That Thing That Happened at the Matisse Museum


Musee MatisseAfter being buried in vegetables from my Good Food Collective share today (which was extremely awesome, by the way) I’m writing and posting very late. Today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) post is supposed to be on “Yes Moments,” which are defined as “tiny moments when life has complete clarity, meaning or certainty.” I call these types of things “epiphanies.”

The most recent and major one that comes to mind occurred while traveling in France in the summer of 2012. I had reached the south after wandering around Paris for five days. I believe I’ve told you I’m kind of a museum nerd when I travel. I knew wanted to visit the Musee Matisse while in Nice. I asked around and determined I would need to take a bus from my hotel up to Cimiez Hill, which was not a big deal (only 10-15 minutes).

Henri Matisse has always been an influence of mine and has held a solid place in the top three of my list of favorite artists for many years due to his superb use of color. When I arrived I was confronted with a red building overlooking lemon trees and an olive grove that also serves as a park. If you are familiar with Matisse’s work, you’ll recall the lemon and olive trees make several appearances. After seeing the big museums in Paris I wasn’t expecting it to be earth-shattering, but I figured it would definitely have some interesting pieces and a decent gift shop.

I wandered the various rooms and read the descriptions of the pieces in the collection. The bonus of hitting the smaller museums is that there are usually fewer people in the way. I stared at these big tapestries and was struck with the realization that Matisse had spent time in Tahiti. I don’t know how I never knew that. Maybe I did and just forgot. I had always associated Paul Gauguin with Tahiti. Suddenly it occurred to me that most of the places I travel are somehow associated with artists or writers and that I’d basically bombed around the globe for the past few years searching for something that I wasn’t finding…because the answer was already in me.Matisse Postcard

So there I was: in the south of France, on a sunny day, in small museum with a security guard in every room and I start bawling my eyes out. No, I’m not kidding and no, I was not premenstrual.

Oh wait, it gets worse.

I went downstairs to find the restroom to freshen up because crying makes me look like garbage and I walked straight into a children’s exhibit of at least 70-80 pictures all done in Matisse’s style with varying compositions. We had the lemons, the portraits, the cut-outs. Yep. All there. Some of them were pretty incredible.

I pretty much wanted to vomit on myself at this point but thankfully, I didn’t. The room was sunlit so I threw on my shades and forced myself to look at every single kid’s picture in the exhibit. Then I went into the gift shop, found the postcard of the Polynesian tapestry, a book on the museum collection, and got the hell out of there.

Well, then it got even more interesting. I wandered through the olive grove to a cemetery behind a church. Um, yes, in addition to museums I also have a weird cemetery fetish when I travel. I meandered down some path and there, under an olive tree, was Henri Matisse’s grave.

Matisse graveThat was enough of a wakeup call for me, and I knew what I would eventually have to do. However, when I returned to the states and got bombarded with two major fundraisers and an annual report I quickly forgot about my little epiphany.

Until now.

So tomorrow on Thanksgiving while you are feeling grateful for all that you have and the loved ones and friends that surround you, make sure you are thankful for your talents and gifts that make you innately you.

You never know when you’re going to have to fall back on them.


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