“Maps tap into the 19th century traveller in me. They seem a perfect vehicle for exploring mental terrain” – Heidi Whitman
Ok I am sure you are thinking by now that I must be a museum-whore or something. Is there anything else I like to explore other than museums? Well of course there is, but when a museum is free it’s a great way to get yourself out of the house to expand your mind without emptying your wallet. Exploration is great, free exploration is even greater.
Located not far from the Nelson Atkins, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is a smaller more contemporary structure with a large spider-like sculpture greeting you as you walk in. The inside is flooded with natural light from windows in the tall white ceilings reflecting off the sleek black floors. A few Chihuily chandeliers hang from above. They have four gallery spaces, all intimate in scale three of which featured special exhibitions and one which housed pieces from their permanent collection.
The work in all four spaces was bold, interesting and most of all enjoyable. However for the purposes of this blog, I will focus on the exhibition which I found to be the most moving.
Do you ever feel as if you were meant to experience something at the exact moment you get to experience it? As if the Universe worked its magic to bring something to you right when you needed to see/hear/taste it? This is how I felt today as I took in the Kemper’s special exhibit titled The Map as Art. The whole collection felt very apt seeing as I am currently desiring exploration and travel along with tapping into my own personal creativity. It just felt like a little wink from above.
Free thinking notions of synchronicity aside, I enjoyed this exhibit immensely. Now, I would never consider myself an “arty” person. I cannot draw to save my life and I know little in the way of art history. I can’t look at a piece of art and engage in an intelligent discourse about the use of light, brush strokes or political commentary on the times. What I enjoyed about this collection of work at the Kemper was how each piece invited you to step closer (and in one case step inside) and take a deeper look. This is what impresses me about visual art, when I can see the skill, where I can feel the artists hand at work. Unlike, when I go to an exhibit and find myself staring at a square canvas, painted a solid color…for the sake of argument lets say yellow…with a single white line drawn through it. All I can think is “Um, this is a yellow square with a white line, I could do this.” Perhaps I am not deep enough to perceive its meaning, but I want to look at art which took effort to compose. That’s just me.
It featured work in various mediums from seven artists all exploring the concept of the map as an art form. A few of my favorites included.
Lordy Rodriguez series of abstract, bold colored prints titled These United States
Tiffany Chung’s pieces composed of embroidered canvas with beads, metal buttons and grommets
Heidi Whitman’s three-dimensional, incredibly delicate and intricate wall sculptures (i just made up that term…is that a real thing?) of ink, gouache, acrylic and paper.
New York City Based Artist, Joyce Kozloff, had two incredible pieces of wood and acrylic on canvas.
Revolver. A large wooden disk divided into four equal sections of different colors and patterns, which moved continually.
Targets: A large wooden sphere which caught your eye the minute you walked into the gallery, once inside the walls were lined with canvas and painted with acrylic. if you spoke your voice reverberated through the entire piece. It was fascinating and intriguing.
Once we thoroughly took in all of the exhibitions we had worked up a bit of an appetite and decided to give the restaurant, Café Sebastienne, inside the Kemper a try.
Café Sebastienne’s indoor seating area is lined from floor to ceiling with works by the artist Frederick James Brown, who passed away this past May. The cafe also has an outdoor atrium which was still in use due to the unseasonably warm weather we are currently experiencing.
For lunch Jürgen ordered, at the encouragement of our server, the Ruben of Kobe corned beef with braised sweet cabbage, Gruyère cheese and German style potato salad. I went with the Café Sebastienne special aka half soup, half sandwich and a salad. The soup was a parsnip and carrot purée with crispy shallots and walnut pesto. Roast beef with swiss, horseradish mayo on a potato roll was the sandwich, along with a cucumber salad and buttermilk dressing.
Jürgen’s reuben was fantastic. The bread was grilled perfectly and the braised cabbage was tender but not without a nice crunch for some added texture. My soup was the start of my meal, which was silky smooth with a deep rich fall flavor and the crispy shallots on top were a nice treat. Although, I do wish there would have been a little more walnut pesto. The potato roll was fluffy and the horseradish mayo added some nice flavor contrast to the beef and swiss cheese, but the buttermilk dressing lacked any sort of richness.
We also shared a St. Germaine cocktail, which was very heavy on the St. Germaine and light on the champagne. Not the most harmonious cocktail I have ever consumed. But it was lunchtime and we had a show that evening so it’s probably for the best.
Following our art museum lunch, we decided to pay Kansas City’s Union Station a visit. We had been told it was beautifully decorated for the holidays and wanted to see it for ourselves.
If you have ever lived in a large metropolitan area you have probably visited a train station which is more grand in scale than the one here in KC, but it is beautiful and very festively decorated.
At the back of the building, on the first floor, is the Model Railroad Experience, a permanent exhibit featuring an array of model trains which are currently decked out for the holidays.
It seemed to be a popular spot for families to get into the holiday spirit…except for the one kid who decided to throw a tantrum and straight up sprawl himself across the station floor…being a kid is tough, being a parent is tougher.
As we headed back to our car we decided to climb the hill overlooking Union Station and check out the World War One memorial.
We also decided to take what might be my new favorite picture.
At the top of the hill sits the WWI Museum, which we hear is supposed to be great. Another museum, for another day.