Several years ago, Brigid O'Neill and I were emailing each other back and forth commiserating. Our local homeschooling group was supposed to be having a "World's Fair" of sorts. The details of this ill-fated event are unimportant now--suffice to say the Fair was canceled at the last minute because of Chicken Pox. Ever the clever one, Brigid emailed me a photograph of the project she had been working on to represent France--an enormous Eiffel Tower made entirely out of sugar wafers! This marvel of icing and engineering--looking for all the world like a collaboration between Leonardo and the Keebler Elf--would never see the light of day.
Eager to make Brigid laugh, I showed the pictures to dh, asking for his help. What if we were to make something huge, I suggested, say, an Arc de Triomphe out of kitchen utensils, photograph it, and email it to her? It would make her chuckle no doubt. Dh, oddly enough, was not keen on a massive (and almost pointless) building project at eleven o'clock at night.
With the muscle behind the operation headed off to bed, practically no materials or ideas, and a desperate, overwhelming need to make Brigid laugh, I turned to the only thing in the house still humming at that hour--the refrigerator. Swiping a cold block of cream cheese from the door and slipping it out of its silvery case, I set to work smoothing and pinching and poking and giggling to myself until I had a pint-sized replica of Rodin's Thinker. Photographing it from all angles, I wrote to Brigid triumphantly, "You think you're disappointed? Look what I was going to bring!"
It was absurd and ridiculous and hysterical, of course, and Brigid wore out her L-O-L keys responding, printing the photos to display in her kitchen from that day forward.
Now, it is a little known fact that, in order to appreciate fine arts and sculpture fully, one must first replicate it in cream cheese, so you can imagine my great joy when we stumbled upon San Francisco's famous statue of the Thinker at the Legion of Honor Art Museum. (Of course, Rodin's piece was not as sensitive and unique as mine, nor can it be served on a bagel, but it has its merits too.)
Our happy discovery took place a little over two weeks ago. The children and I left home early with no definite plans other than a stop at Peet's Coffee. Sipping my latte in the car (life here is so hard), we mulled over possibilities for the day--the San Francisco Zoo? Golden Gate Park? The Muir Woods?
I suggested a patch of green on the map called "Lincoln Park," and the children were eager to try it, hoping for slides and a swingset. The park is an easy drive from our house, yet, for some reason, it never even occurred to me to go there, perhaps because the lure of Golden Gate Park has always been so great. Imagine my surprise to find a rolling golf course overlooking a panorama of the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge. In the center of this verdant kingdom of grass and golfballs sat Rodin's Thinker, contemplating his next stroke and enthroned in the columned courtyard of an architectural jewel of an art museum. The Legion of Honor is crammed with works by Monet, Reynolds, Rembrandt, Durer, El Greco, Manet, Bougereau, Rodin, and others, not to mention one of the largest and most stirring collections of religious artwork we have ever seen.
I was thrilled, feeling as if we had just landed with a thump at the end of a rainbow, though it was bittersweet finding the pot of gold so late in our trip. There had been many afternoons and mornings we would have spent wandering the hallways of that museum if we had known of its existence. Joining as members, we began making up for lost time, visiting at every opportunity--not only to the Legion of Honor, but also the de Young Museum, its sister in Golden Gate Park--so much so that the curators and docents now smile with recognition everytime they see us.
Apparently, they appreciate a young family fond of the arts--then again, perhaps my reputation precedes me. Can't you just hear them whispering in awed tones, "There she goes--New York's Cheesiest Artist!"
[Amended to add a link to the photos of The Thinker in cream cheese: Give the People What They Want]
[Please click here for a few more photographs. I put them on a separate page so this one would not be too hard to load.]
[Most of this post was written on August 7, 2007.]