Museum resting benches are finely conceived yet in practice, their worth becomes debatable. Yes, I agree, after hours of attempting to regard and see, truly see, the athletic bending and twisting distortions of the figures, exaggerations, the elastic elongation of the limbs, the bizarre posturing of one hand and graceful posturing on the other, and most importantly the rendering of the heads as uniformly small and oval atop the figures of the late mannerists, I would also like to sit and have a rest. In forty years when I am still attempting to comprehend the clashing colors and fondness for allegory or the reason for my pondering these questions and concepts all together, I will really want to sit and have a rest. No, theoretically, I have no problem with resting benches. But it is just too often their placement, their forcing me to give more attention to the masterpiece they are facing, as if the others on adjacent walls are lesser art, that perturbs me. Often in the middle of the room, the benches force other museum patrons to walk in front of me, blocking the painting all together, the painting I had no intention of giving attention. Yet still, this choiceless act disturbs me. And who am I to blame? It surely is not the art history student looking for something to sketch, nor the dreamy high schooler bound for liberal arts college and a life of depressing romanticism, nor can I blame the mother, pushing her child ahead in a stroller asking the child, “What do you see in this picture?”
Yet the child’s answer makes all benches forgivable. At this bench where I was forced to sit, to stay, to wait, all for this innocent child’s answer. The word forms in his mouth as if it has only done so twenty times, the muscles not yet used to articulation. The child says, “blue. I see blue.”
Blue? There is no blue in this particular painting. It is a painting of a girl, a portrait. She sits in a chair. Her gaze is soft like her off-white dress. There is no focal point. There is also no blue.
It is then that I notice a small blue mark over the right shoulder of the girl, a mistake perhaps, an old palate the artist used, one with a left over blue. Why was it this detail the child, still in stroller, commented on? And why did the mother not question the child’s answer? “No,” she didn’t say, “No, you see a girl.” There was no correction, simply a nod and a continued stroll.
I look to the mother as if eye contact would provide some form of understanding on my part. She looks down to her child who is reaching now for a different painting. The child reaches, whines, and looks up at his mother.
“Would you like to get up and look around now?” the mother asks the same way you would ask a party guest if he would like another spoonful of caviar.
“Yes.” The child says.
The mother then hands the child a map and unhooks the stroller’s seatbelt. The child hobbles around, glancing at the map, then up at a painting and moving on.
My legs rested, I do the same.