Finding (& Making) Art at the Taubman: Day Twenty-Two

(Sometimes it’s tough to feel at home in your own city.  Which is why I’ve given myself a challenge:  each day, for forty days, I’m going to find *one* thing I love about this place.  And then I’m going to tell you about it.  If you want to follow my journey, start here.  Today is Day Twenty-Two.)


I spent my day off today wandering around the Taubman Museum of Art.

I tried out my telephoto lens for the first time.  Made friends with the security guard as I wandered in and out and in again, photographing inside, outside, inside.

I lay down on my back on the sidewalk and shot straight up into the sky.

I climbed halfway across the bridge over the railroad tracks.  Shot back at the museum, with cars and trucks shaking the pavement beneath my feet.

I pushed the lens of my camera up against the mirrored windows.

And I have to tell you:

I love this place.

It’s just a baby art museum, as far as art museums go — barely six years old.  But it’s ours, and it’s free, and I can come and go whenever I like.

I feel at home here.



When the museum began to go up in the middle of downtown Roanoke several years ago, I was still living an hour away in the New River Valley, but I heard the uproar all the way over the there.  The building – designed by Randall Stout – rose in wild peaks and angles, sandwiched between old factory buildings and the giant Tudor expanse of the Hotel Roanoke.  The art museum, structurally speaking, was edgy.  Strange.  Almost frenzied.  A lot of people hated it.

Which, for the record, is exactly how it should be.

I mean, if you decide to build an art museum and, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the general populace stands up and says, “My, what a lovely and tasteful building.  How perfectly congruent with the rest of the architecture in town,” then you’ve probably gotten something wrong.

But that’s a different story, for another day.

I will say this, though:  I can see why some people have a hard time accepting this building.  Because it’s kind-of all-over-the-place.  (A lot like a certain someone who writes this blog).  And if you’re a contemplative person with an eye for simple things (ironically, I am), the architecture can be … overwhelming.

So today, I decided to use my first session with the telephoto lens to take the building apart a little bit.

To go slow.  Let my eye travel and rest.  Experience it in small, carefully composed angles.

Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite photos (all unedited).  This is the Taubman, deconstructed:


But of course, an art museum is more than the building that houses it.  It’s about what’s inside, too — the art, and the people who come to experience it.

And I took some photographs of that, but I don’t want to give too much away.  If you’re local, I really, *really* hope you go for yourself.

So here’s just a tease, to get you started.

Here’s a shot of the atrium, with the briefest edge of the giant, fluffy white sculpture installed there — Fuzzy Kudzu by Ralph Eaton, two parts whimsical and one part disturbing (which I think is a good thing):


Here’s the thoughtful face of Thomas Houseago’s Standing Boy, who stands with his back to the window in the upstairs hall:


Here’s a little sneak-peek at one of the works in the ticketed Beg, Borrow and Steal exhibition (from the Rubell family collection out of Miami):


Here’s a brief window (literally) into the Canstruction project on display downstairs — a really special event in which local teams build sculptures out of donated canned goods.  In a few weeks, the sculptures will be dismantled and those canned goods will go to area food banks with Feeding America Southwest Virginia:



And here’s one of my favorite shots from all day, even though it could use some editing.  I think it highlights a little moment of genius in the installation of these two works, John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Norah Gribble and Betty Branch’s Dancer.

I really love it when disparate pieces of art are installed in such a way that they can encounter one another, converse, and sometimes comment on each other.  I think this is one of those moments.  To place Ms. Gribble — clearly the subject of the male gaze, even if that male *is* internationally renowned master Sargent (who I’ve had a creative crush on for years) — opposite the dancer that Roanoker Betty Branch is seeing — a fierce, fluid, but faceless woman caught in the act of motion and movement — is to invite a whole lot of reflection.

I really hope you’ll come meet these two ladies yourself, and reflect:


Feeling very grateful for the Taubman today.


  1. I have to say, it will take some time (maybe a lot of time, if ever) before I would be able to look on this creation with a sparkle in my eye. It is sculptural, and yet sorely lacking in the use of negative space according to my eye, especially given the skill that must have gone into its construction.
    Appreciating you captures all the more now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand your reaction … I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have a very strong, sometimes visceral response … Positive, negative, often “I have no idea *what* to think of it.” In spite of its nod to the surrounding mountain peaks, it’s certainly not a design that feels quiet or serene or easy to take in. On the day I took these shots, though, I stood on the bridge with my elbows on the railing and just rested, scanning the metal skin of it through my viewfinder, trying to find, or maybe impart, a sense of hush. It was a really enjoyable experience, one that allowed me to see the place differently and make something new out of it. I’m glad you enjoyed the results. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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