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.
“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.