Fiction: Visiting the Carnegie Museum of Art (and Natural History)

When you were eight, you brought your throwaway camera. You took pictures of the dinosaur skeletons, the big mirrored room of rocks and crystals, the temporary exhibit of fine jewelry, where the security guard told you photos were not allowed, and your face got bright red in embarrassment, and you slipped the camera in your mom’s purse, and felt a tinge of mortification every time you saw the pictures afterward.

Now, an adult, you avoid the geology section and go to the art museum on the other side of the building, where the big Monet of waterlilies sucks you in for a few minutes, and the various van Goghs make you weep. You stare for a long time at the restored painting, the one of a 16th century noblewoman who was once made over by the Victorians to satisfy their aesthetic sensibilities, then returned to her former, pudgier glory by the museum.

There’s a traveling exhibit in the modern art wing. It’s a TV sitting on the floor, playing a grainy video of a white cat drinking milk. The card on the wall says this is a commentary on capitalism. You stare at it for a long while. You make the face of a soul who has been transformed.

Then you turn and leave, and you hope that that one security guard doesn’t work here still.

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