The Art Institute of Chicago – A New Favorite

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, sculpture, Charles Ray, Samsung Galaxy, Hancock Tower

Chicago is many things but dull it isn’t.  This city is rich in culture, architecture, outdoors fun (in the summer, at least!), food and many other things.  I love coming to this city but have rarely been here on my own to explore.  I have greatly enjoyed coming to Chicago with friends, whether to party in the early 1990s, or to get to know the best of the city in the last few years via local friends who know it well.  I wrote a couple of years ago about the architecture of the city.

When a business trip to Minnesota arose, I thought it may give me another opportunity to head to the Windy City on my way home and see more of it.  One of the things that I have NEVER done in Chicago is go to a museum so I decided my weekend would be anchored around at least on a museum visit.

And so it was.  After reading a little bit, and being quite torn on which one to attack, I decided for The Art Institute of Chicago.  It is one of people’s favorites (or so I read!) and it was close to my hotel.  Also, while I had studied about the Chicago History Museum and was curious to see it in person, I was not feeling historical this weekend.  I was more in the mood for art.  And, finally, The Art Institute featured in one of my favorite movies:  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy

The museum has an old wing and a newer one with a cleverly built hallway/gallery that was built to bridge over the railroad lines separating the old building (right on Michigan Avenue) from the new building, behind the old building towards the lake.  The new building has an entrance on Monroe whereas the old building has its entrance on Michigan Avenue.

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy

The modern wing from Monroe St.

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy

To the right, the bridge connecting the new gallery (shown here) to the old

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy

And the bridge connecting to the old building over the rail lines

I like the newer building because it just feels “light” both in the sense of illumination but also on the sense of weight or heaviness of the architecture and the interiors.  Well done, whoever was/were the architect(s)!

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy

Lightness in space and materials

The museum has art from ancient Greece and China to the most modern sculptures (Charles Ray was a special exhibit).  I started at the Charles Ray exhibit mainly because it was right there after I entered.  The space was huge and the sculptures were distributed over the entire space creating what felt like vast spaces between the pieces.  I don’t know much about art (it’s been a while since I stayed at a Holiday Inn…) but I definitely felt the openness and emptiness of the galleries only added to the sculptures by truly making them stand out.  I also feel that it also made the people walking around almost part of the exhibit itself.  I took some photos that, now when I look at them, I am almost as interested in the people walking the space as in the sculptures themselves.  I wonder if that was the intent of the curators…

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, sculpture, Charles Ray, Samsung Galaxy

Boy holding a frog seemingly holding a statue in the back…

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, sculpture, Charles Ray, Samsung Galaxy, Hancock Tower

A crashed Grand Am sculpture with the Hancock Tower in the background

My favorites were the impressionist artists, as usual:  Pisarro, Cézanne, Monet, etc..  But I also was pleased to see several El Greco and more modern favorites like Miró, Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, and Roy Lichtenstein (am I a name-thrower or what?!).

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy, Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s selfie (at least one ear is still there!)

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy, Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein’s almost comic book-like imagery

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy, Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy, Monet

Monet’s foggy London

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy, Cezanne

Cézanne’s wife on yellow chair

I also enjoyed seeing American Gothic in person.  It truly is a brilliant piece, not because I know about art itself but because I certainly feel the emotion (or lack thereof) in the two characters!

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy, American Gothic

American Gothic

Oh, and here is the charmer that Ferris and his bud and girlfriend admired while on their escapade!

Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy

You don’t have to be an art connoisseur or lover even – just have an open mind and go explore this incredible institution on the shores of Lake Michigan!

Goðafoss: The Waterfalls of the Gods and Water Art

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Goðafoss, (“Godafoss” for ease of my typing!), or “Waterfall of the Gods“, is one of the must-see waterfalls in Iceland.  The Godafoss waterfalls are about 36 ft high (12 m) and are located at the Skjálfandafljót River.  It is located somewhere between the northern towns of Akureyri and Husavik.  More precisely, it is on the ring road going east from Akureryi, right after the road to Husavik branches off (route 85).  The story goes that a key Icelandic chieftain in the year 1,000 AD was trying to decide whether Icelanders would adopt Christianity.  After deciding in the affirmative, he returned home and threw his images of the pre-Christianity pagan gods into the waterfall and, hence, the name for the waterfalls.

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

The waterfall from the highway

The water was gushing generously, as one would expect a proper waterfall would do.  Perhaps this time in June was still a time of heavy melt?

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Fast-flowing!

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Yours truly

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Looking from the waterfall back towards the road along one of the trails

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Majestic!

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

The main part of the waterfall

Not only was the waterfall impressive but the flow over the one closest to me drew my eye as the following pictures attest… I need to figure out how to turn some of these into neat art pieces for my home!Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, waterGodafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, waterGodafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

 

Photo Essay – Colors of Jordan

Desert road Jordan

Before my trip to Jordan, I had this mental image that Jordan was mostly a desert. I knew Jordan faced the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea and I recalled from my quick visit to Petra (on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt), that Petra would have some reddish color to it. But it’s like, if I thought how Jordan would look like, I would have said “fairly mono-chromatic”.

OK, I exaggerate a little.  But the range of vivid colors I encountered during my visit became quite apparent once I was home walking through each of the 3,000+ pictures I took during my 9 days there (yes, quite a few were duplicates as I tried different settings and angles for a given “scene”; so far I am down to around 2,000).  What I found out is that that desert color was a perfect background for all the others colors to pop.  And pop they did!

So, I have decided to share where I found color that caught my eye that will, hopefully, give you a glimpse into Jordan!  When you are done, I would love to hear back from you on which of these photos you like the most (photos are numbered for ease of reference!).

I found color in the landscapes in Jordan…

Much as I had experienced back in 1998, I got to see the colors typically associated with deserts.  But on this trip, I also saw the color of canyons and gorges.  White, sand, red – all colors represented in the landscape around me as I hope the following pictures show…

Desert road Jordan

1. On the way to Mt. Nebo from Mardaba – sand color everywhere except the asphalt

Sand dune Wadi Rum Jordan

2. Shifting sands in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan

Wadi between Dana and Feynan, Jordan Olympus

3. Canyon we hiked through from Dana to Feynan – great mix of white and red with specks of green on the mountains around us

Canyon walls in Petra Jordan with Canon Rebel

4. Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan!

Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan Canon Rebel

5. More colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

6. Colorful rocks in the waters of Wadi Mujib, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

7. Colorful rocks in the walls Wadi Mujib, Jordan

I found color in the markets of Jordan…

Jewelry sold by folks around Petra, Jordan

8. Jewelry sold by folks around Petra

Camels with color in Jordan

9. Who knew camels would be so colorful!

Arab headscarves in Jordan Canon Rebel

10. Headscarves in the traditional colors worn by many around Jordan

Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan Canon Rebel

11. Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan

Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market Canon Rebel

12. Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market

I found color in the architecture – old and new – in Jordan…

Ruins column Jerash Roman Jordan

13.  Color of old ruins in the Greco-Roman town of Jerash, Jordan

Ruins Jerash column blue sky Jordan

14.  A still-standing column in Jerash makes a great contrast with the perfectly blue sky

King Abdullah Mosque blue Amman, Jordan

15.  The blues of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (the Blue Mosque) of Amman and the blue of the sky

Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah's Mosque in Amman, Jordan (blue mosque)

16.  Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (built in the 1980s)

Petra's Treasury in Jordan

17.  The unforgettable Treasury at Petra, Jordan

I found great blues in the waters around Jordan…

Blue sky and Dead Sea

18. A sea and a sky both drapped in great blue!

Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, Olympus

19.  Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba

I found color in sunsets over the Dead Sea…

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

20.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Olympus

21.  Double sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

22.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

I found color in Jordanian artisans’ art…

Raw material for creation of mosaic art in workshop in Jordan

23.  The raw materials that will create beautiful mosaics are colorful on their own…

Mosaic art Jordan

24. Mosaic art: not only the great colors but also the shapes draw me

Art handicraft craft Jordan

25.  Beautiful art in this colorful vase

And I found a colorful people in Jordan!

Schoolchildren in Jerash, Jordan

26.  Schoolchildren visiting the ruins of Jerash – singing and showing their pride in their country – a colorful bunch!

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Thank you to the Jordan Tourism Board for showing me all the colors in Jordan.

One of the Lesser Known Smithsonian Museums: The Renwick Gallery

Tne Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. built by William Corcoran

I have spent two years visiting Washington, D.C. for work on a weekly or every-other-week basis. I love this city, with its energy, its intrigues, its famous residents, and its power.  I also love it, of course, for the many sights to be seen.

I worked near the White House and was close to a lot of key sites.  One of these was surprisingly close to work:  one block away (as was the IMF and the New Executive Building).  It is the Renwick Gallery, a Smithsonian Museum for American art.  I had walked past it, likely, a hundred times always making a mental note to go in some time.  With it being free (as all Smithsonian Museums are), how could I not with it being so close?

Tne Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. built by William Corcoran

The beautiful Renwick Gallery across from the Old Executive Building

Well, I finally did on my last week in DC.  You see, I had to first do the White House tour.  That took me a year and a half to request and do so this one took longer…  OK, enough excuses.  It was my last week and I decided that instead of just going out for lunch, I would see the gallery.

What an excellent decision! For starters, it was small enough to do a medium speed walkabout checking out its contents.

History of a beautiful building

The Renwick Gallery is a miracle.  It took Mr. and Mrs. John F. Kennedy to save this beautiful building from the demolition of old gems that most modern city planners could care less about that almost was carried out.  This building, which is located right by the White House, was finished in 1861 and had been commissioned by William Corcoran to exhibit publicly his private art collection.  Its architect was James Renwick who also designed the main and iconic Smithsonian building on The Mall, in D.C.  In any case, right when the building was finished, the federal government took over the building for Civil War purposes.  Eventually, it was returned and it housed the Corcoran collection until it could no longer hold all the art and another building was constructed.  At that point this building was used and eventually purchased by the government.  Thankfully, JFK and Jackie O were successful in keeping this majestic yet small structure around for us to enjoy (though the massive ugly New Executive Building was erected next to it on the corner of 17th and H…).

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

Towards the top of the grand central staircase looking at the big room

A new art form to learn:  furniture making

When I visited, there was a special exhibit for Thomas Day, a freed slave from North Carolina who made excellent furniture for the rich families of the area in the mid-1800s (give or take).  So successful was he that these families petitioned the government of North Carolina to allow a free black woman he wanted to marry to be allowed to enter North Carolina from Virginia (this was allowed apparently pre-Civil War).  They liked him so much they allowed him to worship at the white church AND sit with the whites.  His furniture style was unique and I learned a good bit about a topic I knew little about.  Photos were not allowed so I can’t grace this post with one…

The main exhibit – American art

The museum is intended for American art.  It has a massive room which is just architecturally and otherwise beautiful.  There are just the right number of paintings to allow one to absorb what there is.  The paintings seemed, my recollection may fail me, to be from the early-mid 1800s to the early 1900s.  I discovered a new favorite painter:  Guy Wiggins (1883-1962) whose impressionist work (or impressionist-like to me) really grabbed my attention.

The massive room really was worthy of admiring, paintings or not!

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

But it’s not all “old” stuff – at all!

Funny how stuff from the 19th and early 20th century can be considered old… Only in the USA!  However, there are a few rooms exhibiting really neat art work from glass to a fish made from toys (not sure what it is… it is not sculpted, nor painted…).  This part of the collection includes a couple of interesting furniture pieces, one of which really is something I could have never dreamed of (I will leave it for YOU to discover!).

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art - glass statue

Phenomenal sculpture (?): a glass dress with a silhoutette as if someone is wearing it! Brilliant.

I am SO glad I finally went inside and checked it out.  My kind of art museum:  not overwhelming but manageable, not just one form of art but a variety, and an interesting special exhibit.  Thumbs up for a nice museum in Washington, D.C. that is sort of off-the-beaten path if that is possible one block away from the White House!

Photos of the Week – Murals in Barrio Bellavista, Santiago

Mural in Barrio Bellavista in Santiago, Chile

Street art may include graffiti but in my mind I had equated the two.   It was while I visited Barrio Bellavista in Santiago, Chile that I started to perceive graffiti as only one kind of “street art” (saw some incredible examples in Sao Paulo, Brazil).

I am not an art expert nor trying to be one but as I saw some of the beautiful wall art (or murals), I started to expand my thinking – and appreciation – for street art as a whole.  Granted, the ones below are not likely just done by an anonymous  stealth artist but they still show how great street art can be!

As I saw pictures of very interesting – and at times scary – pictures of murals in Vienna, I thought I ought to share my favorite murals from Barrio Bellavista.  Enjoy!

(Note:  All but the last are outside Pablo Neruda‘s home in Barrio Bellavista “La Chascona“.)

Mural in Barrio Bellavista in Santiago, Chile

Mural in Barrio Bellavista in Santiago, Chile

Mural in Barrio Bellavista in Santiago, Chile

Mural in Barrio Bellavista in Santiago, Chile

Mural in Barrio Bellavista in Santiago, Chile

Santiago has a lot to offer but Barrio Bellavista should definitely be on the itinerary!

Curacao Photo Essay: Art, Architecture and Some Very Dark Skies

Cruise ship entering Willemstad, Curacao

I enjoyed food, music and sun in Curacao but I also enjoyed admiring the art and architecture in this amazing island!  High kudos to the Hotel Kura Holanda for preserving the beautiful architecture and allowing visitors to walk through it!

No better way than sharing pictures to help you see what caught my eye. 

Click on the picture to see a full version of the photo, not just a cropped thumbnail version!  Then leave me a comment telling me which is your favorite (you can refer to the number in the caption).

Traipsing around Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum

Not being keen on lines and much less crowds, I instantly mentally said “yes” when I saw there was a tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum before the crowds got in.  I was quite willing to pay for the privilege of going before the SC and VM opened – which is rather an inaccurate concept as the moment you go in, the museum IS open – but this “before it opens” thing is about beating the crowds who did not want to wake up earlier, who did not want to (or could) pay the extra cost, or who did not know/think about it ahead of time.  Plus with a tour guide to be sure nothing noteworthy was missed in the eagerness to see the SC.

Vatican Museum statue

Sample art at the Vatican Museum

Dark Rome (www.darkrome.com) provided one of those tours.  (I found them via my ultimate authority for local tours, Viator.)  Their tour guide, an archaelogist from Ireland named Rachel (cute!) was engaging and well prepared.  But beyond not missing any key artifacts, the value was getting background knowledge about the great pieces I was going to see.

I have to say that while there were other tour groups (I didn’t pay THAT much money!), there was space to move around and stop without getting crashed into or pushed.  Lots of interesting art (Rafael’s masterpiece right before the SC being one of them) and architecture.  The crown jewel, though, really blew me away.  Having heard SO MUCH about it, I was expecting to be impressed but not blown away.  One of those things were the expectations are made so big that by the time you get there, it is not the same as what it had been built to be.

NOT this time!  I have to say that having learned how frescoes are made in the tour, having been explained Michelangelo’s design and process, etc. really made a big difference in the appreciation for those drawings up in a ceiling.  Just thinking about how high he had to climb every day to do the job was quite impressive.  (I did wonder if he took bathroom breaks and, if so, did he do it in a bucket and lowered it when done… or was he SO engrossed in his masterpiece that he could hold it however many hours??  The things that churn in my head…)

Soapbox break.  The one shameful thing I observed was fellow tourists who did not seem to get the concept of no pictures allowed.  First of all, these fools don’t realize those drawings are so far up that their pictures will do them no justice.  Just buy a freaking post card or, even better, the book. But most importantly for me is the lack of respect they show for a place of worship.  If you cannot respect the sites you visit, then why are you really going there anyway?  I treat other faiths’ places of worship with the same respect I pay my own.  Soapbox break over.

It is neat to understand where Michelangelo started the ceiling and how his technique evolved during the project.  I didn’t realize he was rather inexperienced in frescoes when he got the commission (that he didn’t want to do but Julius II forced to accept).  I will not get into it here as I am not an art connossieur nor is that the purpose of this blog.  But it is really interesting to see how he learned about how to do the frescoes once he came down and admired one of the earliest panels finished – the ceiling was too far up and the figures were too small:  he had to paint them bigger!  I am surprised though that he didn’t re-do that first panel.  Or maybe he did and I didn’t catch that…

The Sistine Chapel frescoes on the ceiling are matched by an imposing altarpiece fresco where Michelangelo gets back at a “foe” using his face as the face of someone being walked into hell.  I think Michelangelo won that little feud of theirs…  And remember Rome is eternal…  Lots of good ceilings in the Vatican (and Rome)!

Finally, as a Catholic, picturing a conclave (where Popes are elected) taking place in the SC while standing there was priceless.  I couldn’t quite picture all these cardinals in there but, I take it by faith.

I think in some future visit, perhaps I will explore more of the VM themselves.  Lots of important artifacts and art that I may not really be prepared to explore.  But something will be learned, something will probably impress me and… I can get to see the awesome work in the Sistine Chapel one more time!

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