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Harold Washington, Art Institute of Chicago and Magnetic Fields!! by Ann Treacy
November 19, 2021, 7:44 pm
Filed under: Chicago

We worked our magic so that we could have a full day of fun in Chicago. Lily and I stayed downtown so we were close to lots of art. We found some bonus art at the Harold Washington Library. (Where I used to take classes!) First, the library is beautiful and it’s always fun to get a sneak peek into a city through the local library. We ran into Above and Beyond, a Vietnam War Memorial that is comprised of 58,307 dog tags hanging from the ceiling above the staircase in the library. Each represents someone from the armed forces who was killed in Vietnam and each dog tag shows their name, casualty date and military branch. There is one black dog tag for those who have died after the war from conditions related to the war. It’s moving. We did wonder about they might include or represent everyone who died or was left victim. (We have some ideas.)

Then we headed to the Art Institute of Chicago! We especially loved Thinking of You I Mean Me by Barbara Kruger. The art is in your face. It’s as much text and audio as imagery. The messages are loud and bold and contorted in a way that makes you feel a little queasy and disoriented. Then a creepy “I love you” chirps in the gallery. Aarggh. There’s a battle between love of oneself and love from another and how to attract each other and learn to live with ourselves and media.

The images say it all, yet don’t touch the impact. The size of messages of the wall are overwhelming. Some of the images are grotesque and shocking, yet every day. The challenge is recognizing the difference between the naturally grotesque and the artificially beautiful.  There’s something very human in recognizing the dehumanization we all ascribe to for ourselves and our loved ones. And there’s something empowering about recognizing it for what it is.

And then we saw so many of our favorites. Lily is a big fan of American Gothic. I’m always a sucker for Cindy Sherman. The Institute provides a quick list of their most popular, which we always try to check out. And the work that caught my attention for the first time (thanks to Lily) was Stamford after Brunch by John Currin; the three women on the couch with drinks. Amazingly creepy example of uncanny valley – that line between human and not quite.

We took a break by visiting a comic store (Lily’s passion) and resting until a lovely dinner with Katie and dad (aka grandpa) at Fremento’s. They were so accommodating and the food was delicious.

Then finally the raison d’etre – Magnet Fields at City Winery. I have to admit I was nervous at first because it was a seated/tabled event but felt like an airplane – but dark and where you aren’t allowed to talk. Fortunately for us the people behind Katie were not adhering to the no talking so she asked if we could move and scored us an amazing table with lots of space. Yay Katie! They didn’t play a long set but they played many of my favorites from 69 Love Songs. And played a new favorite, My Stupid Boyfriend. The Magnet Fields are able to capture the humor of our darkest thoughts and there’s comfort in hearing them saying out loud something you might feel guilty about even thinking. Lily and I both love them. I’ve seen Stephin Merritt but never the whole band. So this was definitely a bucket list event. Katie had not seen them but their music is so good, she loved it too.

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