#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.



“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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