24 July 2008

Origin of an Avatar

Since I'm using the same picture as my avatar both here on the blog and on Ravelry, I thought it would be fun to share the picture in context. It was taken by a dear friend last year during Dragon*Con, which is in downtown Atlanta during Labor Day weekend.

The sculpture behind me is Ballet Olympia, which is in the SunTrust Plaza. The SunTrust building is on a triangular lot formed by Peachtree St NE, Baker St NE, and Peachtree Center Ave NE. This is the spot where Peachtree St NW jogs right, becomes NE, and leads from downtown towards midtown. It is on the block immediately north of the Hyatt Regency, which is one of the main hotels for Dragon*Con. According to a quick internet search, the sculptures were designed by architect John Portman in 1991-1992. There are also fountains as well in this sunken plaza. In terms of urban landscape design, the setting is pretty nice.

As the title suggests, I'm sure the sculptures were part of the maniacal renovations of the city for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. It is hard to believe that was twelve years ago. Sydney and Athens have already hosted, and in another month the Beijing games will be a matter of record. When my graduate adviser, Dr. Craig Zabel, was in town in 2005 for an art history conference, his comment about the still Olympic-themed interior decoration in the Marriott Marquis was that it seemed "a monument to a faded jubilee year." Perhaps someone overheard him, as the Marriott was under renovations last year and I expect it to look completely different for this year's Dragon*Con. Atlanta still has bits here and there -- shrapnel? detritus? artistic confetti? -- that can be discovered by the tourist willing to walk about. What always struck me about the Marriott's decor was that the central lobby listed every city to host the modern summer games. It is a list of the great cities of the world, and amongst it is Atlanta, brash and daring, a nouveau-riche Southern belle so sure of herself she doesn't realize she maybe doesn't belong at this particular party. In another century, will it make sense for Atlanta to be on the same list with Paris, Rome, London, Moscow, Seoul, and Tokyo, or will she look just as out of place as St. Louis?

As for my attire in the picture, my in-laws traveled to India in late 2006. As someone with a passion for textiles, I asked if they would bring me a sari or at least a pretty piece of fabric. They very kindly brought back a couple outfits. One of the great things about Dragon*Con is that you can wear pretty much anything you dang well please during the four-day convention. Well, maybe there are fewer costumes on the last day. So I could not help but seize the opportunity to drape myself in this beautiful swath of mallard blue silk. I try to imagine India, a country full of beautiful, elegant, dark-eyed, brown-skinned women wrapped in fabulous colors; and I have no trouble imagining why the country is so populous.

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