Saturday, July 18, 2015

Toys for Adults at the Art Institute of Chicago

I recently had to take a big medical exam in Chicago. The test would take all day, so I took the train up the day before and stayed in a hotel near the testing center so I could study and not worry about arriving late. However, once I discovered BBC America was playing a Star Trek—Next Generation marathon, little studying happened. The big day went fine, and after picking up my bags from the hotel, I hopped on the L into downtown, where I met Dear Husband at a different hotel. Located in a “historic” building one block from Millennium Park, our room was small, with a window-unit air conditioner, questionable internet, and no mini-fridge. We were paying for location, location, location.

Dear Husband had been cooling his heels since his train arrived and wanted to go out, do something. So we shared an entrée from the Thai restaurant under the hotel before heading out to the Art Institute of Chicago. The last time we were in the Windy City, our flight to San Francisco had been delayed, so we concocted a mini-religious arts tour to amuse ourselves before flying out the next morning. As luck would have it, we were once again at AIC on a Thursday evening = free admission for Illinois residents! Neither a little rain nor a thick line damped our enthusiasm.

Once inside, we took advantage of the breadth of the Institute’s collections, starting with the Paperweight Collection. (Yes, you read that right.) Arthur Rubloff made such a major hobby of collecting these blobs of glass, that he was able to donate 1,200 to the AIC, and there is a whole room devoted to the various styles, from abstract mosaics of color to be-dew-dropped roses to little insects captured within the glass orbs. As you may remember, I am a sucker for art glass. Still I found most of the designs--made in the nineteenth century--to be crude.

Next door is the Thorne Miniatures galleryNarcissa Niblack Thorne (1882-1966) had researched home furnishings in Europe (France, Germany) from 1275 to the mid-1900s, and in America (Virginia, Massachusetts, Maine) from the 1700s to the mid-1900s. Essentially doll-house rooms with historical accuracies, the dioramas made for interesting comparisons and many instances of “I spy.” DH liked to point out the various musical instruments and whether they were anachronistic. I delighted in finding details such as portraits or firescreens.

Finally, before the AIC closed for the day, we explored the small Muslim gallery. Panels there explained common influences in Islamic art, from calligraphy and arabesques to geometrical patterns and even figurative designs. The next day we tackled the Field Museum, sunned/swam at the lakeshore, ate dinner at a diner, and then watched a Second City show. Because I was going to be too busy in August around the time of our anniversary, this counted as our annual Midwest trip. We celebrated our first anniversary with Second City, too--and here's proof!

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