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Posts tagged ‘Indiana’

Exploring Indiana: Turner and Oldfields at the IMA

Since I moved to Indiana, I have been blogging about various adventures in exploring Indiana, often at the instigation of my friend Nazareth Pantaloni who lives in Bloomington.  Last spring, we visited Naz in Bloomington the same weekend that the film about Joseph Mallard William Turner’s life, Mr. Turner, was playing in IU’s Art and a Movie Film series.  Turner lived from 1775-1851, and, as that NYT piece linked above says, his life was a piece of work just as much as his art was.  So this weekend, Naz joined us (and our very dear friend Leigh Johnson) for a visit to the IMA to see the exhibit of drawings by Turner.   There are two large oil paintings on display in the general collections of the museum, including this one, The Fifth Plague of Egypt, which Turner painted in 1799.

The drawings show a different side to Turner.  They are largely architectural, and not nearly so full of Sturm und Drang.  They often highlight the everyday life and work at the foot of impressive architectural edifices, like this one below of Ripon: Looking along the Kirkgate toward the Cathedral from 1797 (Turner was 23!).  The exhibit is in a room is up the stairs from the Clowes Courtyard.  Unlike much of the museum, which feels very much like a museum, this room appropriately feels like you are walking through someone’s living room.  I admit I was a little confused about why some pieces that were not Turner’s were included – I expect it was to show influence and connections, but there was no explanation.  The exhibit is up until August 28.turner2

I moved to Indianapolis just a couple months ago, but I already thought I knew the city.  I have visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art plenty (I blogged about the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit here).  But not until this weekend did I venture beyond the main building to the house and gardens that make up the estate behind it–Oldfields.  This is the home of J.K. Lilly, Jr., the businessman and philanthropist who now seems to fund most of Indiana nonprofit work.  As followers of this blog know from this series, I bought a home not too long ago.  In the Exploring Indiana series, I have blogged about visits to three historic homes in Indiana–the Miller home in Columbus, the Eugene Debs house in Terre Haute, and the Steele estate in Brown County.  But it struck me at the Lilly house this weekend that if interior design is aspirational, as Francesca Tronchin has argued and as I consider here, then the very function of all these homes set aside for our viewing pleasure is to produce the sense that homes show who you are, who you see yourself to be and who you want others to think you are.  Even these people were doing aspirational interior design.  Look at this library, what does this say about me?  Look at this china set, look at this kitchen, it even has a separate dish-washing kitchen.  The website explains, “Lilly House is a historic house museum and has been restored to its 1930s splendor. ”

OLD_079_Lilly House History 2

Of course there is an historical element–this is how people lived, which is why I like to see the kitchens and the dumb waiters and learning whether the elevator was a new addition or part of the house when it was built (it was part of the house when it was built).  But if it were only that, we would be as interested in preserving and visiting the average person’s home – the Debs house pretty much is the average person’s home and so many fewer people visit it.  Or we would be talking more specifically about the historical significance of the home.  But what we are talking about is silver collections.  The top floor of the Lilly House is an exhibit of the silver.  The website discusses the history in terms of the history of improvements that have been made to the house.  It isn’t just that this house communicates that this is what it means to make it.  To have a silver urn of this sort.  To have this old car.  To have the ability to donate this 100-acre estate to set up an art museum.  But rather, that these people were showing who they had become and how they wanted to be seen by their extensive china collection.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s captivating.  I envied the library.  The gardens are very nice.  The orchids on display in the greenhouse are amazing in the I-can’t-believe-this-exists-in-nature kind of way.  But it’s unmistakeable that these homes and gardens construct our desire and our feelings about needing to be better consumers in order to be better at communicating who we are to the world in the guise of interior design.

Exploring Indiana: Bloomington and Brown County

Last weekend, we slept in the fifteenth bed in six weeks, visited the 27th town at home and abroad in three months.  We drove south from Crawfordsville to Bloomington, Indiana to visit a dear friend and graduate school colleague with whom we also visited Terre Haute, Nazareth Pantaloni.  Naz took us to visit the T.C. Steele State Historic Site in Brown County.  Brown County is today considered the art colony of the midwest, but in the early twentieth century, T.C. Steele was the first artist to make Brown County his home.  Steele was one of the first of the “Hoosier group” of American impressionists.  He had studied in Germany in the style of the Old Masters, but explored the impressionist style of painting first in Indianapolis and then in Brown County (the theme of the urbanites coming to the country and not understanding the rural ways and not being understood by the countryfolk is a recurring one in the docent’s spiel). Read more

Exploring Indiana: Columbus, Architecture and Patronage

This week my husband and I celebrated seven years together (three years since we began to accrue benefits and privileges from the state’s recognition of our relationship).  To commemorate our anniversary, we went to Columbus, Indiana.  Columbus is a small town of just over 44,ooo residents a little under two hours from Crawfordsville.  It’s famous for the many buildings of impressive architecture.  Columbus became a place of impressive architecture mainly because of the patronage of the Irwin family.  We stayed at the Inn at Irwin Gardens, the Irwin home that was originally built in 1864 by Joseph I. Irwin and remodeled in 1910 by William G. Irwin.  It’s an Italianate home that feels ornate and important.  It was the Irwin’s chauffeur, Clessie Cummins, who invented the high-speed diesel engine and founded Cummins Inc.  J. Irwin Miller was born in the house that is now the Inn at Irwin Gardens, and it was he and his wife Xenia who were the creative and financial force behind the modern architectural surge of creativity that occurred in Columbus from the 1950s onward. Read more

Exploring Indiana: Terre Haute, Socialism, Art and Death

This summer Jeff and I have been exploring Indiana.  In May, we drove out to the Williamsport Falls with Jeff’s parents (highest free standing falls in Indiana).  We ended up at the Wallace Opry on Highway 341, where the walls are covered with Wheaties boxes dating back to the 70s chronicling history in famous sports figures and all the Indiana sports paraphernalia you could ever want to see.  It’s just a block away from the Wallace covered bridge.

With that trip, we caught the exploring-our-surroundings bug.  Yesterday we went to Terre Haute, a city about the size of Williamsburg, VA, where I went to college.  It’s the home of Indiana State University.  And it boasts that it is the crossroads of America, since routIMG_0691e 40 and route 41 cross here (Indianapolis also calls itself the crossroads of America so I guess it depends what roads you take which city you’ll consider the one where they cross).   Read more

On Juneteenth: History of Race Relations in Indiana

Wednesday night a terrorist attacked a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.  I was in the middle of working on this post when I heard about it and wondered if in light of current events the subject of this post mattered.  I have come to think that it does.  It seems to me that part of the reason that people think these incidents can be and should be treated as isolated incidents is that we forget our history.  I’m not a historian.  I am sure there are others who know this history better than I do, but I couldn’t find a short condensed history of race relations in Indiana when I went looking for it (except this archive).  I think it is important that we remember our history and how it continues to affect our present.  As Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.” Another reason I’m writing this is that today is the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth.  Juneteenth is the earliest celebration of commemorating the end of slavery because it was on June 19, 1865 that Union soldiers showed up in Galveston, TX and informed the slaves that they were free, two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  I used to live in Texas, where I learned about Juneteenth, but now I live in Indiana.  I’m from Philadelphia, and I have a pretty good sense of the history (and the present) of race relations in Philadelphia, but when I moved to Texas and Indiana, I wanted to better understand the history of those places.  So I was thrilled when a friend from graduate school who is now a Hoosier, Nazareth Pantaloni, gave me IU history professor James H. Madison’s book: Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana.  Madison spends considerable space addressing the history of race in Indiana (though I was disappointed to see no entry for race or racism in the index). In the spirit of Juneteenth–of learning about emancipation long after it has been declared but does not seem yet to be in force–I want to blog about the history of race relations in Indiana that I learned from Madison’s book.  I just want to give some of the highlights.  I am limiting this list to highlights, especially to highlights that continue to echo in today’s climate. Read more

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