Suburban Soliloquy #64



A Painting Came To Mind

A painting came to mind. I had seen it at the Princeton University Art Museum. This is a small museum, but quite wonderful, tucked away in the heart of the University's campus. Few beyond the students and faculty seem to know it is there. The painting was a tall canvas by, I think, a Russian artist whose name I didn't recognize and now I don't remember it. It was red, very red. I wanted to see it again.

Ms Keogh and I decided to stroll about the campus and town of Princeton for desperately needed exercise, but I also wanted to again visit that painting and, this time, take notes. I thought the painting might just prove inspirational and give me a subject for my next essay - this essay.

It was a bit of a walk. One has to drive far to get beyond the last parking meter. Storm clouds scudded overhead and it was drizzling. It was a refreshing drizzle, nourishing, stimulating, so we left our raincoats and umbrellas in the car and chanced a more serious rain.

The Art Museum is contained in McCormick Hall, which includes the Art and Archeology department and the Marquand Library, one of the oldest art libraries in America. The day of our visit McCormick Hall was enclosed behind barricades, the lawn littered with construction debris. The building was being renovated. At first we saw no hope of entry. It wasn't until we wandered past the museum's entrance that we found small signs with arrows pointing the new, temporary, way in. The signs led us to a side entrance at the building's far end. We entered the museum's basement through a fire exit.

I led the way upstairs to where the painting was supposed to be, but it wasn't there. The guard knew the painting I described. He explained that the new curator had moved the painting into storage.

Was the painting Golgotha? What I remember is a gruesome night scene, dogs lapping at the puddles of blood that had formed at the base of a crucifix. Why am I being drawn to this painting? It was the focus on the dogs that stuck in my mind. There could have been dogs at Golgotha, and if there were they would have licked the blood that pooled beneath the executions. The dogs would not have distinguished between criminals and the Incarnation. Nor is this merely transubstantiation, but we are to believe it was the very blood of God that the dogs digested.

The painting reflected the bleakness I was feeling, that I am feeling, because of this war. It is impossible to ignore the war, to not write about it. Since the war began, I have been having trouble sleeping. I am ashamed of my country. I fear my President and his administration and I will never forgive them.

I am glad we didn't find the painting. We continued our walk in the gentle rain.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is the sixty-fourth in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is now available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"