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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Ragging on rembrandt

    Andi Berlinarts columnist
    Andi Berlin
    arts columnist

    The furry mass of a lifeless dog that left this world on the side of Interstate-10 was defying gravity by stiffly punching out all four of its limbs straight into the air. It must not have been there for very long, because the fuzzy flesh was perfectly preserved and its expression was still in a half-diseased smirk, as if warning passers-by of the dangers ahead.

    I was the only person in the car that noticed the atrocity, and my three passengers on the road to the Rembrandt show in Phoenix were busy snoring. I on the other hand, was becoming increasingly convinced I was about to die.

    My car violently swayed to and fro in the wind, begging at any second to roll over and bludgeon us into a scrap metal Hell. When the turbulence finally woke up my boyfriend Housten in the front seat, he suggested we pull over and check our tires. But before he could finish his sentence, the biggest tumbleweed in the history of the southwest bounced straight in front of us. The behemoth was literally almost eight feet tall; a disastrous mound of spiny green bristles, animal poop, jagged rocks and lost souls. Although it seemed to trudge over in slow motion, it was too late to swerve and the elephantine blob smashed against the hood of my car and exploded into a trillion spindles of leaves and branches.

    It seems like anyone with a penchant for art in this town has to risk their very lives to see some. Although Tucson showcases a wide variety of styles and genres, most of the big players never come through here, forcing us to venture to Timbuktu and back.

    And always in a rush too. Our $18 non-refundable tickets were scheduled a half an hour from then, and we were still out in the middle of nowhere. After a fifteen mile-long pileup and a devastating drive through the entire vicinity of Phoenix, we arrived in the parking lot twenty minutes late.

    My friends were starving and one of them hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours, but we sprinted across the pristine halls past throes of old people to get to the exhibit. When we finally saw the velvet ropes, it was actually a bit anti-climactic. Of the 14 claimed Rembrandts, only about five of them were actual paintings. The rest were just drawings. And for an exhibit that claims to showcase Dutch masters, there wasn’t a single Vermeer, possibly the most influential painter of the age.

    And plus, everything was just so … brown. I’m not sure if there was a paint shortage during most of the Dutch masters’ time period, or if they were just really afraid of looking fruity, but every piece in the exhibit had the same boring tint and palate of colors.

    It didn’t matter what the focus of the painting was – animals, religious figures, intricate still lifes, even demonic babies holding up what looked like the shocker with their hands – the background and overriding colors were still lifeless and boring.

    “”It’s like, it’s like. Light … versus dark,”” a contemplative elderly Jewish woman proclaimed while staring at a picture of some plates.

    “”Very interesting,”” her colleague replied, and then bumped into the woman next to her. The exhibit was so hyped up that there was barely enough room to move. The stifling air created by the millions of bodies slammed up against our necks. Just when you were getting into one of the paintings, you’d be staring at the back of someone’s head.

    It was unbearable. But Housten insisted on spending almost ten minutes pushing through and looking at every single canvas. I had already done somersaults through the exhibit by the time he finally finished looking at the fading self-portrait in the first room. By the time he got to Dutch artifacts that were really just ugly glasses I wouldn’t even buy at a thrift store, I was ready to paint a picture of me killing him with a sledgehammer.

    But once we finally got to leave the Disneyland, the atmosphere got a lot better. I could finally breathe again, and my friend actually had time to get a drink. After that, we leisurely strolled through the closing weekend of the Italian Masters from 17th century Naples exhibit, and finally took in some art.

    I really am a fan of Rembrandt, but the stunning intricacies of floating angels and religious passion of the Renaissance paintings really moved me. The mostly Christian artists were never afraid to use color and vibrancy when depicting their mythologies, and their supreme devotion to their subjects shines through every stroke. From the terrifying act of slicing off a man’s head in the famous Gentileschi, to the pale Christ striking down the evil Satan, these were the paintings that deserved a hundred-mile drive.

    When I caught Housten staring deeply into a poignant depiction of the prodigal son, he gently explained why the story that had caught his attention.

    “”He left town, and even though he spent all the money, his father celebrated when he returned,”” he said.

    “”Why?”” I asked. “”Doesn’t he deserve to be punished?””

    “”He was lost, and now he is found,”” he replied.

    “”Wow. I hope the art crowd in Tucson is just as sympathetic,”” I said. “”Are you ready to get back on the road?””

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