Sunday, June 7, 2009

Two Museums in a Day - FOR FREE!!

I am so glad that I am still a Bank of America card holder because I was able to go to two museums yesterday for FREE because of it! Poor William has to work all day Saturday which worked out good for me since he wasn't really interested in the exhibits. I went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum first to see the "Chagall and Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949." I have been a fan of Chagall's work for awhile- several years ago, back in 2004, on a trip to SF, I stopped at one of the galleries along the wharf where they had some Chagall pieces for sale. I unfortunately made the mistake of asking how much one of them cost which then lead to this huge sales pitch- they even took me into the special lighting room to examine it- for which I protested that I did not have the money as I was just starting my phd program. I learned my lesson from that and am not sad at all that I didn't purchase that piece. Since I am a long time fan of his work, I was very excited to see this exhibition and even more for free. The exhibit combined some actual black and white photos of various Russian Jewish plays and even some video excerpts of several productions. However, I found that what I enjoyed the most was seeing the costume sketches for the characters. To me, they had so much more personality and life to them that I knew what the character was about even not having seen the play. They had several of Chagall's costume sketches as well as some other artists. Two of the highlights for me was the room where they had the actual wall paintings that Chagall did for a theater. He filled the entire room- walls and ceiling- with these beautiful mural drawings. This was some of his earlier work and I was fascinated by how much of it utilized geometric shapes not only for the background, but also to construct the characters. Yet, it still had a playful and not rigid feeling to it. The very last room of the exhibit was my other favorite featuring some of his other works from his later period. These are more free flowing with bold colors and ephemeral people and figures. I have long been fascinated by the progression of great artists over time and so I was very pleased that this exhibit briefly touched upon this. This room also had some of his original sketches from his autobiography entitled "My Life" which co-incided with some parts of the text. I wish that more great artists would do this.

I then headed a block away to the Museum of the African Diaspora, the other free museum. I probably would not have gone to this museum had it not been on the free list, but I'm glad that I went. One of my favorite parts of the museum is best seen across the street from it. They have a photo mosaic of the face of a beautiful girl which is made up of faces of many other people from around the world that I looked at as I went up the stairs inside. I spent most of my time upstairs looking at some beautiful photography of individuals throughout history who have affected it through resistance. They had photos of Dr. Martin Luther King, Josephine Baker, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. DuBois, Ray Charles- to name just a few. I loved that they had such a broad definition of "resistance" ranging from musicians/singers to activists (Rosa Parks, Malcolm X) to academics (W.E.B. DuBois). The museum is pretty small- mostly two floors- so I was able to enjoy the top floor as it was the one that had the special exhibit. The second floor had several films that looked very interesting, but time was running out on my parking meter and I had run out of quarters (I definitely need to plan ahead better next time). I still can't believe that I was able to visit these two amazing exhibits for free- I will definitely continue to utilize this great deal on the first weekends of the month! Thanks Bank of America!

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