Sunday was a day for reconsidering. With Mom in town for Thanksgiving, we decided to head into DC for brunch and to visit the National Portrait Gallery, which is hosting two good shows. The one that we thought Mom would enjoy was a retrospective of Norman Rockwell works, both sketches and finished oil paintings, all from the collections of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
I went in thinking I would have to stifle my annoyance so as not to spoil Mom's fun. Rockwell, after all, is known for those highly sentimental Saturday Evening Post covers and cutesy-wootsy kids in oversized uniforms, dripping with nostalgia for an era of innocence and honor that didn't actually exist.
And while there was a hint of that stale air and musty sentiment in the room, I must admit that the guy's technique was stunning. The care that went into his composition was painstaking and his mastery of oils is remarkable. Even more surprising to me, after Grad Girl came home from a previous visit with talk of his implied sexism ("all the women are dumb blondes or frumpy housewives"), I found Rockwell's women to be on equal footing with the men - sometimes dippy but often strong. All told, a revelation.
And now, at risk of pissing off the classicists out there, I'll admit to never being a huge Elvis fan, either. I like some of the songs, but I never got the idol worship. Trouble is, I was too young to see Elvis in his youthful glory and a little bit of Fat Elvis goes a long way. (BTW, check out the reading matter in the picture above - an Archie comic book!)
First off, I'll admit, the guy sure was pretty. I'm not a pompadour and curled lip lovin' kinda girl, but there's no denying Elvis was a looker. And these photos caught him in such unconscious poses as this, sharing some of his new music with a former girlfriend...
"Elvis at 21" runs at the Portrait Gallery here in DC until January 23, 2011 and then will tour, at these locations.
And finally, to John Lennon. Anyone who knows my atheist husband knows that Lennon is closest we've got to a god around this house. And so, we sat down to watch the American Masters production of "LennonNYC" on our local PBS station Monday night with a warning to my mom that this was like going to church - reverence, please.
Perhaps her mind was changed in a manner akin to my reconsideration of Rockwell. The show was extremely enlightening as to the reasons for John & Yoko's deportation fight and a somewhat frightening/reassuring reminder of how America has weathered great civil unrest in the past. The studio clips were fascinating, the interviews actually contained new Lennon/Beatles' insights and there was little revisionist redemption (hey, Yoko *is* much cooler than many of us gave her credit for at the time).
Most of all, for someone like myself, who loves the Beatles, but didn't share Husband's life-changing response to them (again, I was just shy of the curve; I had the Monkees), it was a great reminder of why Lennon holds such a special place in his heart. He and I often argue about whether being a great artist excuses a person from striving to also be a good human being. (He has it can; I say it shouldn't.) John Lennon made mistakes and could be a difficult guy, but he wasn't an arrogant prick. And when he sometimes did something arrogant or pricky, he seemed to regret, learn from it and try to do better. And he was one hell of an artist. So, I highly recommend "LennonNYC" as well.