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.

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