Thursday, August 4, 2011

See All the Things! Or, uh, not.

Ninety minutes is not enough time to go to the Art Institute of Chicago. Hell, it's not enough time to go to any museum. But as I had three hours between trains, I decided that I couldn't be so close as 6 blocks and not go. There was one thing, in particular, that I wanted to see: the Golden Spider Silk Tapestry in the African gallery. Have you seen the video about this tapestry? It's so freaking cool. They actually pulled the silk from the bellies of Golden Orb spiders from Madagascar. Then they did it a whole bunch more times. Then they unstickied the silk, spun it into threads, warped a loom with it, then wove it into a bunch of small brocade panels which they attached to each other to make one big brocade panel. Seriously, if you're going to be in Chicago any time soon, you need to see this. And give yourself the whole day, would ya?

To get to the African gallery, you have to go through the American Indian gallery, as well as the Chinese gallery. And if you're me, and you're in a hurry to get to the African gallery, you miss the turn and take two trips through the South Asian gallery before you figure out where you're going. And then you go through it again to get to the textile gallery to see the special exhibit of kimonos. The South Asian gallery had all kinds of statuary of Hindu, Buddhist and other religions' gods, made from many different materials: stone, wood, metal. If I'd had more than 90 minutes, I'd have taken a closer look.

After I flew through the African and South Asian galleries (with nary a look at the American Indian gallery), I went downstairs to see the kimonos. I took one picture (which didn't come out) before one of the security folks let me know that photography wasn't permitted in that exhibit. Anyway, the kimonos were all lovely, and I especially liked that they had on display some stencils that had been used in patterning on kimonos. My favorite of all that were on display was one that was a black and white checkered shogun's kimono which also had a very subtle floral pattern all over. Up close, you couldn't really see it - it really played tricks on my eyes. Stepping back a few feet, the floral patterning asserted itself. It was gorgeous.

After the kimonos, I decided I had time to take a lap through the Japanese gallery, which I don't remember having seen on past visits to the Art Institute. There was some interesting early sculpture, from the 5th century or so. I also took a look at the wood carvings and ceramics, but the space that really grabbed me was the Ando gallery, fully of woven bamboo baskets by artist Fujinuma Noboru. These were the most beautiful baskets I've ever seen. It makes me want to take up basketweaving, just to try. Of course I couldn't achieve that level of skill, but it would be fun to try. Maybe for my next hobby.

After the Japanese gallery it was time to head back to the train station to catch my train to Portland. I'm cheap enough that I only paid for a coach seat, rather than coughing up for a sleeper car. I lucked out and got a seat all to myself, but I very nearly had to sit next to the chattiest woman ever. She was on the phone the whole time the train was boarding, then she -horrors- started talking to me. And before you go thinking I'm a completely nasty person, it wasn't just small talk. She was heading for life's story territory just as I realized a couple seats were about to open up. I couldn't move fast enough. After I moved, she placed another call, which got her all the way to Wisconsin, I think.

In knitting news, I cast on for Peasy, by Heidi Kirrmaier, with more lovely Rowan Revive - it's the same yarn I used on my Vesper, by the same designer. Peasy is a top-down cardigan, with pretty little lacy/viney bits on the cardigan fronts. I'm knitting it with size 4 needles, which got me gauge the last time I knit with this yarn. I'm so glad I brought this project, as the miles of stockinette would be just the thing for a 46-hour train ride.

Well, that's all I have for now. Until next time, Friends.

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