Day Forty Two, Chicago

I made myself get up at 8.30 just so I could try the breakfast in the hostel. It was a good selection, I haven’t seen one like it in a long time. I chose a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and then I had a regular bagel with just butter. I didn’t fancy anything sweet which ruled out cereal but I’ll have some tomorrow.

I walked down from my hostel to the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, it’s one of the world’s largest fountains. It’s late baroque in style, so over the top and extravagant with its pink marble and the seahorses in the surrounding pool of the fountain. I walked around and around the fountain taking in the breadth of the detail and the overwhelming size of it. I walked down the harbour next to Lake Michigan, the sun was shining and the lake was a beautiful, bright blue. It was fairly quiet along the stretch I walked down, the geese in the water keeping me company.

I walked back into the city and visited the Chicago Architecture Foundation, I had just missed out on some tours going round the city so I wandered through the gift shop.  There were so many quirky Chicago souvenirs available, I bought a couple of beautiful postcards. There was a back room which had a 3D model of the city, to see all of the skyscrapers in miniature was really cool.

Across the road from the Chicago Architecture Foundation is The Art Institute of Chicago.  I have wanted to visit here since watching ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, I had also underestimated the size of museum. I wrote notes on the map of which exhibitions I wanted to visit, there was a page which featured notable works of art and where to locate them which was really helpful. 

I started off in the basement which had the Thorne Miniature Rooms. The miniature rooms were exquisite, there was a sign on the wall with a note from Wes Anderson discussing how much he enjoyed them. They were incredibly detailed, perfectly arranged and indicative of the period/setting they were styled in. The basement was also home to a selection of stunning photographs, they were so eclectic and each one was from a different artist. I walked through the Indian, Southeast Asian, and Himalayan Art only my way to visit Chagall’s America Windows. The art on display in the Alsdorf galleries was beautiful. There were huge pieces like the giant Buddha which sat proudly in the middle of the room but there were also the smaller pieces like the Japanese Noh masks.

When I arrived at Chagall’s American Windows it was so much more bigger than I thought it would be. I felt overwhelmed by the swirling inky blues in front of me. I was ever so slightly amiss to discover it wasn’t near any paintings as Ferris Bueller had led me to believe. I felt a pang of loneliness as I watched couples take photos of each other, I asked a gallery assistant to take mine. I decided that it would be a good time to have lunch and send messages to my friends back home.

I visited the museum cafe which was on the lower level next to a courtyard. The was a vast range of food available but it was rather expensive, I decided to try the corn soup with a seeded bread roll. The soup was delicious, it felt nourishing and the salty cheese really upped the savouriness. For dessert, I treated myself to a pb&j doughnut and oh my god it was one of the best doughnuts of my life. The peanut butter glaze was heavenly, the sweet strawberry jam was drizzled on top along with some roughly chopped salted peanuts. The actual doughnut was incredibly soft and light, it just melted in my mouth. It was an incredible doughnut experience in the unlikeliest of places.

I decided to explore the American Art section of the museum, there was a provocative exhibition of Gordon Parks’ and Ralph Ellison’s  work which provided an insight into the life of African American people in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s. Moreover, there was an exhibition of paintings made by American Artists in the 1930s, in the height of the Great Depression. There were truly iconic paintings in this gallery like ‘American Gothic’ which had crowds of people around it. I then went upstairs to explore the galleries of contemporary and modern American art. There were even more iconic, recognisable art even to those who don’t visit galleries! Such as, Lichenstein, Warhol, Pollock. 

I really loved Barbara T. Smith’s Nude Frieze which was the documentation of a performance piece she did in 1972. Naked models were duct taped onto the walls, it’s still controversial and provocative but I just admired how she took ownership of objectification. Another work that really affected me was by Felix Gonzalez-Torres was an installation of brightly wrapped candies in a corner of the gallery. The original 175 pounds of candy represented his partner Ross Laycock’s ideal weight and as the candy reduces down it parallels Laycock’s weight loss prior his death to an AID’s related illness. The plaque next to it mentioned how the museum can choose to top it up to extend his ‘life’ or let it disappear altogether. At first glance the piece seems simple but once the concept is given it becomes so much more. It’s a truthful and unique tribute to a lover.

The last thing on my list to see was ‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte’. I took my close up of the little girl’s face – I know, my love of John Hughes films is crazy. I had spent most of the day at the Chicago Institute of Art and I desperately wanted to buy some souvenirs for my family. I walked through a few cheap souvenir stores to try and find my dad a Blues Brothers t-shirt. I have watched Blues Brothers countless times with my dad and I’m pretty sure it’s one of the films that he has multiple copies of it with varying special features and edits. It’s not surprising where I get my love and obsession with film from is it? I finally found a nice t-shirt that in my dad’s preferred colour of grey that had Jake and Elwood Blues on it. To celebrate my shopping success I got some fries from ShakeShack to keep me going as I walked to the House of Blues.

The House of Blues was about a mile away but I got to walk through a different neighbourhood compared to yesterday. When I arrived I was disappointed to find out that there was a Prince tribute that night and it was sold out! I was able to look around the entrance hall which was Nola inspired, it was cool inside but I wish I’d thought ahead and got a ticket for the gig. I walked back to my hostel making sure to swing by the Flamingo as I hadn’t taken any photos of it on my first night!

I was really tired by this point so I came back to my hostel and had a lovely nap. When I woke up I was starving so I went to the kitchen and reheated my leftover pizza. It took a long time to heat up. There was a school group using the kitchen at the same time and they made these huge trays of fruit crumble, I looked on jealous as it looked tasty. They actually offered me some perhaps because I was drooling so much. It was so sweet and all I could’ve wanted from a crumble, it was a little unusual as they’d used cake mix! I had to get a bus in the morning to Detroit so I didn’t go out again. I felt happy with that decision as I was still sleepy and I needed to pack all my stuff.


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