09 August 2009

And the end of the trip

We rode the train into Chicago. We were way out in the suburbs, so the ride was about 45 minutes, but at least we didn't have to drive in the city or look for parking. I specifically wanted to visit the Art Institute of Chicago. It was nearly lunchtime by the time we got to the museum, and the Cuddly Hubby had not had breakfast. On the other hand, I was eager and a little cranky -- don't get between me and the great art, okay? Oh, and we did have a nice surprise. Our membership level at the High Museum here in Atlanta was high enough that we got reciprocal rights at the Art Institute. So we didn't have to pay for admission. Cuddly Hubby went off in search of food, I went off in search of art, and we agreed to meet later in front of Sunday on the Grand Jatte.

I wandered through the Asian collection, and eventually found my way to the temporary exhibit "Beyond Golden Clouds: Japanese Screens from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Saint Louis Art Museum." I was initially interested but skeptical -- from the title, I could tell this was an example of "in these hard economic times, let's collaborate from our own collections so we can have an exhibit on the cheap." I had forgotten what I had learned to graduate school: Never underestimate what is in the basement of a major museum. Museums are like icebergs, you are only seeing 10 percent. There is usually a lot of good stuff in the other 90%. There are a many reasons something will be in a museum basement. Fragile works on paper, such as drawings, prints, scrolls, or Japanese screens stay mostly in storage because prolonged exhibition can cause them to deteriorate. Sometimes works are in storage because the artist is not famous or the style is not popular. For example, there is a lot of great 17th century Dutch art in the basement of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Americans are not as fond of, knowledgeable about, or attracted by Dutch Baroque as they are by French Impressionism or Italian Renaissance. Given the choice between hanging a gallery of excellent Dutch genre paintings or a gallery of so-so Impressionism, many museums will hang the names people know. I happen to like Pre-Raphaelite, but rarely get to see it in person because it is not well-represented in American museums and because it is not typically the stuff of blockbuster exhibitions.

So, I walked into the screen exhibit. And the first screen was so amazing that I considered spending the remainder of the day looking at it and not even worrying about the rest of the Art Institute. That screen is Landscape of the Four Seasons dating to about 1560 by Sesson Shükei. This is mostly a black ink painting with touches of color -- a green like oxidized copper and a red like cinnabar. The variety of strokes, the use of negative and positive space, the inclusion of people and architecture within the landscape all left me fascinated. I spent probably half an hour just staring at it in delight. I could actually feel my body reacting. Truly an amazing work and well worth the effort to traipse into the city. I did, eventually, walk through the rest of the show. But by the time I met Cuddly Hubby, I was beginning to think that I may have spent six years of graduate school studying the wrong stuff. I did purchase the exhibition catalog. And I was tempted to write a fan letter to the curator. Wow!

Cuddly Hubby and I spent the rest of the afternoon browsing the collection. There's plenty more to see on another trip. But I was very interested in seeing the Stock Exchange Trading Room. It is tucked off in a corner, but it was worth searching it out. The patterning on the walls and ceiling are especially delightful. Thank you to the many architecture patrons who, although they could not save the building, did manage to save some pieces of it. (A pair of staircases from the Stock Exchange have been built into the architecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I've touched them and walked on them.) The picture at right is far too golden (no flash, please), but will give you some sense of the scale and grandeur of the space.

About dinner time we left the museum and found a nearby restaurant that serves Chicago-style pizza. So we ate good pizza, took the train back to the suburbs, and then drove to Indianapolis for the night.

The following day, we headed over to Ohio. The picture at right is a screen shot from the Garmin. While I do find the GPS to be a very handy device, it sometimes gets temperamental when you step off the proscribed path for a moment. In this case, we had exited the highway in order to acquire more fuel. As Cuddly Hubby says, "Don't get your algorithm in a wad."

Saturday's adventure was a return to airplanes. We visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. (By the way, the "Wright" part of the name is for the Wright brothers.) We met our dear friends, Camille and Clayton, who drove up from Kentucky. So the four of us enjoyed a tour of many, many airplanes. Many. And the museum has several singular examples -- either "the only one ever built" or "the last remaining one." The level of aviation coolness in this one place is beyond words. And there were numerous trophies and awards on display, including the Congressional Medal of Honor and an Emmy belonging to Bob Hope. We didn't even go out to the Presidential hanger or set foot in the Aviation Hall of Fame and we still ran out of time in the three main hangers. And silly me, I didn't check ahead of time. I know for next time to download the podcast tour. The photograph is Cuddly Hubby and I with the Apollo XV capsule. If you are into machines that fly, this place is on par with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

After the airplanes, we followed Camille and Clayton back to Kentucky. We had a wonderful dinner and a good night's rest. The following day we got to see their new home. They had just closed on the house and were in that in between stage where their stuff was still in the rental home but they had the keys to their own home. We are obviously very happy and excited for them. And they have a great room in the basement with a big fireplace. It would be perfect as a "tavern" for gaming. Just saying.

As we had a delicious brunch in Lexington and got a late start on the road, we got home after dark. No complaints, as it was a dang fine trip all around.

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