Leonardo Lives in Kansas City

This past week, I signed books at Kansas City’s Union Station where — right now through May 1st — there’s an awesome Leonardo exhibition on display. While signing books, I met all kinds of intelligent, kind people. I signed books for a dairy farmer from Bolivar, a women’s studies professor, and seven-year old Giovanna who hopes to grow up to be a writer, too. It was a heartwarming day filled with heartwarming people.

And topping it all was this exhibit. I’ve seen a lot of Leonardo exhibitions, but I have to give this one a special shout out because it succeeded in doing what so many don’t: it made Leonardo feel HUMAN. It made him feel like a man — flawed, brilliant, unique — instead of an untouchable legend.

I’m a novelist, so usually I write a lot in these posts, but this exhibition did such a wonderful job, I want my pictures to take the lead in bringing Leonardo to life…

First, I loved that this exhibit made Leonardo LIFE SIZED. It didn’t recreate his ideas as tiny models, but as human-scale versions. It made it feel like Leonardo’s designs had come to life. I especially enjoyed the model of his military tank (which is featured in one section of my novel, Oil and Marble).

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Then there was his scuba gear, which wasn’t just displayed as some limp-looking alien suit, but placed in an area with lighting and sound effects to make it feel like we had all descended underwater alongside Leonardo.

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Then there was the interactive Mona Lisa station, where visitors put up their own drawings of Lisa, and I got to become her (here I am imagining Leonardo painting ME).

But my favorite part about this exhibit was the recreation of Leonardo’s studio. In many ways this version was just as I had imagined it. In some ways different. I, too, picture Leonardo’s sketches tacked to the walls. But I think he would’ve been messier than this…

 

If you’re anywhere near Kansas City between now and early May, this exhibit is well worth a stop. If nothing else, you will feel like you have spent a few hours with Leonardo… and who wouldn’t like to befriend the Master from Vinci, even if only for a moment?

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