I grew up in a tiny little town on the edge of, well...the desert, in southern Idaho. We had one art class, that we got to take our junior year. We drew still life, threw pots, and even dabbled in a bit of screenprinting. We did not, however, study any sort of art history.
My freshman year of college at Boise State, I was sitting in a large auditorium that held more students than there were people in my entire town. I remember being somewhat bored as I watched the professor scroll through image after image of works that I would need to know the date, artist, location, importance of, etc. It was overwhelming and I had no idea how to even process, let alone memorize, all of what we were seeing.
Until she showed us the Nike of Samothrace.
Have you ever had that moment? When you see something and it leaves an indelible mark on your life? This was my moment. I remember sitting up straighter in my seat, and actually looking forward to when I could crack open my giant art history book to find out more about her. And I knew that one day I needed to see her in real life.*
So on Monday, we decided to venture over to the Louvre, which is, of course, massive. I didn't care about the Mona Lisa (even though, yes, we did stand in line to see her behind glass), the Venus de Milo, Napolean's apartments, all I cared about was finding the Nike.
You have to take a number of escalators and turns before coming to where she's standing. And it's not like walking up to the Venus de Milo (who is currently standing on her own in the middle of a room). You walk down a long corridor and have to walk up about 40 steps to where she stands at the top.
I started to get nervous (?) when we walked around the corner. I could see the stairs, and the bow of the ship she stands on. As we walked closer, and she came into full view...I actually cried.** I feel quite foolish about it, but it's something I can't really explain. She is beautiful and perfect, and we spent over an hour taking photos and (me) sketching.
She did not disappoint.
*oddly enough, there is a replica of her in the Boise Capitol. Apparently a gift from Paris to Boise...
**I had a very similar connection with Michelangelo's David. Unfortunately, when we were in Florence and went to see him, they were cleaning him. He was obstructed by fences, and nobody else in our group wanted to spend much time with him. Never the less, the set up in the museum was just as striking as the Louvre's with the Nike.