Sunday, October 26, 2014

You Know You Need It

It's like when you start craving salads and veggies and you know your body is telling you something.

As I sat in my sunny front room working this afternoon, it was easy to ignore the sounds of people outside enjoying a gorgeous fall day, but it was impossible to ignore something pushing me to go to the VMFA.

Admittedly, it had been far too long since my last visit, so I did what my mind (heart? soul?) directed and changed clothes to go to the museum.

Walking out of my apartment and across the street to my car, a stranger called out, "I like your dress! It looks great on you." Another $3 thrift store find validated.

I found the VMFA fairly crowded with visitors mostly buzzing around the "Forbidden City" outposts, but rather than join them, I headed upstairs to the photography gallery for "Artists as Art: Photographic Portraits."

I was especially impressed with how the show had been curated given that nine female-taken photographs shared the walls with fifteen taken by men. That's an unusually high average for a show, any kind of show.

The exhibit began with soft focus, romantic Pictorialist photographs and moved through to images such as Warhol's Polaroids.

But it was the subjects themselves that drew me in. Alvin Landon Coburn's 1908 photo of William Butler Yeats showed an intense and intelligent man in glasses. He looked like a poet.

Most of the Pictorialist works were so delicately focused in gradations of black, white and gray that they resembled drawings.

With Bernice Abbott's 1928 photograph of James Joyce, the first and last thing that captured my attention was the delicacy of his hands.

Arnold Neuman's image of Edward Hopper was taken on a bench in front of his studio on Cape Cod with his wife Jo a small figure in the background. Neuman had captured the same sort of isolation that Hopper was known for.

You had to smile looking at Robert Frank's photograph of Allen Ginsburg hugging a tree in 1959 or Annie Leibovitz's iconic image of David Byrne in the infamous leaf suit from 1986.

Moving through the gallery, practically every face was an important contributor to the 20th century art world, as were some of the names of the men and women who'd captured them.

Mind, heart and soul fed, I wandered around the corner into the nearly empty Amuse, joining its only three occupants at the bar.

Usually there's a boisterous contingent over in the lounge area's green chairs, but they were conspicuously absent today (Lady Di, where are you?) which meant that I could actually hear the music being played, a rarity at Amuse.

The bartender said brunch had been busy and then apparently everyone except me had left the building for the great outdoors on this magnificent day. Conformity was never my strong suit.

My glass of Montand sparkling brut Rose ("I love it, too! Drink it while you can. It'll be gone soon!" the bartender advises) arrived with a brilliant red flower in it, although when I inquired what it was, she had no idea. It had come from Manakintowne Growers and was sitting in a glass with brilliant fuzzy purple basil flowers, but it was a mystery. In any case, it made a colorful addition to my glass of pink.

Checking out the menu, a necessity since I hadn't been to Amuse in far too long, I spotted something with my name on it: biscuit du jour. Inquiring about today's iteration, I swooned a little.

Housemade biscuits with the last of the season heirloom tomatoes, herb aioli and white Cheddar cheese. The bartender, who'd tasted one this morning, rhapsodized about the combination, saying it even beat last week's five spice variety.  Faster than you can say "I have a biscuit addiction," I ordered some.

I've no idea where the chef is getting heirloom tomatoes when it's almost November, but that's not my concern. Biting into these biscuits was transcendent.

Sweet, juicy tomato slices buried under the freshest tasting herb aioli and melted cheese between a biscuit worthy of my Richmond grandmother and washed down with sparkling Rose. If it could get any better on this Sunday afternoon without being illegal, I don't know how. I was just grateful I was alone so I could eat both.

Looking at my reaction, she gave me a well-deserved "I told you so" and shared that the combination for teh biscuit had come to the pastry chef in a dream.

Now here's my moral dilemma.Was my inner self jolting me to go to the museum to see a finely-executed photography show or had my inner biscuit hound sensed that its needs could be addressed there?

Don't know, don't care. Both were flat out wonderful.

When I went to leave, the bartender reminded me not to make it so long until I come back again.

Not a chance. "Forbidden City" plus dreamy biscuits, you're up next...and soon.

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