On Friday, my friend Heather and I took an afternoon to wander around The Menil Collection, a fantastic Houston museum that displays everything from Native American art from the Pacific Northwest to surrealist paintings by Rene Magritte. The space is cool and open and quiet without being stodgy, and it was the perfect way to end a week full of Too Much Undergraduate DRAMA.
I was enjoying myself. I could feel the muscles in my neck relaxing. I happily lingered in front of my favorite painting in the collection, Magritte’s Empire of Lights, and I was simultaneously unsettled and delighted at the spiny wild man costume in the “room of wonders,” a smaller room in the museum that, according to the Menil website, displays “the types of exotic curiosities that captivated and inspired” surrealist artists.
And then it appeared. The cheese with hair.
Apparently the hairy cheese is the work of Robert Gober, who fashioned it out of beeswax and human hair in 2005. It sits in the Menil with its cheesiness and its hairiness in a soft museum light that does nothing to detract from its horror. It lures you in with its apparent normalness. Hello there, wedge of cheese, you think. And then you turn the corner.
There are not many inanimate objects that haunt my dreams. I sometimes awake at 3 am, aware that while asleep I was wandering around the grounds of a neglected barn, lit by a blue-white fluorescent bulb. That building is real and was just down the street from my neighborhood when we lived in Cary, Illinois. And now and then a particularly deranged Struwelpeter puppet I saw at the Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood will find its way into my dreams, wrapping its unnaturally long fingers around my forearm as I pass through a dark doorway.
But rest assured, dear readers, my unconscious has carefully filed away the cheese with hair, and it will make many a cameo in my nightmares.