As always, all of the images in this post are my own.

After a Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) Scholar Luncheon last week, my daughters and I visited the Art Institute to see “Saints and Heroes: Art of Medieval and Renaissance Europe.” While there, we also took in “Whistler’s Mother: An American Icon Returns to Chicago.” Truth? I prefer the artist’s self-portrait; it reminds me of one of my favorite writers.

Doesn’t Whistler look a bit like Vonnegut in this painting?

Before leaving the museum, we stopped by to see a painting that never fails to startle me.

Charles Sheeler’s The Artist Looks at Nature (1945).

Over the weekend, we visited the Milwaukee County Zoo. When I downloaded the pics of the only animal I photographed, I was struck by the odd, painterly texture the zoom had created.

Tawny frogmouths at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Later in the weekend, we visited the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum before seeing Shakespeare in Love at the CST. (Reviews here and here.)
Between and among adventures, we had time to catch up on Colony (and discuss the apparent Lost parallels, including Snyder = Ben and “Not everything is as it may seem”), finish a few books (Shylock Is My Name is well worth the effort), and plan a few more excursions — although not for over the holiday. By design, our three-day respite will not take us further from home than half the distance of our longest bike ride.

What have you planned for the long weekend?

Smart Museum of Art

Arthur Dove. Harbor in Light. 1929.

Max Dungert. Landscape. Circa 1920.

Norman Lewis. Untitled. 1947.

Chinese, Shang Dynasty. Ritual Tripod Cooking Vessel. Circa 1300-1200 B.C.E.

Chinese, Northern Song Dynasty. Guardian Figures. 1056-63.

R: Japanese, Kofun Period. Haniwa: Warrior Head. Circa 5th century.
L: Isamu Noguchi. Iron Wash. 1956.

Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. Cloud Study. 1817.

Giovanni Castrucci. Wooded Landscape with Crenellated Wall. Circa 1600-07.

I took the above images this afternoon at the Smart Museum of Art. My husband and I were able to visit before seeing Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem at the Court Theatre. (Yeah, it was pretty much a perfect day.)

Krannert Art Museum






img_1588I took the above images during a recent visit to Krannert Art Museum. The first two capture detail from Lorado Taft’s “The Blind” (1908). The next two images feature items in the permanent collection “Arts of Ancient Peru.” The grave post is dated circa 1000 – 1470 and the female effigy figure, circa 1100 – 1470. Charles Turzak’s “Oak Street Beach” (1933-1934) and Hugh Pearce Botts’ “Nana” appear in a temporary exhibition “Enough to Live On: Art of the WPA.”

Serendipity. Synchronicity. Synthesis.

My photo of Grant Wood’s “January” (1938).

Grant Wood’s work has always put me in mind of a Sinclair Lewis novel. At some point, I learned that this is not an arbitrary connection:

In 1937, Grant Wood was asked to illustrate a novel that, like his painting American Gothic, had already become a classic: Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street. Published nearly twenty years earlier in 1920, Lewis’s novel had come to represent the Midwest just as Wood’s paintings symbolized that region during the 1930s. Today Sinclair Lewis and Grant Wood still endure as cultural figures who captured something distinctive yet elusive about the Heartland; yet Lewis and Wood looked at the American Midwest through different eyes. Lewis saw provincialism and narrowness, while Wood gloried in the solid, earthy strength of his fellow midwesterners and their land. Both men felt conflicted about their homes, and these dichotomies filtered into their work.

At the Art Institute’s “Master Drawings Unveiled: 25 Years of Major Acquisitions,” Wood’s “January” reminded me anew that serendipity-synchronicity-synthesis weaves powerful connections in my learning life: At the urging of my youngest, who is currently reading Arrowsmith on the recommendation of a mentor, I have moved my copy of the 1925 Lewis classic to the top of my TBR stack.

From the museum, we made our way to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater for The Winter’s Tale, a play with which I grow more irritated each time I see it. It’s a fairy tale, my older daughter has patiently explained. Well, then, I have retorted, the only suitable conclusion would be the lonely and terrible death of Leontes. Cheek by Jowl’s production earned my respect not only for its inventive direction and wonderful performances but also for amplifying my sense that, yes, Leontes is a disturbed drama king, and his queen, his friend, his court are his enablers. This staging unabashedly holds all of them accountable for the despair that defines their kingdom, and it made. me. think. High praise.

On the way home, as we discussed the psychology at work in such an interpretation of the play, I scanned the landscape and wondered how Wood would capture the cold night. Oh! “January” is a winter’s tale.

Serendipity. Synchronicity. Synthesis.

The following are a few other images I took during our recent visit to the Art Institute.





Celestial Chaos No. 1

As we exited the Art Institute following a member morning at the now-concluded “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” (my images here), Tai Xiangzhou’s “Celestial Chaos No. 1” commanded my attention. It reminded me of Anselm Kiefer’s “Midgard,” which we had seen at the Milwaukee Art Museum over winter break.

Read more about “Midgard” here.

Rooted as they are in their respective mythologies (Chinese and Norse), don’t the paintings each evoke a sense of cosmic mystery? I was reminded of their similarity when reading the recent Member Magazine, which features a short article about the Art Institute’s acquisition of “Celestial Chaos No. 1” (no link available). The painting will be exhibited in Gallery 130 through the end of August.

“This time it’s just simply my bedroom…”









I took the images above at the Art Institute’s “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibit, which runs through May 10.

■ “Parisian Novels” (1887)
■ “A Pair of Shows” (1887)
■ A letter to Theo
■ An early sketch of the bedroom from a letter to Theo
■ “Self-Portrait” (1889)
■ “A Corner of the Asylum and the Garden with a Heavy, Sawed-Off Tree” (1889)
■ “Thatched-Roofed Cottages of Jorgus” (1890)
■ “Hospital at Saint-Rémy” (1889)