Ruth & I used to consider Chicago our 2nd home. When we lived in St. Louis, we visited Chicago often. We had visited this city’s Art Institute many times, so we decided to skip it on our recent trip to the Midwest despite our desire to visit old friends like Edward Hopper’s well-known painting called “Nighthawks” and Grant Wood’s often imitated “American Gothic”, the painting depicting a farmer and his less-than-beautiful daughter. However, nostalgia got the best of us and after visiting 4 or 5 attractions including the excellent, new American Writers Museum just up Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute, we decided to follow the crowd to it after all. It was a blustery, cold November day in the Windy City, and we were disappointed to find that there was no place to leave our coats, gloves, and hats in the Art Institute while we explored this not inexpensive institution that always attracts a large crowd.
Since we had already spent time in Cleveland’s huge art museum on this same trip, Ruth & I decided to organize our priorities. We decided to see what was new in the Art Institute first. We followed an impressive crowd to its currently most popular exhibit called THINKING OF YOU I MEAN ME I MEAN YOU. This exhibit is described in the Visitor Guide as “A career-spanning exhibition devoted to the work of artist Barbara Kruger”. Full of elaborately placed words and one gigantic work that contains constantly shifting puzzle pieces, it’s installed in this museum’s prime temporary exhibition space called Regenstein Hall. The crowd that I must assume was there mostly to see it was reverently attentive. Just opened for a couple of weeks, it will be this museum’s big gun temp until January 24, 2022. Our coats were already becoming burdensome.
We found a page in the Visitor Guide called WHAT TO SEE IN AN HOUR. It contained some familiar names and paintings by Picasso and Van Gogh. One of them was The Grande Jette, that familiar Georges Seurat painting recreated in Steven Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George”. We had seen it several times on previous visits. One of the choices was the Hartwell Memorial Window. Neither Ruth nor I recalled seeing it before. It was in Gallery 200 on the 2nd level. We became determined to see it. Three employees attempted to help us. This Tiffany waterfall in the middle of several panels became a must-find art work. It took my attention away from a well-remembered man in armor on a horse that I also desired to see again.
Ruth wanted to see the museum’s paperweights. I wanted to see something I had not seen before, like John Henry Twachtman’s “Icebound”. We headed for the paperweights only to find that the area was mysteriously closed that day. We could not find the other temporary exhibits that sounded interesting but did locate the often visited Thorne miniature rooms. We had seen these elaborate creations on numerous visits in the past.
We gratefully left the Art Institute of Chicago after a short visit to the expansive gift shop where Ruth looked for Christmas cards but bought nothing. We would have spent some time in the Museum Cafe, but it was not opened that day. We headed instead for Chick-fil-A, which was almost directly across Michigan Avenue from this museum that is generally worth seeing while in Chicago.