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Lee Bontecou – Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

When I first came across Lee Bontecou’s work earlier this year in Chicago, the first thing I thought was that it resembled something off the set of a Tim Burton movie. I had never seen anything like it before, and wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I thought it was interesting and nightmarish – but what was it supposed to mean? I was looking into black holes and peering at materials that appeared as though they had teeth.

Upon digging a little deeper, it is glaringly obvious to me why I was instinctively drawn to her work. The woman made art out of airplane parts. She crawled around and gathered scrap metal, canvas, and airplane parts to make her creations. Before seeing this exhibit, I associated airplanes with visions of vacations, spontaneous weekend trips, and last minute getaways out of town. The airplane has afforded me the opportunity to be across the country in less than five hours, and I have always been amazed by that. It is one of the very best modern inventions – the ability to explore and roam about so quickly. I had never before considered the dark side of aviation. Maybe it is a generation thing.

Aviation certainly changed the world. Businesses and entire countries began operating more efficiently. People spread ideas and interacted with each other on a global scale. Then naturally, came WAR. Lee’s thoughts are quoted in an interview on http://www.smithsonian.com describing her art as “Look at the stealth bomber,” she says. “It’s a beautiful thing up in the air, a piece of sculpture! But what it does is horror!”

Our world is a marvelous man-made well-oiled machine. Lee’s work reminds me to keep the dark side in mind. Everything seems to have a duality of purpose. Things of beauty (and people too, for that matter) and progress are not without the ability to cut to the core. It may only be a mix of careful planning, coupled with great measures of fortune and luck, that the world doesn’t just chew us right up and completely devour us.

Lee Bontecou  - Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Lee Bontecou – Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Lee Bontecou  - Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Lee Bontecou – Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Lee Bontecou  - Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Lee Bontecou – Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Further reading:
http://www.mcachicago.org/exhibitions/past/2013/301″>http://www.mcachicago.org/exhibitions/past/2013
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/bontecou.html?c=y&page=2
http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/lee-bontecou-doesnt-care-what-you-think/Content?oid=914734

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Surrealism at The Art Institute of Chicago

I was blown away by my recent visit to The Art Institute of Chicago, but was particularly touched by the surrealist paintings on exhibit. This took me by complete surprise, because before this visit, I always fancied myself a lover first and foremost of the French Post Impressionists. While the Post Impressionists sure paint a pretty picture that you would willingly step into, these modern artists sure do give you something to think about.

When I first saw René Magritte’s Time Transfixed in person, I was jolted back to a time in my teenage years when I had the most lucid dream of my life thus far. I was inside a grand old mansion with a mahogany staircase and red velvet stairs. I somehow found myself in the basement, which turned into a train station. There were no trains down there, though. Sadly, all I could see were a few twisting tracks and tunnels to other places. (At this point, I am about halfway beginning to wonder if trains have some unconscious meaning in my life. That would be ridiculous, though, so I quickly dismiss the thought). So why is the train coming through the fireplace, and in busting through, is it effectively stopping time or stepping out of time? I don’t know, but this feels like a Twin Peaks experience. Some critics might suggest that Magritte was subconsciously influenced by Einstein’s theories of relativity (especially because of the images of the clock and the train).

This piece is such a perfect example of surrealism to me, because it reminds me so much of a very real dream I once had. In the painting, the steaming train is stepping outside of time into an empty room in a safe house. This is a place outside of reality. A border area, where you can go when you need to breathe for a moment. You know, for when the steam runs too hot. The train is me.

René Magritte's Time Transfixed
René Magritte’s Time Transfixed

Another painting that begs for a discussion is Salvador Dali’s Visions of Eternity. No doubt about it, this is doom and gloom at its finest. This painting is all about The Great Emptiness. We have a wanderer in the background, and a dark shadow figure who is quite literally coming apart at the seams. We are all on the verge of collapse at any given moment, are we not? To me, this represents the world and its inhabitants as all floating aimlessly, and all damned to continue doing so for eternity. Over and over again, generation begets new generation. Rinse and repeat.

Salvador Dali's Visions of Eternity
Salvador Dali’s Visions of Eternity

This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Not the ones you think of when you are stuck in traffic or waiting in line somewhere. These are the pictures your mind comes up with when you are sound and out. The “I take no responsibility for this, I can’t help what I dreamed” type pictures. Not always pretty, but definitely conversation pieces.

Illuminations: Rediscovering the Art of Dale Chihuly (Oklahoma City Museum of Art)

This is a glass sculpture exhibit by Dale Chihuly, one of the most influential artists working in glass today. His sea forms and life-size purple reeds at the beginning of the exhibit give you the illusion that you are experiencing a taste of ocean life in Oklahoma.

Dale Chihuly - Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Dale Chihuly – Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Take a few steps further into the exhibition hall, and you happen upon a series of vibrant vases, made even more so by the carefully placed lights looming down from the ceiling. The darkness adds to the intensity of the exhibit. Turn another corner, and you are staring at a series of glass pastel ribbons that will remind you of that old fashioned Christmas candy that you ate straight from tin boxes. You will want to touch it!

Dale Chihuly - Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Dale Chihuly – Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Glass as fine art? Well, yeah. Art is what gives you pleasure as you gaze upon it. A lot of people are put off by the idea of visiting galleries and museums because they think they are intimidating or even too highbrow for their tastes. This exhibit is fun and accessible to all, including children. It is sure to entice those who are new to the art scene, as well as attract veteran visitors. My philosophy on appreciating art could be summed up by posing the following question: “Does it make you feel good? Then see more of it!”

You will enter a hallway to pass into the second half of the exhibit, and the ceiling of the hallway is lined with beautiful colored bowls. Um, can I get this for my house?!

Dale Chihuly - Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Dale Chihuly – Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Dale Chihuly - Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Dale Chihuly – Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Dale Chihuly - Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Dale Chihuly – Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Both children and adults (and quite possibly, yours truly) were seen spontaneously dropping to the floor so they could lie on their backs and gaze up at the ceiling. This is some of the best eye candy I have seen in a long time. The tickets should have come with a giant lollipop, and I mean that in the best possible way. This is art as an amusement park, and everyone was lapping it up.

Towards the end of the exhibit, the sense of whimsical magic continues. You are staring with your mouth gaping open at a boat that contains countless glass sculptures. It feels so sugary sweet, and Willy Wonka-ish, that you almost feel as though you are suffering from a sugar overdose. Yet your soul craves more sugar, evidence that you are becoming an addict. As you prepare to leave, part of you wonders what it would be like to just climb in the boat.

Dale Chihuly - Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Dale Chihuly – Oklahoma City Museum of Art

A surprising stop in Oklahoma City.

As always, our travels are indexed within our “Play” Journal from Stealth Journals. The sample entry page is pictured below:

Stealth Journals
Oklahoma: Indexed in our Play Journal, by Stealth Journals.

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