The Art Institute of Chicago

The Chicago trip… what can I say? It was a medley of moments; distressing, uplifting, thrilling and overwhelming all in turn. I’m still working on completing the visual journal and then will post details of the whole experience. For now, let me write this blogpost on the highlight of the whole trip: a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. Can you see the stars shining in my eyes as I say this?

Where do I begin? Walking into the Art Institute of Chicago is like walking into a miniature replica of this world where every room leads you to another country, another continent; where every room encapsulates the most breathtaking memories from another time. There were far too many exhibits for me to be able to do it all justice in one day, but let me discuss some of the ones that really caught my attention:

When I entered the museum (after a nice trek through icy sludge) I immediately ducked into the Asian Collection room where Ayla and I disturbed the sanctimonious silence with a bout of sleepy wailing. Thankfully everyone was quite kind and by the time I was done telling everyone we were fine, Ayla was asleep. Onwards to the exhibits!

I started with the collection of ceramics. Sculpted from clay, and glazed with a trio of colors these were fading relics of an ancient time. But what fascinated me even more than the way these sculptures were created was WHY they were created. The exhibit’s placard mentioned the mythology of the different sculptures, for example the armored guardian king who was considered one of the protectors and often sculpted defeating a demon while the engraved duck or wild goose was sculpted as a symbol of peace, prosperity and marital bliss. Often these or other sculptures were created to be buried with people to ensure bliss in the afterlife.

But the figurines were not the only interesting thing in the Asian collection. There was a vast collection of pottery with so much history and symbolism surrounding them, I could barely wrap my head around it. From fabric panels to traditional Japanese tea ritual utensils, there was a wealth of culture. One of the most gorgeous creations I encountered in this section was a sculpted painting. These lined the ceiling and were giant framed works which looked like intricate tapestries but were actually sculpted, 3-D. The painting-sculpture chased itself all across the room, filled with wings and leaves. That’s the impression it left on my mind.

After leaving the Asian Collection, I spent a couple of hours wandering around the whole museum. Every room was so detailed, so painstakingly compiled, every culture or artistic epoch so perfectly represented that I was simply blown away. I don’t think I would mind visiting the Art Institute of Chicago 50 more times. Every time one would go I think there would be something new to learn, something new to discover. There were entire ROOMS dedicated to Hindu art, Islamic art, Ancient Greek art. And the most marvelous thing was that each age, each culture had such a distinct quality to its art. The Ancient Greeks and the Japanese may both have been interested in creating ceramic sculptures and pottery but you’d know which one was which upon first glance, so different and unique were their styles.

Walking through that place was like walking into the apex of a storm of inspiration. Left, right, up, down whichever way you swung your head your heard the whispering voices bursting out of the art in a cacophony of ideas. I think after a while of wandering I felt myself stretched between all the art, like I was a disembodied creature of pure artistic energy, just soaking in the magnificence of all the art that came before me.

Look at these painted plates for example! So detailed, so different from anything I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, like I said there were more rooms than I could do justice to. There was an extremely impressive medieval art section with life size armor and knights! There was a whole section on the most gorgeous oil paintings that I didn’t stop long enough to peruse properly. There was even a whole section on embellished objects that I snuck past in awe. Here are some pictures:

There was even a whole section on impressionism, which, I discovered, isn’t really my thing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant, even breathtaking (maybe, sometimes), it’s just that I don’t find it moves me the way a lot of other art does. I have to say though, that every time I paused in the impressionist section, awed by a work of art it turned out to be Claude Monet’s work! So he is one of the artists I think I need to delve a little deeper into.

One of the most unusual and most beautiful collections, in my opinion, were the illustrations. Simple tools and intricate work! Pen and ink used to create such detailed scenarios. Some of them were also amazingly intricate woodcuts, which I would dearly love to learn to make one day!

Some of the art pieces caught my attention more than others. You could say those were the ones that I made a little note to research further later. Here are some of them, and the reason I won’t be discussing them much here is because

  1. I intend to research them further and dedicate a blogpost to each.

  2. If I went into all the detail of each piece we’d be here till the end of this term lol.

Without further ado:

  1. the No Theater masks (from the Asian Collection)

  2. The artist Rodin (from Rodin: Sculptor and Storyteller Exhibit) (oo what a cool name I tell you. Like something out of Lord of the Rings! I am changing my name to something this cool.)

  3. America Windows/Marc Chagall

  4. The Forest by Jean Dubuffet

  5. Water Drop by Mineo Mizuno

  6. Shino Kaki by Kano Yasukage

  7. And one more that I seem to have lost the name of (I can’t believe it!)

All of these will be coming up in the next few blogposts as I search out more about them. But otherwise, this is it for the indescribable trip to AIC. Totally going there again to immerse myself in legendary art, because I truly think I emerged with my imagination transformed!

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