Glass Castle

Cristiano Bianchin, Urna, Raccoglitore di Pensiero (Urn,Thought Collector), 2007.  Hand-blown, ground and polished glass with wood, crocheted hemp and steel, 13 x 8 ⅝   x 8 ⅝  in.
“I wish I could see a real Alexander Calder sculpture,” mused the middle as he lay on his stomach, chin in hand, looking at Calder’s Universe.  His interest had been piqued again upon finishing The Calder Game.  “We can.”  “We can?”  “Here?”  “Yes, right here.”  And not that day, but a day that closely followed we went to the Nelson to see one of Calder’s mobiles.  (It says it’s a mobile, but looks like a stabile to me. But what do I know?)
Laura de Santillana, Tokyo-ga (Caffe/Nero-Aqua), 2008. Hand-blown glass, 12 ⅜  x 8 ⅞  x 1 ¾  in.
We marched in, up the gradually sloping floor of the Bloch building awash in natural light, turned right and climbed the dramatic staircase to the Ward Sculpture Hall – that lion making me catch my breath every time – and took another, sharp, right.  (“Mom knows where everything is here.”  Not true.  I could not find the Impressionists without winding around, but I sometimes drop in on the Surrealists when I have a chance.)  There it was, Calder’s sculpture of wood and metal seeming so doable and simple as you stand up close and imagine the bite of the needle nose pliers on the wire.

Yoichi Ohira, Cristallo Sommerso N. 61–Scolpito Vase, 2009. Hand-blown, cut and polished glass with inciso finish, 12 1/4 x 6 x 5 7/8 in.

We talked about it for a minute, the boys and I, then we left.  I’m giddy with delight that the youngest came home and told me that Picasso, with whom he is familiar because of the delightful book, When Pigasso met Mootisse, was a fan of another artist, an artist who liked to paint the jungle.  “Rousseau?”  “Yeah.  Rousseau.”  And we pull out a book and he flipped through and said, “Yeah.  That’s totally Rousseau,” finding the referenced artist’s work.  Then he walked away leaving the book open on the floor.

Laura de Santillana, Flag 12 (Giallo/Nero Diverso/Nero Diverso), 2008. Hand-blown glass, 17 x 17 ½ in.

The Nelson is like that.  A reference, a touch stone.  I hope it is the thing that makes art striking.  Engaging.  I abhor the thought that it makes art grueling.  A chore.  Worse, a lesson.  Go, if you can, for small bites.  An amuse bouche rather than a Thanksgiving meal that leaves you heavy and tired, a trace memory of the joyful anticipation wiped clean by the gluttonous reality.
Yoichi Ohira, Calle di Venezia N. 10–Casa rossa Vase, 2008. Hand-blown, cut and polished glass murrine, 11 ⅝  x 6 ⅛  x 5 in.
It’s free.  The Nelson is free and the weather is going to be fine.  Drop in.  Say “hi.”  Go just to see the cricket cages.  Picnic on the grounds among the Moores if you can.  You don’t visit every book on every shelf when you go to the library.  You don’t see every movie on every screen when you go to the theater.  Go.  Savor it.  Leave wanting more.
All images of the Venice. 3 Visions in Glass exhibit, at the Nelson now through August 15th.  Mark your calendar for July 16th to hear Catherine Futter, the Curator of Decorative Arts, lead a discussion on the exhibit.  I had the opportunity to walk through with her.  The pieces are beautiful, but I was drawn in, again, by knowing the artists’ intents.  
All images courtesy of Barry Friedman Ltd.
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25 thoughts on “Glass Castle

  1. The Nelson — such childhood memories it has for me. From the school trips with the docents giving us grand tours (and on our first trip either giggling or staring at the naked statues) to many trips with my mom and brother. A cheap way to entertain two children when you had no money. I remember the courtyard before it was enclosed — you could go from one side to the other through there and in the winter — it was cold!

    I'm glad you're making memories for you boys — trips to the Nelson don't have to be all day affairs — you're right, pop in for a bit.

  2. Love the amuse bouche concept! My husband and I buy passes to the High here in Atlanta for that very reason, although I have never been able to express it so well.

  3. Two sinks and Tarheel – we do have a membership, though you don't need one for admittance. Our recent trips included a visit to see the Thomas Hart Benton pieces after receiving a print for Christmas. Imagine their surprise at those huge, colorful canvases after seeing that small black and white piece in our kitchen.

  4. Patricia, I love how you've passed on a sense of curiosity to the boys. They will probably be able to experience a lifelong enjoyment of museums, rather than think of the buildings as something for the punch list.

  5. I took two five-year-olds to the Nelson-Atkins recently to see the Native American Gallery. They had been studying the Pueblo Indians extensively in school. They ran excitedly from glass case to glass case pointing to things they recognized. One even said, "Wait," and scooted back five feet from one case, "I want to see it from back here." We spent 30 to 45 minutes in that exhibit, and that was plenty. Equally impressive were the rotating coat racks at the coat check and the friendly lady who demonstrated them. She also showed us the special little quilts they have if you have to check your doll or teddy bear. Perfect!

  6. Courtney – I just talked to my dad about coming for a visit – "What will you guys do here?" – he's worried about entertaining us. I told him we would probably go to the aquarium and a couple of museums, "Oh I bet they'll love that." He may not be invited.

  7. JK – This makes me wish desperately that I had a teddy bear to check. I'm learning all kinds of things today.

  8. Well you've coaxed me out of my lurkerdom with this one! Very much enjoy your wit, humor and grace. I stop by almost daily.

    We've lived a little bit of everywhere and in St Louis my absolute favorite wintertime memories are of taking the girls and a few friends sledding on Art Hill, shedding our snowpants and trouping into the art museum for some hot chocolate and a look around. Sometimes it was twenty minutes,sometimes we sat for hours looking and talking.

    And I was known to simply walk in go directly to the deco arts section and stand inhaling deeply in the French boiserie room (lived in Paris in space similar in my 20s). Equilbrium restored, inspiration inhaled I'd walk out and go on with my routine.

    A winter weekend across the state would be something you all could enjoy. A picnic on the Hill in the spring or fall is pretty great too.


  9. You are so right about people who visit museums the same way they do the Old Country Buffet–trying to gorge on as much as possible to get their money's worth while they're there–and then wonder why they're tired instead of energized when they leave.

    You've absolutely got the right approach and for the benefit of those new to your blog, I think you need to make a link to your Postcard Game post from last year. It's the best way I've ever heard to get smart kids excited about visiting museums.

  10. Solid advice for parents with little ones! I find that shorter more frequent trips doesn't overwhelm them and gets them excited for the next visit (or to pour over a book when they get home!). Of course, I learned this AFTER trying some power museum visits that left us all grumpy. Live and learn. Eventually, we will explore the KC museum offerings! Marija

  11. That is exactly what I experienced at The Cleveland Museum of Art—and my love of museums and sculpture and the impressionists grows daily. What an amazing gift you have given your boys-opening their minds to the creative possibilities. Have super week-end adventures.

  12. One of my favorite art teachers told me that he only goes to see "One" painting a visit and leaves a suggested token of admission. I rather like that idea of only going to just see one. I mean it is akin to eating an entire bag of chips, how can one possibly stop at just one.

  13. Ah, The Nelson. I've never been there, but I've had a fascination with Shuttlecocks for years (probably since I saw the "broken button" at UPenn). What a gem.

    By the way, I am staring at a Calder right now. "Tripes" has been on the green outside my office for about a year. My late boss was so proud to announce it was coming. He didn't make it to see the statue arrive, but his wife brings his grandkids by to see it when they come to visit his tree (his ashes are buried under it).

    I love to see the positive responses children have to the statue. If the angles were just a tad harder, it would be a little scary, but it's gentle and friendly. I love having it here.

  14. I share middle's love of Calder. His mobiles saved my life several years ago in Madrid.

    The Nelson is one of the greatest museums in America. I love taking the tours, although I have done them fifty times. There is always so much to fall in love with.

  15. I've been lurking around your blog for a couple of years now, but feel I must add my comment this time: I can't say enough how important I feel it is to expose kids to art and museums as often and early as possible. Our son is about to graduate from the Savannah School of Art & Design, and I have such wonderful memories of taking him to museums, even in his stroller. He is a passionate designer and artist today and has always been enthusiastic about new experiences. I can't help but think that his early exposure to learning and seeing helped those skills and aptitudes to blossom. Yep, I'm a very proud mom!

  16. Patricia, I love how you've made the museum just a part of everyday life. What a wonderful gift you've given your boys.

  17. Love your thoughts. We are on Spring Break this week and have traveled to Kentucky to check on our farm, see friends, etc. While in Louisville, we stayed at a hotel there, 21C. It's an art museum and hotel, a perfect way for kids to enjoy contemporary art (spectacular art). I didn't say a word about where were staying, waiting for the response.

    It was amazing, they were asking to go back to the lobby this morning to see the lower level we hadn't yet ventured to while checking in.

    So far, it's been their favorite thing on the trip (and we've done a lot of great things).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Always love to hear others thoughts on parenting.

  18. I cannot wait for the children to be interested in art! We too have When Pigasso… but so far… well.

    Tomorrow we're off to the Smithsonian to visit their Uncle and see some trains or dinosaurs or mummies. But one day…

  19. The Nelson-Atkins, the Kemper, the Nerman, how lucky can we be in this great city!!? You are so right, Patricia, go for little tidbits, snatches from history , a tour with a docent. fun, art is so fun and so inspiring!!

    Art by Karena

  20. "Say hi", "savor" — indeed Mrs. Blandings to enjoy the art. I took my son to museums, etc. and kind of guided and yet let him experience for himself. I loved your post on your conversations with the boys en route, Believe me you will cherish those times.
    Best wishes from a daily reader,

  21. I hope you realize there is a larger Calder stabile in the Sculpture Park. You can see it through the window in the Bloch Lobby on the Rockhill side. When the weather does finally get nice, be sure to take the kids for a walk.

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