You Are What You See

Depth Mine with Sharks by Malcolm Morley

After spending the morning in back to back dental appointments, I took my two youngest boys to an exhibition of Malcolm Morley at the Yale School of Art’s gallery. I parked the car and we browsed about in a bookstore as the gallery was not yet open. My 13 year old Luke was underwhelmed by my method of killing time but soon got lost in a book by Banksy. Augie occupied himself by bringing me books whose images or text he wanted me to decipher. He wanted me to ask someone behind the counter how to get to the gallery. But I resisted.

I had a vague idea of how to get there. We walked a few blocks. It was cold and we were seemingly walking into a slum, so we went into a Dunkin Donuts to ask the employees how to get to Edgewood Ave. Apparently they were all teleported to work that day because no one had any idea of the surrounding streets. We continued.  We asked a lady on the street. She was very nice, possible strung out, but very nice. She named 5 to 6 streets that we would have to pass until we came to the right one at which point we were to turn right and Edgewood would be the next street. As we followed her instructions I wondered why we couldn’t just turn right now. Luke was cold and apprehensive. “I’m just walking!” Augie announced happily. Finally we came to the correct street, turned, got to Edgewood and sure enough walked back 5 or 6 blocks to the gallery.

The gallery was a large bright rectangular room. The paintings were joyful, boyishly enthusiastic works of (mostly) World War II imagery: airplanes, airplane parts, airplanes crashing, submarines, ocean liners. Morley was a boy in London during the war and his vivid and kind-of innocent renderings are wonderful. We also really liked a hawk that he had built out of cut and painted paper clutching a fish as it emerged from an oil painting. It was really beautiful. The kind man sitting in a chair against the wall in the middle of the room told us that the artists got a lot of his ideas from his dreams. Augie wanted to know why the sinking ship in the above painting was named ERIKA, but he did not know.

We made our way around the perimeter. Augie noticed that the the wall ended and on the other side was a ramp leading down to another level. There was a small lone painting on this wall. It was so close to the edge of the wall that when you stood looking at it you could see the paintings on the opposite wall.

“Oh look, another painting” I said, wondering why it was tucked away in this manner.

“It’s a smaller version of that one,” Luke observed. We all looked at the large painting of a red airplane on the opposite wall.

“You’re right.” I answered.

“No, it’s a smaller version of both of them,” Augie declared. We all looked at the large painting of the blue airplane next to the large painting of the red plane. I sheepishly looked back to the small painting of…the red plane colliding with the blue plane.

Is this how it is going to be? I sighed. As we age we lose the ability to just see what we are looking at without thinking about what we are seeing. At least I managed to find a direct route back to the car.
I will take my accomplishments where I can, thank you very much.

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