I Spy for Grownups [Who Still Believe in Themselves]

February 14, 2015

Hi all! I recently submitted a piece of my writing for the Four Chambers Press. While my piece was not selected, I wanted to share it with you all.

xo, Willa

I Spy for Grownups [Who Still Believe in Themselves]

The Thorne Rooms, Narcissa Niblack Thorne (1930’s)

There are many memories that come racing into my mind when I think of the Phoenix Art Museum. I could talk about how I once sat for hours staring at Salome with the Head of John the Baptist just because I was fascinated by the painting. I could tell the story behind El Suicido de Dorothy Hale because I googled it when I was 10 after viewing the piece. I could recall what it felt like to walk into You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies for the first time ever or show the selfies I took with Jurassic Age when it was first installed outside. I could write poetry about how I kissed the love of my life in public for the first time inside of the Western Art Gallery, and explain why I don’t go on dates there anymore.

But I don’t want to focus on any of that, not because those memories are not important, but simply that they are moments that have passed. Now, I view those same paintings and installations with a sense of nostalgia. The truth is, there is only one part of the museum that I feel continues to grow with me: The Thorne Rooms.

When I was a child, my parents took me to the museum often. We would walk around the large, empty halls, staring at paintings and sculptures. My parents, I’m sure, were there to view all the art, but for me, the experience wasn’t complete until I saw the tiny rooms. I’d stand up on the carpeted step and walk slowly, taking my time to stare intensely at the rooms. I’d press my face up to the glass and gaze into the rooms as if I was considering moving in. I used to imagine myself living in each room. I would imagine what I would wear and eat and how I would dress for that time period. My personal favorite was imagining myself in an extravagant ballgown, seated at the dining room table in the Art Deco Penthouse. There was always something new to discover, something that I hadn’t seen before. The miniature rooms were my own personal game of search and find, only I never knew what I was searching for, yet I always seemed to find it.

As I grew, the rooms took on new meaning for me. They were no longer simply pretty little dollhouse-look-alikes, but I came to regard them as a part of me. During high school, when I was feeling lonely, I would go to the museum and stare into them, again searching for something I didn’t even know was there. While I got older and eventually moved away, the miniature rooms remained the same. I came to know them, not simply as art, but also as a beacon of hope.

Today I still visit the tiny little rooms as much as I can. I now see them as a young woman facing the world on her own for the first time. I see the rooms very much the same way I saw them as a child: with wonder and hope. I view the rooms, not as part of my past, but as an extension of my being. Because in all honesty, I still imagine myself dressed in a ballgown, seated in the Art Deco Penthouse. I see myself burying my head under the covers in the French Louis XVI Bedroom. I imagine draping myself, fully clad in a large fur coat, over the grand staircase in the Art Deco Hall. When I lose my way, I think back to those tiny little rooms that seemed to offer me the entire world. Little rooms that, without the knowledge of the artist, allowed me to believe I could live the way I wanted. I may not achieve every dream I want to in my lifetime, but I will forever carry with me the knowledge that, if I start searching, I will find what I am looking for, even if I had no idea I was looking for it.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2015 at 12:28 am

    Wonderful! And I’m proud that you wrote and submitted this! Me? I never got my essay done before the deadline (embarrassing for someone who lives by deadlines!). But you’ve inspired me; maybe I’ll finish mine and post it anyway!

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