Sunday, September 16, 2007

Silica Flowers

A trip out west to Pittsburgh and Cincy to do the college conveyance thing, combined with this year's version of a "vacation" brought in more positive experiences in both cities.
Pittsburgh is a treasure; I know my viewpoint is tilted as my daughter's attending college there. But I'd like to believe I'm being at least somewhat objective about the place anyway. One can't look at the physicality of the city and not be affected by the dips, the drop-offs, the wrap-around turns one whips around, self-assured that there's more pavement around the next bend. In the UPitt and Carnegie Mellon section of town, just outside the outskirts of Squirrel Hill and Shadyside, the buildings rise from outcroppings and soar into the clear blue skies. There's greenery all around the area with Schenley Park and the Phipps Conservatory bordering the north and northeast corners of the Carnegie Mellon campus.

As with most museums and publicly available exhibit spaces in Pittsburgh, a student ID from any of the major colleges and universities will get you in free. Which is a great deal for the student but, alas, not a good deal for the parent of any college student as the college fees include this privilege. So, the parent is "permitted" to pay for their students' "freebie", but is not privy to the "freebie" themselves. Well, the money all goes to a good cause, right?

After multiple visits to Pittsburgh, we finally made it to the Phipps Conservatory. The wait was well worth it as we were able to catch the Chihuly Exhibit which will be at the Phipps until November 11th.

Living where we do, botanical gardens, while gorgeous, tend to glaze my eyes after annual visits at Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, or The Philadelphia Flower Show. Not being the avid gardener that my ever-loving wife is, I tend to view visits to these fine places as portent of being laid up due to back-pain induced by diggin' 'n carryin'. So, coming to the Phipps and specifically the Phipps Chihuly Exhibit was a truly relaxing experience. I could not manufacture any of the glass art pieces nor could I afford any of the available-for-sale pieces offered. It was a look-but-don't-touch/buy event. Fiscally, any of the arrangements we saw at the Phipps were impossible to duplicate back home. Finally, rest for the weary!

I'm your basic minimally art-trained kind of guy. Now, while Mr. Michael Blowhard and Mr. Donald Pittenger of 2 Blowhards, may portray themselves as minimally trained, if you take a gander at some of their pieces on art, you can conclude fairly quickly that they understate their capabilities of appreciation and analysis. The nuns would have been switching them for fibbing, in my day. While I dabble in art analysis, I tend to keep my cognitions to myself, staying true to Mark Twain's opinion about keeping one's mouth closed. So, please excuse me as I prattle on. I'm not clear as to whether Chihuly's stuff can be called art. It is produced in a factory setting. He guides rather than gets involved with each piece intimately. He's in the Warhol camp of art manufacturing along with Jeff Koons. I'll throw in the self-described Painter of Light (or should that be Lite) in here as well. I'm certainly not equating the talent or resulting product of these artists, simply the evident non-uniqueness of their output. So, I have a conflicting view of Mr. Chihuly's glass pieces. They look stunning and beautiful but so does this, but it is not unique, nor does it pretend to be.
And yet the combination of the glass objects and the setting of the Phipps had me mesmerized. It was possible to admire and to curse simultaneously without having one's head explode. At times it was mentally exhausting holding the positive and negative feelings in, but I did as spending the balance of our Pittsburgh stay in a holding cell was not a viable option.
I loved it. I hated it. I'd strongly suggest to anyone within driving distance of Pittsburgh to go see it. It is a good walk not ruined. Be sure to drop into the gift shop to check out the continual play DVD of Chihuly in Venice and to eye the Chihuly pieces available for purchase. Put a stick between your teeth so as not to bite off your tongue. If you've seen the exhibit in NYC's Botanical Garden or Missouri's Botanical Garden back in 2006, let me know what you thought of it.

Let me say a few things about the pictures of the Chihuly Exhibit. I apologize for any pix that seem ordinary or blurry and I take no credit for the pictures that turned out fine. You'd have to be a caveman to have the limited talent to take a lousy picture there. All it required was pointing and shooting. For lots more pictures of the Chihuly Exhibit at the Phipps go to this Flickr site. I'll be adding more pix as my Flickr account allots space.

(Please click on any of the pictures for a larger version

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