Monday, December 29, 2008

Skuntry acquires sketch by Art Museum guard

In my days before blogging I used to Spam my friends with mock press releases. I just found this one from November 2006 and liked it enough to share.

Today the Skuntry Museum, Library & Beer Cellar acquired the first-ever drawing by one of the museum guards at the Saint Louis Art Museum, whose name is being kept secret ("anonymous donor") because she is not supposed to talk to museum guests, and the gift was an outgrowth of a pleasant conversation she shared this afternoon with Skuntry curator in charge of acquisitions, Chris King.

The piece, an untitled sketch (after Rembrandt) of the Virgin Mary and an angel, joins the museum's Drawings collection. Also featured in that collection are a batch of convict sketches of jailhouse tattoos from the Kentucky State Penitentiary, a pen-and-ink portrait of Fred Friction by the late Hunter Brumfield III, "Heavy, silver boots on his feet, smiling" by Jason Wallace Triefenbach (from the Hoobellatoo Art Invitational for Blind Cat Black) and any number of the cartoons Bob Reuter used to sit and do as he worked the door at the late Frederick's Music Lounge.

The artist who made the piece donated today was gazing intently at a piece in the Rachel Puryear show "Word and Image," which opened recently in the little upstairs space in the Saint Louis Art Museum, when the Skuntry curator entered the room. Puryear's show consists of seven etchings that correspond with seven poems by African-American poets, which are printed alongside the etchings.

The woman scrutinizing the show in the otherwise empty exhibit space was very pretty, with classic West African features, so the curator did his best to start a conversation with her. Only when she turned to him, to answer her question about the show, did the Skuntry curator see her uniform and realize she was on-duty as a guard.

She had a classic, but soft, black St. Louis accent, and she referred to her interlocuter as "sweetie," with no hint of flirt. Her art criticism was heartfelt and perceptive, as she pointed out connections between images in the poetry and the etchings Puryear had made in response.

The conversation developed a bit. The curator pointed out she was in a good position to come back and study Puryear's show again, whenever she wanted. The woman said maybe, maybe not, since she never knew where she would be working and had no control over it.

"I was just working in Rembrandt," she said, a phrase that gave the curator much pleasure. He asked, "How was Rembrandt?"

It was then that she produced a tiny, folded piece of yellow paper, with sketches of two faces on it, and said, "Look what I just did. I never did this before. That's Mary, and that's an angel. I figured, why not give it a try? When I got this job, I never knew I would start to understand art or like it."

At this point the curator moved swiftly into acquisitions mode, and Skuntry is that much richer for it (see above).

"She said other guards work there because they are artists and want to be around art," King said, of the anonymous donor. "That's not the case with her, at all. She was just an everyday citizen literally driven to make art by the presence of Rembrandt. That is so damn cool!"


Untitled (After Rembrandt), by Anonymous

1 comment:

nosey parker said...

Very cool. The reason I liked art from the get go.
Then all that academic crapola sunk in. Fortunately
I still like art. Nice catch bro! Seems you're just like
a reporter...the right place at the right time...ears
perked...cha' ching! See you soon.