By: Alvaro Martinez
I happened to be in Chicago this summer and I can testify that it is a feast for the senses. It has everything a major city of the world must have and even a little more. The people undeniably have what some call the Midwestern charm, the food is of superior quality, and the city as a whole is neatly organized so that one can have a memorable visit. But of all the things I did in this metropolis, it was the Art Institute of Chicago that stood out as the most rewarding experience. Rightly lauded as one of the greatest museums in the world, I gained unforgettable memories during those five hours of exploration.
I lived in Naperville as a little kid before moving to Nicaragua and my mother told me about how she used to take me to the Institute during some weekends. She and my father enjoyed the museum so much that they bought a book containing a large sample of the paintings contained in it. Throughout the years as I grew up, I used to skim through the pages here and there and appreciate the quality of art. Most of the paintings were formidable in my eyes and there were some that I remember really desiring to see. So it happened that sixteen years after leaving Naperville for Nicaragua, I went back to Chicago and finally could visit that curious museum with the dreamy paintings.
Of course, me and my father did not miss Seurat’s masterpiece and stood in awe of it as we admired its technical grandeur. We gradually moved closer to it and noticed how as one gets closer the images disintegrate into various colored points. Here we have not only a work of genius but also of perseverance! The great artist gave himself to the task of painting an 81.7 in by 121.25 in canvas one point at a time. History has certainly celebrated such effort.
However, I also got to discover paintings that I did not know the museum harbored. The work from El Greco spoke to me meaningfully. I happen to be Catholic and the paintings’ ethereal attitudes, made possible by the dreamy colors and religious themes, remembered me that God and his glory are always close to those who seek Him.
Not only does the Institute have paintings but also a considerable wealth of historical artifacts. The section that intrigued me the most, perhaps ironically, was that of the Americas. I came all the way to Chicago to look at things that I have in my own town! I observed behind the glass, deeply satisfied, the ancient ceramics and necklaces that my fellow Nicaraguans used several centuries ago. After a moment of reflection I understood why this was so. Many times it is only outside of your land that you get to appreciate your own culture. Chicago and the Institute in particular gave me the opportunity to encounter myself as a Nicaraguan and human being.