The bright Southern sun beaming down full force as we wait (and wait... and wait... this was low-season, after all) for a Canal Streetcar displaying "City Park" in its front window, not "Cemeteries," my enthusiasm for spending at least a half-hour in the brewing heat, wandering the Sculpture Garden of the New Orleans Museum of Art, was waning – quickly. Yet after the oh-so-wonderful air-conditioning within the Canal Streetcar gave me a brief respite from the cloudless skies and I discovered the garden almost totally ensconced by patches of shade, my confidence that it would be the highlight of my activities over the past 3 days was renewed.
Quite understandably, the garden was practically empty, save for a loitering young couple, a concentrating artist, and an older man relaxing on one of the welcoming benches scattered haphazardly around the surprisingly large expanse of statues, sculptures, and squirrels. Thinking the calm of the South was finally sinking into my tense New York bones, my ears almost becoming used to the tweeting of the exotic creatures called birds, I practically jump across the still pond in front of me upon hearing the whistle of a train. Turning back towards the entrance, I spot the source of the noise, the most darling thing I’ve ever seen: an extended miniature train carrying only one, maybe two families around City Park, the perfect breeze-inducing break for the parents of an energized 4-year-old or train aficionado.
"Arachnophobia" being my favorite movie as a scary-movie-loving child, I’m instantly drawn to the massive sculpture titled "Spider" by Louise Bourgeois, after my attention has been drawn back into the garden. This bronze sculpture of a winding, knotted body and outstretched, knobby legs is the most, for lack of a better word, awesome sculpture I have ever seen (sorry, "David"), and I spend 5 minutes walking around the mass and even, feeling a little childish, through its legs, stopping myself short of acting out a scene from the aforementioned film.
The man resting on the bench now giving me quizzical glances, I giddily move away from the spider and neighboring "Tree of Necklaces," an ode to Mardi Gras with overly large beads hanging from an actual tree, to explore the other mostly bronze pieces by artists from the world over, including Israel, France, and Columbia. Walking past "Tortoise," which might as well be the live animal crawling out from his plant surroundings, I feel a pang of guilt about that turtle soup at Commander’s before smiling at the lucky photo op in front of me – the artist reveling in a smoke while accompanying the realistic "Three Figures and Four Benches." Only briefly disturbing him, I start back through the shushed garden smelling almost of fragrant herbs and encounter "Monkeys," the second most awesome sculpture I have ever seen, one of human arms growing from a group of monkeys atop a granite surface. Hey, "David," maybe you’ll consider trading in the Galleria dell'Academia for some Southern hospitality?