Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Last stop Lexington

Our art tour of the US is winding down with one last stop in KY. It's beautiful in this part of the world. Rolling hills and lush horse farms. But even better are the people.

We had the pleasure of spending time with Chase the director of a local contemporary art center "Institute 193". Here Lilly and Chase enjoy some Kentucky bourbon and discuss post-studio-modern-barrel-aged art.

We then saw their most recent exhibition of work from the Latitude artists community. An organization that helps individuals with disabilities engage politically and culturally. These are impressive paintings by

We also saw the bizarre neo-gothic mansion that holds the Lexington art league. They held the KY biennial which interestingly has only a limited number of artists from KY but a strong showing from neighboring states.

And of course we ended our southern fried road trip with many things deep fried. We went to Ramsays diner. Above is fried catfish with fired corn, corn fritters, fried green tomatoes and corn bread. Below is a Hot Brown. This hot mess is a local KY open face sandwich. It has a slice of bread with thick cut turkey and a slab of ham which are then slathered in a mornay sauce (like a béarnaise but cheesier) then the whole thing is covered in cheddar and broiled and topped with bacon. Yep it tastes as ridiculous as it sounds. Oh yeah and then we finished it with Chess pie.

A celebratory feast For a summer well travelled. Now its back to work. Back to teaching and eating things that aren't deep fried. Well maybe a little fried...we still do live in the south after all.

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Chicago pit stop

We made the shortest of stops in Chi-town. Just enough time to see old friends. See the most recent show at the MCA...

Watch a puppet show...

Eat ethiopian food at our favorite Andersonville spot Lalibella...

And get back on the road. Here is a Wesley Willis rendition of us driving away.

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Riverside Iowa the final frontier

En route to Chicago we pulled off the highway to Riverside Iowa. A town of a few hundred. It is a small and somewhat depressed farming town except for one thing. Gene Rodenburry named it the fictional birthplace of the fictional Captain James T Kirk. And a bizarre kind of treky tourism has popped up.

The main street has little more than empty storefronts, a grain elevator, and a stone monument to the birth of a starship captain.

Outside of town is a small history and star trek memorabilia museum.

This is a bizarre history museum that has information about both the past and the future.

This is a must see for star trek fans and cultural theorists who will love seeing the fictional becoming more real than reality in this sleepy Iowa town.

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Lilly and I went to MN to visit my family and were happy to learn it was also raspberry season.

We picked a bunch and made more tarts than is healthy.

We also made an appearance at my 10 yr high school reunion. A fun time but no wm.

But there was a Julia Bly.

And a Rissy and a Devin.

We also had unexpectedly good food in twin cities. I love my state but I have become resigned to the fact that it has almost exclusively bland food. But we had a great Bun meal at this Vietnamese eatery. Definitely not bland.

But the highlight was a dinner at Saffron a north african inspired restaurant.

We got a rabbit tagine.

Fried lambs brain with stewed tomatoes.

Lamb bacon with compressed watermelon.

But the highest highlight was seeing Kyle potter turn into some kind of ghost with only 4 fingers. It made it very difficult to play board games.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sullivan vs. Wright the Eternal Struggle

We stopped by Mason City to see the newly re-opened Park Inn Hotel. It is the only surviving hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

It has been remodeled to be a functioning hotel. So they've made a lot of additions and choices many of which Lilly and I disagreed with. Like converting the old cafe into a lobby. Then filling it with Stickley furniture instead of Wrights own designs. The glass skylight is however original. 

Overall we felt it was not Wrights best work. He would probably agree. He was in Europe to finish up the Wasmuth portfolio when the hotel was being constructed and it doesn't seem that he paid it much attention.  But it is still a important example of prairie style. 

We then crossed the border into Minnesota and visited Owatonna which is home to a fantastic Louis Sullivan "jewel box" bank. 
The interior was meticulously restored and it shows. The whole effect is complicated without being overwhelming, charming without loosing it's seriousness.
In this small sample it was clear to us the superior architect was Louis Sullivan. For us the grasshopper will never out do the sensei.

But we will keep a running tally as we travel America. Current score: FLW = 0 LS = 1


We made an extended pit stop in Kansas City. This allowed us to the visit the home and studio of the artist Thomas Hart Benton. A figure I love despite the fact that he isn't the greatest painter. He was a great illustrator for his time, and his murals still have an allure. But he was ultimately on the wrong side of history. He was a teach and eventual friend of Jackson Pollock. He wrote off abstraction and eventually severed ties with the New York scene. They however came to define American art and his brand of mid-western realism has drifted into relative obscurity. Except in Kansas City where his studio was.

This is a great photographic portrait of Benton which now hangs in his house. It depicts him painting his own self-portrait in oil. It has a delightful mirroring effect.

Benton was only 5'3". A kind of Napolean of pre-war American art. This cut out is his actual height.

He died in his studio and it has been left mostly untouched since that day. It was very modest for the amazing amount of output he created. Including murals for many civic buildings around America. 

One of the largest collections of Benton's canvases is at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in KC. We also made a point to see that. But we were honestly more taken by their Asian art collection.

When in KC one also has to get BBQ. We went to Jack Stack for burnt ends. These are the cripsy bits from the edge of a brisket. Also a corn bake and some coleslaw in case you were wondering. We must admit though out heart is still with Whole Hog NC BBQ. This just isn't the same.
Our most interesting food stop in KC was Fluffy Fresh Donuts. A shop that sells out by 7am. We got there at 6:45 and they were almost cashed. But we still got ourselves a dozen. They were Kansas style which privileges a light dough with lots of air pockets as opposed to a dense cake donut you might get in the Northeast. Very good, but I still like a dense brick like hunk of fried dough.

But if you are up at 6 am in KC we would definitely recommend a visit.

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Our road trip has taken us from the Appalachians the Ozarks in search of American art. One of the highlights of our trip was a drive to the Northwest corner of Arkansas to Bentonville. The home of Walmart Headquarters and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Started by the Walton family it is a palace to culture set into a wooded lot in small town Arkansas.

We didn't know what to expect. We were hoping to be dumbfounded, since this is the museum that almost infinite money built. We were not dumbfounded, the collection is solid but conservative. It has a good survey of art from the 1700's to today with almost all the big names but an uneven collection in terms of quality for individual works.
Some of the highlights were Lilly above in a gallery with Albers, Noland, and Benglis.

One of the my most favorite Marsden Hartley

A really great Anni Albers textile work.

And a new commission by James Turrel.

But perhaps we were most surprised by the groundhog we saw on the grounds. You can see him lying prostrate on the middle boulder.

Another unexpected highlight was the beans and cornbread served in the cafeteria.
This is an interior shot of the dining area with a view of the curved roof.

All and all worth a visit. Glad we made it, but we should have tempered our expectations. We were not going to see long lost masterpieces or wildly avant-garde art. But everything was good and even down to the wildlife and cornbread.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dallas fancy pants

After our days in the desert Lilly and I headed north en route to Arkansas. We decided to splurge a bit and ended up staying in a hotel and eating at a place with tableclothes. We made our stop in Dallas and thoroughly enjoyed our indulgence,

We stayed at The Belmont an old roadside motel on the south side of the city which has been recently converted into a schmancy boutique hotel.

This is the view of the Dallas skyline from the patio of the hotel.

We went to Smoke for dinner. We got an awesome beef rib with hominy.

And a towering key lime pie. We also got sweetbreads with figs (not pictured) that were one of the best restaurant preparation we've had anywhere.

Then to round out our civilized day we went to the mall. Not any mall though. The Northpark Mall was built and operated by the Nasher family. The Nashers are one of the biggest collectors of contemporary art. They use the mall as another gallery. Here is Lilly below their fantastic Frank Stella.

Here is an Anthony Gormley with Versace in the background.

And Anish Kapor near Louis Vuitton.

We really liked this bizarre setting for art outside the museum. As usual we want to come back.

Next up Bentonville.