I’m an Art Geek!

Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha (we have to go to Nebraska for art)

Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha (we have to go to Nebraska for art)

Iowa is 10 years behind in fashion and urban sprawl.  (We consider both good things.)

We have bicycle trails (2,000 miles of), viable downtowns in Iowa City, Des Moines, and Ames, organic farms, the writer Ruth Suckow’s birthplace, the Raptor Resource Project (eagle cams), the Bix Biederbecke Jazz Festival, Paglai’s Pizza Palace (an institution in Iowa City and Des Moines), the State Fair, and the World Food Prize.

It is a lovely place to live.  I was raised in Iowa City, a university town.  I grew up chatting to artists, poets, radical feminists, co-op organizers, anti-war protestors, professors, linguists, waitresses, janitors, Renaissance men and women, and “hippies.”

When we moved back to Iowa, we were delighted by the calm and quiet of daily life.

But is there art?

Not much.

Yes, I’m an art geek. Sort of.

This weekend we wanted to be art geeks.  So we went to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha (we have to go to Nebraska for art), where we saw a wonderful exhibition, “Legacy: the Emily Landau Collection.”Landau gave her collection of post-war American art to the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2010, and part of it is traveling around the country.

Detail, "House of Fire II," by James Rosenquist

Detail, “House of Fire II,” by James Rosenquit

I particularly liked James Rosenquist’s “House of Fire II,” a mural-size work in which lipsticks fly like missiles through a window with pink Venetian blinds.  On the left, a tan glove rests above cans and fruit.  On the right, cogs of a wheel turn.  The placard says it reflects Rosenquist’s “anxiety over American obsession with consumerism.”

It certainly made me realize I had forgotten to wear lipstick (or any other makeup).

“Oh, God, where is my lipstick?”

But it is supposed to make us hate consumerism.

If you like Jasper Johns, you’re in luck.  From the 410 pieces of the Landau Collection, somebody picked several of Jasper Johns screenprints.  “Flags I” is a screenprint of two flags side-by-side, and “Flags II” shows the same image in black.

Jasper Johns, Flags I

Jasper Johns, Flags I

Andy Warhol’s “Myths,” synthetic polymer and screenprint ink on canvas, shows vertical rows of photos of American myths  (we couldn’t identify all of them, but we tried):

  1. The Man of Steel
  2. Howdy Doody
  3. actress playing Cleopatra (we’re not sure)
  4. Mickey Mouse
  5. Uncle Sam
  6. Aunt Jemima (we’re not sure
  7. Dracula
  8. Wicked Witch of the West
Andy Warhol, "Myths," 1981

Andy Warhol, “Myths,” 1981

Feeling bookish?  See Allen Ruppersberg’s drawing, “The Gift of the Inheritance (Strike and Succeed by Horatio Alger).”

Allen Ruppersberg, "Gift of Inheritance (Strike and Succeed)"

Allen Ruppersberg, “Gift of Inheritance (Strike and Succeed)”

We very much enjoyed Ed Ruscha’s “Give Him Anything and He’ll Sign It,” which I call the pencil bird.

Ed Ruscha, "Give Him Anything and He'll Sign It"

Ed Ruscha, “Give Him Anything and He’ll Sign It”

There was also a lot of word art.  Take Barbara Kruger’s “Untitled Pledge.”

Barbara Kruger, "Untitled Pledge"

Barbara Kruger, “Untitled Pledge”

The placards gave minimal information, which was disappointing, because usually they’re very thorough at the Joslyn.

And there were very few works by women.

It’s fun to be an art geek for a day, though, and I highly recommend the exhibit.

Afterwards:  Starbucks, The Bookworm, and Jackson Street Booksellers.

A Trip to the Joslyn Art Museum, Coffee, & The Bookworm

Joslyn Art Museum

Joslyn Art Museum

We went to Omaha.

We go to Omaha to see the art. Oh yeah, you say,  Omaha.  Are you sure?

The Joslyn Art Museum, a beautiful Art Deco building, is one of the better museums in the Midwest. We know the permanent collection very well:  the Degas sculpture of the dancer, Mary Cassatt’s “Lydia Reading the Morning Paper,” Jules Breton’s “The Weeders,” Jackson Pollock’s “Galaxy,” the Native American collection,   and Jean-Léon Gérôme’s dreadful tiger painting, “The Grief of the Pasha.”

Mary Cassatt, "Lydia Reading the Morning Paper"

Mary Cassatt, “Lydia Reading the Morning Paper”

We were there for the new exhibition, “Renoir to Chagall:  Paris and the Allure of Color,” a collection of French paintings from the Dixon Galleries and Gardens in Memphis.

It is a remarkable show, and if you don’t live in a city with a great Impressionist collection (like Chicago), it provides a wonderful opportunity to spend time with Renoir, Matisse, Monet, Raoul Dufy, Gaston La Tuche, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bether Morisset, Degas, John Singer Sargent, and my new favorite painter, Jean-Louis Forain.

But can you talk about art? After reading a few placards, my husband can talk about brush strokes and color. I’m better at finding patterns in the exhibition (I call it the Carrie in “Homeland” thing).

My only original observation was that many (at least three-fourths) of the paintings had a water theme.   Take Gaston La Touche’s “The Joyous Festival (1906), a water scene with four dancing figures, Chinese lanterns, musicians looking as though they are almost in the water, and fireworks (or are those fountains?  I need new glasses).  La Touche knew and was influenced by Degas and Jean-Louis Forain.  He also drew from the Rococo outdoor scenes of Fête Galante paintings.

Gaston La Touche, "The Joyous Festival"

Gaston La Touche, “The Joyous Festival”

Monet’s “Port of Dieppe, Evening” (1882), a harbor painting, was a favorite of many of the women.  “I love that,” one woman said.  “I love that,” I said.  My husband liked it, but was more conservative about it.  Or I should say he was much more modern, because Chagall was his favorite.

Monet, "Port of Dieppe, Evening"  (much more beautiful when you see the painting)

Monet, “Port of Dieppe, Evening” (much more beautiful when you see the painting)

My new favorite painter, however, is Jean-Louis Forain.  I admired his watercolor on a linen fan, “Dancer with a Rose.”  His “Dancer with a Mirror,” pastel on wave paper with blue fibers, is even more beautiful.


Jean-Louis Forain, “Dancer with a Mirror”

Forain’s “Woman in a Cafe” (1885) is the most interesting portrait in the exhibition.  Although I am not that woman in the painting (the placard said she was possibly a courtesan), I recognize the anxiety of waiting, the tiredness. She is no longer young.   Divorced in our late thirties and forties, we all used to look like that in coffeehouses.  (I’m sure you remember.)

Jean-Louis Forain, "Woman in a Cafe" (1885)

Jean-Louis Forain, “Woman in a Cafe” (1885)

 Forain liked to paint “the world of the café, brothel, racetrack, ballet and other aspects of modern Parisian life in the late nineteenth century,” according to the Joslyn Art Museum mobile tour.  (I don’t have an iPhone, so I couldn’t listen to this at the museum.)  I wish I knew more about the tradition of the courtesan in la vie moderne.

The exhibition will be there until September 1.

And then coffee and books.  I feel very guilty, but we had coffee at Starbucks.  We wanted comfortable chairs, to read our books, and to be ignored.  The patrons did seem to know the baristas, though:  it was like a neighborhood coffeehouse.

And then we went to an independent bookstore, The Bookworm.

The Bookworm, Omaha

The Bookworm, Omaha

If you’re going to display Dan Brown’s Inferno, you might as well display Dante, too.  I was very interested in the Robin Kirkpatrick translation (Penguin Deluxe Classic edition) of The Divine Comedy, but realized that it would be ridiculous to buy it, since we already have a couple of good translations.  (The store has lots of Penguins.)

A display at the Bookworm.

A display at the Bookworm.

I liked this paperback display even more.  Everything from the new Pharos editions of “out-of-print, lost, or rare books” to David R. Gilham’s City of Women to Stav Sherez’s A Dark Redemption to Tracy Chevalier and Donna Leon.  Paperbacks for summer.

 We did not have time to stop at A Stitch in Crime (a mystery bookstore) or Jackson Street Booksellers (a used bookstore), but I already had God knows how many books on my e-reader that I didn’t run out of books on the way home.

A very nice day in Omaha.