A few years ago I was having lunch with some friends at a local Mexican restaurant when a man named Larry T. pulled up a chair and joined us. He reminded me of Tony Soprano (minus the pinky ring and thick Jersey accent), but a man with a hefty build and an intimidating presence. He sat right across from me and I felt so uncomfortable, assuming we wouldn’t have much in common and the conversation would be strained. He asked me where I worked and I timidly replied, “I work in the membership department at The Blanton Museum of Art.” I watched as his whole demeanor softened and his face lit up like a Christmas tree as he threw his hands in the air and practically screamed, “I LOVE THE BLANTON!” I was shocked and a bit ashamed because I had rushed to judge him as someone who would be THE LEAST bit interested in the arts. I then listened to him fondly recount all of the amazing exhibitions he’d seen throughout his many years as a Blanton member. So when I was asked to interview one of our members for The Blanton Blog, Larry T. immediately came to mind.
I invited Larry to lunch at The Blanton Café where we dined on delicious, freshly made sandwiches and ice-cold Mexican cokes. We talked for hours about art, relationships, spirituality, and conversations with God – all things, according to Larry, that one can experience when visiting the Blanton Museum of Art.
Larry, who has never taken an art history class, or had any formal art training for that matter, visits the museum time and time again, “to get right with himself.” He says, “I walk in, let go, and my equilibrium gets balanced. Standing in front of a piece of art, be it sculpture, painting, whatever, I just let go and see what happens.” He doesn’t try to figure it out, he says. “I listen to what it tells me. I let it teach me. If I connect to something visually, viscerally, I find myself having a spiritual experience. It’s as if God is speaking to me. It’s an emotion I can’t even articulate, I’m just in a state of awe.”
Larry finds The Blanton to be a soothing and meditative place, somewhere he can go to be quiet and connect to a power greater than himself. He told me how the Matto exhibition (Francisco Matto: The Modern and the Mythic) in particular had this effect on him. He couldn’t even recall how many times he had gone back to see it.
The Blanton has a very fast-paced work environment and it is easy to sometimes lose sight of why we do what we do. But as I watched Mr. Larry T. board his scooter and disappear into the haze of the Texas summer heat, I was reminded of how lucky we are to have this museum in our town, and how The Blanton profoundly impacts the lives of our visitors, members, and community at large. The opportunity for meaningful experiences are infinite.
Image: BMA staffer Ansley Netherland with Blanton member, Larry T.