Tuesday, May 19, 2015

From Chicago Onward - Day 13

Our last day in Chicago started at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Odd, I have to say. There was not much that really engaged me here. But two artists did, in very different ways.

The installations of Colombian artist, Doris Salcedo filled one whole whole floor. At first I was confused by a maze of what seemed like a storage space filled with stacked tables, then disassembled hospital furniture and stacks of folded men's shirts. I stopped to read the guide and then watch a video and slowly her meaning began to unfold. Loss. Absence. The aftermath of people being displaced; violence; orphaned, abandoned children.

See the small rectangles on the wall? These were actually openings into the wall. Inside each opening was a shoe, or a pair of shoes. The artist learned that female victims of violence in Colombia were often identified by their shoes. These were actual shoes from Colombian women. Stretched over each opening, and sutured in place is a covering of translucent animal skin. Haunting and beautiful.

After the heaviness and sorrow of Salcedo's work, I really appreciated a small but joyful collection of Alexander Calder works.

Isn't the lightness and grace of this mobile lovely?

In the afternoon we went to the incredible Field Museum and saw the old elephants....


Sue, the tyrranasaurus...


And a wonderful exhibit about Vikings. We saw many wonderful Viking objects, and most of my photos were shaky, but I do have these:


And scissors! Did you know that real Vikings never wore helmets with horns on them? Now you do, and so do I.

And with that we could do no more. So much more that could have been seen or done in Chicago, but we tried to focus on what we had not seen before. I know. It is almost sinful to leave without a trip to the Art Institute, but I have been there before and I hope I will go again. My feet and back could not have held up.

Back on the road. Yesterday Ohio, today that little knob of West Virginia that pokes up between Ohio and Pennsylvania, then into Pennsylvania.

We stopped in Wheeling, WV for lunch and poked around there for a bit. It is a really old town. The last battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in Wheeling.


This suspension bridge was built in 1847, and at the time it was built was the largest suspension bridge in the world. It is still in use. I drove across it today, twice.

We left the freeway and took back roads through farmland, once we got to Pennsylvania. Beautiful and peaceful.

Tomorrow we will see our friends in Delaware. I can hardly wait!



Monday, May 18, 2015

From Somewhere in Indiana - Day 12

Continuing with our Chicago adventure...

After our great architecture tour, we wandered down Michigan Avenue and enjoyed a good lunch, then made our way to the Chicago Cultural Center. It is a magnificent 1897 building, built as the Chicago Central Library. In 1977 it was repurposed as the city's cultural center. The building itself is very beautiful and would have been a treat if there was nothing else to see there.


Lucky for us there was a wonderful exhibit of paintings by Harlem Renaissance artist, Archibald Motley.

There were a number of beautiful portraits, including this self-portrait.

But my favorites were the lively narrative pieces depicting African American life in the '20s and '30s. The one below is called "Holy Rollers". ( sorry about the quality of the photo—unavoidable reflections)

Google him if you want a treat.

In another gallery was an exhibit of advertising art from a Chicago company called Valmor that made perfumes and hair pomade and skin-lightening creams and other products. I know I remember these images from my childhood. Surely the use of these products would make one irresistible and one's life perfect! Very fun exhibit.

Across the street from the Cultural Center is Millenium Park where we dragged our tired bodies and found a bench for a breather and a little people-watching. We were rewarded with this little tableau:


We gathered just enough of a second wind to check some of the wonderful features of the park.

Outdoor concert venue designed by Frank Gehry.


"Cloud Gate" (aka "The Bean"), this mirrored sculpture is mind-bendingly fascinating! Photos don't do it justice.

The Crown fountain is delightful.

And this is lovely. Millenium Park is terrific!


A very good day in Chicago. Still more to come.

Today we are driving to Columbus, Ohio and as I write we are somewhere in the middle of Indiana. If you are reading this you will know that we got to Columbus and I was able to connect to the Internet and post. Tomorrow is another driving day and I'll finish up my Chicago pictures.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chicago - Day 11

tulips on Michigan Avenue

The first time I visited Chicago I was 17 years old, traveling cross-country by train to attend a Girl Scout encampment in Maryland. One of the girls I was traveling with had an aunt and uncle who lived there and hosted us for several days and took us out to see the sights of Chicago. It was my first big city experience and I loved it. I bought a pair of sling-back, square-toed, red flats in a shoe store on Michigan Avenue. Boy, did I love my "Chicago shoes". I knew there was not another pair like them in Pocatello—probably not in the state of Idaho, and when I wore them I thought about walking down Michigan Avenue, thinking I had probably walked past more people on the sidewalk that day than lived in Pocatello. Over the years I have been back four or five times, once in the dead of winter with an icy wind blowing off the lake. I loved it even then. So I was looking forward to being in Chicago again.

We've spent the past two days in Chicago and I have taken so many photos that my system has fallen behind. It will take me a couple days to catch up, but I am finally ready to start. Yesterday morning we took the Chicago Architecture Tour given by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and it was grand! The tour takes place on an excursion boat on the Chicago River and our docent for the tour was superb. She knew the history, the architects, the inside stories of all the incredible buildings that make Chicago the city of incredible architecture.

I took way too many photos to post. Here's my iPad screen after I winnowed them down to my best shots...


And a few of my favorites...




The tour was terrific and worth every penny it cost. If you go to Chicago, take the tour. Just do it.

So—more to come. I'm not finished with Chicago, though we say goodbye in the morning and are off to Ohio, with tired, walked-out Chicago feet. A day in the car might be just the ticket.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Welcome to the Heartland - day 8

The flat, windy highways of Nebraska gave way to the softer, greener rolling farmland of Iowa, and rain.


We learned that our Idaho sister-in-law, Kristin, is in Iowa caring for her mother who is quite ill and with only some minor adjustments to our plans we could arrange to see her and meet her mother. We wound our way through the lush farmland to the lovely little town of Independence and had a good visit with Kristin and her frail, sweet Mom, then headed to Cedar Rapids for the night. This morning we went out to see the Amana colonies, which were founded by a religious group in the mid 1800s as a communal society, providing everything the members needed within their group. They are known for their fine craftsmanship. (Read more here)

The setting and old, but scrupulously maintained buildings and homes are beautiful.


Here is Ray, headed for the well-stocked quilt shop. (You know how he loves a quilt shop!) Nice shop

We wandered down the Main Street and saw a few beautifully crafted items in the shops, but I was truly dismayed by all the kitschy, tacky stuff crammed inside those beautiful old buildings. Very little was locally made and much of what was locally made was church bazaar stuff—hotpads and knitted mop covers (really!) and the like. We tired quickly of the hoards of people and unappealing goods. I think they are cheapening their brand and turning this national treasure into just another tourist trap, but who am I to argue with what appears to be "success"?

One thing I did especially enjoy was the Woolen Mill, where they weave beautiful wool and cotton blankets.

We left Amana and drove to Iowa City to check out the highly recommended Prairie Lights Bookstore and found ourselves in a town crowded with University of Iowa graduation celebrants and festivities.

Soon we were back on the road, crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. A long driving day involving traffic, lots of road construction and paying for all this fun by repeatedly stopping, in sometimes long, slow lines to pay tolls. But we are ready for a few non-driving days in Chicago—a great town— indeed a "toddlin town". I'll let you know if we find out what that means.