USA Diaries – Day 25 – Poetry Dreams becomes a Reality!

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.

Hello! The last week or let’s say the last stretch of this journey is really turning out to be exhausting. Not only are we losing our mind, trying to get everything done, but even the timetable that we have is making us feel like we are trying to just pack in everything… and let me say that such a thing tends to takes its toll. Plus I miss home! One month is long enough to stay in a place which is the complete opposite of what your home used to be.

So Day 25 (5 more days to go) started off yet again at 9 am in the morning, but today we were supposed to start off our day at the Chazen Museum of Art and meet the director, Russell Panczenko. We were to understand the main purpose of the Museum and how it relates to the University as a whole. But my interest remained in understanding that in contrast to Washington DC, which is a big tourist destination, how a town like Madison attracts crowds and people towards it. Well the answer given by the Director was the most simple and brilliant answer that I could have expected. They simply make and organize shows which would be a big attraction for the local crowd. And it is here and at this very moment, that I got to know the FLW (Frank Lloyd Wright) is owned by the whole of Wisconsin as their hero. And more importantly, Taliesin – which was his studio – is only a short distance away.

During this trip we also got a chance to see their Storage Units, which have been installed with State of the Art Equipment and also all that goes on Behind the Scenes – which included the Loading Deck, their underground additional Storage.

The building which we visited is the new wing of the Museum and an extension to the original building which had many of its own issues. The new building is one of the few extensions that I have ever seen which gives respect to the old structure. The extension carries on to the new interior the same feeling which is there in the old building. The most important feature for me of the overall complex is how even the bridge that has been made between the two buildings to link the old to the new, is not only to conserve the Pedestrian Mall, but also takes use of the bridge as the Gallery Space as well.

The end discussion of course with the Director himself was one which was one of the most interesting aspects of the day.

After the visit to the Museum we had the chance to grab lunch and today we decided to enjoy the many kiosks that seem to appear automatically on State Street during lunch hour. We were told to try the Jamaican Food, but I went to this other vendor which had Teriyaki Chicken, and sadly I have to say that the choice was not a very good one.

The second session of the day was dedicated to Dr Mark and his wonderfully amazing Experimental Archaeological Techniques. We started off first with understanding how the Faience Beads were made by the Harappans. We were told about the Stone that they use, the way they used to roll it in to form, the way they used to give it the signature and the art work that they did.

 

I made the cylindrical beads which can be centred by two circular beads!

Afterwards, while half the group – who in my opinion are completely crazy – decided to head off to the Stone Making Class, I opted for Pottery. Now this is something that I have always desired to do… in fact there was a time when I asked my mother to let me get admission in this Institute so I can actually learn it. But well… I finally got my chance on Day 25.

I have to say it is not as easy as it seems – but well then that seems to be truth about more or less everything in the world. On my very first try I shifted the clay off its centre on the wheel, and Dr Mark at this point had to come to my rescue. I then started again to get in shape my Matki – which is more or less a small cup which is used to have drinks or water or something. Anyways, it was really hard and half the time I was just praying that Mark doesn’t lose his patience with me. But he is truly a wonderful teacher; he kept saying “This is the way you learn”!

The class ended, and we decided to head off to the hotel, but not without a few stops first. The first stop of the day was at this lady who was selling handmade antique jewellery. Afterwards we even called in a friend of my roommate – Katie. Now Katie has been working in Harappa Sites for more or less a considerable period. And it was with her that we headed off to Macy’s.

 

Dinner was a Nepalese affair…. That’s right.. We headed off to the Nepalese Restaurant on State Street. And I have to say that their menu had a lot of variety. I got myself a Nepalese Dish – I can’t recall the name – but the oddest part for me was that they served the Dal or lintel as an actual soup item. But it wasn’t so bad!

The rest of the evening consisted of a lot of Facebooking and Email Checking!

 

 

 

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.