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Museum plaza

The first time I visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art about five years ago shortly after it opened, what stood out to me besides the pretty setting, the architecturally marvelous buildings, and the fine collection was the people.  When Ann Walton opened the museum she wanted it to be free and open to the public and to bring fine art into a region that was often lacking.  Of course free museums have become more common now, but at the time this was a new thing.  And the people in attendance at the museum were not the sort one usually saw in museums.  It was a noticeable difference.

The second time I visited, later that year when Michael, Mom, and I jotted over from her house for a quick, after holiday tour, what impressed me was the fine collection of queer art--both gay artists and gay subjects.  And some of the cards even drew explicit attention to the gay themes.  A daring step in Northwest Arkansas, I thought.

But then Northwest Arkansas is always a bit of a paradox.  Eureka Springs represents that quite well.  The old Victorian heart of the city is very gay-friendly, with rainbow flags and gay-owned businesses and one of the first equality ordinances in the state.  But the outer ring of more modern hotels and attractions is very evangelical, include the towering statue of the Christ of the Ozarks and the Passion Play.  When I was a kid, we stayed in the outer ring, as an adult we stayed in the heart of the town.  The whole region is like that--liberal pockets surrounded by right-wing fundamentalists.

This visit there was a noticeable increase in African-American art and more attention to it.  

I continue to marvel at the fine collection and the wonderful buildings.  I have yet to enjoy the trail system, as the days have either been too hot or too cold when I've visited.

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Sebastian's new mobility made him not as easy a museum guest as he once was, but still not too bad.  Fortunately Crystal Bridges has a great kids space, where he played with other children, and some wide rooms where he enjoyed making noise and running around.

My favourite new addition was the installation of four massive sculptures--one in the courtyard and three along the trail from the upper parking lot--of the four seasons.

Good work is being done with this museum.

Summer


The Gem

Despite my disappointment in the Saunders County Historical Museum they possessed one gem which fascinated me--a parka.

The parka was owned by Fred Hirsch from Yutan.  He served in the Spanish-American War and this was his military parka.  But Fred did something interesting with his parka--he drew pictures on it.  Pictures of what he saw in old Havana.  A fascinating piece of folk art.  Here are some photos.

Maine

Moro
Moro


STREET by James Nares

Rarely am I very interested in video installations at art museum.  A few, here and there, have held my attention for a few moments.  Usually I think that they are strange.

Saturday afternoon I wandered into the new CAP gallery at the Joslyn Art Museum in downtown Omaha and ended up sitting there for more than an hour.

CAP is short for Contemporary Artists Project Gallery, and you can read about the new gallery's goals in today's Omaha World-Herald.  A small space currently set up as a screening room, with Le Corbusier-style black couches.  I nestled into the corner of the front couch, the only one open when I arrived in the room, and was quickly mesmerized.

STREET is only 2 minutes and forty seconds of film slowed down to run just over one hour.  In 2011 the filmmaker drove along the streets of New York City filming the people.  Initially I was enjoying the people watching aspect, when suddenly a face stood out for its emotional tone, and I realized that there were deeper layers of meaning in the art work.

I was struck by how aesthetically satisfying it was.  The colors of people's clothes, on food trucks, and in store windows created beautiful image after beautiful image.

And in scene after scene one sees a full range of human emotion--from a child running with glee to a family hugging and crying.  One is struck by how many different emotions can exist on one street corner at the same time.  I was also reflecting on how none of the people were really seeing each other, and yet we were seeing them together and that together they made a work of art.

I also realized that I can never see New Yorker's looking up again without thinking of September 11, 2001.

Nothing sinister occurs in the film.  I kept wondering if we would see someone fall or trip or some crime occur.  We don't.  

There are also moments of surprising artistry, as when the camera focuses in on a pigeon in slow-motion flight.

I highly recommend this work, which will be at the Joslyn till September 21.  Carve out an hour to go sit and watch and reflect upon our common humanity.


Snippets from the Day

Up very early this morning.  Couldn't get back to sleep.  Watched some more Orange is the New Black.  So far this season doesn't seem to have all the layers of power, race, and class quite like last year, though I think it is fantastic with stories and character, especially character.

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Early morning run around the campus was beautiful and exhilarating.  And I ran better than usual.  Must have been the setting.

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Went to church at Center Church On-the Green.  Shortly after I entered I was looking over the bulletin when someone came up to say hello and welcome me to New Haven, and I looked up and it was Bruce Garver, member of my church in Omaha!  He and Karen are on vacation and were here on the same Sunday as me, attending the same church (there is another UCC church right next door, from a split that occurred 200 years ago).  They were members of the church 40 years before, and Bruce had been the moderator.

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It is Pentecost.  The music was all about the spirit, its fire, is passion, and its power.  And there was this repeated refrain of purifying and disciplining and forming our desires.  At least that was on my mind from the chapter of Sarah Coakley's God, Sexuality, and the Self that I had read sitting quitely in a square listening to some people practice sacred music through an open window.  I have more to write about these connections, but tonight I have assignments and lack the creative energy to write that complete post.

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During lunch, while sitting with an assortment of people I had not yet met, we got into an interesting discussion of the role of violence in film with particular references to Tarantino and Peckinpah.  One woman was defending it as serving a higher artistic purpose.  Another was saying that she couldn't stand the violence anymore and that writers have a responsibility for cultivating moral virtue.  My contribution was that the myth of redemptive violence is deeply seated within Western culture and is one of our flaw.

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Two of those women and I went to the Yale Center for British Art after lunch.  It is housed in a splendid Louis Kahn building, which isn't much to look at from the outside but functions beautifully on the inside, displaying the art while bathed in diffused natural light, along with large windows looking over the campus and the town.  Walking into the Turner room took my breath away and gave me the shivers.  There is a couch in that room, which looks at the two best works in the room, with views of the campus to one's left through one of those grand windows.  Since the museum admission is free, I may return and sit on that very couch again.

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Quirky, fun, interesting, and beautiful exhibit entitled "Of Green Leaf, Bird, and Flower: Artists' Books and the Natural World.  The nexus of art and science as the books and collections of artistically inclined naturalists or naturalistically inclined artists are displayed.  Many of the works are full of whimsy.  One wall I particularly noted was representations of dandelions.  First a pressed dandelion, then various artistic representations, including fun, multi-coloured modern ones.

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Student readings began today.  Four classes read their works, including the class that I am in.  We each had six minutes.  I read the opening three pages of the memoir I've been working on for ten years and which I'm workshoping at this conference.  As someone who reads my writing to other people every week, I thought I'd be fine, but I was more nervous than I usually am being in front of others.  I was nervous because I've never done quit this before, nor read this particular story--a key part of my coming out--publicly before.

It was a relief that people laughed where I had hoped that they would laugh.  And they sighed with satisfaction at the end.  

People came up after the session wanting to know more and asking questions.  At dinner Christie, from my workshop, said that she thought my work was timely.  This is refreshing as I've wondered if the world has had enough coming out stories.  Another woman later stopped me on the street and complimented my work.  She said "your voice came through."

Christie pointed out that I seemed giddy reading the story.  Her friend said it was almost like a teenager experiencing first love.  I responded that it was interesting they noticed that because I felt that in the moment and it had surprised me.  It was as if I was able to enter back into that moment and suddenly resurrect some of the feelings of the time.

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On the phone with Michael this evening I told him that I'm really enjoying who I am here, that it feels like me before responsibilities and anxieties.  That the more patient, listening, gregarious me has re-appeared.  

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Tonight's presentation was by Amy Stolls of the National Endowment of the Arts talking about her writing career, what the NEA does in supporting reading and writing, and what the current trends in reading and writing are.  I do want to learn more about publishing and how to go about that, so this is a first step in that process.

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And now for some of my homework, until I'm too tired to think and crawl into bed to watch Game of Thrones.


Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela. by Kadir NelsonNelson Mandela. by Kadir Nelson by Kadir Nelson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picked this children's book up on Monday at our Nebraska clergy's Winter Convocation. I couldn't resist the cover image.

The art in the book is beautiful, even if the text is a little weak. I'm glad to have this in our collection of children's books for our future children.

And I love this cover image so much, I've got the book propped up on the piano. Looking at it makes me smile and feel good. I can't wait to show this image to our children and say, "This is what dignity looks like. This is what wisdom looks like. This is also what real joy looks like."

View all my reviews

The Hilarious Story about the Painting

We were in downtown Miami, Oklahoma at the bookstore and coffee shop enjoying catching up with my longtime friend Juan Penalosa.  He needed to take a conference call, so Michael and I decided to walk up and down Main Street and browse the stores, something I haven't done in many decades.  Fortunately, most of the stores have something in them, unlike many years, though its nothing like the days of my childhood when they were filled with department, clothing, and shoe stores.

As we turned at one end of the street to walk back, I said to Michael, "Did you ever see the murals we painted in the public library?"  Michael said, "I don't think so, because I don't remember stifling laughter."

So, we walked over to the library.  The last time I saw them, they were on the second floor, in one of the rooms up there.  Note: I last saw them in the mid 1990's, when I took my college girlfriend Jennifer to see them.

We walked up the steps to the second floor, but all the doors were locked.  Then, we walked downstairs into the main entrance.  The man behind the desk, who we later learned was named Terry, asked, "Can I help you?"

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I said, "My elementary class painted some murals that used to hang in one of the rooms on the second floor.  Are they still around?"

Terry: "No, there is nothing like that up there.  And I've worked here for seven years; I don't remember anything like that.  Sorry."

Me: "Well, that's too bad."

Terry: "Wait.  Were they on panels?"

Me:  "Yes."

Terry:  "And they were paintings of things that are around Miami?"

Me: Brightening. "Yes."

Terry:  "Oh, we did find those in the basement once.  No one knew anything about them or where they came from.  I'm note even sure if they are still down there.  Let me go and check."

He left and returned a few minutes later, beckoning us to the basement.  Another librarian, a woman, was down there and the two of them took us to a back corner (I was last in the basement when I worked at the library -- my first job as a fifteen-year-old; I was fired from that job, which is another story).  There were the three panels.  As we pulled them out to look at, I explained what they were.

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Our Gifted and Talented class in fourth grade (I believe that was the year, if not it was fifth grade), met at the public library on the second floor.  During that year we created these paintings of aspects of Ottawa County.  Mrs. Geneva Rush, our teacher, broke us into three groups to research the paintings and create them.  One was significant buildings, another was Native influences, and one was mining.  That was my group.  Our county was a major source lead and zinc mining, which supplied the country during the First and Second World Wars.  And also left much environmental damage, though we didn't fully understand that when we did the painting.  These paintings and then hung in the library, at least for a decade afterwards.

Lori Helton-Bailey said that she thinks they were part of a statewide effort, where kids in every county produced paintings that then went to Oklahoma City to be displayed.  She remembers that they were displayed in the Murrah building, and she always thought they were destroyed in the bombing.

The painting had been vandalized at one point, and may be why they were taken down.  It is scratched, including having a cuss word scratched in it.

After I explained what I knew of the paintings (I learned Lori's recollections later in the day), the woman librarian said, "You want it?"

Surprised, I said, "Well, I would rather they be kept in Miami and used somewhere. . ." as I said this, she gave me a look like I was delusional, so I kept talking . . . "but if they are going to be thrown away or kept in a basement, then yes, I guess so."  I looked anxiously at Michael, who signalled that he was okay accepting it.  She then asked if we wanted the other two, but we declined.  They aren't as good as ours anyway (plus we weren't sure the one would fit in our vehicle).

She said, "Let me go check with my boss first.  They are City property."  She came back later and said, "It's alright.  Go ahead."

So, we took the painting.  As we were carrying it out, I commented that I was still Facebook friends with the three other kids in the group -- Lori Helton, Kim Baldwin, and Dustin Headlee--and that I couldn't wait to send them a message about the painting.

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We went and got our car, and Juan, and came back to load the painting.  That took some work, but we got it in there.  I was giddy and jumped up and down, clapping my hands and laughing.

We went shopping to kill some time before dinner, and I sent Lori a message asking if she was in town and then explaining what had happened.  She was excited, saying she had been talking to her husband Will about the painting just recently.  So, we arranged to bring it by her house for her to see it.

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She was pleased that the painting was better than she remembered it being.  Lori also sent Kim a message, because she thought Kim was in town.  She was, but wasn't able to arrange a meeting to see the painting.  

So, Michael and I hauled it back to Omaha.  Now, where should we hang it?

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