First, a family commercial announcement: Geoff, who came over for dinner last night, wants everyone to be aware that The Geoff Hartwell Band will be LIVE at HOGS and HEIFFERS, 95th Street and 1st Avenue, in New York City, Friday, June 20th at 10 PM. (They are being sponsored by Rhinegold Beer).
We've been away at David's 40th Williams College reunion in Williamstown, Massachusetts. (David is Williams class of '63.) The kids and I were something of a novelty item. I'm 41. I guess that makes me a trophy wife in this context.
We stayed with Paul Park and his wife Deborah Brothers in North Adams, just outside Williamstown. (Their house is refreshingly free of an Internet connection, a condition I found quite peaceful, like going on a camping trip where there is no phone, no radio, and no TV, hence no blog for those days. I could have used a terminal on the Williams campus, but since I am used to spending quality time with my cable modem connection, I was not attracted by the idea of a quick fix.) They have a wonderful house with a view of the Berkshires and a large back yard planted with perennials. The house is very kid-friendly and Deborah shares my taste in textiles, so I find their house a very amenable place to be.
They have two children, Lukie (5) and Miranda (8); Peter had a great time with them and ducked out of the two long reunion dinners to be with the kids. As we packed to go, Peter was very insistent that he must bring his Pokmon cards along. It crossed my mind to worry that he might infect their children with the Pokmon virus. I needn't have worried. When we got there, I noticed that Miranda had a notebook of Pokmon cards in plastic sleeves and was reading a Pokmon book.
One of my favorite moments of the visit was when Miranda found a mistake in the book. She was deeply outraged. She began jumping up and down, saying that she knew more about Pokmon than the people who wrote and illustrated to book. And of course she's right. All three children were scandalized that there could be a mistake -- actually two; she found a second one -- in a Pokmon book.
Over the course of the long weekend we took Peter to three art museums: The Clark Art institute, Mass MoCA, and the Williams College Art Museum. Although Peter loves museums, up until this weekend, art museums were Peter's least favorite kind of museum. Over the course of the weekend, he warmed to art museums.
First, we went to the Clark, starting with the Turner exhibit which was written up in the NYT, Seeing the World in the Sea, the Sea in the World:
WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. -- TEMPESTS and sun storms sweep through "Turner: The Late Seascapes," an enchanting exhibition that opens tomorrow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute here. James Mallord William Turner himself, his brush raised like a wizard's staff, seems to preside over the show, as he did over British Romantic art nearly two centuries ago.
I loved it, though I sometimes wondered if he had actually seen two different weather conditions portrayed in some paintings coexisting at the same moment. (I suspect there was some artistic license taken with weather.)
It was a hard sell with Peter until we got to the Noah's Ark picture and the picture with a sea monster in it.
After a visit to the gift shop, we tried the Clark's main collection. The first picture you see when you enter the Clark's main collection is Thomas Gainsborough's Elizabeth and Thomas Linley (1768). Thomas Linley, who was apparently later to befriend Mozart and become a composer, looks just like Peter. After that, fine art was a much easier sell.
I showed Peter my trick with Gilbert Stuart portraits of George Washington: Hold your thumbs out in front of you so they cover your view of the corners of the mouth. Then you see that Washington probably wore a more cheerful expression when sitting for the portrait. (This also works with the Stuart portrait of Martha Washingotn I've seen elsewhere, but not with copies of the Stuart portrait by other artists.)
In the afternoon, I took him to MassMoCA. Since it was his second art museum in a day, I didn't try to take him to the main collection, but instead headed straight for Kidspace. I wasn't sure how he would respond to the Susan Leopold: Mixed-Up World exhibit, but he was quite interested and spent about half an hour with it before sitting down to do an art project in Kidspace. (Once Deborah and kids arrived, I went downstairs to see the Gregory Crewdson pictures, some of which are quite stunning. (The best of the bunch I know I'd seen in a magazine, probably in National Geographic, Deborah says.) From the Mass MoCA web site:
Gregory Crewdson's elaborately staged photographs capture the transitional moment between domestic order and natural disorder, the real and the surreal, the attractive and the repulsive. Through meticulous articulation of a wealth of mundane details, Crewdson imparts a mysterious pregnancy to his images of prosaic New England neighborhoods.
By the time we took Peter to the Williams College Art Museum Saturday, for the College Reunion kids' program, Experience the Spirit of Tibet, he seemed to have the idea that art museums are interesting and wanted to look at he collection rather than just do the Tibet-related kids' projects.
The high point of Peter's weekend was the Stream Critter Search at the William's College Hopkins Forest. It began with the catching of a large garter snake that Peter had spotted earlier. Then the group headed down an extremely steep bank to a stream to search for critters. We found a wide variety of fly larvae (stone, catis fly, crane fly) and at least four species of salamander. Peter found salamanders but was unable to catch them. I caught a dusky salamander that another little boy had tried to net but had missed. It occurred to me only later, when Deborah pointed it out, that I had caught it one-handed while carrying the baby.
We had a lovely Sunday morning brunch with the Park family in a North Adams bistro across from Mass MoCA and then headed home. I would have liked to stop off at the Berkshire Museum to see the William Morris exhibit that just opened, but we had a lot to do and so are saving that for later in the summer.