What Do the Mona Lisa and Mount Rushmore Have in Common? 


A friend sent me this image, which I love. I’ve never seen the show, but I like how this illustrates modern vs. classical, and the intrigue of secrets.

It reminded me of my first trip to the Louvre, the grand palace of art that could take you years to explore.

Before I even got to the collections, I spent hours strolling around the foundation of the building itself. I enjoyed walking over the medieval moat, beside the grand tower that protected Paris starting around 1190.

There is something about stone from the middle ages that nourishes my soul.

From there, I eventually made my way up to the paintings and really took my time with the works that I liked the most, largely from the Renaissance, when proportion started to enter the picture.

Going as slowly as this, I didn’t get very far before the museum closed.

The next day I went back and retraced my steps. I was compelled to visit the foundation again.

Then I ended up further on in the Renaissance than I’d been the day before.

An enormous crowd was gathered before a tiny work. People were pushing past each other and squeezing in between each other, pressing toward the painting.

It was as if it were the only piece of art in the entire place.

I was repelled.

I despise crowds–not on the Metro, where it’s natural for people to cram together at busy times on busy lines–but I deplore crowds when they converge for the sake of checking off a box on the itinerary.

A few years later, I was back in Paris with a case of extreme jet lag. We went to the Louvre to sit before the statues and sort of melt off our strungoutness.

This was a more off-season time of year, and it was a weekday, and it was lunchtime.

So Mona Lisa was on her own.

She is glorious–don’t get me wrong. She’s very much alive. Her background is cool too, and I love the symbolism, and her history.


One thing that’s interesting is that she’s actually quite small.

While she herself is luminous, her renown reminded us in a way of Mount Rushmore.

Years before, we’d taken a series of road trips. Along the way on our second journey we camped in the Badlands in South Dakota and caved in to Wall Drug and explored Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and since we were hitting just about every stop that exists in the Western US, we figured we’d visit Mount Rushmore too.

On the way there, we’d cruised hundreds of miles of open road and sometimes endless eons of seeing no more than two other cars.

Now hundreds of cars, trucks, SUVs, campers, motorcycles, and RVs had converged to honk and inch up the road toward the monument.

We could see the carving from the road, which was surprisingly small and frankly underwhelming.

It was even a bit pompous, bombastic, and almost kind of sad.

So we blazed past, doing what we called a drive-by, and have never regretted it.

After a week or two in the majestic Big Horns of Wyoming, one friend and I parted from our significant others and continued on to Flagstaff, AZ.

Along the way and during our stay we kept up the momentum and the joy of hitting practically every place of interest there is west of the Mississippi: parts of the Rocky Mountain National Park, White Sands, the Four Corners, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, Hoover Dam, Lowell Observatory, a place called Tuba City that looks like the moon if its sands were blue, Monument Valley, Meteor Crater, Oak Creek Canyon, Mesa Verde, Verde Valley, Route 66, Jerome, the Museum of Northern Arizona, Coconino National Forest, Little Colorado River Gorge, etc.

We covered nearly every tourist trap and every authentically interesting place possible, but we’d missed one little thing.

So on our way back to Wisconsin we made the stop. We figured it wouldn’t be so grand, and that we’d just do a drive-by.

Sure enough, we drove into the park and it sort of looked just like general Northern Arizona: arid and rocky and dotted with pinyon pines.

We said, “This is the Grand Canyon? Meh.”

And then we stepped to the edge and looked down and said, “Holy fucking shit.”



About Erin Harris

I'm a copywriter by day and a fiction writer by night. I also write about food, travel, music, film, and much more.
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One Response to What Do the Mona Lisa and Mount Rushmore Have in Common? 

  1. Pingback: Today’s a Good Day for Art | Erin Harris

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