Florida Matters
1:17 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Looking at the Dalí Museum Through New Eyes

Listen to the story here.

When it comes to art, I have but a thimble of knowledge.

The first time I heard of Salvador Dalí was only a couple of years ago, when I asked a coworker about his mug - it had a long and curly mustachioed man next to the quote, "The only difference between a madman and me is that I am not mad."

Since then, I didn't give Dalí a second thought. That is, until my Spanish literature professor started lecturing about the famed playwright Federico García Lorca and said Salvador Dalí was his friend. She mentioned with a museum in St. Petersburg being so close, we should take advantage and go visit.

I finally had the opportunity to visit the museum and see what all this Dalí hoopla was about. 

WUSF's Yoselis Ramos stands by the enigma overlooking the Avant-Garden.
Credit WUSF/Yoselis Ramos

I walked into the building and the first thing that catches my eye is the vast and varied souvenir shop. It sells everything Dalí from T0shirts and jewelry, to lunch boxes with painted crawling ants and melted clocks.

I stood in line at the ticket counter with about another 50 people waiting to start their adventure at the Dalí Museum.

I was pleasantly surprised to know USF students get in for free.

Before reaching the steps to the spiral staircase, I saw the small cafe with the fancy name- Café Gala. At the foot of the stairs, a guard in a business suit stood with one of those secret service headsets. Are they protecting paintings or the President of the United States of America?, I thought.

I continued up the steps and stood by the funky, glass enigma. It was a see-through blob protruding from the building.

I made my way into the gallery where a crowd of spectators had already formed around the museum docent. She first told us about the Morse family. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse were close friends of Dalí and had a small collection of his works. The very first painting they bought and the first I saw was Daddy Longlegs of the Evening, Hope of 1940.

At first glance, I wasn't impressed.

There was so much going on, splattered all over the painting. But then the docent began to analyze each part. The strong horse and soft airplane shooting out of a cannon; that symbolized war and the victory born out of a broken wing. The human-like figure in the middle of the painting drooping; a sense of falling, wasting away. The ants symbolize destruction and decay, but the spider--the daddy long legs--means hope. And all of this was in reference to World War II.

Wow! So many emotions encompassed on one canvas. When each element was carefully looked at, the bigger picture came into view. Things weren't just splattered. At this point I was definitely intrigued.

Next was Dali's Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's "Angelus." The woman figure was slightly larger than the male. The docent also mentioned some similarity to a praying mantis who sometimes devours her mate after intercourse. All in all, the painting reflects the importance and the power women have had in Dali's life.

And women were plenty in Dalí's paintings. Girl With Curls from 1926, is a particularly captivating piece. Dalí paints a girl, her back towards the onlooker, awkwardly larger than the background of the town. She appears to be larger than life.

Dalí painted his nanny, his sister and his wife Gala. After meeting Gala, she was an inspiration for many of Dalí's works afterwards.  

After the docent finished our tour, I went back downstairs and picked up an audio headset and did the self- tour. Here, I was in my own little world, it was just Dalí and me.

I spent more than an hour going through the paintings on my own. I felt like I finally had been introduced to the talented and imaginative Salvador Dalí. And the pleasure was all mine.

I stepped into a whole new world through each of Dalí's paintings without ever stepping a foot out of St. Petersburg. Walking out of that  building made me realize that true discovery isn't finding new things to explore but seeing it with different eyes.