Saturday, August 06, 2005

A good tour, slightly spoiled

I went to a gallery talk at noon today in the Cloisters, and I really enjoyed the tour -- it was on women, literacy and devotion in medieval art -- but there was an older woman there who, just by her body language, distracted some of us on the tour. She arrived late and hurried her way into the first room where the guide was talking to us. She practically elbowed her way past me to stand right next to the guide. She plopped down her tote bag, took out her water bottle, drank from it, put it down, then without notice, walked over to the other gallery, leaving her bag behind with us, and then returned as if nothing had happened. Then she took out a hand fan with a big picture of this political candidate on one side, and started fanning herself, practically whacking the tour guide in the face with it. Now it was hot in that room, I'll grant her, but it was the way she was doing it, like she was sitting on the porch of some plantation somewhere in a big hoop skirt. When this woman had first arrived, I half expected her to chime in as the unannounced co-tour-guide or something. But no, she was just a visitor like the rest of us, who just happened to have a knack for making her presence known.

Throughout the rest of the tour, she would talk to the tour guide during each walk from one room to the next. Then, when we arrived at the last piece, a modest-sized wall-mounted triptych of the Annunciation, she stood smack dab in front of it. Two other similarly gray-haired ladies tried to whisper to her that she was blocking the art, but she didn't seem to react. She also didn't pay much mind to the young man in a wheelchair, whose view she was also obstructing. At one point, I looked over at him and shared an eye-rolling moment.

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