A few days after “The Scream” arrived at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC, I ran uptown to the museum. I enjoy Edvard Munch and his moody, gloomy depictions of figures in disturbing landscapes. But when I got there, my focus changed to the crowd drawn to the color version of Munch’s iconic image.
It was a bit scary!
As usual MoMA attracts an international crowd of art lovers and tourists. Those two groups are not mutually exclusive — art-loving visitors to New York exist just as art-loving tourists go to Rome, Berlin, Paris…. I’m going to be an art-loving tourist in Florence next week, so I’ll do my share of tromping through museums.
Judging from the number of people crowded around “The Scream” (snapping photos with their phones and jostling for a closer vantage point) it was the absolute star of the show. I know that for many people it’s the single image that comes to mind when they hear the name Munch and for others it’s connected to Macaulay Culkin as a child star. To me, it’s just the most popular of many intriguing creations from Munch’s imagination.
While the “paparazzi” were focused on the superstar, I had time to visit the rest of Munch’s cast of characters. I felt a little lonely as I strolled around the room to see some of Munch’s other notable works. “Angst,” “The Vampire,” “The Lonely Ones,” and “The Storm” have always spoken to me with a more powerful voice than the almost cartoonish “Scream.” Don’t get me wrong “The Scream” is iconic for a reason. It’s compelling and raw. It draws people to its painful protagonist, but that’s where it stops — for me. The story ends abruptly, while “The Storm” and many of his other woodcuts, paintings and prints, suggest entire stories to the viewer — stories that change and grow each time I see them.
“The Scream” just screams. Still the crowd seemed to love it. And getting lost in that mindless mass of humanity would have made me let out a howl. Did I scream? No, of course not. I snuck a peak at the famous, tortured screamer, wriggled out of the crowd and spent my time with “The Lonely Ones,” “The Vampire” and the others because I like my scary images —and scary stories— to offer complex messages and not always at the top of their lungs.