Denver Debris

No matter how much you prepare to visit a city you don’t know well — and I try not to overdo it — surprises will turn up. Details you’ll only encounter in person. Such as Denver’s Rainbow Row.

Bail Bond Row Denver

That’s just my name for it, borrowed from the genteel Rainbow Row of Charleston. Denver’s version is not genteel. For one thing, it’s across the street from the 488,000-square-foot Denver Justice Center. That is, the city/county jail.

The colorful buildings all house bail bondsmen. It’s only speculation, but I’d guess that one of them painted its building a bright color to stand out, then the others did.

Speaking of colorful structures, not far away is the Denver Central Library.
Denver Public LibraryMore of a pastel effect. Though maybe “pastel” is too banal a term when you’re aiming to challenge assumptions about public spaces and discourse, or fracture public library paradigms, or something.

Anyway, Michael Grave Architecture & Design, which designed a major expansion of the library in the 1990s, notes: “This project, won through a design competition, included the preservation and renovation of the 1956 147,000 SF modernist library by Burnham Hoyt, and a 390,000 SF expansion. The expansion is composed as a series of elements to allow the existing building to read as one part of a larger composition.”

The library is across the street from the Denver Art Museum. Outside the museum is this sculpture.
The Big SweepLooks familar. Yes indeed, it’s a Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen work, “Big Sweep” (2006). (What, that wasn’t the name of one of Raymond Chandler’s best books?)

Art etiquette is right there in bronze, next to the work.
The Big SweepAfter visiting the museum, I spent a while at the Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration just outside on the plaza. Featuring dancers.
Denver PowwowAnd drummers. Cool.
Denver PowwowOutside of Union Station, I saw a Tesla Model X. Haven’t seen those very often. Ever, actually.
Tesla X, Denver Union StationClose inspection shows that it belongs to the Crawford Hotel, which is part of Union Station. An upper-crust guest shuttle, no doubt.

On my last day in town, I worked in some shared office space — all the rage right now. I prefer my own office most of the time, but it was pleasant space. I didn’t mind working there for a few hours. Had a nice outdoor component, for one thing, with the Front Range off in the distance.
Shared office space, DenverI worked at this counter. People came and went, preparing light eats for themselves.
Shared office space, DenverAbove the counter was this. A hell of a light fixture, I’d say. Machine Age chic for Millennials.
Shared office space, DenverIn the same room were old machines made into illuminated works of art. Such as this typewriter + light bulbs, the likes of which I’d never seen before.
Shared office space, DenverA semi-circular, very old (late 19th century) Hammond machine. Looks like a 1b. Non-qwerty. Light bulbs added for effect, presumably.

Then there’s this curiousity. Again, light bulbs added.
The Davis & Kidder Patent Magneto-Electric Machine for Nervous DiseasesQuestionable Medical DevicesA 19th-century medical device. Reminds me of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minneapolis, now unfortunately closed.

I had the good fortune to visit that museum in 1998, and retain a pamphlet from it to this day.

The machine I saw in Denver is a specific device. The Wood Library Museum says: “In 1854, manufacturer W.H. Burnap produced a well-known electrotherapy device that was purchased by the general consumer as well as some physicians and hospitals: The Davis & Kidder Patent Magneto-Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases.

“The operator of this electromagnetic generator would place handles in the patient’s hands or elsewhere on the patient’s body and then turn a crank to deliver a ‘mild’ alternating current to the patient. The force of the current depended upon the speed with which the crank was turned.

“The makers claimed that it could relieve pain, as well as cure numerous diseases, including cancer, consumption (tuberculosis), diabetes, gangrene, heart disease, lockjaw (tetanus), and spinal deformities.”

One more thing. No Double Turn? What’s that supposed to mean? I saw several of these signs downtown.

NO DOUBLE TURN! What?

I think I figured it out. No left turns except from the left lane. Denver is the only place I’ve ever seen such a sign.

The Denver Art Museum

At first, approaching from some blocks away, I didn’t realize this was one of the main buildings of the Denver Art Museum, which I visited on the afternoon of September 9.
Denver Art Museum, North Building 2017I spent some time looking at it, though, because it isn’t like anything else in the area. I had a thought that shows my age: crumpled punch card.

If I ever asked my daughters, or one of their contemporaries, what’s a punch card? the answer I would surely get is, I don’t know. But I remember seeing them as late as the early ’80s. Do not fold, spindle or mutilate.

The building, known as the museum’s North Building, is from the age of punch cards, completed in 1971 and one of the last works of architect Gio Ponti. Modernist Ponti’s work is otherwise unrepresented in North America and, having never been to Milan (or made any systematic study of the built environment), I had only a meager notion of his work.

There’s a helpful exhibit in the museum about the early history of the organization and the construction of the North Building, and then the development of the much newer Hamilton Building, completed only in 2006. That building is so horizontal that an image was hard to capture in one go, unless you step back further than I cared to.

Denver Art Museum, Hamilton Building 2017Denver Art Museum, Hamilton Building 2017If the North Building is Modernist, the Hamilton is Postmodernist? I suppose. Odd geometry for the sake of odd geometry by starchitect Daniel Libeskind. Interesting to look at, certainly. Like the Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge in greater Cincinnati, unfinished the last time I was in that town.

As any art museum of any size should — and it’s credited with being the largest art museum between Chicago and the West Coast — DAM has a wealth of works on display, and no doubt a sizable inventory in storage. Too much for any one visit: European and American art of earlier centuries, Asian works, Pre-Columbian items and a Spanish Colonial collection, modern African and Oceanic pieces, photography, textiles and more.

I’d read that one of DAM’s specialties was American Indian art, and so it is. Like the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, the collection includes Indian art and artifacts of historic interest, but also artwork by 20th- and 21st-century Native Americans.

I spent a fairly long time in these galleries, beginning with earlier items, such as this room, which naturally reminded me of the the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology.

Denver Art Museum

Except for this work, “Blanket Story: Confluence, Heirloom, and Tenth Mountain Division” by Marie Watt, 2013.  Denver Art Museum

Which is composed of a very tall stack of blankets, “donated mostly by members of the local community,” said the plaque, which I take to mean the Seneca, since Watt belongs to that tribe. I asked a docent how the stack was held up; she said the artist and the curator probably knew, but she didn’t. There was no visible means of support.

Another room sports various vessels, in this case the works of Zia artists in New Mexico.
Zia bowls, Denver Art MuseumMoving forward in time, “Sacro-Wi” by Oscar Howe, 1967.
"Sacro-Wi" by Oscar HoweHe sounded familiar. Turns out he’s the same artist who did the interior murals at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Closer to our time, some parody: “American Spirit,” by David P. Bradley, 2004-05.

Denver Art MuseumAnd “Land O Bucks, Land O Fakes, Land O Lakes,” by the same artist, 2006. Reminded me very much of Wacky Packages, which were all the rage when I was in junior high.
Denver Art MuseumAs interesting as the works were, American Indian art was hardly the full extent of DAM. I also spent a while looking at European art from earlier centuries.
Denver Art Museum 2017Note the chairs. The older I get, the more I appreciate museums with seating with backs.

A detail from a striking painting in that room, “La Famille du Saltimbanque: L’Enfant Blessé (The Family of Street Acrobats: The Injured Child),” by Gustave Doré, ca. 1873.

Denver Art Museum

One of the other things he did was wood-engraved illustrations for “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

And now for something completely different: a detail from “Thomas Sheppard,” by Andrea Soldi, 1773.
Denver Art MuseumSomething even more different: a Chinese bamboo carving.
Denver Art MuseumBy that time I saw that I’d wandered off into a gallery dedicated to a collection of East Asian bamboo carvings of considerable variety and virtuosity. I must have seen such things while in East Asia, but time passes, and you forget.

Among other things, writings about bamboo were also posted in the room. Such as a poem attributed to Su Shi, a Chinese poet, calligrapher and gastronome (1037-1101) of the Song dynasty, translated by Jan Walls. (How come I don’t remember this statue of Su Shi near the West Lake? I must have seen it.)

At a Reclusive Monk’s Green Bamboo Studio

I would rather eat a meal without meat
than live in a place without bamboo.
Eating without meat makes you lose weight,
but living without bamboo makes you lose refinement.
When a person loses weight, it may be regained,
but when scholars lose refinement they are untreatable.
Others will find these words funny,
seeming lofty and at the same time, crazy.
Ruminate on this carefully if you are wise,
or you will never ride a crane to Paradise.

Bremen, West Germany, 1983

Around this time of the year 34 years ago, I spent a couple of days in the north German city of Bremen. City-state, actually: Freie Hansestadt Bremen, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. Once a state in the German Confederation, then a component state of the German Empire, it was merely a city according to the Nazis. Since 1947, it’s been a state again, the smallest in area of the Federal Republic.

Odd, Bremen and Hamburg got to be states again, but not poor old Lübeck. Such are the vagaries of history.

I had a fine time. How could I not? I was a young man with exactly nothing else to do at that moment but see a new city in an interesting old country. I was a free man in Bremen/I felt unfettered and alive… Well, that lyric wouldn’t have quite the same vibe, but that’s not too far off. Anyway, my tourist impulse was in full flower.

This is David and me. He was the brother of a New Yorker friend of mine in Germany, Debbie. Mostly I was by myself in Bremen, but I met up with them toward the end of my visit. The background is the Schnoor, more about which later.
BremenJuly2.83The following is an edited version of what I wrote at the time.

“Rode a morning train from Lüneburg to Hamburg-Harburg. Some punkish fellows sat across from me: colorful pants & leather jackets with steel studs & short, almost crewcut hair with a mandatory earring each. One wore a digital watch.

“At Hamburg-Harburg, I had 40 minutes to wait. I met a fellow, more conventionally dressed and only a little older than I am, who spoke British English so well I wasn’t sure whether he was British or German for a few minutes. Turned out he was from near Lübeck. His book for the ride was an English-language edition of The Lord of the Rings. The German translation, he told me, ‘is rubbish.’ We talked about a number of other things as well. He told me he didn’t like the prospect of Pershing IIs stationed in West Germany, but he thought they were necessary.

“At Bremen I exited the station, got a map, and experienced the first-time rush of a new place. You aren’t tired, you feel open to the world, you want to look at everything you pass by. I crossed downtown Bremen’s large fussgangerplatz, walked by shops and goods and people, and enjoyed the sights and sounds. That kind of rush doesn’t last long, but it’s great while it does.

“I found the Jugendherberge, an ugly squarish building between downtown and the industrial Weser riverside. Check-in wasn’t until 1:30, so I sat under a bridge near St. Stephen’s and ate the bread and wurst I brought. The brot was a little dry and the wurst something like raw hamburger, but I needed the sustenance.

“Then I checked in and began wandering. I found the Rathaus first, then the famous 1404 statue of Roland. I spent a good while in Bremen Cathedral (St. Petri Dom zu Bremen), marveling at its intricate, aesthetic wonders, such as the painted pillars and the statues illustrating the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Went to the crypt, thought to be the oldest room in Bremen, dedicated in 1066.

“Sometimes I mulled a bit gloomily that time will sooner or later reduce the cathedral to dust — via nuclear attack in August or 10,000 years of erosion or something. But it’s here, now, and so am I. Before I left, I bought a little book about the cathedral.
Bremen Cathedral“Not long after I left, I spotted a series of white dots painted on the sidewalk, with the words Zum Schnoor –> every 30 or 40 feet to go with them. I followed them to the Schnoor. I’d heard that the Schnoor was the oldest surviving section of the city, and so it seems. The Schnoor is focused on a narrow street of that name, lined with aged shops and other buildings. Some of the side streets are even narrower, barely wide enough for two people to pass.

“En route to a church I never got into because it was always locked, I came across Böttcherstraße. Every ten feet or so is another work by one Bernhard Hoetger, some interesting stuff dating from pre-you-know-who Weimar years. Apparently the Nazis didn’t much like the works, but they survived them and the war. [Brick Expressionism, I’ve read, is the term, at least for some of the buildings.] There was also a small cinema tucked away in the area. Showing that evening: Death in Venice. An Italian movie with German subtitles, probably, or dubbed in German. I decided not to go.

“I walked further afield, near some small city lakes, and then to the Übersee Museum Bremen, near the main train station. It’s an ethnographic museum, complete with huts from New Guinea, a Japanese shrine with a manicured garden and a pond with goldfish, and a elegant Burmese temple. All of the labels were in German, but that didn’t matter much [I experienced something similar some years later at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka.]

“There was a special exhibit of schoolchildren’s paintings: ‘Japanese kids see us and German kids see Japan.’ A funny mix of cultural and political images, mostly, tending toward the stereotypical. My favorite was a Japanese drawing of a German with a grinning Volkswagen for a head, eating sausage and drinking beer. Hitler’s face and swastikas were common, as was Beethoven’s face, and some drawings showed Germany torn between the Stars & Stripes and the Hammer & Sickle.

“After the museum I had dinner at the Restaurant Belgrade. For DM 16, I had an excellent Hungarian goulash, potatoes, salad, bread and beer. Returned to the hostel at about 10, very tired, and went to sleep almost at once.

“At breakfast at the hostel I talked with a Japanese girl who’d been to the Bremen Geothe Institut and who was about to go home. She was pleasant, and showed me postcards of Japan. After checking out, I wandered the streets on the other side of the Weser a while, then at 10 took a harbor cruise.

“It was a busy place, with ships from all over, and vast industrial areas along the banks, including a huge drydock belonging to Krupp, and a Kellogg’s factory with enormous murals of Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackle & Pop on its side. I couldn’t catch a lot of the narration, but it seemed mostly about ship sizes and carrying capacities, so I didn’t mind.

“Back on land, I visited the church opposite the Dom, Unser Lieben Frauen Kirche, the second-oldest church in the city, and not as ornate as the cathedral. I took a tour of the Rathaus, and as Steve promised, the place has remarkable woodwork. For example, the puti-like faces on some of the chairs managed to have lustful and leering expressions. The Rathaus also has a fine collection of model ships, mostly the 17th-century Bremen fleet, and an assortment of portraits of Holy Roman Emperors.

“As if that wasn’t enough, I then went to the Ludwig Roselius Museum, which houses paintings & furniture & gold & maps from the 17th and 18th centuries. Saw the original black painting of Martin Luther that I’ve seen reproduced a number of other places [Lucas Cranach].

“My energy was low by this time, but I walked some more, returning to the Böttcherstraße at 3 and hearing the chimes of the Glockenspiel House and seeing the rotating woodcarvings of explorers and airmen. Met Debbie and David soon after, and we repaired to a nearby cafe for beer. They’d been there the day. Returned to Lüneburg soon after on a faster direct train, and had dinner together at another Yugoslav restaurant. For DM 14, got Serbian combo of meat, rice and beans, along with beer.”

One more thing. In Bremen, near the Schnoor, I found a memorial I didn’t expect. I made notes about it in my Bremen Cathedral book, which is what I had at hand.
Bremen CathedralUnsere Jüdischen mitbürger

Martha Goldberg
Dr. Adolf Goldberg
Heinrich Rosenblum
Leopold Sinasohn
Selma Swinitzki

Wurden in dieser Stadt in der Nacht vom 9. zum 10.11.1938 ermordet.

Murdered during Kristallnacht, in other words. This is what the plaque looks like. Remarkably, Adolf Goldberg has a Wiki page, which also tells me that the memorial was erected in 1982, only a short time before I saw it.

The Driehaus Museum

A fine Solstice. Clear and not particularly hot, followed by a short cool night.

The least plutocrats can do for posterity is build lavish, highly aesthetic houses that, decades or even centuries later, are restored and open to the public in one way or another. I suspect modern magnates, business tycoons, and captains of industry are mostly failing in this regard.

Late 19th-century and early 20th-century plutocrats, on the other hand, did not shrink from their duty along these lines. They might have imagined they were celebrating their worldly success in a highly visible way, and maybe they were, but sic transit gloria mundi. Beyond their own time and concerns, they were leaving something for later hoi polloi to ogle.

I will give Richard Dreihaus his due, however. I’m not sure he counts as a plutocrat, but he is a wealthy fund manager of our time. He might not have built a lavish house — or maybe it’s still private — but in any case, he managed to restore the Samuel M. Nickerson House at 40 E. Erie St. on the Near North Side of Chicago to its Gilded Age glory.

Now it stands, stocked with fine art and objets d’art, for the hoi polloi to see (for a fee). Hoi polloi such as Yuriko and I on Sunday afternoon, when we visited the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, which occupies the Nickerson House.

Richard H. Driehaus Museum

Chicago magazine in 2007 on the philanthropist: “Driehaus, the founder of Driehaus Capital Management… is no ordinary preservationist. He is a man who can afford to indulge his passions — for art, for parties, but mainly for restoring historic architecture — on a boundless scale, as anyone who has visited his many residences and offices around the world can attest.

“In the past two decades, Driehaus has emerged as one of Chicago’s most prominent advocates for historic preservation. He has also taken a leading role in encouraging the city and public institutions and groups to adopt a more design-centered approach to civic projects.”

Driehaus bought the building at 40 E. Erie St. in the early 2000s, when it was being used as an art gallery, and spent a good deal restoring it, including cleaning the exterior, which I’ve read was black from a century-plus of pollution. Considering its location on Erie, I’m sure that I walked and rode by the building any number of times in the 1980s and ’90s — and took exactly no note of it.

Since 2011, it’s been open to the public as the Driehaus Museum. I still took no note of it until last year, when I was walking by and saw its sign. Museum? This is a museum? Since when? Even in the Internet age, it’s hard to keep track of things.

Samuel M. Nickerson was a successful banker in early Chicago who tasked Edward J. Burling of the firm of Burling and Whitehouse to build him a mansion, which was completed in 1883. Burling had a long career in Chicago, with many of his buildings destroyed by the Fire.

The Nickerson House rooms feature 17 types of marble, along with onyx, alabaster, carved and inlaid wood, glazed and patterned tiles, mosaics, and Lincrusta, which was brand-new to the United States at the time. During Nickerson’s time, the place was replete with his and his wife Mathilda’s artwork, later donated to the Art Institute. Driehaus not only restored the house to its Gilded Age look, after years as office space and other uses, but made it into museum space for his collection of art from the period.

The museum says: “When the Driehaus Collection was formed during the early 1970s, acquisitions focused primarily on Art Nouveau posters by Alphonse Mucha and his contemporaries. From that essential core, the collection has grown to include master works of design by such Belle Epoque luminaries as Louis Majorelle, the Herter Brothers, Édouard Colonna, John La Farge, Emile Gallé, and Josef Hoffmann. In addition to these important holdings, the Driehaus Collection is one of the country’s leading private collections of works by preeminent American decorative designer Louis Comfort Tiffany.”

The lighting was good for looking, less so for non-flash photography. I got a few half-decent images, mostly of some of the artwork or room details, but not the rooms.

Richard H. Driehaus MuseumRichard H. Driehaus MuseumRichard H. Driehaus MuseumThat statue is in the Gallery Room. Always good to have a reminder of the Psyche and Eros story around. I especially liked the fireplace behind it.

Richard H. Driehaus MuseumThe fireplace was put in by the second owner of the house, paper baron Lucius Fisher. He also had the distinction of commissioning Daniel Burnham to do the excellent Fisher Building, which still stands in the South Loop.

The fire surround, dating from 1901, was by Giannini & Hilgart, done in lacquered cherry and iridescent glass. Remarkably, traces of that operation remain on line. The studio also did the striking glass dome in the same room as the fireplace. Looks like Tiffany, but no.

Whatever else you can say about the Gilded Age, its aesthetics were first-rate, if you had the scratch for that kind of thing. A better look at the interior is this WTTW production, but even so it’s a pale substitute for being there.

Tempus Fugit, Raggedy Ann

Has it been 10 years since we visited Arcola and Arthur, Illinois, twin hubs of the state’s Amish community? More or less. I posted a lot about that short trip, including the nearby Lincoln family sites, on May 30 and 31 and June 1, 4, 5 and 7, 2007.

Got a surprising amount of comments on the postings — more than zero — offering corrections for mistakes I’d made. Guess people care deeply about the details of Arcola and Arthur.

I think no photography was allowed in the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum in Arcola, since this is the only other picture I have of it, besides one posted in ’07.

Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum, Arcola, 2007

Or maybe I wasn’t quite out of the habit of taking only a few shots at a time, as I did when I used a film camera, even though I was using a digital camera by this time. Or the camera didn’t have a lot of memory. My current SD card has a vast expanse: 64 GB.

It didn’t take too much digging around to find out that about two years later, the museum closed. Of course the economy was awful in 2009, but I suspect the deeper problem was that Ann and Andy’s time had passed.

Everyone’s time always passes. Here’s another image from about 10 years ago.

DSCN0889_2

I had no interest in a birthday cake with personalized writing on it, so I just picked one from the shelf at Costco. It happened to have balloons. This year I had a chocolate cake like this one: the Union Pacific steam locomotive of cakes. We ate it the old-fashioned way, without making an image of it.

The USS Batfish

A park in Muskogee, Okla., might seem an odd place to find a submarine, but that’s where the USS Batfish makes its home as a museum ship.

USS Batfish

Note the walkway leading to the top of the vessel. That’s the access point for visitors, as Lilly and I were on the afternoon of May 13.
USS BatfishNote also the water around the hull of the Batfish. I suspect that was because of a rainy spring, not a permanent feature. Soon we stood on top of the Batfish. I’d never stood on a submarine before. The fencing was clearly added for the safety of tourists. I’ll bet that during active service, either you maintained your footing or you didn’t.
USS BatfishI walked onto the sub thinking that was it, a look at the outside. Then we noted that both hatches, one forward, the other aft, were open. You can go inside.

The interior is well maintained, well lighted, and pretty much like crawling around in a cave made of steel. On display were such features as glowing torpedo tubes.
USS Batfish - torpedo tubesTo make your way through the vessel, you pass through a series of hatches like this. I assume they’re watertight. Submarines clearly aren’t meant for fat men.
USS BatfishI didn’t feel claustrophobic, exactly, just boxed in. It’s difficult to imagine the fortitude necessary to spend months at a time in such a steel box, with sudden drowning all too real a possibility.

Plenty of narrow corridors.
USS BatfishAnd limited comforts.
USS BatfishUSS BatfishI understand that the food was generally better on subs than the ordinary run of ships, as one way to compensate for other discomforts. I hope that was true.

A forest of pipes.
USS BatfishAnd controls. Many, many controls and dials.
USS BatfishUSS BatfishUSS BatfishAs a warship, the Batfish had a good run, completing seven war patrols from late 1943 to the end of the war. She clearly took the cinematic Patton at his word, making some other poor dumb bastards die for their country. Most notably, by sinking three Japanese subs in a 76-hour period in February 1945.

After the war, the vessel hung on until 1969, when it was struck from the Naval Vessel Registry. Apparently Oklahoma submarine vets, aided by state politicos, managed to obtain it for display from the Navy in the early ’70s, though the task of getting to its current site in Muskogee, near the Arkansas River, was a long and tedious process, as described here.

There’s also a small museum in a building near the submarine, and not far from the sub, a poignant display with plaques honoring each U.S. submarine, WWII and other eras, that didn’t return. On eternal patrol, as the submariners put it.

The Rockford Art Museum

The Riverfront Museum Campus in Rockford is, true to its name, next to the Rock River in that northern Illinois city, though the entrance to the complex actually faces a parking lot.

Riverfront Museum Campus, RockfordThere are a handful of outdoor sculptures on the campus. Here’s one — “The Juggler,” by David J. Foster (2010) — that would be fun to have in the back yard. Except for maintenance costs and all the unwanted attention it would attract, especially at first.
Riverfront Museum Campus, RockfordThe campus, which opened in the early 1990s, includes the Discovery Center Museum, Northern Public Radio, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford Dance Company and some part of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, though that group performs at the ornate Coronado Theater. I’m pretty sure that the Discovery Center, which is a children’s museum, hasn’t been there that long, but relocated in more recent years. I remember taking the kids there more than 10 years ago, and while I couldn’t say exactly where we went, it wasn’t near the river.

This time we came to visit the Rockford Art Museum. Its four rooms, two upstairs, two downstairs, maintain a spare aesthetic.
Rockford Museum of Art 2017The museum has some interesting items. That’s all I ask of most museums. Here’s a detail of “Indigo Deux” by Ed Paschke (1988).

Rockford Museum of ArtAnother detail, this one of “Millennium 16/The Launderer” by Steven Hudson (1993).

Rockford Museum of Art

“Condor” by Les Sandelman (1987).
Rockford Museum of ArtAnd “Not Knot #18” by Jackie Kazarian (1991).
Rockford Museum of ArtAll in all, a small but good museum. Worth the relatively short drive to Rockford, as are the Nicholas ConservatoryKlehm Arboretum and Anderson Japanese Gardens.

Before we visited the museum, we ate a tasty lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Rockford. We were sitting at a large table in the back because all the smaller tables were full, and some other patrons were sitting at the table as well. One of them, a young woman who introduced herself as Sally, asked whether we’d eaten there before. No, this is our first time. We’re from out of town.

She said she was from Rockford, and seemed a little surprised that anyone would come to town just for a visit. I assured here that we turn up once a year or so, in this case to see the museum. I’m all for visiting large art museums with sprawling collections — be they in Brooklyn or Arkansas or far-off Russia — but smaller art museums are generally worth a look as well. Smaller cities are, too.

The Salvador Dali Museum Bench

On April 2, 2005, we visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. As wordy as I was before I published pictures at BTST, I didn’t write much about the place. “Housed in a mid-sized, appropriately modernist building, the Dali Museum is all Dali, all the time, as it should be,” was one line. I also considered how the museum came to be in central Florida.

As far as I can tell, I didn’t take a picture of the building. I did take a picture of bench on the grounds. Lots of people have taken pictures of it.

Salvador Dali Museum benchI didn’t realize until I read more about the place today that the Dali has been in a new building since 2011, and apparently the bench was moved to be near the new structure. I don’t remember whether the giant Dali mustache was there in ’05. You’d think I’d remember a thing like that, but memory is a eccentric thief, taking things you’d never expect.

Regarding the new building, the museum web site says, “Designed by architect Yann Weymouth of HOK, it combines the rational with the fantastical: a simple rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls out of which erupts a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the ‘enigma.’

“The Enigma, which is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, stands 75 feet at its tallest point, a twenty-first century homage to the dome that adorns Dali’s museum in Spain. Inside, the Museum houses another unique architectural feature – a helical staircase – recalling Dali’s obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule.”

Snaps of Early ’76

In late 1975, the Witte Museum in San Antonio opened an exhibition of Fabergé eggs that extended some time into ’76. I went to see the eggs with my family. That must have been early in the year, before Jay went back to law school for the spring semester, since he took this picture.

Witte Museum Faberge Exhibit 1976

We’re hard to see, but that’s my mother (holding a white purse), brother Jim and me standing next to the museum’s front entrance. Above the double eagle the banner says, FABERGE, and I believe Фабержe across the eagle.

According to Fabergé Eggs: A Retrospective Encyclopedia, as accessed by Google, the exhibit displayed the Danish Palaces Egg (1890), the Caucasus Egg (1893), and the Napoleonic Egg (1912), beginning on December 14, 1975. The Witte exhibit was over before September 12, 1976, when the same eggs opened at the Huntsville Museum of Art in Alabama.

I have to say I don’t remember much about seeing the eggs, but it has been more than 40 years. I was probably as impressed as a 14-year-old boy could be.

At some point in early 1976, we also went to Inner Space Cavern, which is just north of Austin.

Inner Space Cavern, Texas, 1976That’s about as good an image as I was going to get with my Instamatic 104. The exact same formation is pictured here.

Among Texas show caves, Inner Space was fairly new then, since it was discovered only in 1963 during construction of I-35, and open to the public three years later.

“Inner Space is situated in Edwards Limestone (Mesozoic Era) and is estimated to be sixty to 100 million years old,” says the Handbook of Texas Online. “Geologists attribute formation of the cave to the action of underwater currents when the Permian Sea covered the area. Ninety-five percent of the highly decorated and complex cave is still active.” Inner Space billboards call to passersby on I-35, as I sometimes am, but I haven’t been back since.

One more snap from early ’76: David Bommer.

David Bommer 1976

We were goofing around in my back yard and, as you can see, I caught him my surprise with the camera. David, a friend of mine since elementary school, has been gone now nearly 10 years.

The Spurlock Museum

Just before bugging out of town on Sunday afternoon, I stopped at the Spurlock Museum on the UIUC campus. I was surprised to find it open. As opposed to the Krannert Art Museum, the focus of the Spurlock — in full the William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum — is ethnographic. I didn’t want to spend a long time, so I only wandered through the first-floor galleries, one dedicated to the ancient Mediterranean, the other to North and South American Indians.

The Mediterranean room offered reproductions of ancient statues and a wide mix of smaller artifacts. It’s always good to run across Augustus, though maybe he should be painted in bright colors.
Augustus, Spurlock MuseumIt’s a plaster cast of a first-century Roman marble that’s in the Vatican Museum, which itself was a copy of a Roman bronze original, ca. 20 BC, which was lost to time.

Next, Artemis.
Artemis, Spurlock MuseumAgain a plastic cast of a marble Roman copy, ca. 2nd century AD that’s now in the Louvre. Unlike Augustus, she’s wearing sandals. The original Greek bronze, ca. 350 BC by Praxiteles, is also no more.

The Doryphoros.

Spear carrier, Spurlock Museum

That is, the spear carrier. No fig leaf for this fellow. No spear, either, though he could pick one up at any time. The original bronze, ca. 450 BC, is lost (of course, sigh). A 1st century AD marble copy is in the National Museum in Naples.

Now for a different aesthetic.

Diablada costume, Spurlock MuseumAccording to the museum, this Diablada costume was acquired by Isabel Scarborough in Cochabamba, Bolivia; the mask, whip and matracas were acquired by Cynthia LeCount Samane in Oruro, Bolivia, in both cases in the late 2000s.

A drum from Andean Ecuador in the 1970s.

Andean Drum, Spurlock Museum

Canelos Quichua Miniature Pottery Festival Group, by Marta Vargas Dugua, Puyo, Ecuador (2008).
South American figures, Spurlock MuseumUpstairs are exhibits about East Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa, ancient Mesopotamia, and ancient Egypt. Guess I’ll have to drop by again.