Sunday, February 10, 2008

Paula Rego

She's famous in Europe, but virtually unknown in the United States: artist Paula Rego (b. 1935). Now the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, D.C.) is hosting, from February 1 through May 25, 2008, the first U.S. retrospective on her career.

In preparation for the exhibit's opening, I located only one book in the local public libraries: Paula Rego by John McEwen, published 1992. Reading about artists and looking at photographs of their work before seeing it in person is always for me an adventure with delightful outcomes.

At the opening reception for Ms. Rego's exhibit, I scanned the room to see if the artist herself actually looked like her photographs in the book. Not quite. She is much more diminutive in stature. Then up to the third floor galleries to see the works. Would any I had seen in the book be part of the exhibit? Yes! Every time I rounded a corner and saw firsthand what I had viewed in the book, I felt like I was meeting a friend; except that these "friends" were so much larger and more detailed and colorful than what I'd imagined from seeing their photographs in the book.

Take a look for yourself, and even listen to Ms. Rego talk about her art at NMWA.

And if you have never tried it, take my advice. The next time you are planning to attend an exhibition or a performance, do a little preparation in advance. Read about the artist. View photographs online or in a book. Listen to the music. Your experience will be enriched! Please share your experience of how reading has enriched a music performance or art exhibit.

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