The Age of Iron is a sculpture by Rodin, housed (at least it was, in 1988) in the Museu d’Art Modern in Barcelona. As far as I can remember, it was from Rodin’s Age of Bronze era. I am not particularly interested in doing further research on the statue. I guard the current relationship I have to it rather fiercely.
So yes, the title means what it says. I gave head to the Age of Iron. What was I thinking?
Well, I’d been wandering through the museums of Barcelona for days and days. I was probably in need of some lunch. The Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona is actually a bit stuffy; it’s housed in the left wing of the Palau de la Ciutadella where the Parliament of Catalonia (regional parliament) meets. Most of the art there isn’t really modern, at least not in the Gaudi or Picasso sense. I think I’d been expecting work that was more avant garde or contemporary.
Disappointed, I wandered into a room full of sculpture and found myself looking up at a naked man carved out of marble. The piece was by Auguste Rodin. This naked man, who was meant to represent one of the “ages of man,” was, I had to admit, pretty spectacular. I looked up at him; I thought, idly, could this man ever be flesh? Would he be as desirable if he indeed were here, with me, fully embodied? Would he in fact be more desirable than is the marble representation of his idealized being?
The museum was for the most part empty. As I stood there, thinking sexy thoughts about a marble statue, a middle-aged couple wandered into the sculpture room. I glanced at them; they glanced at me. Then they glanced around at the art. Nothing caught their interest, and so they wandered on to the next room.
The only other flesh-and-blood person in the room was the museum guard. When I first walked into the room, the guard had checked me out, in that way that Catalonian men will. A fast up-and-down with the eyes, and you feel as though they’d already put their hands all over you. However, it was just after lunch. Perhaps the guard had eaten a heavy sandwich; at any rate, that brief current of desire sputtered, then died down, and he relapsed into his bored state, his eyes becoming once again heavy-lidded, half-seeing. And so they remained, until the middle-aged couple passed from the Age of Iron room, on to the other room under the guard’s watch.
I glanced again over at the guard, feeling his momentary indecision, as his mind shook off its somnolence and sharpened into alertness. I remained where I was, conscious of his eyes on me again. Nothing sexual in his gaze now—he had his job to do, had to make up his mind. Which of the museum-goers should he watch? Which should he keep his eyes on? I turned my own eyes to the statue again, and, after a moment’s more hesitation, the guard turned his back on me, and followed the middle-aged couple into the next room. I was left alone, standing before Age of Iron’s magnificence.
Remember that I’d been living alone in Europe for some time. And I had spent a lot of that time thinking about and looking at art. There I stood, alone in the sculpture room in the Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona. And I thought to myself: here I am in Europe, looking at art. My god. What will I have to take away from this experience? What does one do with all this art at which one has stared?
Which is when I decided to change my relationship to this particular work of art.
The penis of Age of Iron is not erect. It is, however, because it is made of marble, very hard. It was cold as well. When I put my mouth on it, I experienced the strangest fluttering sensation in my brain.
I pulled my head back, then glanced around quickly to look for the guard. He was still in the other room, his back to me. Age of Iron and I were still alone. I looked up at the statue’s face once more. I tried to take the moment in, tried to let it drench itself in my consciousness.
Then I turned my back on Rodin’s magnificent work. On my way out of the museum, I met the guard's eyes with a lingering look. I know he had no idea what that look meant. For me, that was part of the pleasure of the look.
Then I was through the portal, out of the museum, back on the street, feeling, in a delicious new way, strangely exposed to the sunshine and the wind and the press of warm moving bodies.