Tim Winton defies the reader's expectations in “Barefoot in the Temple of Art.” We might expect that the author would be put off art for life due to the snobbish treatment dished out to his family when they turn up at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.
Winton's working-class family has come a long way to visit the gallery, all the way from Perth on the west coast. But the Wintons are not admitted into the hallowed halls of the gallery because they're not wearing shoes. The author and his siblings also get told off for playing in the gallery's fountain pools. Dunking is disrespectful, they're informed.
One might expect that this unpleasant experience would forge an unwelcome association in the young Winton's mind between art and social snobbery. And yet it does no such thing. As the author tells us, he was so taken by what he saw at the gallery that he forgot to be embarrassed. He may have entered the hallowed halls of the gallery “barefoot and cowering,” but he strode out of the place “like a man in boots.”
A world of possibility has opened up for the author, inspiring him to pursue a career as a writer. What this astonishing and unexpected development shows us is that, more than anything else, this world is far from being black and white, that it's always much more complex and full of surprises than we might think it is.