So my favourite thing about our trip to Iowa was ... Chicago.
Ha - just checking to see if you were paying attention. ;)
No, Chicago isn't in Iowa. It's in Illinois. But Chicago is only a four hour drive from my sister's home in Cedar Rapids so we decided to go all hard-core touristy on the Windy City for 4 glorious days. I promise not to bore you with the minutia of our daily activites ... all the walking and looking at stuff and eating and eating and more walking and more looking and even more eating. But let me tell you this ... I.Love.Chicago. It is my kind of town. That was my first trip there and I hope it wasn't my last. Chicago has such a gorgeous downtown and so much to offer the entire family. If you live there, understand that I'm extremely jealous of you. If you've never been, do yourself a favour and just go. Please?
My favourite day was spent at the Art Institute of Chicago. I've taken a few art history courses and I love looking at beautiful things. The museum had these hand held devices with recorded information about some of the pieces. If I walked by an object that had a story I could listen to, I did. That stuff fascinates me.
That said, by the end of the day I was suffering from a severe case of information overload. I knew I only had the one day there so I was trying to absorb as much as possible. By 4:00 my poor brain was done.
The highlight for me was Monet's Water Lilies.
Cliche? Perhaps. But I don't care. I had a poster of it in my room all through university. It really was something to see in person.
It's funny ... I'm about as cynical as it gets when it comes to going places to see things first hand. I'm not much of a traveller. The term "homebody" fits me very well. Why bother going when you can Google pretty much anything from the comfort of your own home? In your pjs? Without spending a dime? But I have to admit, it was some kind of special to see it with my own eyes. No reproduction in the world could ever do it justice. Even the colours you see on your monitor right now ... not the same.
My favourite vacation story, however, relates to another very famous work we saw in the museum ...
I've recognized American Gothic by sight and name for many years, but that's about the extent of my relationship with it ... until last week, that is. My story is that the artist - Grant Wood - painted it in his studio that just so happens to be about two miles of my sister's place in downtown Cedar Rapids! So not only did I get to see one of America's most well-known paintings, my sister took me to the place where it was created.
By the way, did you know that, although the subjects in this painting are a farmer and his daughter, Wood used his sister and his dentist as models? I always assumed they were husband and wife. And that the artificially elongated shape of their faces echo that of the gothic-style window in the background? Wood saw such a window on a farm house he drove by, which inspired this painting. That sort of background information makes me all kinds of happy.
Ok. I'll revise my opening statement by saying my favourite thing about Iowa is that American Gothic was painted there and that my sister lives near it's birthplace. :)
I think we can all agree that - by and large - other people's holiday tales are far more exciting for the person telling them than for the person listening to them. But - as with most people who feel compelled to impose such stories on others - I couldn't not share this with you because what I'm really trying to say is that if you have access to terrific art in your town but find yourself taking such easy access for granted so you just never go see it, I hope you give yourself a gift and spend a few hours enjoying it. The long weekend is here. What are you waiting for? :)