I’m not one for sentimentalism — except when I am. You know what makes me sentimental? The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
My husband and I went there before we were married, and we argued about the validity of modern art. For the record, I liked Rauschenberg and Oldenburg. My husband wanted to throw his car keys and pager in the corner of the museum and call it art.
The moment when my boyfriend-now-husband made fun of modern art? It was the first time in our relationship when I thought, “This isn’t going to work out.”
I cried my guts out in a parking lot. He consoled me. Then we made out and went over to the Golden Gate Bridge. That was eighteen years ago, and we still laugh about that visit.
So I went back to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, last week, and tried not to be too emotional. The problem with nostalgia is that focusing on the past limits your ability to make new memories. It’s fun to look back on the good times, but it’s important to create space for new adventures.
I missed my husband as I walked through the museum, but I always miss him. I don’t need an art exhibit to remind me of his absence when we’re apart. I sent him a bunch of texts and photos in order to describe the museum’s recent renovation and expansion. He sent me updates about the cats. Life is good.
In fact, I felt encouraged that things were different at the museum. It was a relief to experience something new. Whereas nostalgia is stagnant and lifeless, modern and contemporary art tells a different story every time we approach the artwork.
So you can have your romance with the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. Go ahead and worship the Dutch Masters and the French Impressionists. I love them, too. But in the confines of my quiet life, I choose the overwhelming uncertainty of modern and contemporary art over nostalgia and sentimentalism.
I want new life experiences. Is that too much to ask?