Monday, May 14, 2012

The Art of Seeing: A Visit to the Getty Center

A trip to the Getty Center in Los Angeles is always a delightful excursion!  Its vast collection could certainly keep a person occupied for an entire weekend if he simply wanted to “see” all the pieces.  My favorite visits, however, are with a single destination in mind, one gallery upon which to focus my attention.  I will view one exhibit and then spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying a picnic with friends on the lawn or reading a novel and sipping a glass of iced tea on the patio overlooking the central garden with its beautiful and mysterious waterfall.  Last Saturday I had just that opportunity.

The Getty has amassed a wide collection of illuminated manuscripts spanning from the eighth century to the sixteenth. Due to the delicacy and age of the texts (particularly the ink), the Getty rotates their collection of illuminated manuscripts on display every three months or so. In this way I have an excuse to visit four times a year at minimum. Who knows when these texts will see the light of day again? This might possibly be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so my husband and I filled up the gas tank and drove into the city.

Living in Anaheim we have our fill of traffic and concrete as we meander up and down Orange County each week, but we do not make it into L.A. County very often any more, save to catch up with friends from Biola at the La Mirada Starbucks, to jump on a plane at LAX, or to visit a museum.  Still, it is always obvious when entering LA County for the traffic increases instantly, even on a Saturday morning, the lanes narrow, and the square footage of concrete increases inversely to the number of trees. Along the pavement, claustrophobia increases upon merging with the 405, only to exit and be led by the florescent lights into the cave of the parking garage.  Here, however, is clearly seen the intentionality and psychological insight of the architect. All visitors mount a white platform in the sunshine and eagerly wait. The tram slowly arrives, the passengers glide into their seats, and the tram gently rises up the slope, passing through clusters of shady trees and emerges on top of the hill.  On a clear day the skyline is visible and even the ocean.  Time has slowed down on this journey of transcendence.  The hustle and bustle of the city has been drowned out and all are brought to the foot of the staircase, all men on equal footing and with a renewed sense of peace.  We are above the worries of life and concern for our daily bread.  Here we are encouraged, we are free to discover our humanity, to touch the heavens.   On this hill we are free to explore, to stare at a painting, to examine a drawing under the magnifying glass, to try our hand at sketching one of the great works of art, or simply to relax and read a book or enjoy a sparkling conversation with friends.

Whether leading an epic outing of friends and family or as a solitary contemplation, the Getty has facilitated dozens of enjoyable days for me over the years.  It was here on this hill that I first fell in love with art, here where I discovered the beauty of paintings and the powerful insight of the artist.  As a seventh grader I was challenged here to see art for the first time, to really see it, to look, to view, to stare into the lines and sway with the curves of the paint, to imagine myself as one of the characters, to sense the softness of a silk dress or the warmth of the sun, to feel the hue of the paint, to squeeze between the shapes and into the blank space, passed word, shape, color, sound, gazing, or rather glimpsing for a brief moment, True Beauty.

Are you looking for something to do this Saturday? Consider a trip to the Getty Center. The Villa in Malibu is also a great place to view Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. Begin to plan your trip today at or chat with me and we can plan one together!