dimecres, de gener 19, 2005

Days of Art, Beer and Roses (English)

Days of art and beer, hardly a bad way to pass the time...

In the past two days, I have been to four museums, three art museums and one historical, and three of them were ones that, even after having come to New Orleans seven times, I had not previously visited.

Yesterday I made my way to NOMA, the New Orleans Museum of Art located in the expansive City Park, a huge green space amazingly kept tame by uknown means. Nature is the task master in New Orleans, and anything not constantly trimmed, cut, pruned or otherwise kept at bay will quickly devour whatever man-made endeavour is put in its path. City Park is a vast green swath of open parklands, ponds and public spaces the center piece of which is NOMA; amazingly it is relativley dry there, as thought someone were considerate enough to wring out the land before laying it in the park. Most of the city actually lies below sea and river level, making for persistent ponding and random pockets of standing water. NOMA itself is worth a trip, sitting at the end of a a beautiful oak alley looking a little bit like a miniature Philadelphia Museum of Art. They have the typical kinds of art one would expect to find in a late 19th century vintage museum, their crowning collection being a permanent display of some of Fabergé's work including a couple eggs.

This trip tho, I was not lured indoors; really the quality of the collection does not strike me as that much grander or inspiring than that of the Albany Institute. On the other hand, their new sculpture garden is worth a second look. It has only been open about two years, and last year when I went to see it, the weather was not cooperating, and I wasn't able to spend much time musing. This year the weather, while crisp by New Orleans' standards at around 58, was otherwise dry. I snapped some pictures of my favorite sculptures, and once I get home, I will post some here and make further commentary. Suffice it to say, the mid-morning excursion was worth the short drive across town.

Also noteworthy was the chance to behold the extended Canal Streetcar Line, which now has its terminus at City Park. When I first came to New Orleans, there were only two Streetcar lines left in operation: the St. Charles and the Riverfront. The Riverfront Line was mostly just for tourists wanting shuttling from one end of the Quarter to the other, leaving just the St. Charles Line to do any real work in the City. Now, the Canal Street Line ferries passengers from the Quarter clear across town to City Park, with a spur line to some of the famous cemeteries. So far there has only been speculative talk about restoring the famed Desire Line featured in the classic film "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Today I hit the other three museums, all in the Warehouse District along Camp Street leading from Magazine to the Quarter: The Confederate Memorial Hall, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Art Center. In fact, not only were all three on the same street, they were all on the same block! The first, the Confederate Memorial Hall was a bit of a fluke. Being a dyed in the wool yankee, I don't cater too well to the whole Confederate Rebellion, but for five bucks I did get a good look at some very interesting artifacts, and while I don't feel especially comfortable with what the Confederacy actually represented (the maintenance of human beings in bondage), the Libertarian in me sees a certain justification for presupposed reason they rebelled, that being a rebellion against a growing and centralizing government. Moreover, there was important history to be learned in the Memorial Hall, noteably that there were Black Confederates, something I had not known before.

Next I went literally next door to the Ogden Museum, which housed a fine collection of 20th century art all from the South. In places like New Orleans, with Confederate Museums adjacent to Southern art museums, it is really underscored that the United States still does not, and really should never, have a single homegrown, invariable culture. The South is still distinct, and within that distinction, southern Louisiana and again New Orleans are yet again distinct. My favorite exhibits in the Ogden were the photographs, which I found to be the most revealing and pertinent of all the displays, but that could be because I myself enjoy doing photography.

The third museum was also the least interesting, sadly. The Contemporary Arts Center does not have the caliber of art that the MassMOCA has in North Adams, MA. They did have several works which I held in some esteem, but nothing of any great note.

After several hours of musing, I went to the Whole Foods supermarket on Magazine and got some grilled tofu in Ponzu sauce, some vegetable fetuccini, a couple organic Braeburn apples and a six pack of Warsteiner beer (I had to replenish my stock, as I had already tippled all the Abita Amber I had gotten at the WinnDixie several days before) and returned to Pitt Street to have lunch, blog and have a siesta. Yes, this does sound very yuppyish, but heh, sometimes, I have my moments.

Oh yeah, the roses: in City Park at the Sculpture Garden, yup, roses in January, and then today at Whole Foods they had fresh tulips!