Guide to Yale University Art Gallery

Illustrated by Evelyn Wu

Last weekend, I visited the Yale University Art Gallery with a friend who was well-versed in the arts. Every now and then, I would say, I imagine I could fall in love with this painting. She would respond with, Eh, that painter had a weird thing for little boys. Something of that sort. Since then, I have created a viewing guide for the gallery. Unlike my friend, I do not recall any names—neither the works nor the artists. But I hope that does not make you trust me any less.

Imagine your lover. If you do not have a lover, make one up. Imagine they are inside the gallery already. Imagine that it is your goal to find them. Imagine that when you finally find them on the top floor, they will tell you the secret things only lovers know.

When you come across this one, try to read the description. You don’t need to read all of the descriptions. Don’t be that guy. But try to read this one. Did you read it? Why is her arm missing? You forgot? Don’t bother reading again. It’s out the window. Out the window there’s a boba shop. Ah. You’re already bored.

When you come across this one, you find that your shoulders and chest relax. You wonder how long you have been tense. This is a question you will ask your therapist. Your therapist will look back at you, trying to figure you out as if you yourself were a painting in a gallery. When you walk away from this painting, you feel your shoulders clench and your chest tighten. You feel it for the rest of your time here. Maybe you should not have looked at this painting in the first place.  

When you come across this one, you find that the lion mauling the bloodied arm could be cute. In a cliche way, you try to assign meaning to what you see. Okay. The emperor is “the rich.” The peasant getting eaten is “the poor.” And the audience? Maybe that’s “us.” You’re really trying. Oh! Also, the arena is “society.” You’re proud of that one. You tell your friend about the meaning you have found. You ask what they think. They look and then point at the clouds floating away at the corner. I like this part, they say.

When you come across this one, you remember this name, the only name you know. You can’t believe yourself. You’re at Yale, in an art gallery, looking at a Rothko. Even though you are “the poor” and would be thrown to the lions, you imagine you are “the rich.” You look at the Rothko painting and remember that he killed himself. Then, you feel a little ashamed that at one point you made fun of Rothko. You really try to find meaning in the block of red. Cruelly, there is not even a description next to it.

When you come across this one, you laugh. Look! you want to shout at the guide leading a group of museum-goers. That one is a new installation. Then, you actually look at your friend’s shadow. You are embarrassed that, for a second, you think it is beautiful.

When you see the painting of Jesus bleeding on the cross, you think of your mother. You think about how your mother told you to go to church before you left for school. You think about how you were raised religious. Now, you are too scared to admit that you are not religious. But when you see his sad eyes, you think that you could try to be. You think that Jesus would appreciate that you at least tried. 

Ask for the free tote bag.

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