August 18th, 2006

Fishy Circumstances

Iowa State Fair

American Gothic - in balloons American Gothic - in balloons

My father and I went to the fair on Monday and hit up many of the highlights: the butter cow, the biggest boar, the Avenue of Breeds, a few competitions, and, of course, favorite fair foods. These include pork chops from the Iowa Pork Producer's building, funnel cakes,and Bauder's peppermint ice cream bars. We spent a while watching a horseshoe competition to see how it's properly done, having only just learned how to play properly at the family reunion in New Jersey the previous week.

In past years, a giant sand sculpture, made for the fair anew each time, has occupied the main lobby of the Cultural Center on the fairgrounds. This year, however, there were balloons. I was disappointed until I saw the results - a three-dimensional recreation of American Gothic, complete with eyeglasses, pitchfork, and extra decorate parts, such as a cow and a chicken. A running fan made all the nearly-life-sized figures sway gently as if slightly animated.

Here are a sampling of fair photos, added after the fair parade photos from a week ago Wednesday.
Fishy Circumstances


Wedding Rehearsal Wedding Rehearsal

Thursday morning's flight to Houston was uneventful. The flight attendant was very diligent in refilling drinks, and I took photos of morning light reflecting off of lakes and rivers below.

I've never been to Texas before, except to change planes, and certainly never Houston in August. I thought I knew heat and humidity, but never anything like this before. I step out of air conditioned cars and buildings, and my glasses fog right up in the weight of the air. Still, Houston seems a handsome enough city, lush and green with pines and river oaks.

I spent much of Thursday at the Menil Collection. When I asked my relatives-who-work-in-museums to recommend the museum most worth going to while in town, they were unanimous. So it was I spent my time browsing an extraordinary personal collection of primarily twentieth-century and tribal artwork in a striking Renzo Piano building. There was also a solid antiquity collection and a reasonable sampling of medieval work - but nothing early modern. There were even three prehistoric horse bone-carved drawings.

The best part of the Menil Collection, however, were its outlying buildings, worth the walks through the humidity: a dedicated Cy Twombly building; a dedicated Dan Flavin building; and the extraordinarily calm and contemplative space of the Rothko Chapel. (There's also a Byzantine fresco chapel, but it's only open Fri-Sun). Returning to the hotel afterwards was more work than I'd realized though: while the museum is world-famous, it's apparently not so well known within Houston itself.

I'm here for several days for chamaeleoncat's wedding. The event doubles as a small Toronto reunion. The rehearsal for the ceremony was today; everyone's well-rehearsed now for the ceremony itself tomorrow.