I believe that when no one else is around, statues come to life, that when the lights go out in the Louvre, hundreds of Aphrodites, Galateas, and Pans awaken to wander the halls. Every night, Venus de Milo discovers that someone has stolen her arms, and thousands of busts realize they have no noses, or ears, or mouths. When no one is watching sculptures live.
Other more modern statues have souls too. The carved heads on cameo brooches roll their eyes and yawn while they listen to their owners babble, and when people shut their lids, the ballerinas that live in music boxes relax from their exaggerated poses and rub their aching toes.
This kind of living art is important to me. I am one of those people who walks into an art museum and gets the sudden urge to touch the marble. To stop myself, I have to glue my hands to my sides or dig my nails into my palms. Something about sculptures appeals to me. I want to touch them, to see if the carved skin is as soft and smooth as it appears; I want to feel the sinew and hair and bones beneath the exterior.
Viewing statues as living creatures is probably a little strange, but I think that part of the reason I see such vitality in the dead stone is that those stones resemble people. Maybe it isn’t so much that I believe statues actually move, but that I believe people who seem to be statues can also come to life.
Dead sculptures represent people frozen in a single moment. The carved people remain forever caught in their death throws and embraces, in their terrors and strengths. And real people, the flesh and blood ones, the ones not carved in stone, sometimes get caught in that single moment too. There is the single mother who never gets over her divorce, the businessman who gets passed up for a promotion, and the bitter old man who dies with regrets.
Part of the reason I like to believe that statues wake up when no one is looking is that I also believe that people can wake out of their individual stupors. I like to believe that the divorcee secretly dresses up like Madonna and prances around her livingroom after the kids go to bed. I like to believe that even though he would never admit it, the businessman is glad he wasn’t promoted because if he had been, he wouldn’t be able to go fishing once a month. I like to believe that even though the old man may have had regrets, others do not regret him having lived.
So even though, I’ve never seen it happen, I believe that the little Buddha who sits near the register at my favorite Chinese restaurant gets up and sings karaoke at the bar when he thinks no one is paying attention.
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