Andy Warhol Made Me Cry!

On the Saturday, we all bundled onto a city bus in Edmonton and headed to the AGA (the art gallery).  For a few of us, there were loads of goose bumps and chills.  The idea of seeing Andy Warhol’s work in person was… well… thrilling.

We walked into the gallery in a coagulated pool.  People jostling against people, trying to fit our large numbers into a small space.  Like blood through arteries and veins, we were rushed through doors, stairs, and corridors.  We were split into two groups, and I – quite on purpose – waited to see which direction Zac and Robyn were ushered.  Zac was as excited as I was, and I knew I wanted to be near someone who understood, and got just how amazing an opportunity this was.

Sitting at long wooden tables, now split apart into two rooms.  We were each passed a sticker.  A red word bubble with the letters AGA in white.  I was wearing a button featuring a photograph of myself that Zac had taken earlier with the words “in flux” boldly displayed.  So I figured how better to wear a speech bubble than to have myself proclaiming the text located within it.  I stuck it to my portrait.

me and my button

 

From there, we were further split into another two groups.  Our table and one other went off with a tour guide who’s name I had written down with a bunch of other things I’d hoped to share – including artists names, quotes, and other tidbits…  I, however, seem to have lost this paper – much to my disappointment.

We went up several flights of stairs, and were stopped at the top of a particularly dreadful set.  We were instructed to look up, which almost sent me spilling backwards.  Zac and I both chose, instead, to look at Robyn’s shoes – as we were both feeling rather nauseous at the effect.  Staring at her shoes for several minutes we waited until instructed to move forward.  We listened to what was being said, but chose not to look back up again until we were off the steps – and then encountered no problems looking around and enjoying the interesting architecture.

Our first stop took us directly into the Warhol exhibit.  At first I found it interesting.  Moving around that first room, seeing such famous and highly popularized images.  It was very cool seeing his work in person.

Then I moved on, into the second room – slightly ahead of the group which was still (for the most part) enjoying the work in the first room.  It was there that I saw her.  Marilyn Monroe.  In black and white, her face blown up to what had to have been three or four feet.  And I was overwhelmed.  The tears came on instantly.  No warning.

The woman working in the room, an expert on the exhibit, came over…  She understood.  She said the same thing happened to her – but it was when she saw Jackie Kennedy, who’s portrait hung on the next wall over.

This instantaneous flood of emotion was completely unexpected.  This was an iconic image I had seen over and over again.  I grew up with this piece of pop art, this bit of culture.  In books, on posters, in magazines.  This was an image I thought I knew, but discovered very quickly I knew little.

It was beautiful.  So much more so then I ever could have imagined.  Larger than life in every possible way.  It really was overwhelming.

I found myself having to look away.  I thought the feelings would pass, that I would be able to see her, see how he saw her…  Just appreciate being able to have this glimpse of this iconic beauty through his eyes…  but no.  The longer I looked, the more emotional I became.  In the end I had to walk away.

I had no trouble seeing all of Warhol’s smaller works: his wigs, photographs of himself dressed in drag, screen tests, photographs, all fine.  But witness anything large?  Famous works like The Last Supper screen printed in duplicate on pink as tall as I am and four times as long?  Yes, that too sent me into the same overwhelmed state.

In one way I was relieved when it was time to move on…  in another, I wished I could have laid on that gallery floor and just let the release continue.  I can’t quantify exactly what it was that caused such an overwhelming rush.  I can’t identify one emotion even.  It was just a sense of being totally and completely overwhelmed by something I thought I knew, but so clearly did not.  I wish I could go back to the gallery today.  On my own.  And just BE in that space.  No tour.  Just me, Andy, and Marilyn.  I’d like the opportunity to get to know them both a whole lot better.

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About Tobi-Dawne

Tobi-Dawne Smith is many things to many people... photographer, canine behaviour expert, equal rights activist, green politician, lactivist, intactivist, writer, crafter, dog handler, third wave feminist, etc. But most important in her life is her role as mother to an amazing five year old. Learn more about TD at http://www.tobi-dawne.com/ follow her blog at https://td365.wordpress.com/ get to know her daughter at http://lilyannslemonade.wordpress.com/ or check out her work at http://tdphotography.me/

Posted on August 4, 2011, in Joy Journey, LGBTTQ, Photo Booth and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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