A couple of days ago we went looking for inspiration, a change of scenery, and instead we found a giant, rainbow-colored shock of a gift. We had one of those Life experiences that are so out-of-the-blue but that feel so perfectly timed and “meant to be.” Let me tell you a story…
For several years, Mike and I have taken a trip to Chicago for my birthday. I waffled about going this year. Perhaps someplace different instead? Or maybe we stay home, since we are spending so much money on our big trip to California this summer. I decided fairly last-minute that, what the hell, we needed to get out of our house for a couple of days. Congress Plaza Hotel, dear old friend, here we come.
About four hours after leaving Ann Arbor we are in Chicago. About an hour after that we are at the Art Institute, looking at our old favorites. But the inspiration isn’t really manifesting like we had hoped. Perhaps it was the crowds. Or that there was nothing new for us. I was temporarily excited that there was a Martin Puryear exhibit, but then disappointed that it was mostly drawings (although beautiful) and not more of his sculptures. I like Van Gogh, but the exhibit on his “bedrooms” didn’t sound appealing (and all those people to navigate…I know, we’re sad).
Eh. Well, the deep dish pizza dinner was worth the drive. Perhaps Friday will bring something.
Indeed it did.
A Fortunate Happenstance
Bear with me, I want to share the randomness of the path we took to get to our “meant to be” moment during this trip.
On Friday morning, the only destination we had in mind was a bookstore I found online, Sandmeyers (Some shopping on the Miracle Mile perhaps? Not in the mood. Contemporary Museum as usual? Hmm, current exhibits don’t sound like our cup of tea. Natural History Museum? $38 each!!! Uh, no.) From our hotel window, we could see this big, icy blue and white square in the park. I thought it was tile, Mike thought it was perhaps three-dimensional, but it was really too far away to tell.
We decided to take a closer look at the blue tile thingy on our way to the bookstore.
Turns out, the floor and a small stage are painted wood pieces screwed to a substructure (it had rained, so it was shiny from the water). The colors and pattern are beautiful. I looked it up later, and it is a 100 percent recycled, open-air dance floor designed by Chicago artist Dan Peterman, part of the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park. The annual Chicago SummerDance is held here.
Mystery solved, we continued walking south to the next point of interest (the bookstore is still a little further south and west). On a hill at the end of this garden area stands a statue of a man on a horse, General John A. Logan (internet trivia for the day: apparently, we have him to thank for pushing Memorial Day to be a holiday).Looking south from the hill where General Logan permanently rides, a huge block of brightly colored cubes sits in the middle of an expanse of bright green grass. We still had a half hour to kill before the bookstore opened, so we meandered in the direction of the brightly colored cubes. As we walked closer, it seemed that each square of color was intersected by whitish columns. I thought perhaps it was corrugated, like cardboard. Once up next to it, you can see the white is actually a list of names etched into the plastic. The whole piece is entirely covered in an alphabetical listing of names. The plaque next to it says it’s called Artists Monument, by Tony Tasset.
I must have seen an artist name I recognized, I can’t remember now, but as I was standing near the S listings, I randomly looked for Mike’s name. Why not?
I cannot adequately describe the feeling of finding “Mike Sivak” listed on one of the yellow squares. WTF???!!! This, of course, had me trotting over to the Rs to see if my name appeared there. One could hope. Although, it happened so fast, it was just a “let’s take a looksy why not” impulse that turned into a “holy shit!” moment.
But it actually hadn’t been in Chicago for two years. The story gets better…
Turns out the piece was created by Tony Tasset for the Whitney Biennial…wait, what? 2014, installed at Pier 45, Hudson River Park, New York, NY. Our names are on an art piece that was in the Whitney Biennial (let you in on a little secret? I’m feeling slightly hysterical and uncool about all this, but I can’t help it, I’m going to wear my yes-I’m-almost-52-but-acting-like-I’m-12 badge proudly).
You can read more about the Whitney installation in this interview with Mr. Tasset. He reveals that being in the Whitney Biennial was “a personal ‘white whale,’ an aspiration that he pursued for a quarter-century” which for me makes the artwork, and our finding it, even more special. The installation includes almost 400,000 artist names on it, but as Mr. Tasset says about the work, “the Artists Monument attempts to include all artists but this is a symbolic, utopian gesture. It would be impossible to include everyone who calls him- or herself an artist.”
It was just so shocking to, in such a seemingly accidental way, come across our names in a public setting, on such a large-scale artwork, a piece that has existed, been out there, for two years. How surreal is it that this surprise encounter happened?
What a great gift of encouragement. A gigantic reminder that, somewhere along the way, I found my tribe.
And, I’m sorry, it’s just really F***ING COOL! 🙂 Happy birthday, Julie.