There's something I'd never heard of, but should have, called the Carnegie International. It's an amazing program/exhibit/collection of very contemporary art, put on every few years. This was the 57th edition.
Much of the art is intellectually challenging, as art should be. Some is incredibly beautiful, some quirky and odd, and some utterly fascinating. One of my favorite "pieces" was in this big marble hall, a very classical looking room. The floor in the central area of the hall was covered in sort of rivers/islands of rusted machinery (very three dimensional), coal, and these white crystal looking small rocks (about less than an inch around?). I don't often think about how beautiful rusted machinery is, but the colors were beautiful, and the shapes, and it made me think. And the coal was surprisingly sparkly, as were the white rocks.
Another fascinating piece was a sort of neon outlined room with an 8 hour (I think) video loop running on a big screen TV in front of four chairs. We just got drawn in by the whimsical weirdness of the videos. The artist appears in the videos, in widely varied costumes, and weirdness ensues. For example, in one setting, the artist was dressed as Mr. Rogers on the Neighborhood set, with the puppets and stuff singing "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music.
That was GREAT! Having a really good art museum within a short drive is something I really miss living here in the NorthWoods.
Maybe even better, though, and probably my highlight: one of my cousins' daughters (A) is studying ballet at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. Because I live so far away from pretty much everyone else in the family, I hardly know any of my cousins' kids, most of whom I've seen only as little kids. But A took the time to come have dinner with my friend and I, and it was just the best. A is lovely: she's kind and thoughtful, fun, interested and interesting, and just really cool in the best way.
And the next evening, we went to see The Nutcracker with A dancing! I must admit, I've never been to the ballet before, so I'm a novice. But it was stunningly beautiful, almost overwhelmingly beautiful. I'm so happy I went. (And it was even more special that A was dancing, of course.)
The two slightly lesser lights of my visit would be the Pittsburgh Glass Center, which was really wonderful. If I lived closer, I'd LOVE to take some of their classes. What a great community resource!
We also went to visit the Contemporary Craft Center. Another fabulous community resource. They had a really interesting and challenging show of quite politically smart works using found objects. So good! It's heartening to know there are artists working in places like Pittsburgh to make challenging, wonderful art!
The last highlight of my trip was a visit to Fallingwater. Yes, THAT Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright house. I hadn't realized it was built for a Pittsburgh department store owner and his family, and so a fairly easy drive out of Pittsburgh. (For some reason, I thought it was in New York State...)
I've been to several pretty darned fancy houses in my time, but Fallingwater is special. It's much smaller than most fancy houses I've taken tours of, more intimate, and also beautiful in a different way. It's not massively beautiful, the way, say Burghley House or Versailles are. In a way, it reminded me of the Gaudi houses, Casa Battlo say. They feel like real people could live in them, and actually live and enjoy them. Fallingwater's smaller than Casa Battlo (not being an apartment building), and so even more intimate.
And now, it's time to really buckle down on the sabbatical work. The goal for the next week is to post a couple times, and focus better on that.
Meanwhile, Happy Holidays for those who are celebrating the season!