Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Farm & the Circus...

...a morning at the Museum of Science and Industry.

While B&R went off to enjoy an architecture cruise along the Chicago River, I met up with a friend from elementary school and her family.  The youngest and most extraverted kids hit it off.

Gazing at the sky...

Just clowning around

Afterward, the whole gang united for lunch at the Elephant and Castle.  Good times!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sky Deck!

The CityPass got us expedited entrance, which was nice.

This could so easily be a Sky Cell a la G.R.R. Martin.... 

We all tried stepping out onto the clear balcony.  It was an interesting case study of mind over matter - intellectually, we all knew that it was perfectly safe.  Far heavier folks than we had stood, probably even jumped up and down, in that very spot!  But emotionally, of course, it's a different story - irrational fear can easily grip one's imagination and run away with it.*

The girls were initially a bit cautious, but quickly adapted.  They and B seemed to be entirely unfazed by the experience at the end of the day.

After dinner, we watched The Never-Ending Story, which the girls enjoyed.  I'd seen it before, but it is not necessarily a movie that ages well or bears repeat viewing as an adult.  B and R got some much needed rest during the movie!

FN* Which of course recalls a previous post:
Lewis states that "The battle is between faith and reason on the one side and emotion and imagination on the other." I find two of Lewis's examples intriguing.
"For example, my reason is perfectly convinced by good evidence that anaesthetics do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operating until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the fact that when they have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anaesthetics. It is not reason that is taking away my faith: to the contrary, my faith is based on reason."
"Or take a boy learning to swim. His reason knows perfectly well that an unsupported human body will not necessarily sink in water: he has seen dozens of people float and swim. But the whole question is whether he will be able to go on believing this when the instructor takes away his hand and leaves him unsupported in the water -- or whether he will suddenly cease to believe it and get in a fright and go down."
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 11.

Field Museum

The Field Museum eases withdrawal symptoms for Shedd Aquarium addicts fans
by providing sculptures of giant squid and jellies next to the Eygptian tomb exhibit 
We started, per Chicago Mun. Code § 7-12-053 (Dangerous Animals - Display), with the mandatory photograph of small children with tyrannosaurus rex.

Uh oh - is Sue modeling some bad behavior for the girls?
Stay tuned...
We went on to visit the reconstructed mastaba of Unis-ankh.

Poor Unis-ankh, immortalized with a rabbit cartouche!!  Hasenpfeffer for all eternity.

(from The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, by Margaret Bunson)

Near one of the displays of the Book of the Dead, we met a curator who was particularly lively and informative.  It turned out that he had also read and enjoyed Riordan's Egypt-based series (starting with The Red Pyramid) on the recommendation of museum-goers.

(Among his other tidbits, he mentioned that no two copies of the Book of the Dead are identical -- perhaps because the gods kept changing and merging as different deities fell in and out of favor.  And I suppose they didn't have a Nicene Council to establish the official canon.)  

You are under surveillance!  by order of Horus.
The goddess Bastet, I presume?

Nice kitty!!!
 Lee really liked the cartoons, with captions.  This was her favorite:

After this, we went to the Underground (soil) exhibit.  They have amazingly advanced technology at the Museum.  We all shrank down to a few millimeters!!!

A penny, for scale.

The girls were able to hitch a ride on some grubs.  We made it through somehow, and the Museum kindly restored us to original size.  (Or almost - I still seem to be a bit on the small side!)

We spent some time with the Amerindians as well:

 As they were getting ready to close down the Museum, Ruth and I sneaked up for a quick look at the jade exhibit.  Some pretty amazing sculptures:

You're welcome!

Art Institute of Chicago

I arrived at the Institute about 30-40 minutes before it opened, so rather than joining a short line of over-eager art enthusiasts, I moseyed across the street to enjoy a cappuccino at the Caribou Coffee.  I was deliberately bypassing the national and international chains (Starbucks, Prêt) in favor of what what looked like a local joint.  But apparently Caribou has nearly 500 cafes across at least 15 states, with its HQ in Minneapolis.   In fact, CBOU (NASDAQ) has recently gone private with a German investment firm, and they are essentially pulling out of Chicago, according to one report.  The location I visited had a notice on the door that it was remaining open; I assume that it will be re-branded or something.  Still, the coffee was good. 

When I first glimpsed this sculpture in a little park adjacent to the Institute, it reminded me of a dragon.  As I approached it, however, from some angles it looked much more like a farm implement, and I was a little nervous to see the title -- what if it was supposed to be a plough or something equally disappointing?  Fortunately, to my delight, the sculptor's imagination was aligned with mine.

Alexander Calder, Flying Dragon 1975

For Clara
The general admission lines were long, and the Institute unfortunately doesn't let CityPass holders get their tickets at the members' desk.  (I tried both the main entrance and the side entrance.  In both locations, the folks at the members' desk had no lines and literally nothing to do, so they could easily have processed CityPass holders if they had been authorized to do so.)

I started with the "Picasso and Chicago" exhibit, although the Institute readily admitted that the artist never actually visited the city in person. This was my favorite selection from the exhibit - I love seeing the transformation of the bull.  Chicagoist describes it nicely:
There are lithographs, like the 1945 series Bull, which features 11 images of a bull and is basically a class in abstraction. It begins with a realistic depiction of a bull and each frame becomes progressively abstract, until only a simple outline remains.
It's almost like the original drawing has been eaten by piranhas!
(yes, I'm thinking of the old "skeletonize a cow in under a minute" trope)
 (I should have been more patient and gotten a better photo of the Bull series, but I was a little dissuaded by the presence of a museum guard.  There are good photos online anyway, e.g.,  here.)

I thought this one was fun and lively as well (plus it makes me think of Mr Tumnus):
Picasso, Faun Musician No. 5 1948
Next stop was the miniatures, which Ruth had recommended strongly to me.  En route, I passed through a hall of Asian art.

"Simian Mother and Child" (Indonesia, 13th C)  
"Karttikeya, God of War, Seated on a Peacock" (India, 12th C)

As advertised, the miniatures were amazing.

I liked the illusion of gardens and natural light outside the windows.

This made me think of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E.L. Konigsburg (Feb. 10, 1930 - Apr. 19, 2013 R.I.P.)

"New Hampshire Dining Room, 1760"
The nearby paperweights were pretty cool - though I think the Portland Museum of Art has a similar collection.

I looked in on the East Asian and African galleries:

Wine Flask (China, 4th Century B.C.)
Mask (Côte d'Ivoire)

"Pole Tops with Double Bird-Shaped Bell"
(Northern China or Inner Mongolia, 6th/4th century B.C.)
From the Textiles exhibit in the basement (a bit musty, perhaps from the recent flooding):

Mom's fave catch-phrase! (Or one of them, anyway.)

First glimpse of a famous O'Keefe painting, Sky Above Clouds IV 1965
 This painting made me think of Faërie:
Harald Sohlberg, Fisherman's Cottage 1906

This painting was huge, and I think the audio guide said that it was designed for a home with a lot of tapestries.  It reminded me of the Shire - in terms of mood and feeling (obviously not the architecture).  More impressive in person, though.
Edouard Vaillard, Landscape: Window Overlooking the Woods 1899

I think every undergrad architecture major has to undertake a project to build a chair out of cardboard.  This one looked pretty comfy:

I liked this NYC scene  (that's the statue of liberty in the lower middle):
Chagall, America Windows 1977

A hall closed for renovation. 
In a gallery that featured early 20th C art:

I spent a lot of time looking at this work, which only whetted my appetite to visit the surrealist galleries.
Peter Blume, The Rock 1944-48

The figures are cartoonish, with large, globby hands
and rubbery, bendable arms

The ruined façade has a bit of the original wallpaper
and a picture in an oval on the internal wall

Product placement?
On my way to my final stop, I got a call - the rest of the gang was on their way to the Field Museum!  Eep - suddenly I was in a big hurry!!!

This one reminded me of Botticelli's Primavera.  Only creepier:

Paul Delvaux, The Awakening of the Forest 1939.

I hadn't seen this painting before.  It is now my favorite painting by my once-favorite artist:

Magritte, The Banquet 1958

(Was Magritte inspired by the Japanese flag?)
This reminded me of Aztec imagery:
Victor Brauner, Acolo 1949
Another Picasso:
A very simple 3D sculpture out of cardboard.
Any guesses about what two body parts stick out? 

Giorgio de Chirico, The Eventuality of Destiny 1927

A classically beautiful work by an an artist who soon became famous for quite a different style:
Piet Mondrian, Farm near Duivendrecht 1916
After this, I hustled off to the Field Museum.