Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 55/60: Dallas Museums

My impression after one day of touring in Dallas is that it is an architecture-happy town, and that it has grown at a phenomenal pace in the decade since our previous visit. There are several more skyscrapers downtown with innovative profiles and materials, and several arts-type buildings by big-name architects. In one day, within walking distance of each other in the Cultural District, we photographed buildings by I.M. Pei, Norman Foster, and Renzo Piano.

We parked at the Dallas Museum of Art but we started by walking to the Myerson Symphony Center, which was designed by Io Ming Pei—his actual name is not that hard—pronounced 'Yo Ming.' Anyway, the building had elegant curves. Then we hiked around the corner to see a first rate, and huge, sculpture by Mark DiSuvero, located on a rise where traffic on a busy highway passes it. This put us in an awkward position behind a huge events center, meaning we had some extra walking. It was about 80 degrees at 11:00. Part of the events center is the Winspear Opera House, by Norman Foster and Partners. We enjoyed the reflecting pools and bold lines of the building. Then we had to hike back to the museum. We were steamy and gritty by the time we arrived.

We took a break in the museum's snack bar. I had an iced latte and fresh out of the oven ("not even wrapped yet") chocolate chip cookies. Dan cleverly drank iced water.

I am happy to say that Dallas has improved their collection quite a bit since we were here. Their American collection and their contemporary collection are pretty good; European work, both the old masters and the 20th C. masters, is spotty, but does include some good ones. Their sculpture garden has a small but tasteful collection of modern works.

Dan and I worked separately and very intensely all day. We had salads for lunch in the museum's café. Then Dan wanted to go over to the Nasher Sculpture Center about 2:00 to get good light on the outdoor sculpture. 'I said no way am I going out with the sun so high. I'll go about 4:00.'

The Nasher is just across the street from the art museum; you can buy a joint ticket. It turns out there are lots of trees in the garden creating a much appreciated island of shade. It was about 88 degrees when I got there. The garden has all the big-name sculptors: di Suvero, Barbara Hepworth, Richard Serra, de Kooning—a dozen or so pieces.

The garden at the Nasher is part of an architectural scandal here in Dallas. In response to the development of the Cultural District, some developer built a sky-scraper, but really high, called Museum Tower, nearby. The problem is the same one I brought up in Oklahoma City: too much glass. In this case, sun reflecting off the west side of the building raises the temperature of the garden 20 degrees above its surroundings. The woman who explained it to me said, "So if it's a hundred degrees, it's 120 degrees in here." Oh dear. Just that morning she had read in the newspaper that they had decided to add a louvered screen on the west side that can adjust with the sun. It will only cost $6 million. They should get that money back from the architect, because he should have been able to anticipate this problem; that's what architects are hired for.

The museum building of the Nasher is one of Renzo Piano's best works. The lines are simple and elegant. The light is lovely. The building is even less intrusive than his usual work.

Our Hilton Garden Inn is located right by a busy off-ramp/on-ramp of a freeway. It is quite hard to even get into the parking lot. Driving somewhere for dinner seemed out of the question, as was walking. So we were forced to eat in the wholly uninspiring café at the hotel. I was interested to see how Dan took control of the situation; we were the only customers. He took the table closest to the TV and demanded the remote so he could choose his news commentator; he made them turn off the loud music. The menu was limited and unappealing; deep-fried and over-sized. Dan made the waitress get the cook to negotiate a meal: a hamburger patty with a double helping of mixed veggies. The cook made a nice job of it. It was a lot like home.

I feel bad that I didn't mention the Superstorm that hit the North East a few days ago. We have watched the news coverage closely. We had just visited some of those places. Also we have friends in New York City, who are okay. Of course, we are very sad and upset, same as everyone, and worried about the future. Can't help comparing this with the big storm in New Orleans. These coastal places are more vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Photos

Dear Friends,
For several years Dan has created a holiday greeting card featuring a few of his best photos for the year.  He takes pride in careful printing in order to create a keepsake. It's his way of making a contribution to holiday cheer.

This year, he ran into a series of technical obstacles, starting when his printer ceased functioning; in addition, his old iMac is limping like an aging athlete. So he ordered a new iMac and a new printer, but they haven't yet arrived. He plans to create a card to celebrate the new year.

I'm taking advantage of the situation to do something he would never do: to send an online greeting containing photos of ourselves.

As many of you well know, the major event of 2012 for us was a cross-country expedition to view art museums. We covered 8700 miles and toured 42 museums. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Another tourist took this shot of us with the Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine.
Dan photographed us in a mirror on the Ticonderoga, a passenger ship that has been preserved
at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.
The Ticonderoga, a Lake Champlain Steamer, now an exhibit at the Shelburne.
I took this shot of Dan just before he dug into his grilled flounder with sweet potato fries at Claudio's, a traditional fish restaurant in Greenport, New York. We were in the midst of taking three ferries to get from Stony Brook, NY, to
Groton, CT. This day was a highlight of the trip for Dan.
A major goal of the trip for me was to see a retrospective of wall designs by Sol LeWitt at the Massachussetts Museum of Contemporary Art, MASS MOCA, in North Adams. This was a thrilling day for me.
Here are a couple more shots I took of Dan.
Dan is standing in front of a huge old tree on the property of the Pollock-Krasner House in Springs, NY, which is way out on the tip of Long Island. It was a beautiful location with a peaceful atmosphere. Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner were important abstract expressionist painters.

Dan is at the Farnesworth Museum in Rockland, ME.
Just to balance things out, here are a couple of self-portraits.

This big mirror was part of an exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art.
This motel room was in Columbus, OH.
I hope that 2013 is full of fun and excitement for you, in addition to health and prosperity.

Happy Holidays

Joy to the World

Peace on Earth

Good Will to All

Jan and Dan

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 61: Barstow to Sunnyvale

We left Barstow at 8:00, very early for us. We arrived home at 4:15, the longest driving day of the trip. There was a cold wind the whole day, and light rain for a short while. We saw wind-turbines fringing the mountains around Tehachapi. On I-5 we observed that agriculture in California is even more intense and diverse than other states, but quite a lot of cropland in the central valley has been abandoned because of water restrictions; signs posted by farmers along the road protest the "Congress-created Dust Bowl." We discussed the competing needs of agriculture and wild Pacific salmon.

Everything is fine at our house. One of our dear neighbors has moved, but the "anchor" of the neighborhood, who knows all the news, happened to be out for his walk and he greeted us.

We have a tremendous sense of accomplishment. We covered 8,700 miles and visited 39 museums. Of 60 nights in motels, Dan negotiated 8 freebees. We saw three national memorials: Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania, 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial. We had pleasant visits with 5 friends.

Dan did almost all the driving. Twice drowsiness forced him to let me drive for an hour. Nothing wakes Dan up like my driving. (It's not like I get a lot of practice.) His driving was virtually flawless, rarely frightening me. The only accident we saw was a big rig on its side across the highway; no emergency vehicles, the big excitement was over. Tow trucks were working on getting the truck upright. In our travels we have twice seen those big trucks turned over on the opposite side of the road. Trucks are the big danger on the road: there are so many of them and they are so competitive; the drivers are pushing themselves and liable to make a mis-step. It's scary to be on an old-fashioned two-way road with no divider. Highway construction was extensive all around the nation; this is good.

It's shocking how divided the nation is. In this last election Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana; while we were in Oklahoma, an 'open-carry' law went into effect enabling registered gun owners to carry their weapon openly. In Texas we drove through town after town with no activity or prominent institution except a church; and as we were driving on Sunday, the parking lots were all full.

We saw a phenomenal amount of poverty. Along the state routes you see people living in very remote places in shacks and single-wide motor homes and combinations of the two, surrounded by decades of detritus. Small towns that look largely abandoned. That's another big division in this country: poverty vs. luxury. We felt very lucky to be skimming by it all in our climate-controlled chariot.

All during this trip we enjoyed the largesse of rich people. We saw many museums that were originally founded by individual art collectors who wanted to share their collections; we benefitted from their spirit of philanthropy.

Dan loves the new mini-van. It gave him all the support he needed and enhanced the trip a lot. There is almost too much space; our stuff sort of sloshed around in a semi-organized fashion. We were able to take clothes for all the weather changes and to bring back whatever we wanted.

This is the fourth time we have traveled coast to coast looking at art museums. This was the most successful trip. We had a very detailed plan and stuck to it. We had to skip one museum when we both had a cold, but we crammed in a few places that weren't on the plan.

We got healthier and stronger on the trip. We did not come home all broken down and worn out. In fact, Dan didn't pause for breath after we got home before he went to the Post Office and Safeway.

The next phase of the trip is to process the data we gathered, meaning we have to edit our photos and figure out how we want to share them. It's going to be a busy winter.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 60/60: Flagstaff to Barstow

It's difficult to work out the timing between Amarillo and Sunnyvale. The way the cities are spaced, you can do 3 long days or 4 short days. Since long days of driving are dangerous, especially when you are driving into the late afternoon sun, we opted for 4 short days.

The scenery between Flagstaff and Barstow is pretty. Nice healthy pine forest leaving Flagstaff. One mountain range after another.

We had lunch at Denny's in Needles; an acceptable chicken salad. Needles is a pretty small town without much going for it.

We stayed at a number of Comfort Suite hotels (toward the high end of the Choice hotel chain) on the trip, enough to get the last two nights of the trip free, based on points. Last night we had a truly crummy Quality Inn (toward the low end of the Choice hotel chain; reminded me of how we used to travel), but tonight's Quality Inn is pretty nice: more spacious, fresher and more functional, with a swinging bar and Mexican restaurant.

It was 29 degrees in Flagstaff when we awoke; it was 89 degrees in Barstow when we arrived.

You may notice that this was the 60th of 60 days and still we're not home. Actually it was 60 nights in motels, and 61 days on the road. Home tomorrow. We were not especially in a hurry to get home, until Amarillo. This last few days with all driving and few distractions makes us impatient.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 59/60: Albuquerque to Flagstaff

Dan hadn't taken any photos for a couple of days, so he decided we should start the day by shooting the sculpture garden surrounding the Albuquerque Museum of Art. They have a few things by semi-important contemporary artists, and many cowboy and Indian type works by regional artists. The sky was clear and the temperature was slightly chilly, quite nice. Why didn't we tour the museum? We have visited the Albuquerque Museum a couple times in the past; they don't allow photos; they weren't open today.

It was about 9:30 when we got under way. The land in New Mexico is picturesque—mesas, buttes, and reefs of red rock near and far—but it appears to be virtually useless. Almost no agriculture, no mining, no drilling, hardly any railroads along I-40; just tourist stops and souvenirs. We stopped for pictures of the Paloma pueblo, which isn't very picturesque; more shacks than adobes, more vacant than occupied.

We stopped for lunch at our favorite place in Gallup—Don Diego's. This is a large and bustling place, serving both New Mexican and American food. It has become more upscale over the years and recently got a tasteful makeover in which they eliminated all their Mexican bric-a-brac and bright colors and replaced it with beige furniture and framed photos of Native Americans in their daily lives, and native dress. Nevertheless, everyone associated with the restaurant looks to be of Mexican descent, including most of the customers, and the food is authentic New Mexican style, which both Dan and I are partial to. We had the pork carnitas; it was terrific. I bought a turquoise bracelet from one of the constant succession of Native American vendors. He claimed that he and his family made jewelry together, but it was stamped 'Mex.' I can't really say why I went for it.

We stopped again in Winslow, Arizona to investigate a hotel called La Posada. A friend of Dan's had stayed there and had a room with a balcony over-looking the railroad tracks; he enjoyed watching the frequent passing trains. I was interested because La Posada was designed by one of the earliest women architects, Mary Coulter (or Colter, I've seen both). She was a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright and Julia Morgan, but she was very unassuming in her manner and didn't attract much attention. She was the architect and interior decorator for the Fred Harvey chain of hotels along the Santa Fe railroad. It was she who decided to use or adapt local Southwest styles, featuring local materials and decorative motives. Before her, Harvey was considering a Swiss chalet style for his hotels. So we owe Mary Coulter a lot. La Posada is a pleasant place; not especially impressive. It is a private business and every inch is used to display or sell art, in addition to being a functional hotel; anyway, it has been through so many changes it is hard to know Coulter's aesthetic intentions.

We got into Flagstaff about 4:30. Our room at the Quality Inn is cramped; only one person can move at a time. "But it was free!" Dan keeps saying. Also we could park right by the door. The freeway is hard by us on one side and the railway on the other, and the sound-proofing is not so hot. Dan went to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner; I decided to rest and watch the election returns.

We managed to stay up long enough to see the President declared the winner, but not to see his acceptance speech. No offense to any Republicans in the crowd (actually, I don't think I have any Republican friends), but I am inexpressibly relieved to have the President returned to the White House.

Day 58/60: Amarillo to Albuquerque

By the time Dan gassed up the car and made a reservation for our last night on the road--negotiating a freebie from Choice Hotels based on points--it was 9:30 when we left. The sky was clear and the temp was 51 degrees.

We passed a little more cattle country in Texas, but as we approached New Mexico, the land became pure desert with little vegetation or economic use, beyond the occasional unhappy cow lying in the shade of a billboard. We soon crossed into New Mexico and changed to Mountain time, rolling the clock back again. Keeps me busy changing all the clocks. Red earth. Mesas and reefs. In the high country there were piñon pine and juniper.

The highlight of the day was an excellent meal in Moriarty. Because a satellite with many spokes was perched over it on a tall post, we spontaneously pulled into a restaurant called El Comedor de Anaya. The menu said the restaurant had been a family business for a few generations. Dan ordered brilliantly. Seeing tilapia tacos on the menu, he asked if he could have that without the taco shell; I followed his lead. We got beautifully grilled tilapia with authentic New Mexico style rice and beans, and a little salad and guacamole. It was great. I couldn't quit eating. Finished with sopapilla and honey. A winner of a meal! But it puzzled me because the waitress was 'white' non-Hispanic, and when the cook emerged from the kitchen she also appeared to be non-Hispanic. Could a middle-aged white woman cook authentic New Mexico style? When I inquired, the waitress said the cook was the daughter of the restaurant's founder, and that one of her brother's had been governor of New Mexico for awhile. So the food was good because the cook knew what she was doing, and she cared.

It was only another hour's drive through the Sandia range to Albuquerque. We got in about 2:30. The temperature was nice, low 70s.

Our first room had a so-called Murphy King, meaning the bed could be folded into the wall. Eh? Apparently some people fold the bed and use the room for meetings. The Murphy bed took up too much room when it was down, so we got the desk clerk to give us a regular king, which is much more comfortable.

Dan had dinner with an old friend of his that I've never met for various obscure reasons. Anyway, I didn't need any more food. I stayed in and worked on the blog.

When I was brushing my teeth before bed, I noticed the water was brown, both in the sink and the tub. I called the front desk. The clerk sent a maintenance guy up. He said the city had done something to the pipes that day and the water was running brown in some of the rooms. He and I ran the water for a long time, then he started getting calls from all the rooms with the same complaint. What a nightmare, for him and for us, too.

I ran the water in the sink and tub for over an hour, and flushed the toilet repeatedly. For a long time the water was very dark brown; sickening. When the maintenance guy came back, he said the city had experienced a rain water leak, which they repaired yesterday. I think he was planning to open a main line to drain the brown water. Eventually the water cleared up pretty much, but when the tub and sink drained completely, I saw they were black with filth. Oooo, yuck. What to do. I couldn't clean it with hand soap and a wash rag. I called the front desk twice asking for cleaning products. I got different answers but no action. Finally I got dressed and went to the front desk, begging for cleaning products. I really didn't think I could sleep with that filth in the bathtub; like a boogie man. For some reason there was still a housekeeper there at 9:45 and they got her to come up and clean up the mess. So I could relax finally and have a sleep. Dan, by the way, slept through the whole crisis.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Day 56/60: Forth Worth Museums

For the final art day of our journey we pulled a triple-header: 3 art museums in one day, bringing us to a total of 39. We were able to do that because the 3 museums are located near each other in a sort of cultural park.

Dan is a big fan of the Kimbell Musem, which has one of the biggest collections of European masters in this country; this was our third visit. This time there were a number of frustrations involved. The Kimbell is in one of the greatest buildings in this country, by Louis I. Kahn; his name is not so well-known, but he is considered a model for architectural trends. His thing was simplicity, concrete, and reflecting pools. I recall the serenity created by the pools around the building, and the light patterns they created in the arched porches. Serenity no more. The lovely building has been surrounded by construction, its pools are dry, the Isamu Noguchi sculpture garden is dry and forlorn, all the delicate trees that softened the ferocious Texas heat are gone. Everything is construction debris and promises.

Their big attraction was that they had their permanent collection arranged in the order it was acquired. That means a magnificent standing Boddisattva might be shown next to a work by Mondrian. Is that helpful? No, it is not. Museum directors like to think that making comparisons across periods of history and art forms is going to stimulate our appreciation. Rubbish. Much more revealing to keep things together that were created under similar influences, and are even reacting to each other. Anyway, we buzzed about for an hour and a half, cherry-picking our favorite works.

The Cardsharps by Caravaggio, c. 1595
Dan's photo
The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs by Georges de la Tour, c. 1634
Dan's photo
A panel painting by Michelangelo, which is a rare thing. This is the first known painting by Michelangelo, believed to be painted when he was 12 or 13! It was a copy of a painting by a German artist of the 1400s.
The Torment of St. Anthony by Michelangelo, 1487 or 1488
Jan's photo
We had lunch at the Kimbell. It was a soup and salad buffet. It worked.

Fortunately The Modern Art Museum is right across the street from the Kimbell, marked by a towering sculpture by Richard Serra.

Vortex by Richard Serra, 2002
Dan's photo
The Modern has a great building by Tadao Ando, who was much influenced by Louis I. Kahn. Again we have simplicity, concrete, and reflecting pools, with the addition of some glass walls: it has a cleansing effect on the mind.

Interior reflecting pool at The Modern
Dan's Photo
The frustration was that the whole second floor was closed for installation of some exhibit. We had a cold drink in their soothingly shady restaurant, took a few exterior shots, raced around the first floor, bagging a few photos. They had important works by Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter. A very cool Martin Puryear.

Book with Wings by Anselm Kiefer, 1992-1994
Dan's photo

Ladder for Booker T. Washington by Martin Puryear, 1996
Dan's photo
Twenty-five Colored Marilyns (detail) by Andy Warhol, 1962
Dan's photo
Then it was time for the Amon Carter. Even though it is only a block or two away, it is uphill through a park and the temperature was in the high 80s. Not wanting to arrive steaming and sweating, we took the car up to their parking lot. Also, we didn't have any time to waste with this aggressive schedule.

Entrance of Amon Carter Museum
Architect: Philip Johnson
Dan's photo
The building for the Amon Carter was designed by one of the deans of American architecture, Philip Johnson. Johnson not only designed many great buildings in his long career, he championed the cause of modern architecture as an art form, and his constant innovations were frequently at the head of trends. He first designed the Amon Carter in 1961 in what was then the International Style, which he pretty much invented, with streamlined Greek type features. This building has beautifully tapered columns forming a front portico. When the building was expanded around 2002, he designed that as well—which is quite unusual. He was in his 90s at the time, and died at the age of 98. The addition flows smoothly from the old building, functions very well, and has class.

The Amon Carter has American art, with a specialty in Remington and Russell. It is one of Dan's favorite museums. They have some real classics, such as Eakins' "Swimming." These are all Dan's photos.

Indian Women Moving (detail) by Charles M. Russell, 1898
The Smoke Signal by Frederic Remington, 1905
Thunderstorm on Narragansett Bay by Martin Johnson Heade,  1868
Swimming by Thomas Eakins, 1885
Crossing the Pasture by Winslow Homer, 1872
White Birch by Georgia O'Keeffe, 1925
The special exhibit was the American art from the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., quite a treasure trove. No photos.

It was 85 degrees at 5:15 when we were driving back to Dallas. Thunderheads were gathering in the east; very pretty.

We talked about finding some place more interesting to eat, but we were pretty tired and we have a long day's driving tomorrow, so we ate here at the hotel again. This time we split the turf n surf. Dan had the filet mignon; I had the prawns. The veggies were fresh. It was all okay. We haven't had a special meal in a few days now.

Our Hilton Garden Inn here in Fort Worth definitely takes the prize for speedy elevators and abundant hot water. And Dan got a week-end deal where we paid only $89 per night and got one of the three nights free. It takes some persistence and negotiation to get these hotel deals, but Dan has got what it takes.

Day 57/60: Dallas to Amarillo

Thanks to rolling back the clock to Standard time, we got under way by 8:45. Sky was clear; there was a one-jacket chill. Traffic was light on Sunday morning. We were dumbfounded by the amount of highway or railway construction going on around the already complex freeway system. Dan says the freeway designers in Texas aren't as smart as those in California and the drivers are more aggressive. It took ages to get through Greater Dallas.

When we finally got out of town we were in cattle country. We saw cattle intermittently all day long, some in depressingly dry pasture. They were lowing, "I wanna go to California." In between was cotton, some of that was depressingly sparse. It looked like they were doing dry-land cotton farming, meaning low yield but vast acreage. The other major economic feature was railroads; all day coal trains passing oil tanker trains.

There were nice trees and low hills part of the way, but as you head west, Texas gets flatter and drier. You may have been to Kansas, but you ain't seen flat till you've been to Texas; not a rise for miles in some areas.

The only break we took was a slight detour to the town of Quanah, which raised a lot of questions. Quanah Parker was the last Comanche chief and was undefeated in war with the whites. But he came to see that white civilization was going to win out in the long run, and he adapted, learning to play a role in the white community. I'm assuming he must have lived in that town some time. The reason we took an interest is that rumor has it that my family is connected by marriage with his. I'm curious about this, but not enough to get into genealogical research. We took a photo of the monument to Quanah Parker in front of the court house. The town of Quanah appeared to be virtually a ghost town; it was Sunday afternoon in very churchy country, so it's hard to be sure if all those businesses were really closed.

For me the day was about a rattle. All day long there was a persistent rattle, no matter how I shifted things around or stuffed towels between them. Around 3:00 I realized the suitcases were packed on end so that they rocked against each other and the wall of the car. When I stopped the rattle, it was so wonderful, like not banging your head against the wall any more.

We got into Amarillo about 4:15. Pleasant temperature; low 70s.

We had a pleasant visit with my cousin and her daughter. My cousin has a wonderful house and an attentive daughter living nearby, and her other children are not far away.

Then we had dinner at Taco Joe's, across the parking lot from our hotel. No Mexicans even remotely involved. Dan was happy with his meal. I didn't have any appetite. I tasted his dish; it seemed corporate and overly spicy to me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 54/60: Oklahoma City to Dallas

We got off to a leisurely start today because we had to go to the art museum to pick up some stuff that I had left in a locker the day before, and the museum didn't open until 11:00. This time Dan figured out the proper entrance so that I didn't have to walk so far; I just walked straight to the locker, opened it with the key I was still carrying, and walked out. No one noticed me coming or going.

So it was about 11:45 when we got started. Traffic on the freeway was jammed all the way out of Oklahoma City and through the suburbs due to construction. When we finally got out of town, we were in cattle country. Pretty dry except for one more fertile river canyon. We had about 3 1/2 hours of monotonous driving, with a stop at a Subway somewhere for a salad.

When we crossed into Texas it was 89 degrees, and the wind was high. Hard to believe.

Driving into Dallas was intimidating. There was a monumental construction project going on along both sides of the freeway: some kind of rail system? Anyway, traffic patterns kept changing, signs were hard to read, traffic was congested.

We got to our Hilton Garden Inn about 5:00, maybe later. Dan was dissatisfied with the first room they gave us, mainly because it overlooked the roof and blowers of the kitchen. So we moved to a room on the fifth floor with a view of the swimming pool and other big hotels in the distance. Anyway, it's a nice big functional room.

I've been feeling a little under par for a couple of days, so I went straight to bed. I actually watched a TV show, other than news, for the first time on the trip. Dan had dinner at the hotel café. We got in a good long night's sleep.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 53/60: OK City, Memorial, Museum

Even more frightening than international terrorism, which at least has an ostensible purpose, is homegrown terrorism, which is committed by someone who is just plain crazy, whatever his reasoning. In 1995 a madman named Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck load of explosive in front of the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people just out of hatred. Dan decided we should visit the memorial to the victims first thing this morning. Clear skies, chilly breeze.

The footprint of the destroyed building and some adjacent buildings has been devoted to a memorial park featuring a long, shallow reflecting pool with a dedicatory façade at either end. Along one side of the pool is a broad lawn with a sculpted chair for each victim; each chair has a glass base with the name of the victim etched in it, a stone seat, and a metal back. It is quite effective, and rather pretty. We hung about there for awhile, but did not visit the museum, which is in a big building next door.

Our big goal for the day was the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. There is so much construction going on around it, it is hard to get a grip on how it looks or how it functions downtown. There are government buildings all around it. We couldn't even find the entrance; it seems you must go through their fancy café.

My strongest impression from the whole day is 'beware of using glass in the design of buildings, especially in hot places like Oklahoma.' The restaurant was a pretty place, with a long narrow shape and a high glass wall; it was so hot and bright in there that I really wanted to bolt, but it was the only source of caffeine available.

The main entrance was an even worse example. The entrance lobby has a 3 or 4 story glass tower. It looks fabulous; hanging in it is one of the tallest works by Dale Chihuly, a 3-story burst of yellow swirling glass.

Sculpture by Dale Chihuly
Atrium by Allen Brown, Architects
Photo by Jan
The problem is that it is so bright in there that the clerks can't read their computer screens, even though they wear visors, and it is 10 to 20 degrees hotter there than elsewhere in the museum. What is it like in the winter? I've seen this problem before. The great I.M. Pei used glass pyramids in some buildings I've seen; those buildings have similar problems. Big glass elements add architectural excitement, and sometimes they work very well; facing north helps; having the glass high enough over the room helps; tinted glass. Renzo Piano always provides lots of overhangs to mitigate the effect of using so much glass. The building has to function well in addition to looking good.

The first big treat of the art museum was a show of early 20th Century American art from the Brooklyn Museum, which we visited a few weeks back, and have visited twice previously. And the big treat of that was a few wonderful paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe that we had never seen; why don't they put them out? They have been showing the same painting by O'Keeffe, of the Brooklyn Bridge, for years, when they had these other fine things.

The second big treat was a very large collection of glass by Dale Chihuly. We asked an information person how it happened that the museum made such a commitment to Chihuly. She said that several years ago they had a big show of his work and it was so popular that the people of Oklahoma City raised the money to buy the works, with some cooperative negotiation on Chihuly's part. Good story.

Their permanent collection is sketchy, mostly American, a little European art. There were a number of good pieces by little known artists.

Contemplation by Doel Reed, ca. 1940
Photo by Jan
I especially appreciated a little show of op art by big names: Vasarely, Anuskiewicz, and Stanczak.

Vega D by Victor Vasarely, 1968
Radiant Red by Richard Anuszkiewicz, 1966
Photo by Jan
Burning Red by Julian Stanczak, 1969
Photo by Jan
We packed it in around 4:30. Ate dinner at the hotel restaurant; it was convenient. While we were eating, I realized that I had failed to get some stuff from a locker at the museum; I still had the locker key in my purse. That means we have to go to the museum again tomorrow before we leave for Dallas, and the museum does not open until 11:00.

On the practical side, this is a good Best Western Plus, and both nights here were free, thanks to Dan's negotiations back in Maine, or somewhere. Dan did a load of wash in the guest laundry before we left this morning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 52/60: Bentonville to Oklahoma City

We started the day with a trip to Walmart to stock up on drinks and snacks. The Supercenter in Bentonville is in no way different from any other Walmart. No souvenirs. No bargain price on the catalog for Crystal Bridges.

We got under way about 10:00. I was amazed to notice that almost as soon as we passed from Arkansas to Oklahoma the land got drier, trees smaller, and it grew more arid as we went west. What we saw was basically cattle country.

We got into Tulsa about 12:30, just the right time for lunch at the Gilcrease Museum. The café has a pretty view of the Osage Mountains, and a rather elegant look. Service seemed painfully slow, and everything on the menu seemed peppery. I settled for salmon salad, very dull. Dan had blackened catfish, which he liked well enough.

This was our third visit to the Gilcrease, and every visit has been disappointing. They have a fairly good collection of American art, quite strong in Western art, and they have a pretty big building, big enough to give their collection a fair showing. But they relegate their permanent collection to about 25% of their gallery space and use the rest for other stuff. Like the Eiteljorg, a similar collection of Western Art in Indianapolis, they used a lot of gallery space commercially—the works were all for sale. They had lots of room devoted to children's discovery activities. They have added a lot of Native American art. To add to the frustration, this year they wouldn't allow photography. Luckily, Dan has photographed our favorites twice before.

They have a couple of massive masterpieces, permanently in place; one by Bierstadt and one by Moran. I enjoyed seeing these old favorites again, but now they have iron railings in front of them, marring the view. We spent a couple of hours review the works by Russell, Remington, Leigh, and Shreyvogel, and the Taos artists. It was okay.

Then we sped on to Oklahoma City, arriving about 5:30, plenty tired. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was casual and comfortable.

Day 51/60: Bentonville, Crystal Bridges

Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, who founded Walmart, has employed her wealth to create a wonderful new museum of American art on a beautiful piece of family-owned land in Northeast Arkansas. The wooded country was so lovely, that I was thankful for the opportunity to be there. We started our day with a walk on the Art Trail. It doesn't have much sculpture of interest yet, but it has a wonderful sky-viewing building by James Turrell, much like the one at the de Young Museum.

The inspiring museum building was designed by Moshe Safdie, who also designed the new wing of the Telfair Museum in Savannah, which we saw in 2010. Like Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Fallingwater,' it is built over a creek, a creek which has been managed to form reflecting pools. Unfortunately, Arkansas has been in a drought so some areas that should have had rippling falls were dry. The complex is composed of four pavilions. I believe the metaphor was an ark, as the pavilions are tapered like boats and their roofs are composed of massive bentwood beams in broad arcs like the hull of a boat, upside down. It is good to have breaks between pavilions where you can enjoy the woods and water through the glass walls, but it adds to the walking involved.

Ms. Walton came into the collecting game rather late, meaning it was hard to get her hands on works by some very important artists. Take Georgia O'Keeffe; her best stuff has long been ensconced in the major museums. Walton compensated by getting a few small but unusual pieces that show something new about her talent. She had only one work by a Californian, but it was a fab piece of a 'supine woman' by Wayne Thiebaud. She also has excellent work by sometimes-neglected artists. She had a knock-out piece by Harriet Frishmuth, a 19th Century sculptor who communicates joy and abandon like no other. She had a couple wonderful figurative sculptures by Alexander Calder's father, also Alexander Calder.

The collection pretty much runs the gamut from Copley to Ursula von Rydingsvaard. There are several masterpieces that we had seen in other big museums.

Admission is free, covered by Walmart, and photography is permitted. The whole endeavor comes from a very generous spirit. Properties abutting the museum have access to trails through the museum's park, and a trail reaches it from downtown. Ms. Walton has long been a promoter of the region—she got the local airport going—and she has tried to integrate the museum into the community, as well as into the site.

The museum was very well-attended, sometimes too crowded; this on a Monday in late October. Most of the patrons were seniors, many quite infirm. Bentonville, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is actually fairly convenient to St. Louis, Tulsa, and other major cities.  Most patrons seemed to be from the region. They said things like, "Lookee there! Inat weeeird?" Apparently many patrons have never been to an art museum before, because there is a greeter at the door to explain not to get to close to the art work and other courtesies.

One of the pavilions is devoted to a vast eating hall. It has glass walls and projects over a reflecting pool; light patterns ripple across the broad wooden arches. We stood in line 25 minutes to order; the food came out pretty fast. We both had High South Chicken salad, which was excellent roasted chicken mixed with mayonnaise and cranberries, over greens; it was fine. I had a devastating Devil's food cupcake; I don't know how they can make anything that swell in such vast quantities. Dan had a fancy cookie.

We spent most of the time separately, running around trying to cram the whole collection in, taking as many photos as we could. Mostly the lighting was quite good, but a few large pieces had bad reflections. It is notable that in the galleries there is no natural light at all, quite a departure from the usual practice. The artificial light is even and constant, but you do appreciate the breaks between galleries where you get natural light through glass walls. Both of us made a second trip out to see the Turrell sky-viewing building, perhaps a half hour's rapid walk. The upshot was that by 6:00 p.m. I was so tired I could barely move.

Next we went to downtown Bentonville. On the central square is Walton's original Five and Dime store, now a Visitors' Center. It has some old time kids toys and candies for sale up front, then a museum on Walton on Walmart, which had no interest for us.

For dinner we found an Italian place called Tavola Tratorria. Yes, in Bentonville, Arkansas, we found authentic Italian food. The Wedding Soup with turkey meat balls and risotto, a few veggies, had perfect, delicate Italian spicing; so life-giving. It reminds me that the best 'German' food I ever had was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, several years ago; a black cook working to instructions of German chef. We both had the soup with some sort of fancy salad that was fine. Very pleasant place, and nice service.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 50/60: North Little Rock to Bentonville

Rather than face another day of competing with huge trucks on the interstate, Dan came up with a plan to take a state highway through the Ozarks. This was a beautiful drive. The trees are good size and have large leaves, and they carpeted the hills with gorgeous rich color. The road is steep and winding. Hardly a truck to be seen. Very little traffic in fact.

The temperature was very cold, but the sky formed a clear blue background for the colorful scenery.

View from Overlook provided by National Park Service
Dan's photo
We stopped at a viewpoint with a great view of the Buffalo River Canyon, which is covered by colorful trees.
View from parking lot of Gift Shop
Dan's photo
When we tried to stop for lunch at the Cliff House, the only place for miles around, it was packed on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Both locals and tourists saw that this was a special autumn day and leaf-peepers abounded.

So we went onto Jasper, where we ate at the Ozark Café, a huge place, also jammed, but we were able to find a seat and get reasonable service. The best thing I learned on this trip is that when a restaurant offers deep-fried fish, they can generally grill it, if you ask. I had grilled catfish; was it ever light, almost sweet. Dan had chopped steak, which was done right. The wait staff worked very hard. They weren't grim, but they were serious and they were tired. I was amazed how much it pleased a couple of them when I said the food was good.

One of the signs for the Ozark Café, which is twice this long
Dan's photo
One of three large cluttered rooms at the Ozark Café
Dan's photo
We stopped at a viewpoint down near the Buffalo River where we could observe the handsome gray rock formations along one bank. Because of this year's drought, there was almost no canoeing.

National Park Service Sign
Dan's photo
View of Buffalo River from Pruitt's Landing
Dan's photo
Another view from Pruitt's Landing
Dan's photo
View from Pruitt's Landing with highway bridge in Background
Dan's photo
We left at 10:15 in the morning; we arrived in Bentonville at 5:15. It took a couple of hours longer to come through the mountains than to drive the freeway, but we were less tired when we got here because of the stimulation and the beauty of it.

Dan had dinner at Mama Chu's Asian Cuisine. I didn't need any more food. I had a latte and worked on the blog.

Day 49/60: Nashville to North Little Rock

Based on research he did on the fly yesterday, Dan took the car for its first oil change this morning at 8:00 a.m.

Though the previous day had been quite warm, when we left Nashville at 10 a.m., the weather was quite cold, 20 degrees lower in temperature, and the sky was gray and heavy.

We took I-40 all the way; no navigating to it.

At first the land was hilly and the rock was flaky and gray; the trees had more color than up north. Later the land flattened and large cotton fields appeared, some loaded with cotton, others harvested already, with only a few stray balls of fluff clinging to the brown twigs.

We had lunch at the Waffle House, because it was the only alternative to Subway at the time we got hungry. We had the chicken salad. It was okay. The wait staff and cook worked very fast, but their attitude was grim. Absolutely no pretense at friendliness, just fast service.

By noon, the clouds had dispersed; the sky was blue but the temperature was tooooo cold.

Around 1:45 we crossed the Mississippi river on the Dolly Parton Bridge, remembering how we had taken a cruise on the river on our previous trip through here. Then we were in Arkansas.

In Arkansas the land we saw was flat and fertile.We saw more prosperous agriculture in Arkansas than any state so far: lots of cotton, soy, cattle, corn, lots of green rice fields and harvested rice fields.

Driving was intense all day. When there are only two lanes going one way, then you get stuck behind one semi trying to pass another one. This went on constantly. Very had speed lane changing. We got in about 4 p.m.

The restaurant where Dan had eaten dinner on our last trip was closed, so he chose the Riverside Steakhouse at the Wyndham Hotel. Maybe this was not the best choice. First off, it did not have any view of the river, or anything else. Then we made the mistake of asking to sit in a particular section of the restaurant, instead of letting the hostess seat us; we've gotten away with this in the past, but this time Dan chose a seat in a section where a party of about a dozen people was taking shape. Thus, the service we got was negligent. The second mistake was to order minestrone. Both Dan and I think of minestrone as magically healing; we have had a couple of good bowls on the trip. This concoction had obscure ingredients and was so hot that I refused mine after two bites. We both had the salad bar, which was satisfactory.

Some days you just have to get the job done.

Day 48/60: Nashville Museums

What a day!

The first time I went outside, it was gray and cold. Every time I went outside after that it was colder; light rain intermittently. This did not stop us from savoring the best of Nashville.

First stop, Fisk University. This institution has been at the center of a big art controversy for about seven years. Through personal connections, Fisk acquired a small collection of first rate paintings and  a number of other works of interest from the estate of Georgia O'Keeffe and her husband Alfred Stieglitz, one of the great early collectors of modern art. When the university's budget got tight several years ago, it naturally occurred to some bean-counter type that their star painting by O'Keeffe alone would raise enough money to make much needed repairs, so they proposed de-accessing the collection, hoping to keep it intact. This raised a hubbub because donors and potential donors like to think of gifts as being permanently in place. The case was in court several years. Then dear Alice Walton, inheritor of the Walmart fortune, came to the rescue with a compromise: share the art, in exchange for big bucks. Walton's new museum Crystal Bridges will have the art part of the time, and it will be at the Fisk part of the time. Details are still being worked out. We wanted to see the collection before this disruption takes place.

The star of the show is O'Keeffe's 'Radiator Building,' the only one by her. They gave all her other major pieces to major museums around the country. The largest quantity at the Fisk was Marsden Hartley, showing his enormous range from delicate desert-scape to bold abstraction. There was a fabulous portrait of Stieglitz by Florine Stettheimer. A couple of nice pieces by Gino Severini. Of the Europeans, mostly sketches. All in all, quite worthwhile. Not allowed to carry a camera in the gallery.

The next objective was to see some mural decoration by Aaron Douglas, a Black American artist who  taught at Fisk much of his career. He decorated a former card catalog room in their old library. These were uplifting depictions of various aspects of academia, simplified and stylized. They are modest works in moss green and pale yellow, but pretty. We also sought out some decoration in an administrative office that was nice.

Then we went over to their new library. On the third floor is an art gallery, with an eclectic collection of quality work, ranging from a Calder design worked up in jute to an early work by Martin Puryear.

For lunch we went to the student cafeteria. $6.75 all you can eat; wide variety of stuff from fried fish to spaghetti; terrific home-made yellow sheet cake with fudge icing. Fisk is predominently African American. The students seemed very quiet and serious in the cafeteria. They were chatting, but there was no cutting up or loud laughter.

We were pretty conspicuous. Staff and students were cordial. Every place we went on campus, people were very helpful and friendly.

Then we dashed downtown to the Frist Art Center. Notice: Fisk University and Frist Art Center. We had to get this straight. We had researched and planned for the three art venues at the Fisk, but Dan figured this one out on the fly.

The Frist is a new art center, since 2000. It is housed in a huge Post Office built in 1930, in a Federalist/Art Deco style. Beautiful art deco interior. Nashville used to be a major regional hub for mail. I am so happy they re-purposed this fine building.

The big show was German Expressionism from the Detroit Institute of Arts. We've been to the museum in Detroit a couple of times and always appreciated their modern German works, but their collection is much too large to show, except in a traveling exhibition like this. No photography, of course, but Dan had photographed some of the important works in Detroit: a handful of amusing works by Kokoshka, a great one by Kirchner, one by Franz Marc. Very rich.

The most exciting part was that we discovered a major contemporary artist that we had not known about: Carrie Mae Weems. She is a photographer, a black woman, whose conceptual range is very impressive; she is at least as important as Cindy Sherman, and I'm happy to have seen her work in bulk. What fascinated me was the stories she wrote to accompany some of her sequences of photos; she is very poetic, insightful and revealing.

In the thirties, the regional Post Office was right next to the railway, and on the other side was a handsome stone railway station. Just as the PO has been re-purposed as an art museum, the train station has been redone as a magnificent hotel. Really. All the details of the interior decoration were tasteful and grand. Stained glass windows. Relief carvings of the angels of transportation. Decoration with a theme. In the lobby bar, I had a latte and Dan drank a beer. A guitarist was playing in the lobby, lobby-jazz standards. It was very cool. I took lots of pictures.

On the way back to the motel, we stopped at the Cinco de Mayo restaurant. We both ordered grilled tilapia; it was perfect. The place had been quiet and easy-going the previous evening, but Friday night it filled up with fertile and noisy families.

Dan has been trying to follow the Giants through the play-offs and the Series, but he is so tired by the time the game comes on (sometimes not till 9:00), that he doesn't see much before he falls asleep. First question on his mind the next day, How did the Giants do?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 47/60: Columbus to Nashville

Basically this was just a boring travel day. Stayed on the Interstate all day. Traffic was very intense. More big trucks than cars. Everyone speeding and jockeying for position.

In Ohio we saw quite a lot of corn, apparently good crops, ready to harvest or being harvested. We drove straight through Cincinnati at speed. We crossed into Kentucky about 10:45. The land got hillier. Thick bands of bare, brushy trees masked the view most of the time. We had lunch at a Burger King south of Louisville. Then we started going through some mountains and there were some colorful trees.

The weather was the most interesting: it was hot! 80 degrees. Hot wind all day. Light clouds gathering, then dispersing.

For a break we explored Franklin, Kentucky, a small town with some old buildings. Very noisy and intense traffic. Big trucks, also cars, right downtown. A big crane was being used to repair the roof of their handsome city hall. Dan had a long conversation with an old codger who was observing the operation from a wheel chair perched on a golf cart. Dan photographed some grain elevators and cleaned the windshield.

We entered Tennessee about 4:45. Freeway lined by trees; green corridor.

We arrived at our motel about 5:30; 4:30 local time. Terrible location, hard by two freeway onramps and two big highways. Very noisy and unfriendly.

We had dinner at the Cinco de Mayo restaurant. Getting there was formidable. An accident on the freeway directly opposite the motel had emergency vehicles wailing. We had to cross the big highways. Walk 2 blocks to restaurant where there was some police activity. Dinner was fine. We both had shrimp dishes. Authentic Mexican cafe. Nice atmosphere, nice service.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 46/60: Buffalo to Columbus

Live blogging.
Departure 9:30; light rain continuing.
Dan promises it will get warmer and drier as we head south.
10:00 on the I-90 thruway west, still raining lightly. Trees are bare and brushy.
Two days of driving coming up; no museums.
Crossing our own path in Columbus to head south.
We have seen 30 museums so far.
5107 miles on this journey so far.
10:20 Wine country, then corn; some pretty trees, still golden.
10:45 We cross in to Pennsylvania. I paid $3.15 toll.
Stop at PA visitor center; Dan checked paper map. Concerned about gassing up.
11:10 Buy gas at Kwik Fill for 3.69 per gallon. Dan waited to buy gas in PA because he heard they have lower prices than most states. 25.2 mpg on last tank; 416 miles; $64.
11:45 Stopped in historic North East, the most eastern and northern town in PA, looking for latte for Jan and a P.O. for Dan, who wanted to mail a card to his dear sister, Carol. We found both in the same block, near a pretty park with colorful trees. No rain. Sky growing lighter. One-jacket temperature.
Leaving town, vinyards are brown-gold.
12:30 Hazy sunshine!
Entering Ohio.
Extensive roadwork.
12:55 Stopped for lunch at Kay's place in Kingsville. Sunny! Mild breeze.
Both had veggie beef soup. Good stuff.
2:20 Cloudless sunshine; intense truck traffic.
2:55 Rest and stretch break. 78 degrees according to car sensor. Yay!
3:25 Freeway driving boring, into the sun, bare black trees are ugly.
4:00 Had to stop live blogging because iPad battery running low; need it for navigation.
4:20 Garmin in car navigates us around traffic jam on freeway. Traffic is very intense.
5:15 Arrive BW Executive Inn, Grove City, just south of Columbus.
Problem with the room: 3 refer trucks parked just outside, motors running; they will run all night long; sounds like a never-ending freight train in your back yard.
Dan arranged for us to get a room on the opposite side of the motel. 2 queens, no sofa, instead of a king. No problem. Located right next to room with ice machine and guest laundry.
I put a load of clothes on to wash right away. Dan checked out the local restaurant scene.
While waiting for my wash, I uploaded a bunch of Dan's photos to my post for the Shelburne.
The restaurant scene is not promising. Because our motel is located at an interstate hub, with motels tucked into the armpits of every onramp, getting to a nice restaurant would require several complicated freeway moves; Dan's had enough of freeways for today.
I turn the blog for Shelburne over to Dan. He is very interested in adding the captions to his photos.
7:15 Dan is working on the captions. He wants to watch the Giants play the Tigers in game one of the world Series. How will he get dinner and be back in time?
While Dan worked and my clothes dried, I walked to Panera's, which is literally on the next property, across a stretch of grass. I got a steak salad for him and a cob salad for me. Both were good. Dan ate all of his salad and half of mine. He drank a few little bottles of Merlot from the snack box.
Then he watched a couple innings of the game before he fell asleep. Driving 340 miles is no small matter.
After dinner, I finished the drying and folding.
No more live blogging. It uses too much iPad battery on the road. And anyway it is pretty boring reading. Better to sum things up, to the extent I am able.

Day 44/60: North Adams to Buffalo

Big travel day. Very windy. Partly cloudy. Left at 9:30.
The morning's drive on Highway 2 through the Berkshires was very, very pretty. Lots of good color on rolling hills, winding roads.
When we first got to the toll road, we had some great vistas as we went down hill, but once we got on the flat land, most of the trees were bare, black and cross-hatched and the scenery grew boring.
We had lunch at a service area on the toll road. All they had was Sbarro's. We both had a salad and a meatball; better than I expected.
The scenery became more boring and we were driving into the sun. Dan finally got so numb that he let me drive for the first time on the trip. After about an hour, resumed the wheel to get us into Buffalo. We were settled in our motel by 4:30.
We have returned to the Best Western where we stayed the previous 2 trips to Buffalo. It is necessary to use your room key to get the elevator to move. Apparently this is a security issue. Buffalo is the tenth most violent city in the nation. Neighborhood seems quiet. Haven't been able to get onto wi-fi here yet.
Dan explored neoghborhood on foot then ate at a Greek restaurant. I was blitzed; did nothing.

Day 45/60: Buffalo museums

Rainy day, all day, on and off. Dan dropped off a load of clothes at a nearby laundry.

The Albright Knox Art Gallery is a noisy, frustrating, disorganized place with some great art. The older stuff is hung unceremoniously in a long hallway around a courtyard. People circulate past it to get to basic services. Low ceilings make the hall echo. There must have been 10,000 school children of various ages milling about noisily, being told not to touch. I finally bolted. It was a relief to stand outside in the rain.

I walked across the street to the Burchfield Penney Art Center, which has a handsome new building designed by Gwathmey just before his death. Just inside the building is a snack bar; no caffeine available at the other museum. I had a latte and a fabulous home-made muffin.

Burchfield was a very interesting painter, mostly water colors, mostly light effects and wind effects in imaginary gardens. There has long been a gallery on campus at Buffalo State College for his work. Then an art collector named Penney donated his Burchfields and his other art, and apparently a bunch of money, to the Burchfield Art Center, so they expanded and added his name. Only a small amount of Burchfield's work is shown, but, later, when Dan joined me, he persuaded a curator to give us a tour of the storage space where they keep the others; that was a special treat.

The rest of the stuff at Burchfield Penney was unmemorable. A bunch of stuff about the Black freedom movement. Some comic book art by Spain Rodriguez. I enjoyed some American crafts and furnishings from the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The school tours all leave the Albright Knox at noon, so the sound level was tolerable when I returned. Dan was most pleased to be able to shoot Gauguin's "Yellow Christ." I was most happy to discover fine paintings by Gerhard Richter and Anuszkiewicz. Plus a stunning wall design by Sol Lewitt. They have one of the better works by Pollock and some excellent Clyfford Still.

We picked up the laundry on the way back to the motel.

For dinner Dan had wanted to try a fancy place called Mother's, a block's walk from the motel, but it is an in-spot. The bar was roaring. The music, nice enough, was deafening. We finally gave up. Drove a few blocks to Towne restaurant, a Greek place where Dan ate last night. No music at all. Lots of room. Pleasant warm light. Enthusiasic, if somewhat scatter-brained service. I had the broiled grouper with rice mixed with spinach, plus fresh zucchini. All excellent. Dan loved his lamb kabob. We shared a piece of pumpkin pie. We were very happy about our choice.

Dan said, "I could do this forever. Just traveling around looking at art and eating in new restaurants." So there you have it.

We for pretty sick of our room at the Gest Western on the Avenue. No wifi kept us from uploading photos to blog. Room small and badly arranged; desk chair always in the way. On the other hand, one of our two nights wasfree based on BW's point system.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 43/60: Clark Institute and Williams College

Back to cold weather, heavy sky.

The Clark Institute has a very high quality art collection. The only problem was that they have shipped most of the best stuff around the world on a special exhibition tour, to raise money for the extensive renovation and building project which is now under way, not to be completed for two years. Thus our time at the Clark was frustrating, though not without its high points. Their Old Masters (late 1400s through 1600s) were still in place, well hung and well lighted. They have one portrait by Ghirlandaio that it made the visit worthwhile in itself. This is our third visit to the Clark, so this portrait is like an old friend to me. They have first-rate works by Gossaert, Goya, David, Vigée-Lebrun.

The rest of their permanent collection was represented by a random conglomerate of paintings double-stacked on the wall and poorly lighted: most disappointing. Good stuff though.

About 1/3 of their exhibit space was given over to recent archaeological finds in China. We're not real big fans of Chinese art, but we make an effort. We're beginning to recognize the characteristics of different Dynasties. The tomb guardian statues were imaginative and well-preserved.

For lunch Dan wanted to return to the Moonlight Diner, where we had eaten during previous visits. I had a turkey burger, skip the bun; he had a chicken salad. It was okay, nothing special.

Then we went to Williams College, a large campus with handsome brick and stone buildings in traditional styles. We got two big treats right away. Out front is a series of "eye" sculptures by Louise Bourgeois that is a lot of fun. In the foyer is a terrific wall design by Sol Lewitt. They also had a small show of Lewitt which had the rarity of work done by his own hand and signed by him. You may know that Lewitt's designs are sold, or even leased, but other artists execute them. It is special to see demonstrations he made himself.

Dan had a major disappointment at Williams. Arguably their most important painting is by Grant Wood; it shows an auto accident about to happen on a country road at twilight. They had the painting up, but covered with glass and so badly lighted that you could hardly make it out, let alone photograph it. However he felt somewhat compensated by a group of 3 California artists he admires, all excellent examples: Diebenkorn, Park, Bischoff.

For dinner we had an excellent bit of luck. The good restaurant where we ate last night, the Hub, is closed Sundays so we tried a place called Public Eat and Drink. We both had cod poached in butter. Wow. Plus very special veggies and hunks of unpeeled potatoes. Dan had a fresh beet salad for dessert. This was probably the best meal on the trip so far. We had to compliment the chefs on the way out.

Our Holiday Inn here in West Adams has been good; all functional. Wonderful view of Berkshires and town. We had a decent meal at the restaurant the first night. It is about the only real hotel around here; there are some cottages and wood-sided places with outdoor stairways. The location is so fun we've joked about moving here. Because of Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the vicinity, there are a lot of students keeping things lively and giving good service in the restaurants. Of course, I would never move some place that gets so cold, but North Adams is really happening.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 42/60: MASS MOCA

A warm day! Shirt-sleeve weather!
The tree-covered hill behind North Adams glows gold and copper as the sun comes up. The view from our 5th-floor window of the hill and the brick buildings of the town is so fascinating as the light changes that we both are forced to take photos though the window is spattered by last night's rain.

A major goal of the trip for me was to see a retrospective exhibit of the wall designs of Sol Lewitt; I am a major fan. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art occupies huge a complex of defunct factory buildings; they have lots of space to play with, and have yet to make use of it all. About five years ago they renovated one of the buildings for this retrospective. They are showing Lewitt's wall designs on three floors, sixty to eighty huge designs, all very different. This project was completed just before his death, so he personally was involved in the arrangement.

It is amazing to see how he progressed. Because ideas were more important to him than appearances, his early work used faint lines of graphite, all of them straight, all related to the square. Over the years he used heavier lines, he started doing systematic demonstrations of color relationships, and then he discovered the curve; by the end of his career, he was doing wildly gyrating curves in blindingly contrasting colors.

Both Dan and I really enjoyed the show. The light was fairly decent; photography and video was allowed. The wall designs are still in good condition, no smudges or heel marks. Several young guards prowl constantly about. The way the paintings were arranged created a visual surprises. It reminded me of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris—the church with the most and the prettiest stained glass. The mental and aesthetic mood created by Lewitt's work is similar.

We had lunch in their busy café amongst students, parents with children, and tourists from abroad. I had  salad, Dan had soup, it was fine.

After lunch Dan and I split up. The hotel is only a couple blocks away, so we planned to meet back here. The light was nice and Dan was eager to visit a place called the Hoosac tunnel museum to learn about a railway tunnel here in the Berkshire Mountains.

The rest of the exhibits were interesting, more or less, but lacking in aesthetics. There was a show of contemporary work from Canada, including some very strong gay statements. Everything was weird structures and video expressing attitudes of discontent. There was a show of structures representing "invisible cities."

The rough factory complex, with metal staircases and signs left over from its active days, is quite interesting. Both of us wandered around the property separately. There were some weird installations here and there. The river running through it is dark and swift. I followed a path toward some pillars, thinking there might be a different view of the river. I ended up by the river under a highway. From the highway was hanging a half-dozen swings, flat black boards hanging from very long black ropes. It happens that I have been dreaming about swinging, so I saw these unexplained swings as an answer to a dream. I dropped my stuff in a pile and used one of the swings for awhile, swinging toward the fence by the river. It was satisfying.

I explored the small town a little. North Adams is funny because everything is crammed into a small space. From the hotel you can walk to the art museum, to the fire station, the police station, other public services, several restaurants and other businesses; the highway and the railway are right next to the hotel. There's a liberal arts college nearby and students ply the streets and pubs. By 4 p.m. I was hot (hot! yay!) and tired; I returned to the hotel for a brief nap.

Dan returned from the railway museum with lots of information. For dinner we walked across the street to the Hub. Very busy; very noisy. Very good food and good service. I had chicken noodle soup. Dan had grilled strip with fresh steamed veggies. We shared an excellent piece of cherry pie.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 41/60: White River Jct to North Adams, MA

Misty morning. Not too cold. Umbrella not required. Visibility no good.

Since White River Junction is only ten minutes from Hanover, where Dartmouth is located, Dan decided we better check out their Hood Museum of Art. We were lucky to find metered parking a short walk away. Dartmouth is an Ivy League university, dating from the mid-1700s, and its large brick buildings have elegant, symmetrical architecture. The art museum is small and tucked away between two other buildings, but it has an attractive façade and fore-court. Something about the way they present their art makes it seem important and exciting.

Their European collection has good examples of second or third level artists, with a few exceptions, such as a decent work by Vigée-Lebrun. Not surprisingly, the American collection was stronger; a delightful little piece by John Sloan stands out. We made pretty quick work of this museum, our 25th on this trip.

Just down the hall was a cafeteria where we had lunch surrounded by students. The salad bar was good. The girls wear skirts that barely cover their bottoms, and then only when they stand erect, with knee high boots; or tights with boots; or skin-tight pants. Dan said the students looked like they took their work seriously; maybe that's right; no hi-jinx; no tattoos; hurried walks.

Then we dashed in a slight rain a short block to the Baker Library to see a huge mural sequence by Orozco. This was in a long wide study hall that offered acres of uninterrupted space for painting, plus some other walls. His theme was the history of civilization in the Western Hemisphere, starting from early myths, through the Spanish conquest, and the arrival of white people, and industrialization, and etc. This is a famous mural, and when we visited the Pollock-Krasner house, we learned that Pollock was influenced by Orozco and had seen this mural in the making. I wish I could tell you it was fabulous. It was certainly a fabulous effort, full of fury and bombast. I just don't like Orozco's style, much as I try; I don't like the way he applies paint.

When we got back to the car to make our two-hour drive, it was 3:30 and raining very hard. The first hour and a half on the freeway was very stressful driving, because of the high speeds and back-splash. When we turned onto a Massachusetts highway (Highway 2, The Mohawk Trail) to get across the mountains to North Adams, we had to drive more slowly and traffic was light. We really enjoyed the twisting mountainous route; the trees were golden and coppery mixed with dark evergreens. It was quite lovely despite the rain.

Dan had quite a nice meal at the restaurant at our Holiday Inn here in North Adams: flank steak done right, fresh green beans, mashed potatoes. Service was slow because they were under-staffed. We both worked with our photos and stuff. Dan watched a little of the Giants game against the Cardinals, which the Giants won 5-0.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 40/60: Burlington to White River Jct

The only problem with today's scenic drive through the Green Mountains was that we were about two weeks too late for the fall color, and most of the trees were bare. We did have a few good views of hillsides carpeted in autumnal hues. We didn't bag a lot of killer shots because streaky clouds frequently dimmed the sun. The hills and valleys are covered with trees; I kept thinking how beautiful it must have been in the spring and summer, let alone the autumn. Dan enjoyed driving the country roads; not much traffic, constantly changing scene. The two lane road was in poor repair much of the way, but tolerable.

We made it to Woodstock in time for a late lunch. After a few hours of driving through tiny villages with virtually no business, bustling touristy Woodstock was a shock. We parked in a free lot a couple blocks from town. You know, it is a really pretty old town; no wonder it is popular. Lots of substantial old buildings, both residential and commercial, very stylish, with fashionable shops and trendy restaurants. Dan chose Bentley's, a pleasantly traditional place. We both had salads with chicken added; the chicken was moist and tender.

Then we went just up the road a piece—some hardy souls walked it—to an interesting historical complex. Basically there are two parts. One is a large, working farm, Billings Farm, that demonstrates sustainable farming, as well as the history of farming. This we skipped.

What we were interested in was the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. This place has a complex background which we learned from a young ranger who gave us a tour. The property's first owner, Marsh, was an early conservationist, one of the first to propose that the resources of nature be conserved. He was a theorist and writer who never had the funds to practice what he preached. Billings was a highly successful businessman (railroads, etc.) who was so inspired by Marsh's ideas that he bought Marsh's property and tried to apply them there. One of the main things he did was to plant hundreds of trees. At that time, Vermont—now known for its trees—had been largely de-forested for the sake of pasturing sheep. He also established the Billings Farm, to spread the idea of smart farming. Through marriage, the property came into the hands of Laurence Rockefeller, one of the sons of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He was an active conservationist and tried to continue Billings' work. His wife was the grand-daughter of Billings, and she tried to keep much of the mansion as she remembered it from her childhood.

It was an interesting tour but a little wordy, and there was little time or attention to the art on the walls of the house. They did have a couple of small works by Bierstadt, nothing much. The interior decor was by Tiffany; lots of woodwork, all beautifully carved in simple geometric patterns; excellent embossed wall coverings; that was the best part.

We went over to nearby White River Junction, much more affordable, to spend the night at a very basic Comfort Inn. Our absentee ballots were waiting for us, as we had arranged. After a little confusion we located a supermarket and stocked up on drinks and snacks. Dan had been hoping to eat at the Chinese restaurant across the street from the motel, but their power was out because a line repair was being made nearby. I wasn't planning to eat Chinese food (after my msg episode, I'm feeling very negative about Chinese food), but I was with Dan to explore the situation. We ended up going to a country kitchen place also nearby. Ordinary stuff; no wine.