They enter and exit fast. Get tangled and make a comment in a language we don’t understand. The man’s body moves faster than the words coming from his mouth. We know he is done with art and ready to leave. What he came here for was accomplished, checked off the list. We finish climbing the stairs that give access to the museum.
The heavy elegant doors move us from unbearable heat to the cool air conditioned lobby. The relief is instant. The wood panels and shaded tall windows change the light with intention and whisper: “Now you are here.” And we acquiesce and start crossing the ticket area towards the restaurant (it is lunch time). Once our eyes adjust we see what seems to be students serpentined towards the ticket booth. They move irregularly, single-filed, most looking down, holding the strap of their heavy backpacks. One student, however, misses the commanding rope and anarchically walks straight ahead. The other students notice and take in his deviation without a word.
The restaurant is almost empty. Its decor elegant and simple, all tables facing the water. We see small boats speeding by and cruise ships lined up ahead of us, ready to depart later that afternoon. Our waitress has a big smiling red mouth and tragedy and comedy masks tattooed on each of her eyelids. The child with us immediately asks her if it hurt to get it done. It didn’t, she responded proudly. We order from the adult and children’s menus.
The staircase leading to the second floor, our destination, is gently inclined and has such generous, wide steps that the child runs and jumps her way to the top. Upstairs we recognize three young women that had entered with us. They are roughly the same height, have black inky hair, midsection and legs bare, arms and shoulders covered. Their profile shows heavily made up faces covering their youth. Our two parties are the only ones in those galleries.
We decide to first see the very popular mirrored room. Not yet our destination but irresistible. We stand in line as the room is small and to be experienced by small groups at a time. In our allotted 2 minutes we inhale the joy in all its forms and colors. The child took it in faster and found the mirrors around and danced to them.
When we finally arrived at the rooms we had come here for we were excited, and silent. The space was empty except for the guard. We walked slowly, inquisitively. Sometimes together, sometimes apart. Taking in, commenting, or looking at each other from across the room for unspoken signals of approval. A step forward, a close up, a step back, then another further back. The choreography of art exhibits. Pulsating with the sights. How can you create a show portraying a writer? Not a painter, sculptor, or performance artist. A writer. That was our lunch conversation and reason to be here. In chronological order and divided by chapters, we start to find clues and moods: a painting, a mural, a poster, an installation. And snippets of writing too. Slowly we are invited to walk through her life and see her portrait painted by the curator.
“The narration of the life of one artist by another,” read the wall text. We had arrived.