#353: The Guard and the Astronaut Suits

July 30th, 2014

The art display was a room put in a room, a white space made to be like a cartoon villain executive’s office, complete with a spray painted Scrooge McDuck in case no one got the “capitalism bad” theme they got going there.

I grunted and moved on, as I had from the room of open luggage sitting beneath full-sized dangling astronaut suits.

I moved into a display of little dioramas of plastic toys and bits all glue-gunned together in heaps and wads. Panels from the interior of airplanes hung on the wall in various states of spray paint dismay.

I saw a museum guard and strolled over to her, desperate for a moment of sanity among the people cooing and photographing the dollar store that the artist had glued together for fun and profit.

“What the heck?” I stage whispered to the guard.

“Down the hall,” she said automatically.

“Hm?”

“Hm?

“I was talking about the art.”

“Oh,” she said. “You don’t like it?”

“It’s not my cup of tea,” I said.

“Did you read the description?” the guard asked sweetly.

I shook my head. The guard pointed to the artist statement on the wall by her post.

“Before, I was like, ‘What is she talking about?’” the guard said, casting her face in a no-nonsense look. “But then I read the descriptions. This room is about 9/11.”

I looked back at the airplane walls, now seeing how they were damaged over the brief seconds before impact. The wads of glue-gunned toys became the rubble of destroyed buildings and lives with people crawling out from beneath to rebuild shattered lives.

The museum guard didn’t talk long, just gave me a few bits and pointers on the pieces. Just enough to training wheel me to seeing the offbeat and odd contemporary art with the same respect and fondness she does.

I wasn’t quite sold, but getting a bit closer. At least enough to give it another walkthrough.

Back in the room with the open luggage and the astronaut suits, a second guard recognized me. Spotting the confused look on my face, gave me a commiserating smile. When she was sure none of the happy art fans milling about was looking, she added a covert shrug. I felt touched by the gesture, a shared moment between strangers, even if the shared emotion was just confusion.

About an hour later, I happened by the 9/11 room again. The art fan guard spotted me.

“Do you get it now?” she asked hopefully.

“It’s starting to grow on me,” I said, which was a little less of a lie than it would have been had I never met her.

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You are currently reading #353: The Guard and the Astronaut Suits by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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