(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.