Tag Archives: Art

Destination: Cleveland! Pt. 3 – Museum of Art, Lake Erie, West Side Market

2 Aug

On our last full day, we went to the Cleveland Museum of Art, a cultural gem in the University Circle neighborhood, housing significant works from ancient Minoan statuary to Picasso’s famed La Vie (among my favorites).  To get there we drove through Wade Park, lovely and inviting grounds begging for a summer’s walk.  Next time.  This area of town also features the Museum of Natural History and the rumored-to-be-awesome botanical gardens, so I’m sure we’ll be back.  The art museum is an impressive neoclassical building, beautiful, as museums like to be.  Navigation can get tricky, as some areas are off limits or in the process of renovation.  Going from section to section is not totally intuitive, so grab a map.  The rooms themselves are well designed, the works spaced far apart to facilitate extended viewing and prevent traffic jams.  The walls are painted in unobtrusive colors and each room feels airy and relaxing – small details which can really enhance a museum experience.

Detail from “La Vie” by Pablo Picasso

Jean Leon Gerome – “Woman with a Veil”

It was a treat was to come upon a sculpture by my favorite orientalist, Jean-Leon Gerome.  Gerome had his hand at sculpture only later in life, and I had never seen one in person.  This was a bronze entitled “Woman with a Veil”.  With my outdated camera, it was difficult to get a good shot.  But I really love this piece, the mystery it invokes.

Another large room housed five classically-themed paintings by Charles Meynier.  The paintings tower over the viewer, larger than life, and depict Apollo (god of poetry) with Urania (astronomy) in the center, and four Muses on the left and right: Polyhymnia (eloquence), Erato (lyric poetry), Clio (history), and Calliope (epic poetry).  I could have spent an hour in this room alone, beneath their beckoning eyes.

From left to right: Polyhymnia, Erato, Apollo and Urania, Clio, and Calliope

Viewing platform at Lakefront Nature Preserve

I really loved this museum.  They have an impressive and diverse collection of art and artifacts, and I think our trip to Cleveland would have been worth it for the museum alone.  Once we got our fill of Gothic etchings, medieval armory and ancient Assyrian reliefs, we bid farewell to this splendid house of beauty to get back into some nature.  We had yet to get a good look at Lake Erie, so we thought about where to go for that.  We were just leaving University Circle and considering some of the lakefront parks near downtown, when the lady friend spotted a small sign saying “waterfront”, pointing down an unassuming road.  What the hell, right?  We followed this road to a lakefront nature preserve only recently opened to the public, which included a trail that looped out to an overlook of Lake Erie.  Serendipity!  The trail was a bit claustrophobic with vegetation, thriving under the summer sun to create a hall of green.  We heard a lot of signs of wildlife, but couldn’t see much of it.  It was… vibrant.  Particularly after the ruminative peace of the museum, the trail felt like a visceral overload of life.  Expect bugs, especially inland.  A short hike brought us to a corner jutting out into the lake, with a metal viewing platform one accessed by ladder (careful climbing up, there are a few rungs missing).  And there it was, Lake Erie.  Cleveland in the near distance, and nothing but water in the other direction.  We spent a while enjoying the vastness (possibly prolonging our return through the heavy brush).  It was a fun, unplanned way to experience the lake.

Cleveland and Lake Erie

West Side Market

The next day was our departure.  We woke up extra early to hit the famed West Side Market before getting on the road.  This brought us back to the Ohio City neighborhood, where the market serves as an obvious focal point.  Designed by the same architects who designed the art museum, the market consists of a striking neoclassical main concourse, encircled by an arcade.  Within, one finds upwards to a hundred vendors, selling local meats, dairy, confections, and much more.  The surrounding arcade has all of the produce vendors, stalls overflowing with seasonal treasures.  It’s a wonderful market, though perhaps more useful to residents than visitors (unless your accommodations include a full kitchen).  What I mean is, the bulk of this market’s appeal is its trove of fresh ingredients, begging to be cooked with.  Alas, we could not fulfill their wish.  We settled for some fresh fruit, cups of delicious noodles from the Noodle Cat stand (a Cleveland staple), and bagels and hummus for the car ride.  We ate our breakfast of Japanese noodles at a table outside in Market Square, historic grounds for the 19th and early 20th century community, and where the market first began.  It seemed an appropriate last meal, connecting Cleveland’s past with its present, a city with deep history and an eye on the future.  A city I definitely look forward to seeing again.

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Art and Solitude

1 Jan

Last night, during my wild mild New Years eve carousal, I had my fortune told by a friend at a bar.  Between sips of whiskey-sour, I casually examined some of her colorful tarot cards. They were in their own way lovely and intriguing things, and New Year’s being a night of hope and forward-thinking, it seemed fitting.  For now I’ll leave off the topic of whether I “believe” in such practices and phenomena, as I’m not the sort to make absolute declarations about the many mysteries of our little-understood reality – especially when it comes to the slippery subject of Time.  Really, I find absolutes to be generally bad things, contrary to our innate creativity and the sense of wonder which enables all art and science to succeed.  If I have a personal ideology, it would be the consistent rejection of ideologies in general.  “All I know is that I know nothing”, said Socrates, maybe the wisest thing ever uttered by anyone.
Stop: Hermit Time!

Anyway, my tarot reading was pretty positive, with an exception.  It called for me to seek solitude, to reconnect with my truest self. This was apparently essential for my happiness and success, and according to the cards, my path to good fortune had to be a lonely one.  I looked down at the Hermit card, a robed and white-bearded fellow with a thin walking stick, and thought about my general dissatisfaction with things lately.  I felt a strong and unexpected agreement with the cards’ advice, felt it somewhere deep inside my guts.  Now, this is a tricky thing, as I happen to be in a long-term and happily committed relationship with a lovely lady, and have no burning desire to return to the solitude of bachelordom.  Whatever the cards may say, I could not sacrifice love in pursuit of art – it would be in a way the antithesis of its own goal.  Though it’s true that relationships, for all of their benefits, can certainly strain one’s sense of self, and infringe on the creation of peaceful, mental space.  Add the fact that I work full time and take evening classes, and it’s clear that solitude is not naturally occurring in my present life.  Even when I’m alone, I’m not – I keep company with the distractions of the internet, or an author I’m reading, or the emotional swells of music.  To be “alone”, truly and fully, is harder than it sounds.

Yet when I think of the people I have most admired in history – artists, scientists, “tortured geniuses” of all kinds – they tend to share an appreciation for solitude.  Rilke was a major advocate for it as absolutely necessary to the artist; for the “journey within”, which enables true creation.  Wilde knew it too, and da Vinci, Picasso, Gaugin, and Osho.  Cicero called solitude the pabulum of the mind.  Einstein relished his autonomy and alone time, and would likely not have made half of his achievements without it.  There seems to be a common sentiment that solitude foments the purest creativity and insight, and from my own experiences, I think I agree.  This raises tough questions, as someone who wishes to devote his energy to creation and exploration.  What about love? Or friendship? Do relationships and sociality cripple the creative process?  Can I achieve my best while living in this busy, fully-inhabited life?  Or must I retreat to the cliche cabin in the woods, cut off all distractions and duties, and devote myself fully to art?

Maybe.  There is a lot to be said for full-speed, self-absorbed commitment to a singular process.  But then, there’s also a lot to be said for balance.  Actually, balance seems to often be the answer to existential quandaries in general.  There is, after all, a lot of gray area between Thoreau and Jackie O. (of course in reality, Thoreau was actually very sociable, and much of his hermit-like persona is invented).  I’m looking for that sweet middle-ground between focused isolation and the distracted integration of modern life.  To find it, I believe I’ll have to create a dedicated time/space for creativity, somewhere between the necessary logistics and pleasantries of daily life, a temporary but periodic oasis.  I don’t do well with time-management usually, though I blame that on Time rather than myself, that slippery and mischievous phantom.  But I’ll have to try, and if anyone else out there has struggled with a similar dilemma, this would be my advice.  Perhaps it won’t be enough, but it will be better than nothing.

So today, in this spirit of self-rediscovery, and in search of that uninterrupted contemplation, I wandered about some woods a few miles from home.  I  spent this first day of the new year walking a trail along a steep gorge, resting occasionally to appreciate the babble of the brook and the ominous creak of tall pines bending to the wind.  It was the first time in a long time that I was truly alone, in every sense.   I hiked up and down hills, into groves of bare oaks and across rocky streams.  I needed space to reassess and come to these conclusions; conclusions which may or may not work out in the end.  But at least I feel better.  I suppose that’s a start.