Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Chicagoland Ramble

Back from a trip to Chicagoland. As architecture fans know, Chicago and environs (= Chicagoland) is a gallery of masterworks, so in my free time I rambled around a bit. The sun was playing hide and seek, which made for some bright, some dark pix.

First, I rambled to Loopy Yarns, a friendly, fabulous LYS in the South Loop area. Owner Vicky recently took up spinning and plans to add roving to the inventory. After collecting some souvenirs of Chicago – the shop has an excellent selection of locally produced Lorna's Laces yarns, sock yarns, and many other variegated beauties – I rambled north past the Sears Tower, tallest building in the U.S., and the new Chicago Public Library. The fantastic ornaments on the glass pediment look like exuberant scored paper sculpture, a witty use of metal that hints at the building contents.

Sears Tower and Chicago Public Library

My goal was Millenium Park and the two most successful new civic sculptures in recent memory, Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate. Along the way, I saw a pink el train (!) and rambled past the Art Institute and its two friendly guardian lions. It's good luck to rub their tails. The park is across the street from the museum.

Art Institute lion

Crown Fountain, designed by Jaume Plensa, is a wonderfully accessible water sculpture. Interactivity (= frolicking in the fountain) is encouraged! Its two tall blocks rising from a flattish slate basin filled with an inch or so of water echo the city's skyscrapers on the lakefront. The blocks display video of an ever-changing array of human faces, all Chicago residents. The kids are waiting in a cluster because they know...

Crown Fountain in Millenium Park

... at odd intervals water spurts from the mouths, followed by a great deluge from the tops of the blocks (and delighted shrieking and squealing from the frolickers).

Crown Fountain in Millenium Park

Unable to resist, I took off my shoes and interacted walked across the basin. The footing is very secure, the water chlorinated and quite cold, even in July. Wise would-be frolickers (or their parents) come prepared with bathing suits, thick fluffy towels, and warm coverups.

Cloud Gate, designed by Anish Kapoor, is equally beguiling. Fondly known as "The Bean," it's a puffy silver arch that looks like a giant jellybean. It's particularly popular with wedding parties, who pose inside and outside the arch, smiling and waving. The curved mirror surfaces reflect clouds, buildings, people, the plaza, etc – but the reflections aren't always where one expects.

The Bean in Millenium Park

The distinguished low rise building reflected on the left of The Bean is the old Chicago Public Library (notice the conversation between the old building and the new building). Your photographer's reflection is at the far right, with a red shopping bag bulging with souvenirs from Loopy.

The big exhibit in town is King Tut at the Field Museum. I opted for the more modest exhibit of King Tut photographs at the Oriental Institute, which was worthwhile, but not itself photogenic.

However, the institute has a prize Assyrian human-headed winged bull, 16 feet tall, from an ancient royal palace in what is now Iraq. It's said that James Henry Breasted, the archeologist who excavated it, was an inspiration for Indiana Jones.

Assyrian winged bull at the Oriental Institute

Curious visitors will notice there's a cuneiform inscription on the back of the slab. I always find examples of ancient writing moving, especially bits of papyrus or parchment.

An exhibit on the development of the alphabet included a surprise, a very old (10th century BCE) spindle whorl that bears the inscription: "This produces spun yarn."

10th century BCE spindle whorl

I took that as a sign. More on that in the next this post.


--Deb said...

It sounds like you had an amazing time!

Delica said...

Excellent photos - like the last one especially!