November 21, 2009
Historic State Theater

Minneapolis, MN

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Art

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GK: When life becomes fractious and grief-ridden and you are waist-deep in disappointment and defeat and a bad head cold, I like to go to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and look at paintings ---- look at “Luxembourg Gardens at Twilight” by John Singer Sargent (PIANO) and the Pissaro painting of Paris (PIANO) and Rembrandt’s Lucretia (PIANO, BASS) and the little girl that Degas painted in her white dress and straw hat (GUITAR) and Matisse’s lady in white with the hat with the big plumes (PIANO) and Picasso’s woman by the sea (BASS DRUM) and Cezanne’s chestnut trees (BASS) and Van Gogh’s olive trees (BASS) and sunny pictures of Pierre Bonnard (PIANO) and Renoir’s beautiful young lady and (PIANO) and Monet’s seashore (GUITAR) and it’s not all 19th century, there are the Cubists (DRUMS) and the Abstract Expressionists (GUITAR) and there are seascapes (SURF, GULLS) and city scenes (TRAFFIC) and battle scenes (CANNON, SHOUTS) and hunting scenes (HORSES, GUN) but one does come back to the French and their paintings of nudes ----as we all know, the female nude is the most difficult feat in painting ----- and everything about women is difficult, not only the feet ----- anyone can do abstract, your child can do abstract ----- but the nude portrait ----- everyone knows about Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” which is in Chicago but how many have seen his American Romantic which is here, the same man and woman, nude, and instead of a pitchfork, he’s holding a bouquet of lilies ----

GK: ….but my favorite is the “Nude on a Couch” by Gustave Caillebotte, a beautiful woman lying on her back, one arm up over her forehead ----- (SS SOFTLY SNORING, THEN AWAKENS)

SS (FRENCH): Who are you?

GK: Just an admirer.

SS (FRENCH): What time is it?

GK: I don’t know. Early afternoon.

SS (FRENCH): What time does the museum close?

GK: Five---- maybe six----

SS (FRENCH): Four more hours to lie here with my clothes off.

GK: Well, you’re very beautiful.

SS (FRENCH): Thank you.

GK: I walk down the long galleries with white walls and wood floors in the hush of art, and gradually I feel calmer and calmer. Life seems a little more reasonable. And then you notice how weird the guards are. (TR QUIET MUTTERING) Standing there day in and day out, nothing to do but be visible and keep moving. (TR MUTTERING IN FRENCH) It’s no wonder they go berserk. The casualty rate among museum guards is 50%. About half of them break under the force of sheer tedium and become artists themselves.

TR (FRENCH): Become artists? Monsieur---- (FRENCH IRRITATION)

GK: I meant no insult. So you are an artist, sir?

TR (FRENCH): I am indeed an artist. My work is in the museum. My name is Monet. Claude Monet.

GK: You’re the one who painted those race horses----

TR (FRENCH): Non non non non non. That is Manet. I am Monet. I did the Water Lilies at Giverney. Very famous picture. It’s on postcards, T-shirts, dinnerware ----- they made millions off it.

GK: So what are you doing here as a guard?

TR (FRENCH): When an artist dies, he is assigned to do penance for his sins. This is my penance. To live in Minneapolis for a thousand years.

GK: Well, good luck.

TR (FRENCH): It’s torture. Worse than purgatory.

GK: Oh, it’s not that bad.

TR (FRENCH): For me, it is torture. I always wanted to paint snow. I tried for years. I went to Norway, you know.

GK: I didn’t know.

TR (FRENCH): I love the look of trees with snow falling. Snow falling through trees and the lights of houses. The shapes of snowdrifts. I painted for months in Norway. Never could get it right. Had to go back to Giverney and paint more water lilies. Once you’re successful at something, people want you to keep on doing it, over and over and over.

GK: The Water Lilies at Giverney is a masterpiece.

TR (FRENCH): I hated water lilies. But---- I took my paintings of Norway back to Paris and nobody wanted to buy them. People don’t want to see snow. They want water lilies. Feh!!!! Wet leaves. Weeds in water.

GK: That man over there looks familiar.

TR (FRENCH): Oh. Him. Vincent.

GK: That’s him.

TR (FRENCH): And that’s Edgar Degas (DE-GAS) ---

GK: Isn’t that pronounced DeGah, Mr. Monet?

TR (FRENCH): De-Gas. We’re all three of us trapped here. Can’t get anywhere. Got a big white van and we can’t drive it.

GK: Why not?

TR (FRENCH): Why not? Because ---- (HE STARTS TO LAUGH) Oh you’re going to love this ----- because (HE BREAKS UP) ----

GK: Settle down, sir.

TR (FRENCH): Why can’t we drive the white van? Because we don’t have the Monet to buy De Gas to make the Van Go. Get it? (HE LAUGHS)

GK: Thank you, sir.

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