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Midwestern Thanksgiving: Family, food, art and gratitude by Ann Treacy
November 26, 2022, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Wisconsin

Yup, going to the Chicago cousins is a long-standing tradition in family. Now, this was the first year that none of the St Paul cousins made it but the St Paul grandparents, auntie and uncle did. We have a great time.

I started with my parents heading out through Milwaukee. We stopped at the Milwaukee Art Museum to see our favorite Tony Oursler (the talking head video) also Kehinde Wiley, Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and others. We love the Oursler without any back story but even more with it. He has recorded himself answering questions from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI); a tool used to gauge mental health.

Thanksgiving day we had a beautiful meal cooked by Katie, who had made Thanksgiving dinner for maybe 20 years and Billy who went to the Culinary Institute of American in NY. It was delicious. Billy’s addition was duck. I’ve had duck before. Sometimes it’s OK; sometimes not. But with Billy’s prep it was amazing. The whole meal was gorgeous. And a nice addition of cranberry cocktails prepared by Sean.

Black Friday Katie, our mom and I spent at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Chicago and consignment shopping in Evanston. The MCA had an exhibit on the Art in Caribbean Diaspora.  including fascinating videos of movement methodical, haphazard, independent, interconnect, so interesting to think about the difference in the voyage. Movement happens regardless and aside from the brick dominoes, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen but there is movement and it seems to be forward.


Then we had an amzing meal at D & J Bistro; it’s a little bit of a drive but worth it. We had all of the fancy food – mussels, steak tartare, carpaccio and some fancy drinks. And now we’re never going to eat again. It’s nice to be in a family where everyone genuinely enjoys a meal together. Like any other holiday table these days there are a lot of no-go topics and I get to hear more about sports ball that usual but also we laughed a lot. And for that we are thankful!

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.

The Bean, CMA and Christmas windows in Chicago by Ann Treacy
November 19, 2021, 3:42 pm
Filed under: Chicago

We arrived in Chicago on Wednesday for our mini-vacation to see Magnetic Fields but we budgeted a couple of days of fun too. Lily and I are stayed downtown for the night. First thing we did, ran out to see The Bean. It was rainy and coldish but it’s always fun to see it.

Then we took a walk down Michigan Avenue.

We got into the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown Chicago for free. We were there less than 30 minutes before close and we were going to give it a miss and they kindly invited us in. We saw the two roving exhibits. Christina Quarles was interesting and Lily’s favorite. She focuses on bodies entwined and often mashed up. I love her hands and feet feel like they are reaching out from somewhere much deeper than the painting. Some of her work has a political backdrop – mostly because anything done in the last four or five years is political if you’re a women or BIPOC. I loved the way she used song lyrics in the works.

I also enjoyed Bani Abidi, which is overtly political. His work, The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared, looks at the clash between power and media and our view of ourselves and what we’ll do to change our view or the view of others. Sometimes that means going the extra yard to hope that people outside of your community see you and sometimes it’s going an extra year to be more than you are.

Back to Michigan Avenue we got a glimpse at Christmas Windows, which may actually be on State Street – either way we were impressed with the bold move to a new holiday story.

And finally Lily picked out our nighttime venue. We went to the Empty Bottle to see Idle Ray and the Dry cleaning. Idle Ray had an interesting thing where all of their banter was pre-recorded. Very intriguing. The Dry Cleaning are from London, with a less cheerful Courtney Barnett feel. Really like them!

Sunny day in Chicago? Do the Loop Mural Walk! by Ann Treacy
June 16, 2021, 1:08 am
Filed under: Chicago

Day two of visiting Katie – we put on our super sonic sneakers and checked out the Loop Mural Walk. There are three walks downtown that feature 21 murals. Some are done by famous folks and some seem pretty local. Available now through July 4 – although it feels like those murals are pretty permanent. Doing the walk – and maybe diverging from the map a few times – we walked about 4 miles. It’s a fun walk through the loop. The walk isn’t tough but the navigation can be tricky.

Some of the murals are very obvious; some are harder to find but that’s part of the fun. We learned that if we swore we followed the map, we knew we were right, that the answer was to look up. Some of the best and biggest were a few flights up.

Another challenge was the one diversion into the pedestrian mall but it was the first time we had been in the mall so that was fun. Also, we went through the Chicago Cultural Center to get there, where we happened upon the filming of The 4400, which is apparently a TV show. We were thrilled!

We did get to take a walk through the alley side. (Pro Tip: walk on the side away from the garbage cans for fewer rat sightings!) Also we met a kind Irish man on Lower Wacker Drive, who pointed out (again kindly) that maybe we’d made a wrong turn. We were flattered that he cared and he probably wasn’t wrong.

It was a beautiful day. We kept walking after the murals and got another 3 miles under our belts. We visited a few things we always love to see – like the Harold Washington Library. (Snotty aside: I took classes there when I did my MLIS.) The Bean!! Of course I had to stop by the Art Institute of Chicago Lions – because I love them. The River walk is another fave.

Human + Nature at Morton Arboretum: an Art Break by Ann Treacy
June 14, 2021, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Chicago

Dad and I went to Chicago in part to visit Katie. Yay! Today we took a walk on the tree side with a trip to the Morton Arboretum. It’s about 30 minutes from where Katie lives. The Arboretum is all about the trees and walking paths and making it easy for people of all abilities to access the trees. Turns out, they have 1700 acres of land. There are lots of paths – some more paved that others but obviously so.

We noted that a mom (or two) with a bunch of kids could manage to get a few miles of walking in with their various half-mile or one-mile loops, a progressive picnic lunch and visit to the kids gallery. Back in the day were pretty much experts on that. You could get a stroller (or wheelchair) through most of the paths. Or I bet you could have a very meditative day walking on the various paths if that was your jam.

Today we were there for the Human + Nature exhibit, five large (15- to 26-foot-tall) statues hidden around the grounds. To be fair, they are less “hidden” if you pick up a map. Sculptor Daniel Popper hails from Cape Town, South Africa and his works have been seen all over the world. The statues are welcoming with open hands and open heart. Climbing on the statutes is not encouraged but you can easily walk through and touch it. They are a delight to see from a distance hidden in the woods and just as delighted to interact with at close range.

Pro Tip: they have some COVID-inspired rules, such as you need to sign up in advance. And special thanks: for letting us get around those rules. I’m not suggesting you thwart the rules; they are easy rules. Just appreciation for people who make space for other people, who sometimes don’t plan.

Also special mention to our delicious meal last night at D&J Bistro in Lake Zurich. I had foie gras for dinner. Tough to beat that unless you also started with share appetizers of scallops, cheese and beef tartare.

16th Street Murals – snowy street art in Chicago by Ann Treacy
February 24, 2021, 2:39 am
Filed under: Chicago

Finding social distance fun on our one-day vacation in Chicago, Auntie Katie, Aine and I checked out the 16th Street Murals. The original plan was to walk the railroad embankment that’s covered with murals but it has snowed a lot in Chicago over the last week, there sidewalk wasn’t shoveled, Chicago traffic stop (or slows) for no dopey tourist and we realized the awesome warm weather mixed with a foot of snow would make for soggy toes. So we upped the safety in terms of traffic and COVID and did a driving tour.

The murals extend from Halsted to Western on West 16th Street in Chicago. It started as a grass roots project but morphed into something more official through the Art In Public Places Initiative. The art rans the gamut from pleasant to political, to cartoonish, to striking. There’s art that reflect current culture (The Simpson’s). There’s art that features the faces, especially of people of color (sometimes in the art that color is blue!), with an intensity that looks right through the viewer. There are animals that are majestic (eagles) and gruesome (the rat). There’s religious art. There’s modern, abstract art. There are a few, not a lot, but a few murals with statements; those statements are at least as often in Spanish as English.

I want to include most of the art that we captured, but I also want to highlight some of my favorites:

More art:

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Chicago: how art on the walls gets you into his head by Ann Treacy
February 23, 2021, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Chicago

Celebrating half the family getting their vaccines, some of the family traveled to Chicago to visit some of the rest of the family. So there’s been a lot of food, stories and laughs and a little art. Auntie Katie, Aine and I were lucky to get tickets to the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Chicago, a show we thought was sold out. We got so lucky!

The immersive experience spans four large, connected rooms. The idea is to sit and watch and listen. There are little socially distanced circles painted on the floor about six feet apart. This is a little COVID silver lining. It means nearly everyone sits down. The tallest guy in the room isn’t in front of you and no one is encroaching in your space. It makes it feel like a VIP experience.

The rooms are like castle walls with high ceilings, hints of columns and arches with a few large mirrors in the rooms. The videos of his work in motion are shown in all rooms on all walls on the floors. The videos are accompanied by loud music ranging from classic to recognizable to ambient to melodic drone. The experience is about 30 minutes, but it’s looped and you can hang out as long as you want. (There might be a time limit; we didn’t get to it.)

The action puts you in the middle of the works of art but really it feels more like you’re in the mind of Van Gogh.

The experience starts with giant bugs running across the wall. It reminded me immediately of AJ Isaacson-Zvidzwa, a young classical musician with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia who debuts a new composition (Angels Sang to Me) on March 5 (2021) at the Cedar Cultural Center (online). We had the opportunity to talk with her about a week ago. She told us that her mental health issues emerged when she was 12 years old and began to see insects that weren’t there.

I would love to see this show with AJ. I would love to have AJ score the show herself. The insights she gave me about her upcoming show, which are inspired by her experience with schizophrenia, helped me immerse myself into how the art and music on the experience helps us experience Van Gogh’s mental illness. From the bugs to the blurring of walls. The darkness and drone giving over to the yellow sunflowers. The multiple self portraits. The fleeting images of people in their daily life leading up to the bursts of colors, clouds and flowers and eventually into the swirling starry, starry night. It is entertaining and thought provoking.

Chicago midweek special – Andy Warhol, Guilty Feminist and so much food by Ann Treacy
January 12, 2020, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Uncategorized

Mom and I took a quick trip to Chicago to see Katie and family of course – but also to see the Andy Warhol exhibit before it closes and to check out the Guilty Feminist podcast. Mostly this is a picture post – but there are a few things I should point out:

  • The small plates at Libertad (in Skokie) aren’t really small. But they are delicious.
  • Warhol was always cool. Will always be cool.
  • I need an idea of replication as social commentary like Warhol had. And maybe some artistic skill – but I feel like an idea might be enough.
  • Sometimes I think the Art Institute of Chicago is designed like a grocery store to encourage you to walk down aisles you might not otherwise walk down.
  • They pick the toughest docents/guards to work the modern wing of the Art Institute because that’s where you could have the most fun taking awesome pictures if you weren’t scared of the guards.
  • The Palmer House is always in fashion. (In fact the day I got home I heard The Moth story that took place at the Palmer House -on the 18th floor where we were!!)
  • The Goat and the Girl has amazing food. The waiters are very good and will organize your orders in the way you should be fed. (Like a wine dinner but with food so you don’t have the heavy Cab of food on round one.)
  • The Guilty Feminist is at least as fun to see live. We learned about the importance of reporters and the free press and diversity in reporting. I will include the link to the live show once it’s available.
  • A walk to Millennium Park for a picture with The Bean is always worth it.
  • Flying is no fun.

The hotel & food!

Guilty Feminist & Millennium Park

Art, turkey and art in Milwaukee and Chicago by Ann Treacy
November 30, 2019, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Wisconsin

Due to a holiday snowstorm, we spent an extra day in Milwaukee this year with Grandma and Grandpa on the way to Auntie Katie’s for Thanksgiving. (This also means an extra day of uber calories on the eatingest holiday of all time!)

With the extra day, we decided to stay in Milwaukee, instead of Madison. Not to be braggy, but our hotel was famous. For being the spot of an attempted assignation of Teddy Roosevelt. But we felt pretty safe.


We had some ambitious plans; we were successful in checking out the Milwaukee Art Museum. It’s very modern. The building itself is gorgeous and it’s right on the lake. It was pretty grey, cold and windy when we were there, but that just reminded us of Dublin so we went with it.

One of our favorite works was Self Portrait in Yellow by Tony Oursler. You can see why below.

The next day we made our way to Katie’s house near Chicago. We had an amazing meal. My favorite is ham and stuffing. Or pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Anyway there’s a ton of food and something for everyone. There were lots of new folks at dinner, which is always fun. It was warm enough for kids to play ghost in the graveyard at night, which beats the heck out of the 8 inches we had back home.

We celebrated Black Friday with a little consignment shopping and going to the WNDR Museum, which is awesome. It’s part art, part technology and all interactive to the point of totally immersive. It’a really an Instagrammer’s dream. So many great photo opportunities. You

There are exhibits or works from several artists. They all play with perspective, movement and dimensions. The most famous, I suspect is the Infinity Mirror Room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. We also liked the perspective room – you can see above where I tower over Aine and Grandma. Another fun one, less photogenic is the tin cans and the telephone wires. You put the can up to the wires until you hear something. Very cool.

Chicago is me, me, me and art by Ann Treacy
July 14, 2016, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Chicago

We’re getting close to the end of the road trip. We started the day in Pennsylvania, then off to Ohio, to Indiana and we landed in Chicago. I have big plans for dinner with dad and Katie. But we planned a day downtown Chicago for fun.

Turns out the kids were super excited to go shopping and ditch me. I’m not writing this to make them feel bad about leaving me alone – right after I paid for lunch. I mean I know this post will be up for years – but I didn’t feel hurt at all.

Really I didn’t feel bad. I got to do exactly what I wanted to do at exactly the pace I wanted to do it. So I visited the Harold Washington Library – where I took a class years ago. Then I went to the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Institute has a guide that shows 12 of their top favorite works of art that you can see in an hour. Challenge accepted! I did it – with two hiccups. American Gothic had been moved. I sleuthed it down. And the Young Dionysos was temporary off the floor.

It was fun. The works included the Chagall windows, which I don’t always make a point to see. And of course the Georges Seurat, which I do always make a point to visit.

Then I skipped up to Millennial Park and saw the sights. (The girls and I had walked through earlier to get to lunch – so they are in some pictures.) Then off to Michigan Avenue, the Wrigley Building and some random statues.

And I decided to take selfies along the way. I have taken 12 selfies in my life – because mostly I have a kid to serve as model. I am terrible at selfies – requires more backward spatial aptitude, I like to do them quickly because I find it embarrassing and the raw material is a little rough to start. But again I didn’t do it to make the girls feel bad later when I’m so old and feeble that they are ditching me again. Not at all.

Art Institute of Chicago Scavenger Hunt:

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