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Posted by on January 25, 2012

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander

If the title of this blog were really what it’s about, most people wouldn’t bother opening it, but I’ll try to make it worth your time to read on.

Monique Climbs the Stairs to The Getty

Last Saturday (January 21), we boarded a bus with 34 stalwart local culture-seekers for a two-plus hour trip to the J.P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  In addition to being housed in a true work of modern art, and in addition to having free admission, this is always worth the long ride across the Southern California freeways.  But that only touches on “the where,” not “the what” that this article is about.

The What” is actually two-fold.  It’s about expanding any museum experience, and it’s about my wondering, “Why is the photographic art on the walls ‘art’ and my photography just photography?  Let’s take them one at a time.

Whenever Monique and I visit a museumof any kind in our travels across North America, whether it’s high art, classic cars or American natives history, I try to engage the docents or guards in conversation, asking, “What shouldn’t I miss in this room or in the museum?”  When it first started doing this, Monique was skeptical … until she heard the kinds of answers it elicited.

How DID Claude Monet See the Whole Scene and Paint a Few Inches from the Canvas?

“If you look closely, you’ll see the artist’s lover in the purple swirl.”  Or “It was

Smith’s earliest work, so there are inconsistencies that show how her artistry developed,” or “It’s here because the curator wants it here.  Makes no sense to me.”   I laughed when I heard something close to that from a Getty guard.

What was startling for me several years ago was when I asked a 25ish goateed guard which was his favorite work in the room he monitored, expecting him to tell me he had no idea.  Instead, he walked over to a very confusing piece, where he explained what he felt was the meaning of the subject depicted.  Wow!

Dottie Goldfarb and Adele Voell Admire a Moreau

While chamber-hopping last week at The Getty, we crossed paths with Adele Voell and Dottie Gardfarb, members of our Idyllwild group, who were watching the guard point a beam from his flashlight into a painting, showing them some hidden treasure.  It’s what I consider a gesture that greatly enhanced their entire visit.

Are you still with me? I want to digress for a moment and expand that to souvenir shops.  “Hi,” I say, as Monique looks for a place to hide.  “I’m a tourist.”

“Nooooo,” is the usual reply.  That leads to the clerk/often the owner asking the typical questions that don’t need answers about where we’re from, etc.  And now for the ‘payoff.”  I ask something like, “Where shouldn’t we eat around here?  That’s when the conversation opens up.  We learn the best place to eat, what we shouldn’t miss while visiting, and even a bit of hidden history, good and evil.  What was ‘just another town’ becomes a memorable stop in our travels.

Example:  Ask the forest rangers in El Rio, Texas, where not to eat.


Surfer Dude at Huntington Beach, California


Well, it is.  Why isn’t it hanging in galleries and museums?  Because I’ve never taken the time to have it prepared for canvas and framing.  Whether it qualifies as art or not is not the issue.  It’s the intention.

You take pictures during your travels:

To remember the great places you’ve been

To send to the kids

To post on your Facebook page

Because it’s free after buying the camera and memory card

To print and sell as a fund-raiser for your church bazaar.

It’s pretty much like crocheting or woodworking, I guess.  Are the

crocheted booties for your granddaughter or to donate to your church’s thrift shop?  Is it a pastime while you’re watching reruns of Oprah?  Or something else?

Avalanche Lake at Glacier National Park – Elements of Art

Our granddaughter receives an exquisite carving every year from a friend of the family.  Each piece would sell for $75 to $250 in a gallery, but he gives it to her for free.  It’s love and it’s because he treasures his works so much he doesn’t want to consider their commercial value.

My Stairway Art, Taken in Savannah

I was looking at a photograph of a stairway at the Getty.  I’ve taken pictures just as good, but his is art and mine is, well, still in my collection of snapshots.

Maybe I should take the high road and say, “I don’t want to lower myself by having my work valued.”  Ain’t gonna happen.  It’s just not a priority to turn what my eye sees into museum or gallery art.

I always put the emphasis on taking photos for the memories – it’s part of our richness in life.  And, of course, to make these blogs more interesting.

It’s another reason we’re On Top of the World.

Somewhere a Rainbow ...

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved


The Idyllwild Troops' Assembly

Marshall Smith (in Orange) and Nancy Borchers (in White) Peer Over One of The Getty Gardens



Marilyn O'Connor (left) & Jan Bruner Pause to Admire

Aboard the Bus

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

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