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EXCERPT The Resurrection of Christ by David Sedaris 34 Giuseppe Maria Crespi Italian, 1665-1747 The Resurrection ofChrist, circa 1690 Oil on canvas, 56V2 ? 40 in. North Carolina Museum of Art Purchased with funds from the State ofNorth Carolina 52.9.1 5 3 ach year our elementary school class took a field trip to the North Carolina Museum ofArt. To prepare us for our visit, the board ofeducation sent us a roving arts ambassador, a trained cultural cheerleader. To our fifth-grade class this person arrived in the form of one Mrs. Kingman. This was a woman who favored floor-length capes and appeared to wear all ofher jewelry at the same time. She had about her the air of a middle-aged man masquerading as a woman and having a very good time doing so. Mrs. Kingman claimed to adore the capitals of Europe, "the very idea of the Far East," and the livers of geese mashed into a paste and served upon crackers. We were enchanted. While the teacher and a handful ofparent volunteers would transport us physically , it was Mrs. Kingman's job to prepare us intellectually for the many splendors that awaited us. She shared her enthusiasm and prepared us for the follow-up test with a series of litde tricks designed to help us recall pertinent information. She was a joker, a splashy wise guy, setting up her slide projector to deliver a welloiled comic routine. "One look at this Italian altarpiece and you'll know the museum practically went baroque trying to pay for it," she said. Further along in the carousel she paused to note, "They coulda boughta Rembrandt, but instead they Botticelli!" No one understood her jokes but we laughed anyway because it seemed the polite thing to do. Through Mrs. Kingman we learned to identify Rubens's The Holy Family by telling ourselves the plump, satisfied Christ child was sleeping off the effects of a sandwich. "A Reuben!" she said. "He's just eaten a Reuben." Noting our blank expressions , she threw up her hands in frustration. "A Reuben" she repeated. "Corned beef and sauerkraut on rye? What's wrong with you people? Don't we have any Jews in this classroom? Any New Yorkers? Oy, this is a tough crowd. AU right, just remember that the virgin figure is sandwiched between the old lady and die baby." On the follow-up test I was to identify the artist as Peter Paul Hoagie but the teacher gave me partial credit as I'd at least gotten the first two names right. The art museum was, at that time, located in downtown Raleigh and had the feel ofa vault. It literally smelled ofold money: worn bills and barrels full ofnickThe Resurrection ofChrist 3 5 els. The floors groaned beneath our feet and, because it was in such short supply, even the air seemed valuable. "This is your cultural clubhouse and you're welcome to visit anytime you like," Mrs. Kingman said. "Each of you deserves to surround yourself with beautiful objects.Just don't touch anything or they'll have one oftheir goons break offyour fingers. While we're at it, I advise you not to scream, shove one another down the staircase, or lean against the walls. You can't eat, drink, spit, or sit on the furniture. Other than that, I want you to make yourselves at home." In a misguided effort to both relax and engage her audience, Mrs. Kingman proceeded to reduce each painting to its most basic elements. TheAdoration ofthe Shepherds became, in her words, "five peasants staring at a litde boy's schmeckl." Her omission of any religious aspects made the paintings seem fresh and exciting . It was her hope that we might direct our reverence towards the art rather than the subject, but for the students of our fifth-grade class the idea was undiinkable . "That baby is Jesus," the Casde twins shouted in unison. "And the lady is his mother, Mary." "I'm well aware who Jesus is," Mrs. Kingman said. "I use his name every time I catch my skirt on the car door. This though, diis isn'tJesus. It's a...


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