29 August, 2013

A Day at the Art Museum

Hey, Readers,

For my birthday on 16 August, my boyfriend took me to the Cleveland Museum of Art. We spent several hours there, beginning with a lunch at their cafe and continuing through all the available exhibits, from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt all the way up to the modern artists. I used my video camera to take photos of some of the pieces that I was allowed to photograph--most of the modern art is not allowed to be photographed due to copyright--and while I will be putting together a video showing the photos and talking a bit about my journey through the museum, I wanted to share some pictures here. I will not show every single picture in this post, but I will show them all in the video, so when I get that posted I'll be sure to link it here so you don't miss it!

Our wine and glasses
As I said, first we had lunch at the cafe. I had a green bean salad--one of the only vegan options for fresh foods--and opted for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich (despite the bread containing gluten and other non-vegan products, since I am trying to eat vegan as much as possible, but when not possible, I am at least vegetarian). I also had a White Peach Tea (Honest Tea company) and a lemon bar for dessert. But my boyfriend, wine-drinkers as we are, also got us a small bottle of Pinot Gris. They even gave us wine glasses! Not bad for a museum lunch.

The main area of the museum, the "lobby" if you will, is an atrium and contained a few pieces itself. The pieces there rotate. At the time, there were twelve large metal sculptures of the heads of animals representing the Chinese Zodiac, but I didn't take photos of them. Then we went into the museum area itself, where we could see all the things the CMA usually houses, as well as anything that was on special exhibit. They were preparing for several new exhibits which we could not see because they weren't ready yet, including an exhibit on Tantra in Buddhist Art. I thought the Tantra exhibit was current, but I don't think we saw it, so I'm not sure.

Moving into the museum, the first thing I went to see was the Ancient section, encompassing Greece, Rome, Italy, and so on. Now we get into the photos! I took note of anything specifically related to my own religious experiences or interests, and anything that I thought would interest my friends or family, so I can share with them, as well. First, some ancient goddess-related figures:

"The Stargazer," approx. 3000 BC
 "The Stargazer" is the oldest such figure owned by the CMA. It is a female figure carved in marble, and she is shown here facing me, with her head tilted up to gaze at the stars.

"Bear-Woman," to the right, is an earthenware figure. She shows the usual feminine characteristics exaggerated in art. At my last Magick Class meeting before this birthday trip, we had been discussing symbolism, including the Goddess art of history, such as the Venus of Willendorf. Thus, I took a great interest in these similar depictions of women.

Greek vases, clay with black slip painted on top

Then, looking more typically Greek, there was a room full of this sort of pottery and earthenware imagery of the Greek gods. These earlier pieces were fired and decorated with black afterwards, resulting in black figures on a red background. I especially enjoy pottery now that I have taken a ceramics course while I was at college. It's a very different sort of appreciation for the style and design of items when you know what it must have taken to create.


There were also, of course, a lot of the usual stone sculptures of the gods. This figure, right, is Venus. I took this picture specifically because I like that the ideals of beauty were so different then. People are always making artistic representations comparing classic art with what the women would look like now, showing that today, we expect women to be so much thinner and yet fuller in other places. But even beyond that, as someone who has never fulfilled today's western standard of beauty as far as size goes, this particular image resembles me in certain ways. She looks strong, and trim, and the stone depicts her as pale, but particularly the small breasts stand out to me as not what people in media today consider beauty. But this is Venus. One of Beauty's many incarnations.

Cat urn
The next photo I have to share is from the Egyptian section. What I first thought was a simple, beautiful statue of a cat, or perhaps a representation of Bast, turned out to be a funeral urn for a cat! A sacred cat would be mummified and then placed inside this beautiful carved statue as its own small sarcophagus.

Quartz amulet
I'll try to be more brief with the descriptions of these, and I am only showing you the things I have something particular about which to say! This next photo is from the medieval church section: a gold amulet encasing a large piece of clear quartz. The inset I've added is the description of the piece, which explains that this was originally thought to be a container for holy oil or something else small. When it was discovered that the quartz was solid, people were confused as to what it could possibly be used for, but they now think it may have been used as a protective amulet. Yes, even the church knew the magick of crystals!
Chronos table, Italy, about 1700

This next piece is Italian, from the renaissance period. Christianity was already a thing at this point, to put it very simply and colloquially, so the amount of Greek and Roman deities that continued to be depicted in art is incredibly interesting to me. This table depicts Chronos, Father Time. The statue on top of it is of Ares, but I didn't get it in this picture and didn't feel the need for a separate picture of it. I also saw numerous paintings of Diana, the Muses with Apollo, Cupid, and more. Some of those will be shown in the video.

And here we have "The Thinker"! The bottom portion of the sculpture is missing, destroyed by vandalism, as the plaque explains. This statue is outside the museum, leading to a courtyard with a large fountain where we made wishes, and a small pond with fish and geese.

Then, heading back inside to see the more modern exhibits, I finally saw, live in person, a Monet. The CMA has one third of one of Claude Monet's three-piece water lily paintings. He did something like hundreds of water lily paintings, and I'm not sure exactly which one this is because I believe it just said "Water Lilies," but I love Monet so to be able to see any one of his paintings close-up is a treat.

Monet, "Water Lilies." One in a series. Cleveland Museum of Art.

This next one is from the Buddhist section of the museum, which was really cool because I was able to see items that I've only read about and not really understood from just reading. I've read about the vajra as a Buddhist ritual tool, and what it's for, but even looking at pictures online didn't tell me what exactly it was. At the museum, I saw statues of figures holding vajras, and also got to see this one close up. It was behind glass, but being able to see it from a few different angles still helped immensely. I also have a picture of a Buddhist ritual bell, a tabernacle used to hold thousands of sutras, and several Buddha/bodhisattva statues, which will of course be shown in the video.

On the way back from the museum, my boyfriend and I stopped at a gas station where they were growing sunflowers! And then we went to a late dinner at a sports bar/restaurant, and once again trying to eat some bread to determine whether it's really gluten that causes my stomach problems or something else, I ordered one of the only vegetarian things on the menu--Bruschetta. You can get it with several different topping combinations. You order three different kinds and get two of each. I got one with tomato, basil, and balsamic; a second with roasted red peppers, artichoke, and kalamata olives; the third with potatoes and mushrooms. Mmm. I also had a side of french fries, and we had a bottle of wine, the exact type of which I do not recall all this time later. But it was nice!

Bruschetta dinner!

So that was my birthday, in a nutshell! And actually, the next morning, my boyfriend accompanied me to the book store and I got some new books. So THAT was my birthday in a nutshell, and it was a good one. I've had some great times this summer, and hope to have more into the fall and winter. Thanks for reading!


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