A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
I don't remember which birthday it was, but I'll never forget a handful of skinny, longhaired little girls running down the long white marble hall at the Calatrava in delight and awe. "This is where I want my wedding," crowed one girl. My daughter declared "This is what I want my house to be like!"
Luckily, I didn't have to stop them from running. The magnificent sculpture "Standing Woman" by Gustav Lachaise did that for me. They stopped in their tracks and surrounded her, at first with giggles.That's understandable. She's formidable. (Milwaukee's "heroic woman" is inside.)
Every once in awhile, adults act a little goofy around this homage to Woman (and to the sculptor's adored wife, Isabel Nagle, who he called "the Goddess I am searching to express in all things"). In 2006, a bunch of drunken men at a Clear Channel party at the MAM had to be pried off her. She's also one of the highlights of Artboobs, an archive of breasts found in the fine arts.
Now a Milwaukee mom, Emily Thomas, has started the uproar going again with a blog entry about her family's trip to the art museum. (The entry is no longer available for all to see.) Mary Louise Schumacher, Journal Sentinel arts commentator, writes that "Thomas also celebrated one daughter's snickering at the 'HUGE backside' " of the sculpture, writing ""I'm right there with you child!" when her daughter closed her eyes with disgust.
Like the drunken men, the little girls in my company wanted to touch the sculpture. But unlike them, they weren't driven by odd lascivious or show-offy notions. They wanted to feel the shape of the curves and the smooth cool hardness of the bronze. Sculpture begs to be explored like that, and it's a pity when you can't learn by touch as well as by sight.
I asked them what they thought of the woman. They pondered for a moment, walking slowly around to see her from all angles. "She's strong," said one, finally. "She could do anything," said another. "I don't know: at first I thought she was scary, but now I think she's beautiful," said the third.
For once I controlled myself. I didn't go into the usual lecture about the creepy odd notions about women's bodies we get all the time, on television and in magazines. You know: the Victoria's Secret image of a baby woman with outsized breasts on a child's body. A woman's whose body exists mainly for the pleasure of men.
Without my saying anything, the girls "got" the artist's point, which was, as he said, "the glorification of the human being, of the human body, of the human spirit, with all that there is of daring, of magnificence, of significance."
I don't know about the rest of you moms. But I want my daughters as well as my son to think of themselves as daring, magnificent, significant. Kudos to the Milwaukee Art Museum for helping my kids think and feel on a grander scale.