On the first Friday of the month, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena offers free admission during the hours of 6-9 pm.  I haven’t been to the Norton Simon since I took a museum class at USC in 1998.  This was my first experience with the free Friday admission.  Even though this wasn’t my first trip to the museum, it has been so long that it felt like my first trip.  I do remember the Monet gardens and a few of the art pieces (by Renoir, Manet and Degas)but I don’t remember the theater or downstairs area for new exhibits.

So I started the exhibit with my grandfather’s rule for exploring new places–stick to the right.  And to my right resides the Asian Art exhibit.  This was Buddha heaven.  I walked through looking at every piece and reading the story of each.  I made my way downstairs to the main portion of the Asian Art Exhibit.  There was also a new exhibit on Still Life (no photographs allowed in this area).  But I was more interested in the Asian Art and all the Hindu and Buddhist artifacts on display.  I could go back to this exhibit over and over again.  Like I said before, it is Buddha heaven.

Afterwards, I went upstairs and stopped off at the Garden Cafe.  I ordered the Veggie Panini (I was sold when I saw it had Butternut Squash in it).  It was a pricey meal but very tasty.

While sitting in the Garden, enjoying my meal, I had the opportunity to people watch.  I’m not sure if it was because of “Free Friday” but I was in shock by the behavior of some of the patrons.  I saw a woman in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt sitting at a table while her young kids ran around the gardens, climbing on the statues and throwing things at the ducks in the pond.  I was actually surprised by how many toddlers were at the museum.  I can understand taking elementary aged children to a museum for an appreciation of art and culture, but infants and toddlers?  If I were a parent, I would not want to take my toddler to a museum filled with priceless artifacts.  And why wasn’t anyone saying anything when these children were climbing on the statues?  I got a phone call from my California sister and was asked to go outside yet some of these children were running, screaming through the museum.  I guess I will have to go back on another day to see if this is just something that happens on “Free Fridays.”

When I finished my meal and people watching session, I returned to the museum and headed off into the art collection areas where works by the old masters reside.  You can see works by Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Degas and Picasso.

It is said that art is subjective and the meanings are up for interpretation by the observer.  Well, if the observer is anything like me, you see the “dirty” interpretation of the art work.  I was surprised, at times, to read on the plaque besides the pieces that I was often right.

Another thing that I like to do when walking through looking at art, I like to come up with my own captions.  I’m sure if someone were observing me, seeing me giggle to myself, they would think I was crazy.  I heard people talking about the brush strokes, the lighting, the techniques, etc while I was thinking, “It looks like the angel wants to suckle her breast.”  I am an art teacher and I should be talking about the techniques, lighting, brush strokes, texture, composition, etc.  But I was here alone, on a Friday night.  I wasn’t in teacher mode.  I was being myself–my goofy, dirty-minded self and I was having fun.  And I didn’t say what I was thinking out loud.  I would stand in front of the paintings, think of a funny caption in my mind, smile and move onto the next.  On the outside, I played the part of a thoughtful art observer while in my mind, I was a 12-year-old mentally giggling at all the dirty, provocative art.

Overall, I would go back to the Norton Simon Museum.  The Asian Art exhibit alone might even convince me to get a membership.  But I think I do need to return during regular hours to see how the patrons differ to those who arrive on the Free Fridays.

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