Like many Chicago-area natives, Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate Patrick Bringley comes home for the holidays with plenty of stories.
However, unlike most of his peers, he compiled some of his stories into books.
Bringley’s book “All the Beauties in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me” was published by Simon & Schuster.
It’s about his 10 years working as a caretaker at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met, in New York City. It received rave reviews from The Times of London and others.
Bringley will sign copies of his book at The Rock Shop, 18109 Dixie Highway, Homewood, starting at 7 p.m. Dec. 27.
A tragic loss, the death of his older brother, led Bringley to write the book.
“When I was at ‘The New Yorker,’ I was working in the events department, and my brother Tom, who was two years older than me, got sick and died of soft tissue sarcoma,” Bringley said.
After losing his brother, the last thing Bringley, 40, wanted to do was “go back to an office job where I had to worry about office politics and climbing the corporate ladder.”
“Shocked”, Bringley instead took a job in “the nicest place I could think of” and found it quite therapeutic.
“This is a place you can consider,” he said. “So it was kind of a comfort to be in a place like that.”
Bringley worked there until 2019.
“I loved the job. It was kind of a journey,” she said. “I love art, so I have to be in this place where my main responsibility is to keep my head up and look out for my surroundings, to enjoy beautiful art, to talk to people about it, one day in this chapter, some way in the Next,” he said.
At approximately 2 million square feet, The Met “never runs out of things to look at and think about.”
He especially liked that every day was different.
“One day this is Egyptian art. Picasso the next day. Not just different things to learn, but a different atmosphere. Corn wing? Tons and tons of kids. Did the masters bleed? “It’s an older crowd,” he said.
With nearly 30,000 people coming every day, it was inevitable that he would meet a few characters.
“We used to have some regulars who came every week. “The characters of the art world are dressed in some strange things,” he said. “Things happen. Once upon a time, a man crashed into the frame of a Picasso painting, The Woman in White. It was swinging back and forth on its copper wires.”
Some confused guests ask “where are the dinosaurs” and “things like that if we have the Mona Lisa”.
Art museums don’t usually house dinosaurs, and the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre in Paris.
The Met’s Mona Lisa is likely the popular Washington Crossing the Delaware, he said. Unlike the relatively small Mona Lisa, “this is a huge, billboard-sized painting.”
While the book reflects somewhat on its late brother, it is more about The Met and its influence over the decade.
“There are scenes where I explain why I came to The Met. Additionally, the book partially uses art to reflect life. This is not an art history book where I talk about schools and styles.
“What they’re trying to make very clear is that art at The Met is about life, death, pain, gods, the universe, and everything else,” Bringley said.
Yes, writing a book is a challenging task, especially for a first-time author.
“I always wrote. “I hadn’t forgotten that I had this interesting perspective and that it would be fun to try to write something from that perspective,” he said.
His first idea was to write “a guard’s guide to the Met,” in which he would jump from artwork to artwork, interspersed with anecdotes.
“They give you advice on writing the book you want to read. “It seems to me that what is not written is the experience of looking at art, what brings us to museums, the charismatic attitude of the work of art on people,” he said.
Art lovers “can see themselves in my story because they, too, become silent and get lost in this wonderful museum.”
“And I explain who I am,” he said as he told the story.
Bringley, who spent years scribbling notes for the book idea, said: “Once I found my literary agent, we were off to the races. And we had great success finding a suitable home for it (with Simon & Schuster).”
Bringley, who was in the class of 2001, said he enjoyed his time at Homewood-Flossmoor as he looked back on his high school years.
He grew up in Homewood, where his parents, Jim and Maureen, still reside.
“That’s why I’m doing this event. “We will be with them during the holidays,” he said. His wife, 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter are returning with him.
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“It’s always fun being home. We’ll go downtown, watch ‘A Christmas Carol’ and do Chicago things,” he said.
In addition to being a tourist in his hometown and seeing family and old friends, he will also chat with Rebecca Healy at a book signing session.
Healy, whose maiden name was Gaz, was a high school AP art history teacher. She still teaches art there.
“I assigned her in her first or second year of teaching, her first year of an AP art history class at HF, which is going to be really cool. “It will be great to see him again,” he said, adding: “If it wasn’t for that class, who knows?”
Yes, Bringley was asked that question that first-time book writers can’t avoid: Does he plan to write a second book?
“Yes it is, but it’s too early. I think it will include art again, but maybe not only that,” he said. “Yeah, this book is doing well, so it looks like I’m going to take another bite at the apple.”
Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.