February 6, 2013

Chicago...Part Two

How do I cram so much sightseeing into a weekend?  Walk briskly, my friends, walk briskly!  Which is not hard to do with gusty, chilly winds that bring tears to your eyes buffeting you between the buildings.  Next stop is the beautiful Art Institute, a landmark on Michigan Avenue. Guarding the building are the magnificent bronze lions, two of the city’s most beloved and recognizable sculptures. A largely self-taught artist who became famous for his sculptures of wild animals, Edward Kemeys (1843-1907), established a studio in Chicago in 1892. The following year, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park showcased twelve of his sculptures in plaster including massive jaguars, bears, and bison. At the fair, Kemeys’ lions were placed at the entrance to the Fine Arts Palace (now the Museum of Science and Industry). Mrs. Henry Field donated the funds to recast the lions in bronze and install them in front of the Art Institute’s new building in Grant Park in 1894.  Prior to their official dedication, the Chicago Tribune reported that Kemeys said that the lions were "conceived as guarding the building.” He explained that the south lion is “attracted by something in the distance which he is closely watching,” and that the north lion “has his back up, and is ready for a roar and a spring.”
South Lion

North Lion
We were in for such a special treat!  What prompted our visit was the special exhibit Of Gods and Glamour, but once inside we serendipitously (don't you just love that word?!) discovered two collections that made my little blogging heart beat faster!  The first was 'The Artist and the Poet', which coincides with the Art Institute’s upcoming major exhibition Picasso and Chicago. According to the visitor's guide, this presentation from the Department of Prints and Drawings is inspired by Picasso's love of poetry—he was close friends with many poets, including Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, and Paul Éluard, and collaborated with them from his earliest days in Paris. Taking Picasso's passion as a jumping-off point, this collection of works on paper surveys the myriad ways visual artists have been inspired by or collaborated with poets in the 20th century. 
Lesley Dill, American (Bronxville, NY born 1950)
Throat: "I am afraid to own a body, I am afraid to own a soul", 1994
Series/Book Title: A Word Made Flesh... (The Soul Has Bandaged Moments)

I am afraid to own a Body—
Emily Dickinson

I am afraid to own a Body—
I am afraid to own a Soul—
Profound—precarious Property—
Possession, not optional—

Double Estate—entailed at pleasure
Upon an unsuspecting Heir—
Duke in a moment of Deathlessness
And God, for a Frontier.

And the second exhibit was Picturing Poetry, which features dynamic interpretations of verse by picture book artists Carin Berger, R. Gregory Christie, Brian Pinkney, James Rumford, Peter Sís, and Ed Young. Conjuring enchanting images to illustrate poems that range from ancient epics like Beowulf and The Conference of the Birds to modern works by writers such as Langston Hughes and Robert Frost, all of these award-winning artists offer new ways of seeing the unique power of poetry (taken from the visitor's guide).  The exhibit might be designed for children, but I loved it.
Carin Berger. Illustration from Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and Other Poems, 2006. Written by Jack Prelutsky. 

Behold the bold UMBRELLAPHANT
   That's not the least afraid
To forage in the broiling sun,
   For it is in the shade.
The pachyderm's uncanny trunk
       Is probably unique,
    And ends in an umbrella
That has yet to sping a leak.
And so the bold UMBRELLAPHANT
          Is ever at its ease,
   No matter if the temperature
      Is ninety-nine degrees.
And when a sudden thunderstorm
       Sends oceans from the sky,
   That fortunate UMBRELLAPHANT
      Remains entirely dry.

The Conference of the Birds, Peter Sis, 2011.

Selection from Farid ud-Din Attar’s The Conference of the Birds
(Taken from the translation by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis)

The poem begins with all the birds of the world gathering to search for their king, the mysterious Simorgh. The hoopoe, who summons them to the quest, speaks below. 

It was in China, late one moonless night,
The Simorgh first appeared to human sight -
He let a feather float down through the air,
And rumours of its fame spread everywhere;
Throughout the world men separately conceived
An image of its shape, and all believed
Their private fantasies uniquely true!
(In China still this feather is on view,
Whence comes the saying you have heard, no doubt,
“Seek Knowledge, unto China seek it out.”)
If this same feather had not floated down,
The world would not be filled with His renown -
It is a sign of Him, and in each heart
There lies this feather’s hidden counterpart.
But since no words suffice, what use are mine
To represent or to describe this sign?
Whoever wishes to explore the Way,
Let him set out – what more is there to say?

Poetry and Art.  It was one of those afternoons that give you great joy, wonderful memories, and the opportunity to stretch your mind.  I can't honestly say I loved all of the paintings, but it was fun to look at the world from a completely different perspective.  And that's part of the fun of life, isn't it?

Happy Wednesday!

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