Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Cloisters

I have had the view camera on my mind. How can I take street pictures that are worth my while with this heavy camera and its equally heavy tripod. I thought I would go out with the digital camera and scout possible photo ideas. I went to Tribeca in the evening, big mistake. Everything is so freshly renovated and clean, the wealthy wander through the neighborhood pushing their young heirs in luxury strollers. It was all so boring. I found some fun construction plywood with those mysterious symbols painted on to show where the gas lines are, and other things. But I was feeling discouraged. Maybe the inspiration for view camera pictures comes on one its own.

It is frustrating to have so much time because it is the summer and to have so few ideas of what to do with it. Every project I am working on seems to have some obstacle. As my beloved has suggested, perhaps I should be happy just having several projects at all, obstacles or not. But I was restless. Recently, I have been reading murder mysteries set in the Tang dynasty in China.
The detective meets a Taoist monk in one story, who says that only an empty gourd is useful and it helps the detective solve the mystery because he empties his mind. Inspired, I decided that I too needed to empty my mind. So I went to the Cloisters.

I have had so many different experiences at the Cloisters; the horrible realization of the Unicorn Tapestry's violence springs to mind. The grim medieval sculptures surge up. Coming back from years in France, I remember my disdain at the cobbled together nature of the space. However, there are the gardens. Once I was in the gardens when the peonies were blooming. It was so beautiful. I could just avoid all the dark galleries with representations of the

It was getting hot out when I arrived at the 181st street station in the company of a small group of tourists. They set off down hill with determination. I remembered going up hill to get to the Cloisters so I wandered into Fort Tyron Park.

Under the bright noonday sun, the heather garden looked as if it were in the South of France. There was even a little lavender growing. The park is on the cliffs hanging over the Henry Hudson Parkway. The peaceful stillness of the heather garden was broken by the distant growl of cars. From there I could see that the Cloisters was indeed down hill from me. The tourists were right!

There is no avoiding the fact that the Cloisters are laid out strangely and I couldn't find any maps. So I would wander around dark halls surrounded by groups of children on summer camp trips. The city belongs to the children on the summer afternoons. They ride in the subways in large groups dressed in the colored t-shirt of their day camps. Some shits are red, others yellow, the color coding makes it easier for the councilors to track everyone. There were also tour guides leading other groups around. It was very busy and then one of the hallways led to this.

It was all about emptiness here. The fountain in the middle made a gentle sound. The arches of the arcade were intricately carved.

The gardens were behind some rather forbidding black doors that looked as if they led to an employee only area. Again, the tourists showed the way, swinging open the doors and striding through.

The Bonnefont garden has a happily overgrown look to it, the arches are carved from marble.

The capitals have some pretty bizarre cavings, a little bit like medieval horror movies.

(click for bigger and stranger)

A second garden had two quince trees growing in the middle.

I loved the twisted tree trunk. There were all sorts of herbs including magic herbs. But I was particularly impressed with the fennel.

It was huge, towering over the visitors. I had no idea that fennel grew so high.

The third garden was also a cafe, so it wasn't as relaxing as the other gardens. I just can't get into my meditative state when people around me are wrestling with giant green wraps and munching on salads. But overall it was exactly what I needed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you