Thursday, November 12, 2009

Girlfriends' Weekend

Last weekend I spent a delightful 4 days with 6 friends in Chicago. These are people I've met at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium in Columbus, Ohio and have enjoyed their company whenever I've been with them. As part of this trip, I attended the opening reception of "What's the BIG Idea" at the Northbrook Public Library, where I have a piece in this show. I have family in Northbrook and it was a real treat to have them come to the reception and see my work hanging on the wall. It's an all media show, with mostly painted works, and mine is the only quilted fiber piece. I didn't win any of the big prizes, but there is always hope for one of the Viewers' Choice prizes.

In Chicago we stayed at the Silversmith Hotel, an historic building in the Loop, two blocks from Millenium Park. The staff treated us like queens and we tried to not make too much noise as we partied in our rooms.

We wanted to visit the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute but had to kill some time before it opened and so explored Millenium Park. This is an amazing place. Here is the description from their web site:

"Millennium Park is an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design. The result of a unique partnership between the City of Chicago and the philanthropic community, the 24.5-acre Park features the work of world-renowned architects, planners, artists and designers. Among Millennium Park's prominent features are the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the most sophisticated outdoor concert venue of its kind in the United States; the interactive Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa; the contemporary Luri Garden designed by the team of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd, Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel; and Anish Kapoor’s hugely popular Cloud Gate sculpture."

I remember from my childhood that this area was railroad yards and parking lots, but in 1998 the City began construction of this park. What a change! We spent many minutes at the Cloud Gate, looking at our reflections in the highly polished stainless steel surface, and watching other people do the same thing. From one vantage point its curved surfaces reflect the skyline of the city along with the clouds in the sky. If you get close up you see your self contorted into very weird shapes.

We walked over the BP Bridge, designed by Frank Gehry, 925 feet long and serpentine in shape. There are panels that form the sides of the bridge and slope down to the ground and are an almost irresistible temptation to slide down. Slide marks from previous visitors attest to the fact that not everybody can resist the temptation.

We walked through the gardens which were showing the effects of late fall, and made me want to come back in summer to see them in full bloom. From the Park we ascended the walkway to the entrance of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. This wing just opened last Spring and is another architectural marvel. We only visited a few of the exhibits, there is just way too much to see for a one day visit. We saw mostly contemporary art, both European and American and ate lunch in the gourmet restaurant.

On Saturday our goal was to attend SOFA - Sculptural Objects and Fine Art. I've heard of this show for years and never had the opportunity to see it. But first we had to get there, and that required a hike down Michigan Avenue, right past the old Chicago Public Library building. No longer a library, it now houses the Chicago Cultural Center and presents free art programs all year long.

From their web page:

"Completed in 1897 as Chicago’s first central public library, the building was designed to impress and to prove that Chicago had grown into a sophisticated metropolis. The country’s top architects and craftsmen used the most sumptuous materials, such as rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics of Favrile glass, mother-of-pearl and colored stone, to create an architectural showplace. Located on the south side of the building, the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome ― 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass ― was restored to its original splendor in 2008. On the north side of the building is a 40-foot-diameter dome with some 50,000 pieces of glass in an intricate Renaissance pattern, designed by Healy & Millet."

The mosaics were incredible, some with pieces as tiny as 1/4" across. We could have stayed for many more hours, but SOFA was calling. It was a long walk to Navy Pier and by the time we got there we were all in need of food and drink. After a delicious lunch, we finally got into the show. I've been to the American Craft Council show in Baltimore many times, and sort of expected something similar. At the ACC show, individual artists show their wares in 10'x10' booths. At SOFA, the artwork is displayed by the galleries that represent the artists in "booths" that resemble a gallery setting. Much more sophisticated in presentation. And much higher prices, it seemed. The people in attendance seemed to be divided into two categories: gawkers like us and fashionably dressed people who obviously had lots of disposable income. And they were disposing of it as there were many red dots.

Saturday night was deep dish Chicago pizza (yum, my favorite!) from Lou Malnati's I have frequently ordered pizza from them - they will ship it overnight FedEx, packed in dry ice. But it's never quite as good as the real thing, hot from the oven.

Sunday morning half of our group headed home early, and the rest of us spent the time walking in Grant Park, hoping to see Buckingham Fountain in all its glory. Unfortunately, even the the temperature was a balmy 70 degrees, the fountain had already been turned off for the season. We strolled through the park, then came back up along the waterfront.

And then it was time to leave and come home. What a fantastic weekend! We're already talking about our next jaunt. Maybe back to Chicago, or maybe someplace else. And next time I will remember to bring my camera.

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