On any given shift, a museum security guard stands in front of an artwork for one hour. (This is approximately 210 times longer than the average visitor spends looking at an artwork, according to museum researchers.*) These prolonged periods spent in the galleries afford museum guards the opportunity to contemplate and analyze the art that they are committed to protecting. That’s what David discovered this week on a visit to the MCA. He tweeted his experience with one of our guards, Joyce, who opened his eyes to a deeper meaning behind the seemingly simple installation of a jar of Ultra Sheen in Chicago Works: Amanda Williams. Read the entire thread below.
We're proud of the members of our security team. If you’d like to share a similar experience, let us know on Facebook or on Twitter @mcachicago.
It's easy to scoff & pass by with an "I don't get it."— David Miller (@davidmill) August 20, 2017
But today, a wonderful woman named Joyce was working security in the gallery. 2/10
To her, the piece evoked immediate memories of her mother in the 60s, getting all the girls’ hair ready before Sunday School. 4/10— David Miller (@davidmill) August 20, 2017
She recalled the anticipation of getting her hair washed, the smell of the metal comb heating on the stove, & the fear of being burned. 5/10— David Miller (@davidmill) August 20, 2017
This thing on a wall that I was so quick to dismiss…Joyce had it figured out—what it meant, & how it connected to her story. 6/10— David Miller (@davidmill) August 20, 2017
I’m thankful for the Joyces of the world, who are willing to share their personal stories… 7/10— David Miller (@davidmill) August 20, 2017
…in an effort to help us all really think about the world around us. Not just through our own lens, but through others’, as well. 8/10— David Miller (@davidmill) August 20, 2017
Whether it’s art you don’t get, or a place or a person you dismiss…whatever…I hope there’s a Joyce around to tell you what’s what. 9/10— David Miller (@davidmill) August 20, 2017
* The number (214) is based on research published by Jeffery and Lisa Smith in Empirical Studies of the Arts 19, no. 2 (2001) and factors in the typical length of a gallery post seen at museum's across the US (3600 seconds/17 seconds).