The heat outside is warm for mid-January, even in Los Angeles. And although it’s nearly three p.m., inside the J. Paul Getty Museum the thick stone walls make it quiet and cool. In the distance low classical music infuses the air. Later, natural light falls at precise, studied angles, delicately onto the canvases.
The artist, Nicolas Lancret has painted with oils and soft colors. The innocence is lovely. A party takes place, where everyone is having a grand time.
On another wall a woman in a painting is in a white dress with a pink sash and a vivid red curtain that frames her. She holds a sensual gaze that stretches precariously to touch the moon just beyond her reach. Who left her here, I wonder. Has she been forgotten by the world, but her gaze still lingers in the museum.
It is a soul poured, unfiltered, on a wall.
Man has been drawing, painting, engraving, leaving marks on walls for 40,000 years. In a cave in Sulawesi, Indonesia, at least 35,000 years ago, one of the first humans with a ‘higher order consciousness’ painted a babirusa: a pig-deer. The artist used a red, cranberry-colored paint, much like the red of the curtain, and imagination and symbolism to construct an image of something he or she had once seen.
A pig on a wall meant that man could now think of the future, and remember the past. It meant that man could now look at himself and realize he was finite. Art meant communication, of emotions and abstract thoughts. Art meant another man millennia later could understand how he felt, either from memory or from a dream.
At the very top, finally, a soft breeze. The sun is lower on the horizon now. It floods the sky, I can see Santa Monica and the ocean glistens. Art expresses itself. On the wall next to me I see a monarch butterfly.
We were here. The J. Paul Getty http://www.getty.edu/museum/ last Saturday. This is art. We leave it there, on the wall, turn around and race down the stairs and once out of the tram I am reminded that for a short time I felt heaven on earth and am brought back to life by the honking of the horns.