Dayton Art Institute, Dayton OH


Dayton_art_institute_exterior_evening_2005
By Rdikeman at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2748112. I apologize that my phone’s camera was out of space to take pictures, but it let me just go and enjoy the artwork, while my frequent traveling companion and more Yvonne Rogers who took all the other pictures on this post. My links in this story will let you see the Dayton Art Institute’s own photos.

What comes to mind for me when I think of Dayton, Ohio?

To me it’s still good memories from late June when I had a good time there, looking at art from around the world at the museum, browsing furniture at an Ikea outlet on the outskirts, dancing at a friend’s wedding.

But I can’t ignore what’s happened. I procrastinated posting about that Ohio city until now. And now the first stories anyone sees about the city involve nine dead and 27 people injured.

Downtown Dayton

I will always see the city as more than just the disaster associated with it. Just like Gatlinburg is more than just the fires. Indeed, Yvonne can recall visiting France just before the death of Princess Diana and then seeing the places she’d seen as a tourist on TV.

What follows are my very few impressions of Dayton Ohio from a very short visit. I hope that it can remain a place synonymous with great art and great times, even now.

***

I’ve barely set foot in Dayton. I came up there earlier this summer for a very old friend’s wedding, which took place out in a Dayton suburb. And it was just a good time: conversation with people from across the country I didn’t know, catching up with said old friend, however briefly, dancing to silly pop songs like the “Cha Cha Slide,” “Old Town Road” and even, for the kids, “Mama Shark.” But all that’s too personal for what this blog usually covers.

Sculpture outside of Dayton Art Institute.

Yvonne and I had very little time to enjoy the city and settled, because we knew it was something we’d both like but wouldn’t take too long to explore, on the Dayton Art Institute. I had to stop for lunch and struggled to eat my leftover Cincinnati Chili without a fork on the Museum lawn, shoveling food into my mouth with the lid and still getting covered in cold cinnamon beef sauce.

Russell Means's portrait by Warhol

Then, we entered. And what a museum! The entrance lobby, above a formal European-looking staircase features Andy Warhol’s portrait of Russell Means along with other American portraits, by lesser known but still impressive artists.

Hearing that we could see Claude Monet and other impressionist works, we headed downstairs to the special exhibit area.

Yvonne is never one to rush past things though. And so we found ourselves in a different kind of exhibit first: Civil Rights leader Dorothy Height’s hats. It’s no longer on display, but it was one of the more unusual parts of our visit.

Dorothy Height’s hats

Civil Rights leader Dorothy Height's headgear

Height (1912-2010) was one of the organizers for the famous March on Washington and an adviser on Civil Rights to presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson. An exhibit about her might seem like more of something for a history exhibit than an art one, but Height, like many of the women of her time loved headgear, which is a form of great visual art in and of itself. The colorful and varied fashions on display were as much a triumph of design as the paintings we headed to visit next.

Impressionists

Waterloo Bridge by Monet

Monet’s Waterloo Bridge is a case of profane made sacred. The first time I looked at it, it made me think of a Turkish city of misty minarets, even if it is just an industrial city. The special exhibit featured Monet’s water lilies, where he applied the same technique more famously to a quieter scene. Works from other impressionists, like Degas, Pissaro and Renoir adorned the room’s other walls. Yvonne wanted to just stay here for hours and I could understand why.

Asian Art

Samurai armor

I, however, had an itch to keep exploring and headed through a series of Asian art exhibits, which varied in style, subject, country and century. Yvonne eventually joined me. I walked past allegorical Buddhist figures in amorous embrace, ornate snuff bottles owned by Chinese royalty, and my favorite: a large carving of two dragons looking at a pearl. An ornate suit of Japanese samurai armor that seemed too beautiful for battle greeted us later.

Ancient Americas

We then entered another room dedicated to art of long-ago South and Mesoamerican civilizations. While it was getting late, we could admire the artistry of people centuries ago, crafting small but detailed figures.

We ran out of time before we could see all of the collection. But I look forward to coming back.

10 mile Creek Greenway mural


Crawdad
Crawdad, 10 Mile Creek Greenway, mural. No, I’m not calling it a crayfish. It’s not a fish. Crawdad is the scientifically accurate term.

So after crossing a tunnel, visitors to 10 Mile Creek Greenway in Knoxville are greeted by this mural.

35228458_10160695865385492_2229348336001875968_o
Green heron on the 10 Mile Creek Greenway mural.

Pictures don’t really convey the mural by artist Curtis Glover accurately, as part of its charm is looking for the individual creatures, some of them obvious, others hiding in details. A sign gives all of their species.

What I applaud this mural for doing is getting people to see what lives in the 10 Mile Creek area. Runners, cyclists and people using 10 mile Creek Greenway to get from point A to point B have no time to dig through the creek and find crawdads, but the mural lets them see just how full of life 10 Mile Creek really is.

Last Boomsday and Continuing Tennessee Valley Fair


This year marked the last Boomsday. For those who don’t know, that’s Knoxville’s Labor Day fireworks show. It’s been a tradition for years now. Because this was its last year, I figured that I’d go.

Short version: I ended up on top of the roof of a full garage, jammed between cars going opposite directions, and seeing fireworks behind a tree. When the booming started, I assumed that someone was pounding on our car out of anger actually, until I saw sparks behind said tree.

Knoxville Mercury columnist Jack Neely, ever the contrarian pointed out that even if it was the last Boomsday, plenty of other festivals continue, such as the Tennessee Valley Agricultural and Industrial Fair, which, incidentally, has fireworks. Plenty of people complain that it’s not as good as it used to be, particularly in terms of rides. As someone who grew up going to the much smaller Anderson County Fair, I can’t judge. What I do know is that the Tennessee Valley Fair is still going, which I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for the bunnies and sheep, for the feather-footed chickens, and unicorn looking geese, for the slow moving but scenic observation tower, for introducing my girlfriend to bumper cars and slamming her a few times, for the Space Roller which I enjoyed as it twisted me through the breeze but my girlfriend avoided and compared to a medieval torture device, for the Cherokee flute playing and clothing demonstrations, for the fair lights at dusk, for the trapeze act that we almost didn’t see but wound up catching just above the bleachers of the small circus area and for the fireworks above the lake. I even enjoyed myself puzzling at displays of condiments that weren’t supposed to be eaten, just looked at, because they won awards. There’s plenty more to say, but I’ll leave this post saying I’m thankful for what Knoxville still has.

Cuernavaca: City of Ravines


Cuernavaca: a city of ravines.¨Upper¨ and ¨lower¨ class is literal. Well, not always, but mostly.

Walk up certain hills, and you´ll see mansions and flowering trees.¨The city of eternal spring¨ is Cuernavaca´s motto, and there is nearly always some kind of flower in bloom.

The people in these fancy houses are often people who left Mexico City for bigger houses and courtyards, some imitating the tiled domes of Spain. Unlike Mexico City, we have enough water for some people to have swimming pools.The modern convent of the Guadalupanas del Cristo el Rey is here at the top as are some language schools.

It´s good ground to avoid earthquakes like the one that ripped Mexico City apart in the 80s. Granted, land at the very top of some of these hills is looser and cheaper judging from what my host mother Alicia told me.

Okay, time to go down to the middle ground where I am now. Here you find small-shopkeepers with painted signs, good for if you need anything.

Walk down a flight of stairs into a ravine. Available space, if it´s there, often gets used for chickens. People come here from the countryside. Many will wind up in the U.S. eventually. The ravines actually look kind of picturesque from a distance because of their greenery and general wildness compared to the rest of the city.

At far bottom you hit the rivers that carved out the ravines. The ravine-bottom is nice and shady, but you´ll get a headache if you stand down there for too long. Black rivers carry sewage that washes down from all the layers above. Usually the rivers flow with suds. Just imagine the combined fecal and garbage smell. I can´t show it. The worst of these ravines don´t even have roads at the bottom, meaning that the people who live there have to climb stairs.

Foreigners (except for me) avoid the ravines with the exception of the San Anton waterfall, which is awesome despite not being clean. It´s a bit different from other ravines in that it´s more or less one of the nicer parts of town.

The city as it stands now grew in a jumbled way out of Cuanahuac the pyramid site of the Tlahuica (meaning ¨They who work the land”). The Tlahuica were among Moctezuma´s loyal taxpayers. They built their temples near Cuernavaca’s modern center. Cortez had slaves rip them apart to build a castle for himself. His castle still stands at the city’s center.

The Palacio de Cortez as it’s called has a mural by Diego Rivera inside of it. The mural shows Cortez invading, destroying the Aztec Empire, and installing himself and the Spaniards on top. It’s beautiful in spite of showing the divides of wealth and race. Cuernavaca itself is much the same way.

Palm Weaving


My relationship with the summer program is a little different from other students.I do go with them sometimes, but only when it´s something that I hadn´t done during the spring program, usually. One of our excursions last week was just down the street to visit some women from an indigenous village who were staying there to sell baskets and other woven goods in Cuernavaca. They taught us how to weave their style of palm baskets as well.

They talked about life in their town and relationships with their husbands. I won´t go into that too much because I hate to be the white man criticizing the norms of indigenous society. I will say that they thought the location of houses in Cuernavaca next to the cemetery was problematic due to their own belief in ghosts.

For them, their artisan work is very much an art, because it requires time and effort, just as much in their opinion as painting or engraving (which we discussed) particularly with the harvesting of plants.