Monday, April 4, 2016

spring break with lions, T-Rex, and Van Gogh

Let's just say that when beginning this blog post at 5am on Sunday morning, I spilled half of my cup of coffee on my desk. I'm taking that at as a cue to keep this relatively short, or at least relatively wordless.

We were fortunate to spend four days in Chicago over spring break. We seem to alternate each year between seeing art in an amazing city and relaxing at the Jasper Park Lodge. Which possibly makes us sound a lot more swanky than we are IRL. In any case, it always feels decadent, and also, feeds our artist/writer souls. We're grateful.

What mainly drew me/us to Chicago, was the Art Institute. As an added bonus, the much talked about show, Van Gogh's Bedrooms was on.

While away, poetry month began without me, but really, I feel like every month is poetry month. We might like to start off the month by thinking about poems titled, "Poem."

But because the subject today is Chicago, how about this:

The following poem was published in Poetry in March of 1914. (You can read the properly formatted version at Poetry Foundation). And there's a bit of context for the poem on the NPS site, too, which is interesting.


by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

It was quite fantastic to leave our snow covered yard, and see an early glimpse of spring. The gardens around the Institute are lovely and I can imagine how nice they will be in a month or so.

I seriously love the lions in front of the AIC. You can read more about them here.

One cannot resist the photo ops....nor should one. An iPhoto below. 

 And so here we are at the Van Gogh show. You may or not know that I have a thing for artists' palettes, so I was excited to see this.

And of course, it's not really possible to take an even halfway decent photo of the paintings, but that's okay. You can see them properly online etc. But the experience of viewing art in such a throng of people is quite the thing. It's not ideal, and yet, it's also kind of wonderful - that so many people are excited by and compelled to come and look at paintings. 

While I was thrilled to see the three bedroom paintings, this was the one that I found most wonderful to see in person. Books! Of course. And the shoes are also very amazing. 

Okay, you can't go to Chicago without taking in Millennium Park, and the super cool "Cloud Gate" by Anish Kapoor. A wonderful piece of public art, imho.

It's so rare for the three of us to be in one photo together.

We visited the AIC twice. The first time is always so magical, I don't mind saying. I knew ahead of time a lot of what we'd be seeing, but seeing things in person is always so different.

This next one is probably my favourite of the trip. Chloe sat sketching the Sargent painting for quite a while. And Rob and I wandered around happily while taking in the art in this room and nearby rooms. The Mary Cassatt has long been a favourite of mine. So, no hardship there.

We spent a fair bit of time in this courtyard, as Chloe sketched. I like this next one because there's a bit of an echo in the poses.

Fashion/colour connection :)

It turns out I take a lot of photos of Rob looking at art, and Chloe sketching.

We loved seeing the paperweight exhibition. One of those unexpected pleasures.

And I'd heard of the Thorne Miniature Rooms, (and looked online), but they really are just splendidly delightful in person.

One of the many great things about travelling with Chloe, is that she has a way of finding out where the cool sweets shops happen to be. It ended up our hotel was quite near Dylan's.

Here's Chloe standing on one of the bridges over the Chicago river.

Another outing: The Field Museum.

I've seen a lot of dinosaur bones in my day, thanks to having a daughter who loves them. But Sue really is a special one.

We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art and this was in the park across the street. I was so happy to spot it - have always loved Deborah Butterfield's horses. (Kind of interesting to think of the sculpture in the context of the dino bones, no?)

A few random shots. This one taken after visiting the Shedd Aquarium, which was high on Chloe's list of things to see.

I remember looking at slides of the Carbide and Carbon building way,way back in an art history class. And there it was.

I leave you with a photo of a pigeon. We can't seem to go on vacation without having a conversation or two with a pigeon. 

A reminder that I'll be in Toronto THIS Tuesday to read from Rumi and the Red Handbag. Details on my website. And that might be the last you hear of my book in any big way. It's so last season, and all that. It's been a fun run and I'm going to enjoy this last huzzah. 

Wishing you a calm week ahead.

- Shawna


  1. I love these photos! There is a paperweight collection at the Royal Ontario Museum, and it's my favourite part of the ROM's collection (and they even have a book which I own, obviously).

    See you tomorrow, by the way! I'm looking forward to it.

  2. Thanks so much for bringing us on the tour, Shawna, that was fun! And I love that photo of all three of you - beautiful! xo p.s. Best wishes for Tuesday (adding that great work is always in season).

  3. That photo of Chloe in front of Le Sueur's personification of Meekness is fantastic. A graceful similarity of tones. Enjoy your trip here to TO, the snow seems to be melting, I won't post another Instgram if a blizzard hits, I'll let the whiteness surprise you.

  4. Oh Shawna, I enjoyed this SO much. What fabulous photos! And a treat for us to see all three of you. Through your photos and some of your visits, now you have me wanting to see Chicago. I'm currently reading Mink River by Brian Doyle and as I read Carl Sandburg's "Chicago" it made me feel very much like they write so similar. I enjoy them both.
    You really should consider doing a photo book of this trip. It will be something special for all 3 of you.
    (We leave in 3 days for a month long sojourn. I'll be back mid May.)

  5. Looks like you had a wonderful trip! Love seeing all the sights through your lens and how nice to see the three of you together. Chloe looks like she is definitely in her element here. I'm fascinated with those miniatures, amazing shots. I am late in commenting but I imagine that your Toronto book reading was a big hit. It's still very "this season" for me...a timeless story!

  6. Sounds like a wonderful trip and makes me itch to get there with my own daughter who just started sketching last year. This isn't anything I did as a child for so many reasons, the main being that I am from an immigrant family that simply was not aware of the great art in Minneapolis, and so I always find the experience of sitting with my daughter while she sketches at art museums to be so magical! Any chance you'd be heading to Minneapolis for a book reading?

  7. Thank you everyone. I've obviously let things get away from me - but I do appreciate the comments very much. xo


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...