Saturday, February 24, 2007

Columbia Museum of Art

A good friend in Columbia, SC (corporate office for my day job) has been trying to arrange a visit to the Columbia Museum of Art. We finally managed to work out a long lunch yesterday, and we went.

It's in downtown Columbia, which is full of beautiful old houses and unusual buildings. I need to go back with a camera and take some shots for paintings. On rthe light warm day we had, it was great to park and walk. The museum is in a good location, and has an interesting urban setting. It's small, well laid out, and has a nice collection - light on big names, but quality pieces by the artists represented.

We moved through relatively quickly past many of the traditional paintings from the eraly renaissance, the romatic period, etc. - religious paintings, portraits, a few landscapes, and a small side gallery with collages that were the paper equivalent of field painting. We finally slowed when we got to the several rooms with work from the 20th century. I've always been drawn to the work of the early and mid 20th.

One of the pieces my friend particularly wanted to show me was the bizarre, fantastic dessert of a chandelier made in Italy in the Victorian era. It was over eight feet of cascading glass, curled blue leaves, colorful pastel flowers, and large bowled sconces for candles. This photo does not capture the light primary triad (pink, yellow, and electric blue) that pervade the piece. Like frosting on some spring themed, many tiered Venetian cake. Amazing. Note the big acorn shape on the bottom - which was about ten inches high.

Through a doorway we first spotted a sculpture I knew was of Diana, goddess of the hunt and the moon. The piece is Hunt by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth. The photo here does not do it justice, as Diana is a magnificent warm bronze, with a finish like glass. Meanwhile, the hounds are left rough, with the light areas just turning copper oxide green, the high points bronze as if hand rubbed. The coldness of the hounds (in face, demeanor, and color) contrasted with the goddess' rich glowing heat was striking. And the sculpture, about 18 inches high, is full of echoes. Diana's form (extended arm and leg) repeats the curves of the bow, as do the dogs' Russian wolf-hound backs. In person you can feel the massive furnace of the big rib cages and hearts of these tireless animal companions, as wild and alien as the goddess.

In the lobby area, while my friend was in the museum store, I found some hand blown glass vessels by Brent Kee Young. The one in the photo here is amazingly detailed, and the curled shell shape in the lower right is actually in relief, like the cavity left by a fossil, an imprint, but filled in with the clear glass. I have no idea how that effect can be achieved.

And there was one more large bronze, of a young woman, nude, playfully on all fours facing a young goat. The kid was reared up on it's hind hooves, head down, back arched, bouncing up in the opening leap, charging to butt heads with the young woman. The piece was life sized, on a rectangular base, with the two figures framing a pregnant space of less than three feet. The play and tension and impending collision were all captured forever, the most interesting instant possible. The shape of the kid's back was so achingly beautiful, so full of energy and glee and immature male force.

I was surprised that my two favorite pieces in the museum would end up sculptures. I usually fall in love with paintings, caught on the colors.

My friend bought me a poster of one of her favorite paintings, one which was not hanging in the galleries, unfortunately. It's great fun, full of light, and has some stories for her, which she shared with me. I will hang it in my office and it will remind me of her and of our spring trip, a hiatus from the day crammed with exciting meetings and hot debates about software design and company vision.

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