Long-time readers may recall that, one day when I was in Indiana last January, I took my brother on a mystery trip. Today, he returned the favor. "It'll take about an hour and a half to get there. There are two parts. Both parts are open from 10-5. I'll pick you up at 11." That's all he told me before this morning; it's more than one can usually hope for, in the way of information leading one to a mystery trip. At 11:15 he arrived (cannily having figured that if he showed up a bit late, I'd be ready to go); by 12:30, we were rounding this corner in Indianapolis
heading for the Indianapolis Children's Museum, where Dale Chihuly's Fireworks of Glass installation is now on permanent display. The installation has a 43-foot tower and also one of Chihuly's trademark glass ceilings, which allows viewers to walk underneath his glass pieces. Now, I know that some people don't love Chihuly's work. I happen to be someone who does love it, almost always, for the sheer extravagance of its colors and shapes, and for the way it transforms whatever space it enters. And so, bless my brother's heart, this trip was exactly what I needed, in ways that even I didn't know, not even when we were lying on our backs on a motorized, circular couch-thing, looking up at the ceiling and taking pictures of the colors and shapes above us. It's been a long, long time since I've let myself just get swallowed by a piece of art.
and (after a brief detour through the Scienceworks room, where we were able not only to build an arch out of vinyl-covered foam blocks but also to throw fake rocks at one another) successfully proceeded to the second stage of the mystery trip, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where we saw the Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt exhibition. As we neared the museum and the Gee's Bend banners came into view, I suddenly remembered that my mother had mentioned in passing, just after I arrived on Wednesday, that the quilts were in town. She and I, you may recall, saw them in Boston in 2005 (though all evening I've been marveling at my good fortune in having gotten to see them twice in one year--one more marker of how swiftly time is passing for me these days). I was overjoyed at the thought of getting to see the exhibition again--and touched that my brother knew so well and fully how settling and comforting I would find seeing the quilts.
But things got even better: the exhibition turned out not to be the one my mother and I had already seen. Instead, it's a new one, incorporating some of the pieces I'd already seen, along with many others (themed around houses and buildings, chiefly) from the 1920s all the way through 2005, which means that many of the quilts on display have actually been produced since the Gee's Bend quilts started touring the U.S. in 2002. In fact, one of the women whose work is now featured turns out to have started quilting after having visited the Houston show that inaugurated the quilts' traveling; on the plane home to Gee's Bend, she started seeing visions of quilts, and she hasn't stopped quilting since. Now, I wasn't able to take pictures for you, but rest assured that you will feel the benefits of my having seen them (and not just because they were so utterly a recharge). And, for goodness sake, if you live near Indianapolis, hie your way to the art museum sometime between now and December 31 and see this exhibition. Go here for more information about the Gee's Bend quilters, as well as a schedule of where and when the quilts will travel next. You can't imagine the colors and textures and patterns you're in for.
There's more to say, but how am I going to tell you about the beauty of corduroy arranged and quilted to produce a texture richer than velvet, or about how stunning the abstract rectangle of a free-hand cut and pieced quilt can be? How, on a night when I've seen both Casino Royale and Blacula? (I highly recommend both, by the way.) And on a night when I have a long, deaf dog sighing and snoring in the other half of the bed? This time tomorrow, I'll be back on my own; you'll hear more about the quilts and the glass then. For now, enjoy seeing the original of this famous piece: