As you know, I really enjoy courthouse towns especially if there is an interesting courthouse and the square has a good mix of businesses. Too many downtowns that I've seen on this road trip had empty stores or the highway/streets were intrusive. U.S. 50 was my blue highway of choice across southern Illinois and Indiana. Carlyle, Illinois, is the seat of Clinton County. The courthouse is relatively new and the door on this side of the building said "for official use only" and notified you to go to the other side ... but, but this was the side on U.S. 50 so it seemed like the "front" door. It must be easier to park on the other side.
The square looked a bit bleak but the Old 50 Cafe was across U.S. 50 from the courthouse. The siding doesn't improve the appearance of the building but the coffee-to-go that I got there was one of the most satisfying because it wasn't from a gas-stop or Starbucks. The coffee did taste pretty good and the cafe was clearly a local favorite.
The restaurant door was down a hall. As I was waiting at the entry for my coffee, I noted that the front room was a bar with tables and booths though all of the customers were seated in the restaurant area. I asked if it was OK to take a picture and the waitress turned on the bar lights.
You can rest assured that I would patronize the Old 50 Cafe if I lived in Clinton County. Every time I saw a Clinton County, I first read the "entering" sign as Clinton Country.
That's the first story. When I was in North Loup, Nebraska, I had an interesting conversation with Pastor Scott Hausrath of the church where my dad and grandfather had earlier been pastor. An earlier post described my visit to the house where we lived when I was in high school. Scott asked if he could pray for me on my journey; I asked him just to wish me well. Later, we talked about prayer and how I feel that I don't know how to even though I grew up with pray-ers. He replied, more or less, that it's just involving God in your good thoughts about some person or circumstance. Well, I've been thinking about this and scribbled this little narrative in my journal:
Lovin' the traversing of the Illinois countryside. Past the PBS station I was listening to where Michael Feldman was interviewing T.C. Boyle about his new book [The Harder They Come]. Following a truck that was going about 60, thinking about stopping for a break so he could get ahead. I do know how to pass or to go on highways where you can go 70 and pass more easily. And then there is a lovely little roadside stop as I was thinking they had all disappeared. Scott, there is an answer to prayers! Note: there is a port-a-john storage place across the highway. God moves in mysterious ways.
The day started out kind of drippy as I headed out of Rogers, Arkansas, toward Pea Ridge National Military Park. The overcast skies and dampness were evocative though the fields were quiet. My great-great uncles fought on the Union side in the 1862 battles at Pea Ridge. We have a letter from Uncle Olcott Maxson to his nephew which my brother Doug has transcribed.
I wish that Doug could have been there with me and that the day had been more conducive to walking about. I drove the seven-mile loop and stopped at several of the historical markers. This is the view from the West overlook.
Doug was, instead, going for testing and evaluation with a medical specialist so I was sending him good thoughts and love. My second stop, at Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, designed by Fay Jones, was a special place for meditating about Doug and his love of nature.
The chapel is beautiful and beautifully set in the Ozarks but I think Doug would have preferred the unbuilt woods, especially after another dozen people came into the small space and because there was religious muzak playing. The space is small but felt strangely "high church." I did get a bit emotional with the resident pastor but she was kind and congenial.
From the simple to the overbuilt. Eureka Springs was not at all what I expected. Somehow I figured that it would be a small town with a central square. Well, when you build a town in the mountains, it's not easy to do a gridded street plan.
But there was a courthouse and plenty of eateries and souvenir shops. A pulled-pork sandwich at the Eureka Grill and latte and carrot cake at the Mud Street Cafe filled the bill for me. You may note that the skies had cleared though yesterday's rains had flooded a few shops in Eureka Springs.
I took off after some walking about (and eating). Several towns along U.S. 62 had good old stone buildings. Build with what you have, they always say.
Sadly, most of the stone buildings seemed to be in need of some tender loving care. From U.S. 62, I turned North on U.S. 65 toward Missouri. I drove past Branson without stopping but the highway goes straight across hills and valleys, perhaps a dozen times we went up and down a few hundred feet in elevation. Interstate 44 East toward Saint Louis continued through the mountainous terrain.
I am now in Rolla, Missouri, for the night. Uncle Olcott's letter mentions that they would be faring better because a supply train had come to the Pea Ridge encampment from Rolla.
The day started nicely, sharing breakfast with Jason and Jen Dean at Arsaga's at the Depot in downtown Fayetteville. Jen has an "I [red square] Judd" bumper sticker on the rear window. Love it, love Donald Judd. I wandered a bit on Dickson Street and then went up to the University of Arkansas campus. The Fay Jones School of Architecture is in Vol Walker Hall, the neoclassical former library with a new addition by Marlon Blackwell. It is next to the postmodern addition to Mullins Library. It's a lovely suite of buildings and I really like the mix of styles.
After meandering about the architecture building, I went over to the fine arts building which was designed by Edward Durell Stone. I found the library and looked at the biography of Stone by his son.
Back to Dickson Street for a bit of looking about in the Dickson Street Book Shop. Chris Hilker called to say that Lynda White and her husband David had arrived and it was time to come over and then head off to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, about 25 miles North of Fayetteville. The museum has been open a few years and the building was designed by Moshe Safdie. There are a number of sculptures in the surrounding woods including a James Turrell skyscape. The special show was masterpieces from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo so now I know why some of my Buffalo friends weren't around the last time I was up there. They were wintering in Arkansas.
There was a small show at Crystal Bridges called "Picturing the male self" which included works by LGBT artists Cobi Moules, Paul Cadmus, George Tooker, and John Koch. The display of works from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection included ten by Marsden Hartley and five by Arthur G. Dove. There were a couple dozen Martin Johnson Heades, a lovely standing portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull, a lovely wood sculpture entitled "Free" of a black man by Emma Marie Cadwalader-Guild (with whom I am not otherwise familiar), and lots of other works that I really enjoyed. A truly extraordinary collection of art, given its relative youth in museum years though the museum founder, Alice Walton, has been putting the collection together for some years.
The clear-sky morning had disappeared by mid-afternoon. At one point, the rain was pounding on the gallery roofs. People were checking their mobile devices for weather reports and saying things like "tornado watch."
I didn't get too wet and my umbrella will dry out. I'm staying at a Super 8 in Rogers, Arkansas, and there's a Denny's next door so I won't starve either.
I am still mad at Renzo Piano and the Kimbell folks for intervening in the lovely lawn between the Kahn building of the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter. After my Thursday mid-day visit to the Carter, I did walk down Lancaster Avenue toward the Piano Pavilion of the Kimbell, probably the least lovely way to approach the new building as the not-yet-grown-in plantings on the roof of the western part of the pavilion screams loudest. I loved that lawn. Sam and I had lunch on the Kimbell porch dozens, if not hundreds, of times.
Here we are in a picture that appeared in the Kimbell members' newsletter in the early 1990s.
I did see the galleries of the Carter and Modern but, sadly and happily, didn't take enough time in the Kimbell galleries during the convocation reception. Sadly because I would have liked to spend more time with the art; happily because the band at the convocation reception was fine and a few dozen of us were dancing the night away which worked somewhat to allow me to forgive Piano for the intervention on "my" lawn.
Ronnie Self, architect, was the speaker at the membership brunch and he gave a nuanced and helpful talk on the Piano Pavilion. He shares some of my regret that the lawn is diminished but noted that the plantings will work toward a lessening of the visual impact of the pavilion. He also talked about the materials that Piano used which are an homage to Kahn's building.
The ARLIS/NA conference ended this morning (for me, with a great session on photobooks) and, after some repacking and down-time with Sam, I took off toward Little Rock. I stopped for the night in Hope, the hometown of Bill Clinton. It's the first time I've been in Arkansas for many years. Tomorrow I'll visit the Clinton Presidential Center (designed by James Polshek) and the Arkansas Arts Center and then work on progressing toward Fayetteville and Bentonville, probably via Fort Smith.
We are a couple days into the ARLIS/NA annual conference in Fort Worth. Hieronymus is resting at the Sam Museum of Chairs.
You can kind of see my last apartment in Fort Worth from Sam's back yard. I visited the Amon Carter for a while on Thursday morning after sorting my stuff for the conference. Sam wanted me to catalog a book for the library, for old time's sake. How could I refuse?
The Society Circle reception at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth was delightful. We had access to the galleries and the installation of the works is just breathtaking. It is such a privilege to have gallery access when there are not many people in the museum. And the building is so beautiful. I had been thinking that the 1950s building by Herbert Bayer was my favorite museum building in Fort Worth but I may have to reconsider. It's the art collection and exhibition program that made the old building so special. That spirit is still alive in the new building by Tadao Ando.
I have chaired the Cataloging Problems Discussion Group since the 1970s and some years it is especially satisfying. This was one of those years.
The programming is light this evening so I'll probably go to hear the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. As we walked to lunch, we passed the Circle Theatre where I saw several plays when I lived here in the early 1990s. Lots of body memory as I go around Fort Worth even though downtown and the area between downtown and the Cultural District have changed considerably.
It was great to spend a couple days with Karen Meizner and her husband, Russ Bowman. And Murphy, the malamute.
This is Karen and Murphy on the sidewalk outside Tractor Brewing Company in Nob Hill, just off Central Avenue which is part of historic Route 66. I was thrilled to note that the bus line number for the bus on Central Avenue was 66.
Karen and I worked together, in a consulting capacity, at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal in the early 1990s. I stopped at their house in West Virginia in 1995 when I moved from Texas to New York. Soon after that visit, they moved to Alaska and lived in Sitka and Haines. We hadn't seen each other since my West Virginia visit. We had a lot of catching up to do and lots of future tripping too, and just talking about stuff. We walked the dog, we did lunch at Flying Star Cafe, we ate at Zacatecas, we watched Better Call Saul, we talked and talked. Hieronymus (my Ford Fiesta) flirted with Karen's Fiat Cinquecento, Bella.
I took off this morning toward Fort Worth. The blue-highway route started with a bit of historic route 66 and, after being mostly on Interstate 40 to Tucumcari, I "detoured" onto U.S. 54 to head Northeast toward Stratford, Texas, the seat of Sherman County. Downtown Tucumcari looked more abandoned than I remember from a trip through in the early 1990s after the SAH conference in Albuquerque.
Much of the landscape between Tucumcari and Stratford is flat, but not all of it. There is a modest canyon near Logan, N.M., and a few sections of rolling hills. Just before Dalhart, the county seat of Dallam County, there were some large cattle feedlots. The XIT Historical Museum is in Dalhart so perhaps the feedlots belonged to successors of the famous XIT Ranch which operated in the Texas Panhandle from 1885 to 1912. I remember cataloging books about XIT when I worked at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. South of Stratford, there were quite a few oil wells and one stretch with a very strong petroleum smell.
The Sherman County Courthouse is a modest neoclassical building with a couple flowering trees out front and a plaque that indicated Sherman County was named after Texas revolutionary soldier Sidney Sherman, not as I had suspected after General William Tecumseh Sherman.
On the way South from Stratford to Amarillo, the landscape was rollier with quite a significant drop in altitude just before getting to Amarillo. Still, not nearly as high as I'd been in Taos, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque.
Now I'm at the Buffalo Inn in Canyon, Texas, with plans to visit Caprock Canyons before hurrying up to get to Fort Worth for the ARLIS/NA conference which begins on Thursday evening.
Back to blue (and purple) highways. I spent the night in Trinidad, Colorado, and took Interstate 25 over Raton Pass (elevation 7798 feet) and exited on U.S. 64 (Santa Fe Trail) toward Taos, New Mexico. The first part is across the arid rolling landscape.
Those little dark spots are buffalo. I also saw a couple mountain deer grazing near the highway, and audacious small rodents who kept at their roadkill in spite of the passing vehicles. Well, one had itself become roadkill.
From the relative flats into some significant mountainous territory about halfway between Raton and Taos. The snow was still along the edges of the highway.
When you study art history, Taos is one of those places that stands tall, especially for the American modernists that spent time there in the early 20th century and for its connection with Georgia O'Keeffe. It was quaint and touristic and lovely and warm. I stopped for a coffee, and wifi, and had a pistachio muffin which looked rather like it was costumed for Saint Patrick's Day.
Vagner reacted to my Facebook status posting from Taos plaza to say that I should go to Ojo Caliente, not so far away. Sounds good. He didn't mention about the glorious drive along the Rio Grande del Norte to the top of the gorge, about 800 feet higher.
Breathtaking, awe-inspiring. Fantabulous.
Ojo Caliente is known for its hot springs but I didn't indulge ... this trip. I did have lunch at the Mesa Vista Cafe and took off for Santa Fe. It was about 4 pm when I got to the Santa Fe plaza which meant about a half hour at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Certainly not a lot of time but I did enjoy the O'Keeffes as well as the works in the modernism show.
Checking wifi again at a Starbucks on the plaza, I had a message from Karen Meizner that it was fine to come on to Albuquerque, that the guest room (or Emily's bedroom, actually) was ready for company. Karen and I haven't seen each other for 20 years when I stopped at their house in West Virginia on my way from Texas to New York State. We've been having a lot of fun, catching up and progressing. So now I'm doing some laundry and Karen is off at some meeting for a couple hours.
What an incredible mix of driving yesterday was. I'll take the blue, dark blue, and purple highways any day over the interstates but when you're anxious to get from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, those interstates can be speedy.
The VRA conference is now over and I've hit the road again, down the Front Range from Denver. There is no blue highway so it's been Interstate 25. Not nearly as much fun driving, and it was pretty busy from Denver until I got past Pueblo, Colorado.
The Clyfford Still has only been open since 2011 and is devoted to the work of one artist. It is a beautifully neo-brutalist building, designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture.
I rather thought that I was familiar with the work of Clyfford Still since I had seen many of his paintings but the works here, and the installation, are really sensational, especially the early ones that are not common in other collections. One of my favorite museums is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. They have the second-largest collection of Still works but they usually have only mature works on display.
The Kirkland, on the other hand, is the accumulated stuff of Colorado painter Vance Kirkland (1904-1981). His studio building is the heart of the building and it has been expanded in a congenial manner. There are a lot of his works as well as tons of decorative arts and works by other Colorado artists, including a painting by Daniel Rhodes who taught ceramics at Alfred for many years. (Aside: Lorna Rhodes, his daughter, was my date for the senior prom in 1964.) The display style is "salon style" according to the website but one could also say cluttered. But there are lots of treasures: furniture by Wiener Werkstätte and modern architects (Josef Hoffmann, Paul Frankl, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright), pottery and tableware (Charles Fergus Binns of Alfred fame, Rookwood, Teco, Fiesta ware, Russel Wright).
While I was at the conference, I learned that Michael Graves died. This made me very sad. I have seen quite a few of his buildings including his home in Princeton, New Jersey. He designed the new central building for the Denver Public Library in 1995. I had looked at the building on my way to the Clyfford Still Museum so it was particularly poignant to learn that he had died.
The luxury and ease of the road trip will now be interrupted while I attend the 33rd annual conference of the Visual Resources Association in Denver. It's kind of a jolt to be in a city and on foot but I found a good breakfast place this morning. The places I'd noticed in the guide from the registration desk seemed to be chain-like or pretentious but I headed out toward one of them with an open mind. And there in the next block was the neon sign of Sam's Diner and Bar, looking rather dive-ish but picturesque.
What a treat. The clientele was a mix of businessmen, shabby guys, and all around normal folk of a wide variety of types, along with a waitress in short shorts. And it actually was in the guide and has been featured on the Food Network according to a sign in the window.
I wrote about my enjoyment of courthouse squares a couple posts ago. The Hall County courthouse in Grand Island is a lovely Franco-Flemish revival building. It is not in a square though it may have been. Now, U.S. 30 Eastbound runs right in front of the courthouse.
There's a picture of the Sherman County courthouse is the previous post and between Grand Island and North Loup, I stopped in St Paul to look at the Howard County courthouse and found the historical village too.
We lived in North Loup, Nebraska, when I was in tenth and eleventh grade. My dad was pastor of the Seventh-day Baptist Church and we lived in the parsonage where my mother had lived as a child when her father was pastor of the same church. My brother had connected me with Joni Goodrich Kuzma who is several years younger than I am. I called her from main street, in front of the cafe.
Joni lives in Kearney now, about 70 miles away, but her brother Jim lives in North Loup. She called him and he came to main street to find me and we had a nice chat. He called the current pastor, Scott Hausrath, who said he would be happy if I came over to the parsonage to see the house. Off I went. Pastor Scott is a fine man and we had a good talk about the house and other things.
The house was familiar and Pastor Scott really enjoyed talking to someone who knew the house's history, first hand.
We lived there before I became a collector of shermaniana but the next street to the West is Sherman Street and there's a Sherman Reservoir in a neighboring county, yep, Sherman County. There was still a bit of ice on the reservoir even though this week has been up to the low 60s. The courthouse in Loup City, the Sherman County seat, is fairly plain but that's not a problem.
After being in North Loup and finding Sherman Reservoir, hidden in the unassuming and beautiful hills of central Nebraska, I headed toward Kearney to visit Joni. We had a fine chat about old times, where and what we were now, and life and even a bit of politics. And then it was off to western Nebraska with their advice that U.S. 30 (Lincoln Highway, again) would be a good choice since I'd be looking for overnight accommodations and the bluer highways might have few choices. U.S. 30 goes on the North side of the North Platte River and Interstate 80 goes on the South side. I think my choice of speed is about 70 miles per hour. The speed limit on U.S. 30 was 65 and it gave me a chance to go about as fast as I would on the interstate but with more things to see as I progressed.
I spent the night in Ogallala (it's fun to say) which is about 20 miles from the Colorado border. There are more pictures of North Loup and the Nebraska landscape in my Flickr photostream.
Early in this road trip, I stayed with Sara Jane Pearman in Cleveland. We were talking about my destinations and Sara Jane mentioned the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, which hadn't been on my list. I stopped:
The museum building is a nice deco building from 1931 with an understated and sympathetic addition by Norman Foster, opened 1994. The fountain court and Founders Room in the old building are beautiful deco spaces. The main entrance is now in the space between the old and new buildings:
The special show was "American Moderns" from the Brooklyn Museum. Some really fine works by well-known folks like Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O'Keeffe, along with good stuff by Augustus Tack and Francis Criss. The permanent collection has lots of good stuff too. Particular favorites were a diminutive collection of blocks by Sol LeWitt; a Kay Sage surrealist painting; landscapes by Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, and Thomas Hill; a Sargent portrait; a William Merritt Chase painting of a man with coffee and cigarette and lady in hammock; an N.C. Wyeth advertisement for tires with some Indians and a car driving away; two Vibert paintings (The King of Rome and The Grasshopper and the Ant); the landscape Stone City by Grant Wood that has been interpreted as a man's butt; and a lovely painting by Mariano Fortuny.
I read a long time ago about a groovy new warehouse and loft district in Omaha. I didn't get to walk about in the area but I did drive through on my way out of town after finishing at the Joslyn. One of the streets I was on was as pockmarked as the Meatpacking District used to be in New York City. On a nice Sunday morning, it was very tempting to linger but I wanted to get to Lincoln to see the Sheldon Museum of Art and to have a coffee and chat with Jonathan Walz, a curator there. Something came up for Jonathan so I didn't get to see him in situ.
After I got to Lincoln, I checked my email and Facebook and Sara Jane asked if the casts of the Chartres jamb figures were still in the front lobby. Oh, that's right: that's what she was particularly interested in at the Joslyn. I don't remember them, I was in the main front lobby of the old building, I don't think they were there. Will she ever forgive me for not verifying their presence or absence?
The Sheldon Museum of Art is part of the University of Nebraska and the building was designed by Philip Johnson at about the same time as the Amon Carter Museum:
Two special shows were on view: Will Wilson: Critical Indigenous Photograph Exchange, and Bracketing the Reading: Thinking Through Photography. Both were pretty darn fine and included some pairing of works. The Wilson was heavily comparative. The Bracketing show included a Vik Muniz view of a minimalist exhibition with works by Carl Andre and others and there was an Andre floor piece nearby.
I had seen the Gee's Bend quilt show at the Whitney some years ago and loved the postage stamps that featured the quilts. The From Quilts to Prints show was a very interesting spin: the design of the quilts in print form.
Paintings from the collection, mostly American, were on display in the permanent collection galleries. Again, some really enjoyable art: a Martin Johnson Heade still life with oranges, the Grant Wood portrait of Arnold Pyle, a Dove and a Demuth in the corner of one gallery, a really nice recently-acquired Lee Krasner in bright colors with a Frankenthaler and Morris Louis in the same gallery.
A chorus and instrumentalists were rehearsing when I arrived. The concert started at 3 and I was captive for a while in the South galleries since the only egress was across a balcony above the singers. Normally, I'd love to fall upon a concert but this was full of endless alleluias and I had a different agenda. As the audience clapped, I slipped across the balcony over to the elevator, and down and out.
Heading West. I am now in Grand Island, Nebraska, and tomorrow probably brings a trip to North Loup where my family lived when I was in high school and a visit with someone who lived in North Loup when we were there and now lives in Kearney. Kearney State used to sponsor a competition for academic achievement for high school kids, a sort of compensation for the nerds and geeks who weren't on sports teams. I was second in penmanship and not the last in Spanish. Back to Sara Jane: she taught at Kearney State for a short while before heading to Cleveland for grad school.
I love towns with central squares with a courthouse. Here's the courthouse for Seward County, Nebraska, in Seward:
The shops around the square include the Cafe on the Square where I had the lunch special, a Hawaiian Burger. It was tasty and the waitress was friendly. And the coffee was good. There were also two shops that sold books: a gifts and books shop and a thrift shop with a visible wall of books and "books" was included on the window listing of available stuff. The theater was showing "Selma" as well as another film. Not bad.
And here's the Merrick County courthouse in Aurora, Nebraska:
The courthouse square is surrounded by shops that look like a viable mix of practical and frivolous (aka antique shops). And there was a gifts and books shop. That's better than Alfred.
I love it when I see an Agnes Martin work that evokes Arthur Garfield Dove, just as I love both of these artists whenever. It isn't often that I see works by each of them installed within sight of each other. These two works were on opposite walls of a small space in the Richard Meier building of the Des Moines Art Center. Sigh.
The Des Moines Art Center is three-buildings big, by the architects Eliel Saarinen (1948), I.M. Pei (1968), and Richard Meier (early 1980s). The parts of the building work together beautifully. The collection works well in the building.
Just a quickie since we're moving toward lunch with Harlan and Steven. Yesterday was mostly on blue highways from Valparaiso, Indiana, just South of Chicago, on U.S. 30 (Lincoln Highway) and others. I stopped in Plainfield, Illinois, and found the Opera House and Masonic Block.
Both were built in the 1890s and the local Historic Preservation Commission very kindly had a walking tour brochure in a covered box near one of the historic markers.
More blue highways until Peru, Illinois, where I joined the Interstate 80 crowd. I got to Iowa City mid-afternoon and talked and talked and talked with Deb and Diana Kruse before some homemade minestrone soup and then off to a lecture at the University of Iowa by Carole Paul on the Grand Tour.
The lecture was held in Art Building West, designed a few years ago by Steven Holl and damaged by the 2008 flood. Here's a view of the interior:
The morning started quietly but became rather a smash when the cabinet over the dryer at Sara Jane's fell off the wall. It was the liquor cabinet and the crème de menthe spread its green color and minty smell all over the dryer and floor (etc.) and scared poor Kiri into the closet. So ... later start than anticipated but I got off at about noon with a queer green cast to my hands.
I hit the blue highways after the expressways 271 and 480 from Sara Jane's. So that's U.S. 20 to U.S. 6 (Grand Army of the Republic Highway). It was getting on time for a stop and I had noticed that there was a Napoleon, Ohio, not too far off. Imagine my delight as I neared the center of town to see a courthouse tower across the river.
Not only a courthouse but my short leg-stretching walk before finding a latte also uncovered this charming little arts and crafts church.
Back on the highway, it was U.S. 6 into Indiana. I stayed on 6 but it didn't have many amenities like motels or hotels. Checking the map, I switched a bit South to U.S. 30 (Lincoln Highway) and found, alas, a Fairfield Inn in Valparaiso. Not exotic in the least but, for the moment, it's home. It doesn't smell like crème de menthe.
The VRA and ARLIS/NA annual conferences are unusually close in time and place this year. When I first heard about the two March conferences in mid-late March and in Denver and Fort Worth respectively, I figured it was time for a road trip. What started out as a four-day trip in a one-way rental car between the two conference cities turned into a month-long trip in my own car, Hieronymus, with stops along the way in both directions.
I set off on Monday, the 2nd, driving on blue highways and through the Allegheny National Forest during this winter of particularly vigorous snow and cold. I stopped at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., to see the show curated by my friend Darren Lee Miller: Performing Blackness, Performing Whiteness. It was especially interesting to see the works in Darren's company. Lots to think about and to remember from an earlier trip to Allegheny to see another show that Darren put together.
And then it was on Cleveland where I landed at Sara Jane's just after dark. She has been quite house-bound in the heavy snow so we took advantage of that as we ate take-out Mexican (sadly, without margaritas) and talked about everything: art, her writing project on early Netherlandish sculpture and the influence of the textile trade, life, growing older, weather, old graduate school chums.
Tuesday was museum day for me in Cleveland. This was my first visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art since the latest building project was completed. Several favorite works from grad student days had not been on display when I was last there. But now, NOW! There they were: the Saint Jerome and the lion by Tilmann Riemenschneider that greeted me every day as I went to the CMA Library to study--
and also Riemenschneider's Saints Stephen and Lawrence, the Annunciation by Albrecht Bouts, the Inness landscape, the El Greco crucifixion, the Hours of Charles the Noble, etc. It was delightful to be with my old friends. So familiar, so fine.
As I was turned around from the Riemenschneiders and started toward the next gallery, I noticed that John and Jacquelyn were in that gallery. They were on their way East after Jacq's post-doc at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. We did lunch and had a wonderful visit and then went back to our serious art-looking.
When I was done at the CMA, I went out for coffee and then to the Museum of Contemporary Art and then the mania really set in. My first trip. As you approach from the West, the doorway is wonderfully understated. I didn't realize that I was coming in the secondary door but I loved it. I got to the front desk to see that they had a Joyce J. Scott show. I had seen her show at Tulane during the Prospect.2 biennial in New Orleans in late 2011 and really love her work.
She does sculptures with lots of beadwork but also African sculpture, crocheting, glass shapes, porcelain figures, whatever works. She also deals with race and gender so it was rather a performance of blackness and whiteness all in one. But that's not all: the other two shows at MOCA were by artists I knew about. They had Ragnar Kjartansson's The Visitors; Kjartansson has gotten a lot of press for his recent works at the Venice Biennale. The third artist was Jessica Eaton who was at Alfred to give an artist talk last year. Not only great artists but the building was really fine too. It's a little like Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin without being so self-conscious.
Poor Sara Jane had to put up with mania all evening but I think she rather got a kick out of it. It didn't hurt that she, a beader, could tell me that she had actually met Joyce J. Scott.