Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dispatch from America: Midwestern Adventure

We're back! Since last I posted, Jae and I have traveled from Milwaukee to Madison to Spring Green to Chicago, through thousands of acres of cornfields, dozens of stunning buildings, several huge meals featuring butter and cheese, and one liquid-and-gel-free airport security check point. And we attended the joyful wedding of two very happy, dear friends. It was an epic trip through a beautiful corner of America, which is filled not only with natural wonders but also incredible architecture. Though I can't deny we're glad to be back home in Brooklyn again!

I've put some pictures together to share -- click on the purple text to go to the accompanying Flickr slideshows. (Place cursor on main image to hide obsuring thumbnails at bottom.) The yellow text links to websites.

The first group of pictures is from Milwaukee, including the lovely Van Hallgren wedding and the Wisconsin State Fair. (Check out those farm boys, who are totally cute even in a blurry photo!) Architecturally, Milwaukee is an interesting city with beautiful large homes, elegant churches, and pretty outsized theatres and civic buildings. The crown jewel of the city is the new Milwaukee Art Museum designed by the incomparable Santiago Calatrava. The museum building alone makes this city worth visiting, and their collection is excellent, too. My favorite part, besides witnessing the huge "wings" close over the building in the evening (silently, slowly), was the indoor Chair Park, a collection of different style chairs arranged on a huge area carpet for visitors to try out. We also visited America's Black Holocaust Museum to see an exhibition, called "Hateful Things," of common American cultural artifacts that degrade blacks and other minorities. Aunt Jemima and Little Black Sambo are the least of the story here. We also took in the Alterra Coffee Roasters cafe that came highly recommended by Sam and Carrie and was excellent. We wish our newlywed friends much success and happiness in Milwaukee, their new home!

From Milwaukee, we drove to Madison where we ate super fresh ice cream and checked out the enormous, gorgeous State Capitol building. (The caves mentioned below are also pictured here.) The building had only one guard on duty and you could just wander anywhere you pleased, even into the Senate meeting rooms! Now that's democracy. We visited Janice Ho in her warehouse studio in the afternoon, and that evening dined with Janice, fellow artisan Erica Schlueter, and Janice's husband, Adam, at a yummy Nepalese restaurant. My body was very relieved to eat actual vegetables and tofu after too many fried cheese curds and ribs... Next day, we visited two craft galleries in Verona with Erica, Artisan Gallery and Zazen, as well as her studio which is in part of an old dance hall. Click here to see the pictures. I'll post more in-depth Studio Visit blog entries later this week.

Then it was on to Spring Green, WI, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Taliesin, and his Hillside School of Architecture, which is still an accredited institution. We weren't allowed to take photographs indoors, but I did sneak some through the windows, including one shot of the seashell collection in his bedroom that is said to have inspired the Guggenheim. The pictures of the school (first) and the house are divided by the picture of Romeo & Juliet, the water towers he designed 100 years ago to supply the property. I've always wanted to see this place, and it didn't disappoint at all. In fact, it took my breath away, especially sitting in the living room with its marvelous “ceilingscape” and long vistas. An observer once quipped, credibly, that Taliesin is a Japanese-influenced Italian villa in Southwestern Wisconsin. It is incredible to imagine that the first visitors to Taliesin, such a modern opus, arrived by horse and carriage! We really went for the whole FLW thing and even stayed at the Usonian Inn, which was designed by one of his apprentices. Before leaving the area, we toured the Cave of the Mounds, a bit of a tourist trap, but it's always fun to see these underground troves.

Our final stop: Chicago. My friend Sam, of the wedding, lived in Chicago for years until very recently, and it is a huge shame that I never once visited him there, because I loved Chicago! Such vitality! So much street life! And fabulous buildings! We visited the Art Institute, and were dazzled by the wonderful paintings and their outstanding collection of Asian pottery. (Lots of the pix in this slideshow are of gorgeous Chinese and Korean pots, some of which look like they stepped off the pages of design*sponge.) We happened through the Cultural Center, which is a jewel box of a beaux arts building with its unusual marble staircase and green and blue Italian mosaic work. And we were honored to spend hours in Millennium Park taking in an open rehearsal in the Frank Gehry designed outdoor concert hall and watching kids play with the huge water sculptures. I love public places where everyone, even the adults, are all smiles and laughter! And we dined with Sho, a friend of Sam's we met at the wedding, who took us to a terrific restaurant, Lula, in Logan Square that is said to be the favorite of a certain creator of a certain well-loved, story-based Chicago Public Radio show.

After six days in dairy land, with our liquids and gels safely stowed in our check-in luggage, we departed the Midwest and returned home. We've taken the last couple days to holiday at home, catching up on cleaning and venturing out to see the Klimts at the Neue Galerie. (I thought they are some of the finest paintings I've ever seen, though Jae thought they look better in print.)

Tomorrow, it's back to Greenjeans, relaxed, refreshed, and ready for the fall. The Midwest may be an unconventional summer vacation destination, but it sure was an architectural and culinary adventure, and I hope you enjoyed this little vicarious bite. Many thanks to Sam, Carrie, Sho, Erica, and Janice for their time and hospitality. Hope we can return the favor when you come visit NYC!


Natasha Wozniak said...

I loved reading about your impressions of Wisconsin, my native state. I grew up near FLW buildings, went to the Milwaukee Art Museum (albeit the old building) as a kid, have friends who are married after having worked at Alterra together, and spent many hours making momos at the Nepali restaurant during my college years! Thanks for reminding me of some great memories of home.

Anonymous said...

Amy...What a great blog! Thanks for the trip and hearing about places I will have to visit in the future.

Love the pictures and the S&C memories.