For Your Consideration: Devastating Art When You’re Devastated

for your consideration

Welcome to For Your Consideration, a new series about things we love and love to do — and we’d like to give you permission to embrace your authentic self and love them too.


Like church on Sundays for the first 18 years of my life, I now go to the Met on Fridays as if it were a ritual, without even having to think about it.

It happened by accident. I came out of therapy one day in Chelsea somewhere, gasping for air, unsure of where to go or what to do. My friend said come to the Met, and I did. I walked over 60 blocks; through Times Square, a surreal and upsetting space to navigate during heightened emotions but alas I couldn’t bring myself to bury myself underground in the subway.

So I went to the Met one Friday and then the next and then the next. After long searching for one, I finally found a post-therapy routine that felt good.

(I’ve been in therapy twice a week for the past few months for reasons I’ll write about one day. But I’m not ready yet. I’m too… in it. It would feel like writing about drowning while drowning.)

After that first time, I realized that the Met was one of the only places in the city where I felt alive, one of the only places where it was possible to tune out everything and just exist — quietly, easily.

My friend once told me that therapy sessions could heal in the long run, but the immediate aftermath of a session often feels like opening a wound. “And then you’re just standing there bleeding,” she said. Exactly, I thought. Everyone should have a post-therapy routine for that reason, something to stop the bleeding.

And so, if you’re going to be emotionally raw for the rest of the day, why not surround yourself with devastatingly beautiful art to cauterize those wounds? I go to the Met to feel small and significant all at once. I feel anonymous there, but I also feel… meaningful. Like there’s a reason for me to be standing here, in this white-walled room that glows in natural light. The statues move me most. I still can’t believe that human hands can make curves and angles like this out of nothing more than stone.

In a brief and mostly inconsequential scene in the Netflix rom com Set It Up, a tourist asks Charlie if they should go to the Met. “Do you like beautiful art that makes you re-examine what it means to be human?” he asks. “Then, yeah, The Met’s worth it.” I’m not in the business of relating to or quoting male romantic leads in rom coms, but… I felt that.

For six weeks, I visited the Heavenly Bodies collection — the most popular costume collection that has ever been shown at the Met. It was worth the hype. Its meditations on religion, history, and modesty are complex and, yeah, spiritual. There’s scripture woven into this fabric, but there’s also a playful sense of humor.

The over-the-top fantasy clashing with rigid tradition in the Heavenly Bodies collection is, to put it in highly academic terms, a paradox that goes all the way off!!!! I don’t know how to talk about art at all, and it even intimidates me to tell someone I like a piece of art, because then I worry that they’ll ask why, and I’ll have to explain, and maybe I’ll sound like an art idiot. Fuck that! Wandering an art museum solo, silent, and slightly on edge is one of the best ways to do art museums. You can just let the art wreck you and not have to explain it to anyone.

Going to the Met in the midst of an emotional breakdown is a highly specific thing that I can’t very well recommend to everyone. But find your post-therapy trip to the Met. Figure out what it is that you can do to feel challenged yet grounded; inspired yet introspective. Maybe it’s an art museum or a gallery or a mural on the street. Take a moment to look at the art of others, to see the painstaking work that other people have done in their own heightened moments. Jot down what a piece makes you feel. It doesn’t have to be profound. It doesn’t have to be more than a word. Art grounds.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but do it in a place that’s safe and allows for some fantasy. Art is the closest thing we have to time travel, so get away for a bit.

Anyway, here’s some art/fashion that has devastated me recently!

Around the third time I fell under this dress’ spell, I decided that if I were to ever wear a dress again in my life it MUST BE THIS ONE

I love her

same

is she about to rip her own head off? mood!

every statue at the Met is a mood

take me to church

my spooky wife

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a Brooklyn-based writer, television critic, and comedian who spends most of her time over-analyzing queer subtext on television, singing "Take Me Or Leave Me" in public places, and assembling cheese platters. She has a cat named after Piper Halliwell from Charmed, and her go-to karaoke song is "Everywhere" by Michelle Branch. Her writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her screaming in all-caps about Kalinda Sharma, Jennifer Lopez, and oysters on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 161 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. I went to see Heavenly Bodies… I don’t even know how many times. I dragged friends, my sister, my girlfriend. I went to the Cloisters. It was devastating and beautiful and everything. (The Met is also great for Emotional Days, as opposed to other museums in the city; it’s so big and expansive and there are plenty of smaller galleries and little wings and corners and nooks where you can hide and cry.)

    Also, I am with you. Bury me in the red Valentino.

  2. I never, ever use the term “is giving me life” but I want to use it to describe this piece???? Like what a wonderful, refreshing, thoughtful, relatable, awesome idea this is. I’m also so glad there were some photos (with signature hilarious Kayla captions that made me laugh gently out loud). I have to think about what my Met could be!

    Also: great job going to therapy and finding this ritual. You’re crushing it.

  3. I love love love this!

    Coincidentally, I’ve been feeling weary and agitated for a couple days after being surrounded by too many people, buildings, and cars – and not enough nature. I just popped into a nearby contemporary art museum only to be confronted, alone, with a gigantic abstract sculpture installation and a small, dark room featuring a Frida Kahlo painting.

    It was magnificent ❤️

  4. When I was in college I lived a 30-minute walk from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and I went there a lot when I was feeling emotionally unstable, cause my student ID got me in for free and it was quiet and nice and I’d just go down to the Ancient Egyptian section or into one of the tiny side galleries and sit there and think.

  5. Beautiful. I relate so strongly to this! I love experiencing art alone, and especially if I am feeling Big Feelings, it can be a world-rocking thing. My version of this is most often going to the movies – I love sitting in the dark theater and crying. Wandering an art museum in those moments is so good too – I have often felt almost drunk. Surrounding oneself with beautiful art while processing emotions is saying “these feelings are so big, let me feel them somewhere deep enough to pool them all out into.” Art spaces can take it. What a way to honor your emotions and come out the other end, spent yes, but also having “stopped the bleeding” with beauty. Ugh I ramble, but I love that you wrote about this. And I may have just seen a movie alone and Felt Things so it is on my mind..

  6. I LOVE HEAVENLY BODIES! I literally couldn’t leave the exhibit during my visit to the Met. For the past few months I kept revisiting the background music of the exhibition “Time Lapse” by Michael Nyman even though I can never seem to find a track with the same strings arrangements …

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