Friday, June 26, 2009

Favorites from The Art Institute of Chicago

Although I didn't get to take my own photographs, as I had intended on this trip, I thought I'd show you a few of the reasons I love returning and returning to the Art Institute of Chicago. To start the tour:

My longest readers have seem this painting before. This is The Enchanted Mill by Franz Marc. I love his color pallet, I love his figures, I love the juxtapositions of movement and stillness. I love this painting. Next:

St George killing the Dragon by Bernardo Martorell. This work is nostalgic more than anything. The second time I took Hannah to the museum she spent the first couple of hours just - looking for something. Finally she stops in front of this painting and lets out a rather explosive breath. "There it is!" she exclaims. "I've been looking for The Dragon all day!" She didn't remember enough about the painting to be able to ask about it, but the image had stuck with her. Now, every visit MUST include a visit with St. George and the Dragon.

The Cloisters, San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura by C.W. Eckersburg. This painting always sneaks up on me. I forget about it until suddenly come face-to-face with it in the gallery. It is pretty small, really only about 23x31, so it's hidden in a corner by a doorway. I love it because it reminds me of the cloisters at San Markos I visited in Italy, except these cloisters are inhabited correctly by the contemplative monks whereas san Markos was peopled by frowzy, dehydrated, overwhelmed tourists - including myself. I love the shading in the crossed over ceilings here, and the sunlight pouring in from the right that up lights the rest of the scene. Mostly I love the peace - the sense of firmness, timelessness, and grace that inhabits the entire work.

Mme. de Pastorette and her son by Jacques Louis David ( remember to pronounce it daVEED even when you read it to yourself, thank you!) I like this one because it has a great story, and it is the only David portrait I get to see on a regular basis. David's Mme. Julie Recamier is my absolute favorite, but she is in the Louvre. Mme. de Pastorette is unfinished because her husband starting talking politics with the painter and found out they were on different sides of the french revolution, so the sittings were discontinued. The baby in the crib grew up and eventually purchased the unfinished work from the artist.

It really is a world-class collection that everyone ought to look at - at least once. They even have audio guides for those who aren't sure how to look at this stuff by yourself.

Cheers! ~M.E.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

a few pix before the camera died.

This is a view from the second floor balcony across the atrim of the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

One of the spacious remodeled galleries where the Impressionists and Post-Impressionist collections are displayed. (these galleries used to contain the 20th century collection)

La Grand Jatte with a few admirers in it's new setting. The wall was painted to compliment the work. The only thing I miss is that there is no bench in front of the work anymore - so you can't sit and have a visit.

Extra Points for anyone who can correctly identify any of the works seen in the second photo, or the one on the periphery of the last photograph. ~M.E.

A Trip to AIC Pt. 1

I road tripped to Chicago yesterday to ease my museum deficiency. A good pal and I spent the day at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was the first time I had been there since they opened the new Modern Wing, and had finished remodeling all of the galleries on the second floor - where the European painting galleries are kept. The museum has been under construction since about 2005, but they seem to have finished for now. It was good to see Gustave Caillebotte's 'Paris, Rainy Day 1877' in its accustomed place, along with most of the Impressionist paintings that adorn that first gallery, but after that, everything changes and the Impressionism collection is hung in new galleries leading the visitor along a path that leads to the new wing, where their 20th century holdings are shown.

"A Sunday on la Grand Jatte - 1884" by George Seurat, the second Major Player in the collection, has acquired a very visible new space, where it can be viewed from as far away as about 50 feet back - but you can still approach and stick your nose a few inches from the surface. It is now shown together with the preparatory paintings, and the one other small work they have by Serat, in the same space ( they were separated before), along with a couple of other pointillism paintings by other artists. It makes it very easy to compare the works now. Good Job, AIC curators!

The brand spankin' new modern wing doesn't pretend for a second to 'fit' with the architecture of the old buildings: It's new, and not ashamed to let everyone know. It houses everything less than 100 years old, it seems. I had a hard time finding the European paintings from 1900ish -1950ish - but after a short chat with a smiling lady at one of the many information desks, they were located in the galleries on the very top floor of the new addition, all by their lonesome.

Just inside the door I gleefully showed my traveling companion one of my favorite reasons why I tell people that reproductions - no matter how lovely- too often don't tell the whole story. Pablo Picasso's "The Old Guitarist" is from his blue period, and was painted on a rather obviously reused canvas. In the original, the ghostly face of a portrait of a lady can be seen behind the figure, her eyes showing in the texture just above the bent neck of the old man if you can get the right angle to look at the texture of the paint. Once those are located, it is pretty easy to trace the oval of her head, and the sloping shoulders before the Old Man takes over the bottom of the canvas and she is lost beneath the paint again. Our stooping and pointing antics, OK, MY stooping and pointing, drew a bit of a crowd, and several other people were able to spot the ghostly lady before I quickly moved on with my laughing friend. I have never seen a reproduction where she is evident - maybe a little bit on the Museum's own hi-def I'm looking at right now - It is an 'easter egg' saved just for the astute viewer of the original painting, and far from the only example in the art world of this sort of thing.

To be continued... ~M.E.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another profession to check off my list

I found another job that I couldn't do today: Camp Nurse. I had to go out to Church Camp and get Hannah today and take her to prompt care for a staph infection. All turned out OK, but I had to turn in a set of antibiotics to the camp nurse when I took her back.

As I was filling out the form and explaining that Hannah is susceptible to the wrenched things, a trio of dripping high school girls schlepped into the first aide cabin. They obviously had just come from the pool, and were all just a bit sunburned and pouty.

"I have a head ache again." the first one whines through her nose. You have to imagine the whine, since I could never do it justice. "Worse than last night, it's really bad." ( Think BAAAAAAD!!!!!! and end with a little sniff and whimper.)

" Do you have these headaches often?" the nurse inquires.

"Not at home, but every year I come out here. It *really, really* hurts!" More insufferable whining.

" Have you been drinking enough water."

" I've been drinking LOTS of water, I need Tylenol! Really bad!"

" Rules are in order to get Tylenol, you have to drink a liter of water, and lie down on a cot here in the hut for 20 minutes first. Then you have to stay for 20 minutes after, lying down and drinking more water. Just like yesterday." The nurse seems to at least have a clue in this situation.

" But I just want to get some Tylenol, and go back to the picnic tables with my friends." (Keep imagining the insufferable whine)

"20 minutes and a liter of water, first." the nurse says, standing her ground.
When headache girl pauses, her friend pipes up:" My legs are killing me, I need some ibuprofin." in a less whiny, but still totally annoying voice.

" Leg cramps in this weather mean too much exercise, or dehydration, so it'll be 20 minutes and a liter of water for you, too." The nurse says wearily.

"But I think I just strained something in the pool... I just need some ibuprofin." The second girl says, ratcheting up the whine two notches.

"Then the rest will do you some good, would you like an ice pack too?" The girls mumble and grump back to the section where there are some cots, and the nurse pulls a large pitcher of water and two cups out of the fridge, she looks at the third girl.

"I just came up here to make sure they were ok." she mumbles as she scoots out the door.

I'm sure she deals with this 40 times a day - it sure looked like she did. I wanted to laugh so much. I loved the punitive enforced nap. Like an over tired 2 year old, that's all they really need anyhow. ~M.E.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This Week In Crankyland

1) H Girl is going to be gone to camp for most of the next two weeks. I'll clean house for two or three days, take an in-house vacation until Friday - when she'll be home for 43 hours - then go back to vacationing.

2) Unless the friend who I'm trying to talk into going to NYC with me finds out she can't go, then I may use some of my cash and roadtrip someplace - but not to NYC by myself because I don't want to give the false impression to impressionable younger ladies that doing something like that alone is a safe and reasonable thing to do, even for the adventurous.

3) Kit foxes are cute. We have a female fox with two babies that we see in our yard quite often recently.

4) I'm sure I had four things, but I must have misplaced one.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Twice in the last few days I've been reminded that I should update my blog. I suppose that means I have at least two fans - or at the very least two people who use my posts to try and figure out what's clanking around in my head. I've been working on an entry about the artist Willem de Kooning - whom I've never understood but have recently taken a liking to - but those in the know realize that if I'm posting about artists it's my favorite form of escapism, and then they go snooping around to find what I'm escaping from.

But, I have found something worth writing about: a book. Yesterday whilst digging around at the Lincoln Public Library for a copy of the Rule of St. Benedict ( for some totally unrelated art research) my eye was drawn to a copy of a book titled I'm Fine with God... It's Christians I Can't Stand By Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. I like Bruce and Stan. I've read their stuff on several occasions and rarely been disappointed. They write in salty, crunchy, little tidbits that are concise and thought provoking. Their books are set in friendly fonts with side-bars and interpolated quotes that make it easy to read a paragraph or two and come out with a thought to mull over until you can pick up the book again. They tackle rough ideas with grace and humility, and put smiley faces on the covers. They Rock even when I don't agree with them.

This book, I'm Fine with God... It's Christians I Can't Stand , caught my eye and instantly appealed to the misanthropic mind-set that I occasionally fall into. Several times in the last few months I've felt the sting of being 'out Christian-ed' by others of my own faith. The old quote from M Girl bubbles up in my mind:" If these are my Christian friends, no wonder I like to hang out with the heathens." The trouble is, I know where that road leads. If a faithful Christ-follower does that - especially without proper support and a super-solid base then it is pretty easy to slide on off to start acting and then thinking like one of those 'heathens'. So, I get back up and keep trying even though you all know that I've given up on being a NCL (Nice Christian Lady).

Back to the book: I haven't finished it yet, but I have found that their clear explanation of how Christians brought about the disdain of the rest of the American culture onto ourselves by imposing our morality, politics and family structures on others without first transferring our internal Faith in God pretty enlightening. Sections on paranoia, Modern-day Pharisees, and having our fringe be our front-men are well done. Now back to the Chapter titled: I'm fine with God... But I can't stand Christians who think science is the enemy."

I think I should buy a few copies of this book, and hand them out with encouraging smiles when I encounter brothers and sisters in Christ who make me feel like I don't measure up because I don't act, talk, or believe exactly as they do.