Solve a Mystery

On Sunday, October 26, my husband and I visited the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA, to participate in an event called Mystery at the Museum.

The idea was that different works of art would come alive – they would speak to us through a human being who had stepped out from the artwork. Visitors would move from one artwork to the next by following clues and end up solving the mystery.

The event was meant for kids, I guess, but the idea really appealed to me. And I really like going to this museum – it is accessible, friendly, has interesting special events and ongoing art that I like. We procured our timed tickets and arrived ready to search.

Note: if I didn’t take a photo of the artwork I have included a link, either in the Museum’s database or another source, if the database didn’t have a photo.

Here is the front entrance…let’s go in!

We were given a sheet to take notes on, and we interviewed the artists/works of art.

After we met with the living version of The Whittler, a statue by J. Seward Johnson, sitting in the lobby, we were directed to St. Margaret, here with her artwork, the bust in the case behind her:

She had quite a tale to tell us, involving being eaten by a dragon and having her head chopped off. My goodness. Naturally she was very bewildered to find herself in the museum and she wanted to return to her artwork’s century. Or maybe her own. Or maybe just get her head back. She sent us to find someone to help her do some research on the topics.

That’s how we encountered Frank Lloyd Wright in the library of the Francis Little house. Wright had designed the home the room originally came from, and when the house was eventually torn down, some rooms were kept intact and went to various museums, with the library ending up here. I think that is interesting.

Anyway, Frank was feeling dizzy and asked us to look for a nurse. Here is where we found her.

The painting depicts a work made to commemorate the end of World War I, the role of nurses and the Red Cross, and the coming of peace. She wanted to get back to her patients rather than standing here in a museum. And though we couldn’t help her with that, she sent us to a woman wearing black and white, who also wanted to go on a journey.

We found this woman a short distance away. She turned out to be the embodiment of a young woman, Kate Lewis, pictured in a portrait done by Susan Eakins, wife of Thomas Eakins. I liked her character-filled face; I felt I would like to have known her. And I did not know that Susan Eakins existed before today. I plan to do more research on her work.

Anyway, the woman in black and white was looking for the train to Lehighton, hoping to pick some flowers to freshen up the ones she wore at her neck in her portrait. Lehighton is a town not too far from Allentown, in coal country. And the painting we were looking for was also not far away.

The museum recently acquired and renovated a huge work by Franz Kline called Lehighton. The story behind this mural is fascinating. The artist painted it for the American Legion bar in his hometown in the 1940’s – on a single piece of canvas that was in the building for decades. It came to the museum about 4 years ago and after restoration is now a feature of the collection.

We talked with a coal miner about the town, the painting, and Kline’s personal history. It’s possible to pick out recognizable landmarks in the painting; Kline incorporated his mother’s house, for instance, in the painting.

We also learned something about the miner’s life, and then, stepping out of character, the man playing the role mentioned his own grandfather had been a coal miner up into the early 1960’s.

After this conversation, we now understood we needed to find the heart of the matter. That we located in the next gallery over – Keith Haring dressed in black and holding a heart. The associated art was a metal sculpture by the artist.

And here we solved the mystery. Art is love. Art is many visions of life. Art can express what is dear to us, or hurts us. Art is from the heart. Art can hold up our hearts when they are heavy, or let them float when we are happy.

We collected our prizes (remember, this was mostly an event for kids) – crayons, papers, modeling clay, glue sticks! I was happy, even though I’m not a kid. I can use the items all right.

We then looked around at some other exhibits.

We left after two hours, as our time was up. I really enjoyed the experience. Any chance to do this kind of activity is really appreciated in these weary days, and the museum was calm, open, and filled with things of beauty.

Thank you, Allentown Museum of Art.

About Claudia McGill

A person who does art and writes poetry. That's me!

13 responses to “Solve a Mystery

  1. Diane

    What a delightful event. I love that museum. And I never saw such representational work by Franz Kline

  2. Reblogged this on Claudia McGill and Her Art World and commented:

    Here’s an account of an art outing my husband and I made to the Allentown Art Museum on October 25.

  3. A great way to spend a day. Museums should do this even without the mystery solving aspect. It would give each piece of art more depth. (K)

  4. This sounds very fun! I bet you enjoyed chatting with the people in character!

  5. So much fun! Love this idea of art and solving the mystery, looked interesting and fun!

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