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Salvador Dali Museum

Salvador DaliToday was Victoria’s birthday. True to form, she gave me a present instead. Her brother, Bruce, offered to take us wherever we wanted to go, and Victoria decided that I should see the Salvador Dali Museum here in Saint Petersburg. She said she wanted me to get to experience it. Which is the part about giving me the present.
I didn’t complain. Although I did have the sneaking suspicion that if one goes to look at paintings by Salvador Dali that one should be wearing a matador’s cape or at least a tutu, I managed to make do with a Three Stooges t-shirt. I suppose the decorum of contemporary culture should be observed, after all.
I can’t quite put into words my impression of Dali’s work. I’ve never been one of the average Americans who just assumed that Dali was a guy who painted weird images. I’ve always known he was deeper than that, and that there was a definite method to his apparent madness. But I’ve never been very familiar with his work beyond a few of the most popular ones. So it was refreshing to get to absorb a wealth of interesting images and concepts with an entirely open mind.
When we first went in we ran right into a tour group, which Victoria and I both were intent on avoiding like the plague. I think tour groups are great for presenting background information, but I don’t like being led around. I also like having a one-on-one interaction with art instead of a diluted group experience. So Victoria, Bruce and I largely wandered around on our own devices, going wherever our whims led us. That seemed appropriate, given the artist.
At first there were a lot of young people underfoot. I have to admit to being rather annoyed by this. I assume it was some school function, because they all acted like they were on a field trip. Although a few of them actually seemed interested in the art works around them, most of them were more interested in giggling at the Lobster Telephone and the Venus de Milo with Drawers than soaking up any part of the experience (much less the art itself). It’s was refreshing when they were finally herded off back to whatever hormone containment vehicle had brought them there in the first place.
Even after they left, though, I was a little depressed at the difference between the Americans and the “foreigners”. I noticed German, Spanish, Italian and Russian being spoken by people who were very intently considering the paintings and were obviously discussing them, often with gesticulations and fingers pointing at details and following lines of perspective. I think the Americans can pretty much be summed up by the lady I overheard saying, “Oh, look. Another penis.” Or the older couple who moved from painting to painting, staring blankly at the images while quietly debating where they were going to eat lunch.
For me, it was an eye-opening experience. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to experience genius first-hand. Even though I was a little annoyed that the security guards hovered around like one of us heathens was likely to snatch a painting from the wall and make a run for the exit. I made eye contact with enough of them to know that I was a candidate for just such a sacrilege.
If nothing else, this experience has inspired me as an artist. Some of my crazier ideas don’t seem as odd now. Later this evening I curled up on the couch and, as we watched a movie, devoured the first volume of the two-volume set on Dali’s work that Victoria bought me last year. I’ve looked at it before, but somehow being the presence of some of the works brought a whole new perspective to it.
Well, I enjoyed getting to hang out with Victoria and Bruce at the Salvador Dali Museum. I hope in some small way the experience might have been a good birthday present for Victoria. I had little to give her today as a present but chocolate, but if she enjoyed being with me as much as I enjoyed being with her, the day wasn’t an entire loss. And who knows? She might even enjoy the irony that watching all those people in the museum not only gave me an idea for a painting, but it made me think that the museum would be a good place for a scene in the book I’m working on.
Thanks to Victoria for giving me this experience. Thanks to Bruce for buying our tickets. And thanks to Salvador Dali for re-sparking the absurd side of that creative itch.
Salvador Dali Museum
1000 Third Street South
Saint Petersburg, FL 33764

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