January 21, 2015

At the Brooklyn Museum: A Wandering Eye

Figure of a Cat, Saqqara, Egypt, 350 B.C.E. - 1st century C.E.; wood, gilded gesso, bronze, copper, pigment, rock crystal, glass; 26 3/8 x 7 1/4 x 19 in.

I love wandering through museums without a goal, being surprised and delighted by objects on view. Recently, after seeing the Judith Scott exhibition, which I wrote about here, we had some time for a little stroll through a few galleries; the miscellany of what caught my eye follows. The Brooklyn Museum is the museum of my childhood; my parents would often take us there. I still miss seeing the totem poles in the Great Hall, but the Egyptian collection, a favorite of my early art viewing years, has been beautifully reinstalled. In the Egyptian wing I saw a small show "Divine Felines: The Cats of Ancient Egypt", a treat for anyone who is fond of cats, or of Egyptian sculpture. The cat above was a dramatic presence, lit as she was from above, making a mystery of deep set eyes.

Statuette of a Seated Cat, Egypt, 664-332 B.C.E.; bronze; 5 1/4 x 1 5/8 x 3 3/4 in.

This little sculpture has an alert charm, and a flowing form that would not be surprising to see in a 20th century work. From the wall label at the museum, I learned that felines were not worshipped, but they were associated with various gods and goddesses, who were represented as cats.

Cat with Kittens, Egypt, 664 - 30 B.C.E. or later; bronze, wood; 2 3/8 x 3 7/16 x 1 15/16 in.

One of the feline traits that was highly regarded was fertility, so cats were associated with women and with divinity: "....many peaceful, caring, and protective goddesses were represented as a female cat.....

Face of a Lion, Karnak, Egypt, 1390-1292 B.C.E.; syenite; 9 13/16 x 10 1/4 x 6 3/16 in.
Recumbent Lion, Giza, Egypt, 305 - 30 B.C.E.; limestone; 11 x 27 3/8 in.

".....Yet Egyptians also admired domestic cats predatory aggression...In addition, powerful and majestic lions were venerated as symbols of pharaoh or manifestations of gods..." The beautifully sensitive carving shows an intense level of attention to the characteristics of these marvelous creatures.

Statue of a Seated Man, Egypt, 1759-1675 B.C.E.; quartzite; 27 1/2 in.

Egyptian sculpture was meant for eternity; its simple and clear form, stylized yet observant, has a quality of transcendence.

Louis Sullivan, Elevator Door, Chicago Stock Exchange, 1893; wrought iron, cast bronze, copper; 84 1/2 x 41 x 1 in. 

 To jump a few thousand years, which we can do at a museum, we land in an era of innovative design. I love the repetitive pattern of crosses and spheres and ovals in this Sullivan door. The cast shadows bring additional liveliness to it.

Gerrit Th. Rietveld, Dutch, Armchair, ca. 1917-18; painted beechwood.
Gerrit Th. Rietveld, Child's Wheelbarrow, designed 1923, made 1958; wood, pigment, metal.

Here are two marvelous De Stijl objects, like geometric paintings come to life.

Gio Ponte, Bottle with Stopper, ca. 1949; glass.

This lovely bottle, with its satisfying curves, accented by the green sphere, caught my eye among all the glassware on view.

Ilya Bolotowsky, Opalescent Vertical, 1955; oil on canvas; 34 x 11 in.

I didn't walk through the painting galleries, but while wandering across the Beaux Arts Court, this painting, subtle as it is, jumped off the wall. Its long thin shape carefully balanced delicately colored rectangles of all sizes, geometry into atmosphere.

Chopine, Italy, 1550-1650; silk, metal.
image courtesy Brooklyn Museum.

Winde Rienstra, Bamboo Heel, 2012; bamboo, glue, plastic cable ties. 
image courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Another complete shift in viewing came on the first floor, where the exhibition Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe was installed. That show was an eye opener: I had no idea that contemporary design––and most of the show focused on recent shoes––had such a sculptural approach to the shoe. The shoes were inventive, outrageous, sexy, fetishistic. It was fun to visit the extremes of high fashion, if only to gawk and gasp....but I also admired. I enjoy mixing it up: fine and applied art, painting and sculpture, recent and the far distant past; all have visual pleasures.


  1. I absolutely love it when you take us with you on your forays through the museum. The only way I can see it...through your eyes. FUN...

    1. Thanks, Lisa, I'm so glad you enjoy it. It's fun to photograph and share the work.