Ekphrasis is the ultimate sister arts mode: art about art. On Sunday I talked my friends Allen and Susannah into a road trip to Houston to visit the museum district and take part in a poetry contest sponsored by the Houston reading series Public Poetry. I love museums but so often visit them only when I'm travelling; this seemed like a great excuse to revisit the major museums we're lucky enough to have just a few hours down the highway. Here are some Robert Longo pieces in the fabulous Menil Collection:
to a John Singer Sargent portrait of Mrs. Joshua Montgomery Sears.
Allen had the best line of the day about the contest. I had printed out some information about it from my women poets list, and the person who sent it wrote that we should get discounted admission to the museum as participants. So I mentioned this at the front desk. The older South Asian lady behind the desk looked dubious but consented to take the papers I had and looked through a big binder with them in her hand. Nothing. So she called her supervisor. Still nothing. No one had ever heard of the contest or Public Poetry. She sent us down an escalator and through a long underground art installation called the Wilson Tunnel to a building at the other end of the block, to the main membership desk. There too the young blonde Houston socialite behind that counter had never heard of us and could not find a key on her cash register with which to give us a discount. "Are you with The Art Crowd?" she kept asking, because apparently if we were, she could let us in. No, not with The Art Crowd. So she called HER supervisor who flipped impatiently through our by-now-dog-eared printouts, tossed them back across the desk, and pointed to a key on the register: "Free admission. Just give them free admission."
Allen said, "We are going to win this contest." Because no one else has ever heard of it.