Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation: Part 1

I went to Savannah, GA. I escaped this humid historic beach town on the marsh for another humid historic beach town on the marsh and I loved it! Actually I found Savannah surprisingly different from Charleston in that it felt more lived-in (less "preserved" than the Charleston Peninsula) and more socially liberal, probably because of all the SCAD kids.  God I was jealous of the SCAD kids. I'm not tossing that off lightly, I mean to say that jealousy of the SCAD kids almost ruined my vacation. There they were in a glorious beautiful town whereas I went to school in DC, an oppressive ball-sac of a city. They were kids in art school and I'm... well... an adult.

But I managed to have a great time with my lovely husband anyway. Savannah's got a great museum called the Telfair, which is actually three centers: the Jepson (contemporary art; folk art), the Telfair (historic Western art in a mansion, plus more folk art), and the Someone-or-Other House, a beautiful historic home from 1809 (I think) with slave quarters and service basement (the most interesting part of the tour). You buy a ticket that gets you into all three places once any time over the course of a week, a great system because there is so much to see.

[Image: the interior of the Jepson Center with white walls and sunlight streaming through the glass ceiling and creating a stripey effect on the walls that morpsa throughout the day depending on the light and weather.]

Jepson Center is an incredible building. I've seen a lot of big white minimalist museums in my time but this place was just big enough to be breathtaking but no bigger, white enough to be calming but not cold, and full of curves that created a soaring airy atmosphere without being hard to navigate. We unexpectedly spent the majority of our time messing around in the kid's educational section where my husband encountered an interactive music software table. Four measures of music bars are printed on the tabletop and you place wooden blocks where you want the beat to go. A thing above your head scans the bars repeatedly and plays the beats as you've arranged them in a loop in real time. You can scatter numerous beats across a measure and the tenor of the sound changes depending on where on the staff you place the block. It was addictive.

[Image: my husband hunched over a table playing with the music thing I described.]
There were plenty more well-designed absorbing stations in the kid's area that really got me thinking about how one should teach kids about art. When I was a kid a museum educational area always had some state-of-the-art interactive station involving computers which was always broken and roped off, leaving the museum with no other funds for further "exploration" except some dubious station involving filthy chip-board cut-out shapes with rounded child-safe edges that you arranged in order to "discover" some concept that no one really cared about. And a fiberglass mascot of the particular area of study that you could climb on. But not at the Jepson.

The staff also had an exhibit up outside the museum offices and I'm just going to say it: the staff show was better than the content of most galleries in Charleston. 

In one of the real galleries they were showing Betsy Cain: In Situ. She's a local artist who makes large abstract paintings by swirling acrylic paint over smooth surfaces with a squeegee. Oh man, they were gorgeous. Floor-to-ceiling huge, they were so big you really got a feeling for the way the painter's body moves as she applies the paint. Check out her work!

[Image: Betsy Cain, Indigofera #4. Vertical abstract composition with blackish indigo thick swirling marks smeared out or watered down to light indigo in some places on a white background. Lots of drips and visceral smearing.]

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