Decadence, Apocalypse, and Resurrection – three terms that seem to be very different in meaning. Yet, they are very much related. I think that there are some who would say that many people living in Cleveland may have experienced all of these by auffering from illness, dealing with unemployment, or anything else that is extremely difficult to deal with. You have so many material things and “so many friends” in the beginning ( Decadence). Then, the devastating event happens and you lose everything or almost everything ( Apocalypse). You have to give up material things to survive; and your so-called friends decide that they cannot handle things with you anymore. However, you deal with your problems to the best of your ability; and one day, you realize that you are coming back smarter and stronger than ever ( Resurrection). You are a Phoenix rising from the ashes. The Last Days of Pompeii, the new exhibition at The Cleveland Musuem of Art echoes these three terms and much more.
Pompeii was a port in Italy that was known for its immense culture, commerce, and art. However, when the volcano, Mount Vesuvius, erupted in A.D. 79; it totally destroyed and buried this hub of culture until it was re-discovered and excavated in the 1700’s. This exhibition includes some ancient pieces, but it also includes many pieces inspired by the excavation of Pompeii. Stretching from the 1700’s until the 1980’s, these pieces represent the artists’ thoughts and feelings of what they believed Pompeii to be. The issues of tragedy, illness, sex, violence, and opulence are all described. All of the time, these pieces are very beautiful and thought-provoking. The Cleveland Musuem of Art has once again done an excellent job with this exhibition. However, some of the thoughts these pieces inspire make one very uncomfortable and almost frightened. You realize your own humanity and that you could be forcibly swept away by tragedy, illness, or anything else that you could or could not name. We could also have immense joy via love, sexual desire, or opulence. We, like the people of Pompeii, are human beings. We are just as powerful; or we can be just as fragile as they were. There are no exceptions to that.
This exhibition runs until August, 2013. While general admission to The Cleveland Musuem of Art is always free,, admission to The Last Days of Pompeii is $15. For more information, please visit www.clevelandart.org.