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).
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.
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?