Friday, June 03, 2005

Wings on the Lake

The Milwaukee Art Museum is a work of art itself.

Took #3 daughter on a field trip there and discovered the museum entry, with its winged roof, white marble galleries, and sweeping view of Lake Michigan, was worth the 15 minutes the docent spent just showing us the building. A triangular infinity, like mirrors facing each other but white right triangles balanced on the right angle: row after row of the the arching supports and the window.

Gallery floors are polished marble. One long row of windows on the city side and lake side. Huge skylight, with folding wings as sun shades: if the light on the dome is too strong, the wings fold down over it. Most of the time the wings spread out.

Somebody was repainting the white walls in the city side gallery. I'd love to have the profits from the white paint contract.

#2 son, the inventor, will probably not get into the paintings but would love the retracting sun shades and the glass cylindrical elevator.

You don't have to leave the museum lobby to enjoy a spectacular glass sculpture. It stands about 15 feet tall, a huge bouquet of glass streamers, horns, and globes in a hundred different colors, made in different parts of the world and attached to the central support. Black polished base reflects viewers, making us part of the bouquet. It reminds me of the balloon sellers at Brookfield Zoo years ago, with round and zigzag balloons.

Special exhibit of Degas sculptures: I found the concept and the explanation of the lost wax process fascinating. Degas made 3 dimensional studies of figures of dancers in various poses; three different arabesques side by side, for example. He also studied horses, using Mayfield's stop-action photos of horses. One horse looks like he's rearing and wheeling away from a sudden threat, some nameless horror leaping at his feet. The finish is generally rough and faces are globby; it's the movement itself that arrests. One bronze dancer with features: "Little dancer, age 14" looks like every little girl getting tired during an afternoon of plié-relevé, when the weather outside beckons. The rest of the impressionists tried to capture fleeting glimpses of light; Degas wanted to capture a spark of kinetic energy.

Special exhibit of arts and crafts movement: Morris chair and print meets Wright stained glass meets Hungarian lace meets Scandianvian tapestry and Darmstadt School and Viennese Secessionists. Highlights: Art noveau jewelry, fluid settings of oval moonstones on silver, or silver shield with green agate. A Norwegian tiara of delicate green enameled leaves. Furniture: A dining room enesmble as designed for a Berlin furniture store, featuring rug, table, chairs, dishes, cabinet, light fixtures in an orderly array of blue and white rectangles. General idea: art in home design, created with love and a soul, but factory made to be affordable.

mrs. james

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