TRAVEL HERE: MORE GOOD STUFF AND MORE QUESTIONS AT MBA
OK, we’re back at the Museum of Biblical Arts in Dallas. I’ve been warming up on the sculpture garden and one wing of the museum for several weeks. I need to move on and need to tell you about the rest of it.
National Center for Jewish Art
I confess! The murals on the walls of this gallery were some of my favorites items exhibited in this museum. I’m a big fan of the Old Testament and Jewish Tradition. The remarkable works on these walls were a contemporary look at these timeless things. Even though I was trying to hurry through to keep up with my friends, I was forced to stop and ponder these images. What were they representing? Were the images Biblical or merely traditional? Did I like them? How did the titles relate to the work?
A Hallway Full of King James Bibles and a Library
One area that I definitely didn’t give enough time was the hallway full of historic King James Bibles. At the end of the hallway was a library dedicated to Charles Ryrie, the man who wrote the Bible Commentary I most frequently refer to. This exhibit and library are proof enough that the MBA deserves your attention. The books on display are rare, ancient and beautiful. I yearned for an opportunity to touch a page, even if it had to be with a glove-clad finger.
This was not one of my favorite galleries. I’m not a big fan of Chagall. I admire his creativity, but not the way he expressed it – if that makes any sense. Half this gallery was devoted to pictures painted “in the style of Chagall”, but few were actually by Chagall. That’s part of what kept nagging at me as I visited the museum. Don’t give me replicas, prints, in style of or from the studio of. In the days before the internet I can understand people being eager to see replicas or prints or anything that would give them an idea of these beautiful works of art they would never see, but nowadays you can gawk at a reasonable facsimile of almost any work of art you so desire, in your pajamas, without leaving your sofa. If I’m going to get dressed and drive to a museum, I want to see the real thing or a new thing I wouldn’t look up online.
Also confusing in this gallery was a roped off section. It looked like a storeroom where items were being crated or uncrated, but no one was working in there, so I couldn’t tell whether the art was coming or going. Later an adjacent hallway was filled with similarly semi-packed objects’d art. Inquiring minds want to know what was going on.
Odds and Ends
In halls behind the Contemporary Gallery and the Library, were two thought provoking pieces. One was a photograph of a “Last Supper” but all the people in the picture were dressed as if they were characters in Japanese Noh theater. Even when I don’t want to think about this painting, it keeps teasing the corners of my mind. The other item was a painting called the Tapestry of the Ages by Vladimir Gorsky. I could have spent hours identifying the hundreds of people in this painting and considering their contribution to this world.
I stepped into the ballroom of the museum (They do weddings!) and was disappointed to discover it was covered with landscape paintings. From a visit I made to the museum about the time it opened ( I actually think it was some kind of preview event) I had remembered the ballroom being home to something remarkable – and it may have been the resurrection mural, but it also seems there were pictures of the apostles. (I was in the throws of care-giving drama. I didn’t get a blog written, so I can remember being impressed, just not by what!) I want to be clear that the landscapes are wonderful. Since they are landscapes of Israel, I can even understand their presence in a Biblical arts, it’s just that I miss whatever was there before! I hate to think they removed the art to help sell the venue.
And while I’m complaining, if they are going to display an exhibition in the ballroom, then it needs to look like an exhibition space, not a catch all. There were tables and chairs scattered around the room in no apparent order and the chairs were more randomly placed than the tables. In one chair set a photo of the ballroom all tricked out for a reception. My bet is someone left it behind after a meeting with a bride-to-be. I’d already been chafed by the crating/uncrating debris spread out in the hall and gallery. This added to my dysphoria.
The Main Attraction
The featured exhibit this summer is “God in the Garden, The Impressionistic Works of Henrietta Milan.” I had somehow missed the signage for this part of the galleries. I wandered in from the landscapes and found myself in galleries of Monet-like garden paintings. They were gorgeous. I wanted one of each, but I kept wondering what made them Biblical Art.
Come to find out, the paintings were by a Texas Impressionist and to quote the attendant at the ticket counter Milan is “very spiritual in her approach to painting.” Okay… I’m thrilled this Texas artist is getting exposure in a museum of this caliber, but I still have to wonder why. In the catalog I purchased from the gift shop, Scott Peck, the Executive Director and Curator of the Museum, waxes eloquent, using the old hymn “In the Garden” as the springboard for his discussion of her art. The brief article was interesting, even eloquent, but for me, it didn’t connect the dots.
I’ve rattled on far too long today, but there was no way I was going to have a fifth post in this series. I am always honest with you in my reviews. When I rave, you can trust that it was very good. When I rant, you know something was very wrong with my experience. I wanted very much to rave about the MBA and while there is a lot which is very rave-worthy, that’s not the whole story. I don’t really want to rant against the museum, but there is also some dissonance resounding from my visit. I hope you’ll go visit and tell me what you think.