Tales of an Art-Themed Getaway

Rediscovering a Shared Passion

An art-themed getaway in Greater Wilmington, DE
By J. A. Sturgeon

Delaware Art MuseumOur eyes met, and I felt the corners of my mouth curve up as I saw his answering grin. My husband, Jake, and I were at the DELAWARE ART MUSEUM, and in that moment, we both thought one thing, "Backseat, Baxter!" We were looking at Elliott Erwitt's, "Dog Dogs," an exhibit of photographs that features dogs in both likely and unlikely poses. The picture that made us smile in unison features a pair of puppy-dog eyes glancing dolefully out a car window, while the dog sits in the driver's seat of a classic automobile. This just happens to be the expression that our dog, Baxter, has anytime he gets in the car. He never likes sitting in the backseat and always seems a little miffed that he doesn't get to drive.

Jake and I have always appreciated art and especially enjoy hearing each other's opinions. We love to compare the stories we saw in a painting or a sculpture, and it has always been fun to see how often we notice the same story. We haven't made time for a getaway in a while, and the attractions in Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley seemed like the perfect way to spend a weekend. We used the BRANDYWINE TREASURE TRAIL PASSPORT to guide us to some of the best arts in the area and found that we re-discovered our appreciation for both art and each other.

Storytelling Through Art

After enjoying the photojournalist's exhibit, we slid easily into our old game of guessing what happens next in the paintings we see.

"She's waiting for a bus," he whispered.

"Because she's leaving town," I suggested.

"But she's got no luggage," he pointed out.

"Because she's going to the beach. Her bikini fits in the purse," I replied matter-of-factly and we smiled at each other as we continued through the exhibit.

We stood in front of a Pre-Raphaelite painting, and we realized we didn't need to play the game. Lady Lilith's pearlescent skin and flowing hair was described as the depiction of a powerful, evil and seductive woman, but I saw something else there, too. I thought there's more to her than even her artist Rossetti suspected.

"No woman has ever been just one thing," Jake commented after reading the card, and my eyes met his again.

"Not many men understand women like he does," I thought to myself, but it was a reminder, not a realization.

Trying the Slow Art Day Program

Brandywine River Museum of ArtOur next stop, the BRANDYWINE RIVER MUSEUM OF ART, features work from the Wyeth family-different artists, who all happen to be from the same family-among a host of other fascinating exhibits. Located in a 19th century mill overlooking the Brandywine River, the museum is housed in a spectacular historic location, perfect for enjoying an outstanding collection of American art. Our brochure suggests a program called "Slow Art Day," in which a group of participants appreciate five paintings for ten minutes each and then discuss them over lunch. Jake and I decided to experiment with a slow art day of our own. It was hard to choose just five paintings, and since we weren't working with a group, it was entirely up to us. Eventually, we decided to take things on a first-things-first basis and just start looking.

As we looked at the painting, it didn't take long before we saw the details of the image in the foreground, and then moved on to the action of the background. After that, it became clear that the painting itself was as interesting as the image it portrays. Brushstrokes, palette choices and canvas were all important in the examination of the painting. Review of the materials gave depth to our overall understanding of the work.

At lunch, we discussed the paintings as if we had been apart for an hour instead of walking around the museum together. Jake is interested in the technique the artists used, and the effects they produced. I am more passionate about the composition of the elements in the painting and what that does for the subject. We talked excitedly, agreeing and then challenging, then the conversation paused. We were still smiling at each other, and I realized something: We are interesting. We are fun. We are more than our daily schedules. We always have been, but we let each other forget it sometimes.

A Contemporary End to the Day

Delaware Center for the Contemporary ArtsWe finished out the day at the DELAWARE CONTEMPORARY. The center was founded in 1979 and moved to their current location in 2000. With more than 30 contemporary exhibits each year, there's always something thought-provoking to scrutinize. We had already explored historic art that day, but the center with its modern art reminded us that Wilmington is a place that spans time periods as successfully as a time machine might. It is so rich in history, with attractions that let you step into the past, you could forget that it's also a vibrant modern city. As we walked inside the Delaware Contemporary, Hiro Sakaguchi's painting of a bear plucking airplanes out of a river as if they were salmon swimming up-river transfixed us. The title of the exhibit, "Avert, Escape, or Cope With," made us consider how we live our lives, made us appreciate the opportunity to have a day like today.

At the end of the day, we should have been exhausted, but we were so inspired by our artful adventure that we chattered non-stop the whole way back to the hotel. Our art-infused escape to Wilmington helped us rediscover art together, but on a deeper level, how much we enjoy each other.

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