My late father never took me to a museum. He had little patience for velvet-roped quiet, gilt-framed paintings, static sculpture and dioramas. So I was shocked when I felt his almost palpable presence on a
recent visit to Hartford, Connecticut’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, in his view one of those “high class joints that could use a little shaking up.” He was so clearly beside me that I could smell his skin, hear his indelible Brooklyn accent. I was so sure he had spoken, that I looked around me astonished that no one else had heard him. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. I was in the middle of “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861—2008.” Indeed, the exhibition seemed to be shaking up America’s oldest public art museum with images and reminiscences of Brooklyn, New York’s exuberant and grotesque ongoing mardi gras, just a short walk from my dad’s childhood home.