7 Days: Watching From the Sidelines?

Eakins AutotypeAs we look upon the scene of the last 38 days, we can sympathize with Eakins. As he depicted himself leaning into the scene of the surgery (seen here in a detail from a collotype reproduction) the artist was uncertain if his masterpiece would be embraced or rejected. On the eve of this possible rift in our cultural landscape, we, too, watch uncertain on the sidelines. 

We care. But there are not very many of us. Not when the pricetag is $68 million.

As of late last week, the Philadelphia Museum of Art said there were more than 1,600 contributors to the fund to keep the painting. That’s not a small number, but it’s hardly a large one. As we put it back on “Day 25,” this matter is not really in our hands, it’s in the hands of a few billionaires.

But our voices do matter. As we look back on the last 38 days, it seems we’ve taken our role as stewards seriously. This exercise has fortified our sense of place and confirmed our idea of what has meaning. Now, on the eve of a shift in our cultural ecology we look upon an extraction very much as did Eakins: knowing, and a bit helpless.

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