Hello Dali

A few days ago I joined my sorority sister for an outing to visit the new Dali Museum here in St. Petersburg.

Luanne McFarlane and I went to Heidelberg College (now University) together and both of us have been in the education field through the years. She moved to Florida long ago and raised two children here. Now she is preparing to live part time in Kansas City to be near her son. She’s ready for a big retirement adventure.

Luanne and Karen fortifying for visit to Dali

In the meantime, she has to settle for going to museums with friends.

Museums, of course, are part of living in any worthwhile city. Somewhere built into the corner of the culture center of our brains is a little space that says: “You will go to the new exhibit before it closes.” Or “You will learn to enjoy the interactive exhibits that ask you to pick the right answer and always pick choice C because you don’t know the answer.”

Luckily, the Salvador Dali Museum is not like that.

First, the building itself is worth admiring. It’s one of those places where every pane of glass is a different size and shape and it makes a big statement out to the bay. Inside, the spiral staircase corkscrews up to the geodesic domed windows.  The two galleries themselves are unremarkable architecturally.

Karen and the decaying clock

I don’t think I’ve ever been to an entire museum devoted to one artist. I never would have chosen Dali in any case. Surrealism isn’t my idea of fun. But that’s just why it was a good idea for me to go.

Of course, there were the iconic pictures of melting clocks and impaled bodies. The themes of erotica, birth, decay and death were everywhere. Later in life, Dali’s muse and wife were in many of his paintings.

The surprise came when I saw the transition from surrealism to realism after Dali spent eight years, during World War II, in America. Actually, I’d call it a mix of the two. Many of his pieces had pictures of people hidden in other pictures. One of his most impressive pieces showed his wife gazing out to the sea when viewed up close but from the far end of the gallery you could see the fuzzy likeness of Abraham Lincoln.

Spending an afternoon learning about Dali gave me a new insight into his life and his evolving genius. If nothing else, his work requires study and close examination and that always leads to me to ask the question about many pieces of art: “What WAS the man thinking?”

I’m not ready to embrace Dali or other surrealists, but I am so grateful to people who support art and let it be accessible to all of us. In an era when all nonprofits are struggling for support, at least I can do my part by viewing their artistic, historic, horticultural, or musical efforts.


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  1. Carolyn says:

    “Hear! Hear!” Amen to that! And thanks for reminding us that listening to the uncharacteristic side of us is worth listening to.