I 'Dined' at the Villa

A few weeks ago, I dined at the Getty Villa--in more ways than one. I not only had a divine dinner in the Villa's interior courtyard, but was doing so in celebration of the new exhibition by artist Jim Dine, called "Poet Singing (The Flowering Sheets)." A few of my CSU Long Beach colleagues and I got the opportunity to have Mr. Dine himself talk to us about his newest work before the opening soiree. The invitation was extended to us (and to a handful of students from other schools) by Villa art historian and education-liason Ann Steinsapir. She was such a great host, and went well out of her way to give us a tour of the grounds and inner-workings of the museum. We even got to see a sneak-peek of a forthcoming exhibition about the restoration and interpretation of ancient statuary, which was quite exciting.

Mr. Dine was present with his charming wife, and gave us a glimpse at both his new work and his process. Many of the interesting facts and details that were shared are available to all at the Getty website here. Our small group was treated with having Mr. Dine escort us to the selected objects of the Villa collection that served as direct references for his installation. We then went to his exhibition space, and were given the opportunity to ask questions about the show in a relaxed, informal forum. He was candid and humble, with a few flashes of cheeky wit.

I'll admit that my initial reaction to the work was one of repulsion. I was pushed away by the gigantic carving of Dine's head, filling the space with the most mass, contrast, and overall presence than the smaller, more abstract "muses." However, I began to warm up to the installation as a whole, and started feeling like it was a "Being John Malkovich" experience. The walls were covered in smeared charcoal, and over-written with transcripts o
f the artist's own poetry. The same ten (or so) poems were read by Dine and recorded, and were playing back in a loop over the air of the museum room. The work finally shifted into some kind of odd translation into the Being of an artist, and evoked a sense I was ultimately familiar with. I now think of the installation as portraying the 'buzz' between the artist's ego, mind, environment, and world at large--as though one's consciousness is constantly being tuned between radio stations, sometimes coming to rest on the static between two frequencies.

It's nice that I was able to walk the grounds after that experience, and finally stop on a terrace that had just a view of the ocean and the incoming fog.

(Photographs are from the Getty website.)

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