Why I have that title will be clear in a paragraph or two, but first I must get my blogging boots back on embrace my keyboard once again. I was going to wait until son #1 went back to college, son #2 went back to school and my husband returned to work, however this topic was rollicking around my brain all night so I had to write it out.
It has been over 25 years since we moved back to Ohio from Pittsburgh. The quick 2.5 hour drive makes for a nice day trip when one wants to see their version of University Circle. I would suggest that the attempt not be made on a day of freezing rain using the direct route along the back roads. Such an adventure only points out that I can drive and the rest of the world turns clueless. Such weather conditions are not a good time to realize that new tires are needed every so often because treads are put on there for a reason. Also, driving one handed while talking on the phone and going 15 miles under the speed limit really annoys the driver behind you (who just happens to be me in your rear view mirror). Any wreck that occurs on a two lane road will most likely shut it down so backtracking for another route is a given. Finally, using an in-car navigation system is great, unless the city had changed the highway and exit numbers which explains why we call her “Naggie”. Thank goodness for instincts and memory which can override any mechanical device because once one passes through the tunnels, the view has always been stunning.
First stop was the Botanical Gardens known as the Phipps Conservatory. Obviously the outside gardens were closed due to the season but the expanded interior still puts most local venues to shame. A few Chihulys remain in the collection along with a room of trains in various scales set up for the holiday season.
Almost literally around the corner is the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History. Cleveland is head and shoulders above Pittsburgh in the Art Museum category and probably equal as far as Natural History Museums but they have us beat in the significant history department and their being adjacent to major Universities. Carnegie Mellon and U of Pitt border the museum complex. When first married in 1984, we lived only 2 blocks down the street and I think I went to the museums only once during those couple of years. 20/20 hindsight strikes again. The neighborhood has changed from bohemian chic to hipster as the colleges have taken over the once trendy shops and stores of Craig Street. But I digress….
A couple of hours in the Natural History and it was time to venture to the Art side of the complex. In case you go, it is one ticket for both museums which are connected at a number of points within the buildings. Previously while at the Botanical Gardens, one was advised to follow a continuous path by turning right all the time, that way nothing is missed. At the Natural History museum, that advice works fairly well too. The Art Museum is set up in reverse which if one had read the map, would have known. However, being a good creature of habit, at the top of the stairs we turned right into the contemporary art, special exhibitions galleries.
The ever present philosophy of making it big makes it better, and lots of empty wall space around something means it is really (really!!) important is alive and well without a doubt. I could write for pages on the irritations of “contemporary” art, but I have to get to the drain. My one son was facing a wall laughing. I could not see anything on the wall (although at 6’ 6” he tends to hide a lot.) He stepped back and embedded in the wall, about 4 feet off the ground, was a sink drain. That’s it…..granted, it was made of pewter so I found out which is what I guess makes it art. I took a picture, and also a picture of the tag located a good 5 feet away on a side wall, and then a photo of my boys standing next to it for scale. All this before the guard who was standing right there told me I could not take any pictures. He tried to tell me a camera was inside the drain taking our pictures. (ha ha, that works on the little kids, but those of us who know the law, know better….)
A drain…..yes…in one of the world’s most noted art museums, an acquisition paid for by four different charitable trusts and funds, by a living American artist only a few years older than myself. It is just such moments that make us artists wonder why in the hell are we doing what we do. A simple 4” pewter drain with no real difference from any other found at the Home Depot other than the material from which it is made and of course begin mounted on a wall. Suffice to say I was rather jaded for the rest of those galleries. The special exhibit of metal laundry drying racks with a tangle of cords and light bulbs hung all over them and few clumps of torn sweaters did not enhance my mood. I could score one victory however! A series of photographs were displayed, all labeled as “untitled”, but…..each one had a number for which “untitled” it happened to be, and…..in parenthesis’ next to the “untitled” title, was a title much like the subtitle on a book, to further identify which “untitled” photo was which. I win!! Dear artist person, you had to title them so the viewers could tell them apart, the whole “untitled” thing was a waste of text. My son pointed that one out before I even got to the display. Nice to know they have been listening all these years. Even the drain was titled “Drain 1989” which I hope he signed and dated on the part embedded in the wall which we could not see. I would include the photo with this posting, but that would break the copyright laws. So instead, when brushing your teeth, glance down and you can just envision it for yourself.
While in Pittsburgh, take the incline as well, photograph the skyline at night and do not under any circumstances admit you are from the NE Ohio area unless you swear allegiance to the Steelers. They are a bit sensitive about football, about as much as we are here in the land of the Giant Juicer.