The third generation artist of a family filled with artists, Jamie Wyeth has been quoted as saying his father’s work was like that of Robert Frost. On the surface familiar and comfortable, but beneath something altogether different. Andrew Wyeth’s work is something I am a little familiar with, but I was thrilled to have a chance for a deeper look at it when visiting Kansas City. Not only that, but I got to study works by his son and his father as well. Both amazing artists in their own right. Thursday of my trip was the day I had set aside entirely for myself. I knew Chris would most likely be busy with her kids who had the day off of school. It was too early in the week for Bre, who was still settling in to her new city and home, and Shan had a big party for her residents that night. I had all the perfect excuses to take the time for myself and do just exactly what ever I liked. Of course whenever I find time to myself, what I like almost always involves art. Although mom and dad had lived in Kansas City for almost 15 years, I only visited one of their art museums on one occasion. We usually visited at holiday times, and I imagine that mixed with the desire to find activities that please everyone is what kept me away. I do remember having lunch with mom in the lovely atrium of the Nelson-Atkins, so I know I had been there at least that one time. My original schedule for that day looked something like this:
Coffee shop for breakfast Drive by Mom and Dad’s house for pictures Drive by downtown library for pictures of the parking ramp 10:30am arrive Kemper Museum of Art Lunch (a V8 on the road) The Nelson-Atkins Museum 4pm Drive to Crown Center 6pm Dinner at Skies Hyatt 7:30pm American Heartland Theatre play 10pm sleep somewhere undecidedBy the time I arrived in Kansas City I knew I would most likely be staying with Christine if she would have me – my attempts to contact Shan made me realize she was just too busy to have an overnight guest. I woke on Thursday morning to a sky that foretold of a day of soaking rain. Not a light drizzle for a few minutes, but instead the heaviness that tells you will be damp all day. Not to lean to heavily on the metaphor, but this most certainly dampened my spirits and altered my plans. I lingered over the breakfast that Chris had ready for me, not really wanting to go out in the muck and yet so excited to get started on my day of art reflection. I mentally pushed back the photos of dad and mom’s place to Sunday, I decided against the play, which I only felt a mediocre interest in anyway. It was no problem at all for Chris to talk me into meeting her for dinner; I decided the Skies idea would be less fun on such a dreary day and switched to the following plan instead:
It is hard for me to categorize where I stand in the fashion world. I rarely don makeup, in fact I only own a complete set because my daughter got married last year and I felt it was called for to have it available for that day. My hairstyles run toward the simple, I almost never use any type of styling product. I have never understood the shoe fetish that most of my female cohorts ascribe to. I can’t stand to pay extra for a special name on my clothes, and yet I do understand that a well-made garment wears better. I want to look as if I just “throw on anything as I run out the door” but I am wise enough to know that can only result in a fashion disaster. So I try to blend. On this day I chose a black outfit; when one is among artists and art lovers, and especially when one is still a bit overweight, it is always smart to dress with ample amounts of black. Plus, it easily seconds as a dressier look for the evening when I wasn’t planning on going home to change.
10:30am Finally get my sorry butt out of the house
Stop at the local Walmart for a much needed purse and small umbrella
Drive downtown to snap pictures of the library parking lot which really was not that far from the art museums
Head to the Kemper and park; once finished there walk the couple of blocks to the Nelson-Atkins
Call Chris to arrange a final meeting time at the Blues Museum for a quick run through and then eat dinner at or near the Blue Room while listening to great live, free jazz music. Well, that is not exactly how the day went down either, but it got me started and out the door with the correct maps, and before I knew it I was in the Walmart parking lot.
On into Walmart to pick up a simple umbrella, but of course I walk out empty handed. I stood in front of the selection for 10 minutes – did I want a small purse sized one, did I need a purse to put it in, did I want to carry a wet umbrella with me all day, would I rather just dash from location to location…all the choices lay before me and although I did pick up a handy little purse which kept my portable camera and keys dry, I did not take with me a new umbrella. Who has an umbrella hang up other than me? I can commit to men and to children and to a career and to a solo trip 400 miles from home to stay with strangers, but I cannot commit to an umbrella. For this I would spend a damp afternoon, wishing I had been stronger.
The dampness started early, as I arrived downtown carefully following the google map directions to the Central Library. I was to find out at least one other time this week that google maps is not always best at telling left from right in their directions. I parked across the street from where the map indicated the libarary would be, but as soon as I got out on the street I could tell that I was still three blocks away. Three very wet blocks. There was a moment of uncertainty; this library parking ramp was incredibly hard to track down on the internet, and I was basically going there on a whim, hoping this was the correct library. I had seen a photo once on the internet a year ago, and no one who I had asked to research it for me had come up with any additional information. I was thrilled when my wet walk and persistence paid off; there across the street was a city block sized parking ramp, and one side of it was decked out to look like a shelf of books. Of course in the dreary rain the pictures weren’t amazing, but I felt I had vanquished the enemy of poor information and obtained the photos that my mom and I both wanted to have. It was not until later that I wished I had gone on inside the library and looked for any additional information on the whys and wherefores of this monument.
It was getting late and I took my soaked little self back to the car and back out toward the museums. Along the way I realized I would pass right by the Union Station; I had wanted to see the Van Gogh movie and I glanced at the time and saw that if I hurried I could get there in time for the next showing. I again parked out in the rain and rain, now dripping into the cold and echoing Union Station I paid the slow ticket clerk and rushed into the theatre just as the movie was beginning. It was a lovely documentary with a charming set of narrators and a pulse quickening story line to keep the information fresh. I left so glad I had added this in to my already busy day and finally made my way to the Kemper.
Again, yes, you guessed it, in the pouring rain. Since I found street parking nearest the administrative building for the Kemper I started there, and saw several interesting works in their lobby and conference room. I joked with the receptionist about clearly being lost in Seattle when I thought I was vacationing in Kansas City, and then braved the last block to the Kemper. To see the Wyeth family works online only is to not see them at all. I was familiar with the work of N.C. and Andrew, not as much with James or Jamie. Andrew having died earlier this year, the exhibit was a post mortem tribute to him and his family. The works were mostly privately held and loaned expressly for this exhibit. All three were as in touch with the texture of the thing as the image they were creating and I had to use my best restraint to keep from running my finger across each work. I found myself reading about the physical ingredients of each work as much as about its date and title. I wavered back and forth trying to decide which generation of Wyeth struck me the most profoundly. I loved that the rain and the weekday had kept the crowds away. Quietly contemplating a room of beautiful art can take the chill out of the rainiest of days.
There were very few other works I was interested in at the Kemper, and the Nelson-Atkins was closing soon, so I got clarification on the direction to walk from the front desk and headed out. The Kemper and Nelson-Atkins museums are situated on either side of the Art Institute of Kansas City, which is populated with beautiful, peaceful old buildings, brick fences and iron gates. The rain was more of a mist at this point, and my camera came out to play for a bit on the lovely fall landscape.
To be continued tomorrow…