Monday, December 12, 2011

Collecting The Sparkly Bits : Chicago Holiday, Part II

There is something so satisfying about taking bits of color and texture and artfully combining them to make a whole that is so much more interesting than any of the elements involved. As the puzzle comes together, the brain plays lovingly with the new combinations to find meaning and story to amuse and delight itself.

That combination of bits is a great part of all the arts, as in the creation of a piece of jewelry, or a painting, or a woven piece of cloth. It plays into the creation of each new memory of time well spent. It is ultimately the formula of an interesting life.

A finely crafted day is especially wonderful when the bits and pieces include the experience of wonderful art. Those details double the fascination for me, and helps to create memories that enrich with the retelling.  One of my best reasons for wanting a city life in retirement is to be surrounded by the possibility of falling into art.  I like the serendipitous nature of the hunt. Knowing that it is all around me, on the street and hidden behind walls, a day in the city is a scavenger hunt for something I've never seen before, or a deeply loved favorite that I intend to revisit. Some of the findings will come from previous announcement through the media, and some will be by fortuitous accident. Every trip to Chicago has a mixture of these elements, and stumbling upon the unplanned feels like the universe is complicit in my pleasure.

The completed bracelet from last month, a labor of love and about forty hours of work. Don't know that I'll ever wear it, but who would buy it?

Such simple unassuming parts as tiny glass beads or over-sized rhinestones (rivolis). Here you see the beginning stages of adding the fringe. After sewing about seventeen different fringes between each rivoli, others were sewn around each of the beaded bezels and then around the edge of the beaded base to achieve that sumptuous fullness seen in the finished bracelet.

Self portrait of a couple off to have a city adventure
 on a festive Friday evening.

The big city is full of big street art. Tribune plaza has hosted Cows on Parade, "American Gothic" farmers, and now, Marilyn.

A view that we never really saw in the movie or the famous photos. This is the very heart of town, just over the Michigan Avenue bridge north of the Chicago River. She draws much attention, some controversy, and frankly was more beautiful than I thought it would be. She seems to embody the bold energy and excitement that you feel when you stand in this heart of American culture.

Just like last year, one of us took great advantage of the tree-house-like space of the window seat. Looking in from the perch...

...looking out on the night (at Wabash and Wacker, and the Chicago River).

Saturday we went in search of culture at (among other places) The Chicago Cultural Center. Formerly the main branch of the city library, the building was designed in a long gone era of fine craftsmanship and bold investment in public wealth. This was a palace for the people of the city. It is still awe inspiring.

A grand entrance serves as a gallery of amazing tile work.

Newly restored to grandeur, the Tiffany dome.

Beside the beauty of the building, the Cultural Center hosts fascinating free art exhibits, often with a more controversial, modern, or local provenance than the Art Institute. As usual we were not disappointed. The outstanding current exhibit, on view through April of 2012, is "Write Now: Artists and Letterforms".  
The trifecta of enjoyment was completed when we stumbled upon a festival  sponsored by the local public radio station, WBEZ91.5, called "What's Your Art: Celebrating the Art Centers of Chicago." In the huge ballroom-like Yates Gallery, were about twenty booths and activity stations, with enough live art to keep you busy for hours if you cared to immerse yourself in talking to all the artists. In addition to getting a sales pitch to buy hand blown glass from some enthusiastic local students, and a great talk about camera lenses with a local photographer, I had a linoleum block print custom made for me for free, and watched (although I sorely wanted to participate) an "impromptu" communal dance with knitwear.

Getting ready for the reveal...

Just like children's flip books, we each got to choose which head, body and feet went together to create our unique character.

Laid out on the floor covering the center of room was a zigzag of knit tubing (the kind we all made as kids on one of those spools with nails) connecting about 100 knit and crocheted hats of every imaginable style and color.

At the designated time, the dance leader gave a few quick rules of the dance, instructed the volunteer participants to don a hat and the music began.

What good is a giant hat dance without a rousing brass section a la New Orleans and Mardi Gras?

The Man waits patiently. Because I am not dancing
 he knows we will leave sooner than later.

And so it goes, it is time to culminate the weekend's festivities with the original purpose of the trip, a yearly dinner dance sponsored by the Association of Iron and Steel Technology. Never the best of the trip, but the catalyst to prompt us to experience the rest. 

A couple of pink "cosmos" make the table and me more festive.

 Happy Holidays to all my friends and readers. I hope you have enjoyed our adventures together this year and that I will see you again in the New Year. If you aren't already doing so, I hope you will sign up to follow, and feel free to leave comments on this or any post.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Snapshot Interlude: A Chicago Holiday, Part I

Life is good, life is busy and fulfilling, but I am so badly missing the drawing track I was on. It was starting to become such a good habit, but has currently fallen by the wayside. First, however, I have promises to keep. And the promise to myself that as soon as I finish some of my lovely projects that have been patiently waiting for me to love them too, then I can go back to daily journaling of the ink and paint nature.

The first love of my creative life has always been textiles, and I have quite a few fabric-y things piled high in the studio. I am just this week completing (and I mean before the week ends) a quilt that started with an inspiring class in... 1999! Several times I almost called it quits, but I'm so glad I persevered, because I love it now. My guild's next show is in late March, and so I have set a rigid schedule to help me have a good showing there. I'm sure I will be glad I did.

So instead, this week I am sharing the first installment of visual candy of my recent trip into town to gather and participate in that good holiday vibe of early December. I always take the sketchbook and journals with me, but when there is a short time and much to capture, there is nothing like a camera. I love to see how much energy I can pack into my shots, and so share a bit of the excitement with you.

The Hotel Monaco, just south of the Chicago River is our favorite place to stay in town. They have just redecorated and the room was quite elegant.

The view from our third floor window took in the Trump Tower
 across the river. The crystalline blue makes it look
 like a computer-generated image to me.

In Daley Plaza, we drank hot spiced wine and ate gooey chocolate soft pretzels. Two "porcelain figurines" posed in front of the giant Christmas tree.

Hanging out at the Christkindelmart is a nice time to stop and look around at the dramatic beauty of the city buildings.

I love all the overlapping reflections and intersecting lines. Just a pop of red.

Always on guard and always on duty.

"Flaming Pigeons"
It was hilarious to watch them warming their "heinies" in front of the memorial flame in the plaza (especially since it wasn't a terribly cold day.)

An elegant Macy's Window foretold the exciting decor to be found inside. (Although it's still Marshall Fields in the heart of many locals, I am a Philadelphian, and the fabulous building reminds me of the Wanamaker's of my youth.)

Trumpets on State Street

The amazing tree in the Walnut Room restaurant

Real tree "skirts" along the sidewalks are always holiday festive.

Sometimes "The Bean" makes you catch your breath with how it appears as delicate as a bubble.

It is mandatory for tourists and locals to visit and take
 photos of their reflections.

When you walk under Cloud Gate (the real name of the artwork,) the reflections multiply and produce dizzying effects. If you aren't careful you can walk into the surface.

The girl behind the camera

The sun was beginning to set and we headed off to the Art Institute for our afternoon coffee at the Modern Wing.

Lines, textures, colors (and this was just a hallway out side the lavatories!) I think it would be a good start for an interesting painting or quilt.

Crown Fountain "spews" water from the ever changing faces
 on the two 50 foot glass block towers. (Well, not in winter; but in summer kids of all ages frolic in the water.)
Note the moon directly overhead.

Heading back to the hotel, the magic glow of the city at sunset.
The building on the far right is the Aon Center,
 previously the second tallest building in the city
(before Trump was completed.)
Hope you enjoyed!
Next time: a bit of the night, plus an arty stop at the Chicago Cultural Center.