Unless the boy king’s back in town, there’s room in my galleries for those who know what they’re looking at. We’re trained to scan the floor for anyone at risk of mischief. I’m in the modern rooms most days; the playful, the subversive pieces gather here. An abstract that could be a landscape has the name of a woman. A sculpture that looks like a woman has legs from a piano. Everyone expects the polished white marble of the lunar bird to be cold and hard, and for most it is that, but in the hands of others the curves are muscled and quivering and warm. Your ticket doesn’t entitle you to that. For two hours on a Tuesday afternoon, I’ll poke my head into one room after another and see the same someone stalled before one and then another provocative piece. My guard reflexes twitch. I go to work. “She’s dangerous, isn’t she?” I ask. No one expects to be spoken to, not here, not by me, and there’s not a female figure in the painting, so the question is irrelevant at best, like code. She doesn’t answer, which is the right answer. We look. The paint is thick slabs of pigment laid on with a trowel, cracked in places, even flaky. The subject matter at this distance might be paint itself and how it draws us in. She knows better than to touch, but when I reach forward, we go in up to our elbows, and slipping these three dimensions, through the framed plane seek something curved like time that requires participation. Our fingers turn to animals: it’s time to bring her out. I sit her on the bench, and when it doesn’t rear up like a horse to throw her, I know I’ve done my job.

Copyright © August 20, 2007 David Hodges