USA Diaries – Day 26 – Second Free day means a trip to Chicago!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.

How many times do you get an opportunity to see a new city and you turn it down? The answer in my case will always be never! Anyways, we had this chance to go and see the city of Chicago, now the drive itself is almost 4 hours long and that meant that we were suppose to take an early bus to the city. That also meant that we needed to wake up at 4 am almost and board the bus by 5 am so that we can be in the city by 9 am. And have plenty of time to see some more amazing museums.. I have to say though that at this time I was becoming quite sick of visiting so many museums! I mean ya Cultural Heritage is amazing and all, but then there is always a limit to how much you can actually digest, and I was basically on the verge of having had enough!

Oh and not to mention, it was finally nice to visit a city which has buildings taller than 6 storeys. So we get off at the Bus Station and immediately make our way to the Field Museum of Chicago which is suppose to be a really renowned Museum! Since it is a Private, non-federally funded Museum, therefore there is a charge to enter the Museum, and this was something which was quite shocking to a friend who was accompanying us. I think the shock was immense for her since she belongs to Washington, the home of the free for all Museum, the Smithsonian. Oh well!

At this point, it needs to be stressed again that I have had enough of Natural History and Insects and Bugs, so that is the last thing on display where I will be rushing. I instead decided to make my way to the Genghis Khan Display which is a temporary exhibition being done by the Museum. The exhibition was nice and covered many facets of the life of Genghis Khan and then the overall period and the way people were living at the time. The exhibition was not limited to Genghis Khan, instead it even explored through a Dried out Mummy and Jewels and Clothes, etc about how people were living at that time. Since it was a temporary exhibition, therefore I have not been able to take any pictures of the display, but for me it ranged as an average – not too good and not too bad – but definitely worth a lot of knowledge.

After this display I made my way to the African Display – the display was colorful and very lively and it explored the Cultural Diversity of the African people and how they are different. It dwelled into the history of the Africans – and my topic of interest – Slavery! I think the topic has become a major interest of mine since I read Alex Haley’s wonderful Autobiographical work “Roots”. I have said it many a times and still, I will say it again, that this book defines me and who I am and what I believe and what I follow. I really loved the display in which they have tried to capture the true essence of the problems that were faced by generations of African Americans and how they were treated. The truly amazing part of it was that they have even dug out some of the Ads that were placed in the newspapers and magazines to advertise the coming of the new ships with the slaves. 

I also had the chance to make a round of this Mummy Exhibit that they have. The exhibit entrance is through a Pyramid shape itself and then you go to the basement where you can get to see some real mummies.  The dioramas that they have in the exhibition are truly amazing. They are so realistic and they show the entire process of mummification, from the bandages to the gutting of the human body. It was too cool!

 

After that, we decided to head off to Lunch and a friend of ours kept screaming that we just had to try the Deep Dish Pizza that is in fact a specialty of Chicago. For lunch, the place selected was Hyde Park, which is located in the heart of University of Chicago. It was nice to see the University and the wonderful Architecture that is the synonymous with Wonderful Architecture.

The place for Pizza which we decided to try was a little restaurant called “Edwardo’s”, a small cafe sort of thing, with a wide variety of options available. We decided to have a cheese pizza, with chicken as an add on. The wait for the food was quite a while, but when it did come, I have to say, that it was worth the wait.

 

After lunch, I headed off to Robbie House, instead of the Oriental Institute, which was the original plan, but I was pretty sure that if I have gone to another Museum, I would have simply thrown up. Plus I had other plans, and these included a visit to the wonderful Robbie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which reflects it Prarie House Theory. The house is not allowed to be photographed from inside, but the feel of being inside a house which I have heard and read so much about, was truly wonderful. And it goes without saying, that a few books were also bought.

While we were taking a tour of the house, the bells from the Rockfeller Church started to ring as loud as they could, and they just would not stop. It turned out that this is a practice for the Concert that they have every Sunday, therefore I just had to make a stop at this wonderful Church. The building and the interior inside was so wonderful, it simply took your breath away.

I decided to make a short stop at the Oriental Institute as well, which seemed to be completely dedicated to the Art and History of the East. There were so many wonderful artifacts that were on display and having only 15 minutes in hand to see that Museum was hardly Justice in anyway.

 

On the way back, I was able to get a chance to see the Sears Tower,, but from very very far away!

And that was more or less the end of the day – with a 4 hour journey back to Madison. I was really glad I got this chance to see Chicago.. it was truly so different from Madison and Washington…. It was nice to finally see a real city!

 

 

 

USA Diaries – Day 12 – 7 million people a year is an understatement!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 12, (I have lost track of time) – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Late updating

Day 12 or this Saturday was our day off. This meant that we had the choice to do whatever we wanted to do. A few decided to go and visit their families, others thought that it will be much better that they head off to NY, while others just decided to rest. For us, the choice was of visiting more museums than what we have already seen. The day was suppose to begin at 9 ( as per our friend Rajesh) but we hardly left the hotel before 10. So at 10 in the morning, we headed off to the Museum of African Art. I had been very excited to go to this museum, since there was the display of “African Cosmos”. The first thought that came in my head when I heard about this exhibition was the starting page from the book “Roots” written by Alex Haley.

You see in the starting page the story starts with the father of Kanta holding him up to the stars and saying something like “There is nothing above you”. I thought this was one of the most important moments in the life of that child and a seriously wonderful tradition. So I really wanted to go there. The first thing however you see as soon as you enter the museum (although that was only there for the weekend – I think) is a blue round tent. The tent is actually a planetarium sort of thing which shows the Southern Sky – or sky as seen from Africa – which we in the northern hemisphere can never see. The night African Sky was amazing.

Nancy Mcwright over at the Free and Sackler Gallery had mentioned that the use of space inside the African Art was completely different as compared to the FS, although the two buildings have been designed as exact duplicates. The first difference when you enter into the African Art is the use of the interiors. The interiors at African Art are more regional and indigenous. There is also a lot of play of colour and most importantly, there is no confusion at all. FS Galleries can be extremely confusing. God knows, that I am still confused inside it, but in African Art there is nothing of that sort.

There were certain really amazing displays in the Museum, including Jewelry, Daily usage toys that people in Africa used to make for their kids, masks, ritual clothes etc.

A Ritual dress

Mask

A Stool

 

Another amazing thing was the statue that I am sharing below. This statue done by an African artist, Ousmane Sow, shows the Haitian leader Toussaint Louverture freeing the land from repression. The sculpture is so striking in so many ways, in the way the sorrow and the mixed emotions of freedom and grief cover the face of the women kneeling before him. The sense of responsibility in the leader himself is more than apparent and has been caught perfectly by the artist.

There is also another exhibition that is worth seeing, although once again I have to say that Modern Art is still not my thing. The exhibition is a photography/mixed medium by the photographer turned Painter (or maybe it is the other way round) Leyla Essayandi. Her work is really worth seeing. We were not allowed to photograph the work therefore I have no pictures of it to post here (except one), but one should really give it a try. It is all about the position of women in the much fantasized and romanticized harems of Africa. Some of the pictures are actually truly very haunting.

The African Cosmos exhibition was not what I expected it to be. The work actually traced the way in which cosmos have been depicted in the various writings and paintings, but for some reason it didn’t hit the right spot with me. Maybe I still had Kanta on my mind when I walked through it.

My second stop was at the Hirshhorn Museum. So again this was Modern Art and not what I would normally prefer, but there were certain experimental pieces which made me both, be in awe of it and question the very thought process and his mental stability. One of my favorite pieces of course was Kandinsky – and I am so glad I can now be one of those snobs who can raise their noses up and see – “Well its nothing compared to the real Kandinsky” ! There was also a piece by Frank Lloyd Wright, which was a design of the windows that he did.

 

The Kandinsky

Frank Lloyd Piece

 

 

There was also a very wonderful installation that was done in the museum. The name of this upcoming exhibition is “Belief+Doubt” and is done by the artist Barbara Kruger. It was truly a wonderful piece. The sayings that were plastered all over the  basement level were both intriguing and definitely made you wonder.

 

The last stop of the day was at the National Air and Space Museum… now someone said to me a few days ago that almost 70 million people come to this museum every year. I really thought than that they may have lost their mind, but the fact of the matter is that I, after my visit am sure, that this number is an understatement. I am pretty sure that there were that many people only yesterday in there. There was so much crowd in it that it was impossible to see anything. You could not walk and actually see anything. You were just being swept around by the very sea of the people that was there.

 

The Museum is huge.. it is actually ridiculously huge. My friends – who decided to skip the Hirshhorn Museum and were there an hour before me took almost 3 hours to see the museum. I took 2 hours and even then I will never in my life say that I actually saw it – I just glanced through the museum. I have yet to believe myself that it took me 2 hours to just glance through it. It was ridiculous the size. There were around 8 galleries, each covering a different aspect of Air and Space. There were lines for everything – for getting in the Planetarium, the IMAX theater, the plane, the spaceship – even for the washrooms for heaven sake.

But there is no doubt that some of the stuff there was pretty cool – like the Wright Brother plane model, the space shuttle, Apollo Space Shuttle, The moon rock, the Howard Hughes Plane, the first plane that crossed the Atlantic, and god knows what. But all said and done, It was a zoo more than a museum.

The museum trip was enough to convince us that it is now time to rest. So we headed back to our place and spent the rest of the day indoors.