Monday, May 16, 2011

Glittering in gold

Well today I am in Memphis but I must take the time to tell you about yesterdays adventures.  I took my last across town journey on the bus.  Destination West End.   Past the original Union Train Station, (a majestic old building), there are two iconic landmarks in the city of Nashville. Vanderbilt University and my destination, The Parthenon, which I easily got lost in for about 3 hours.  I have never considered myself a lover of Art Museums but it was mesmerizing and thoroughly enjoyable.  Entering Centennial Park, recognised as Nashville’s most urban recreational park, at first sight I was taken aback at the enormity of this building, The Parthenon.  Wow, it was just like I had remembered seeing it in history books, but it was here and so was I.

It was huge, it was breath taking. Built in 1897 for the Centennial Exposition, it is a precise replica of the Greek original but initially built here out of brick, wood lath and plaster.  It represented the city’s reputation as the “Athens of the South”.   During the exposition, The Parthenon housed 1,172 pieces of art.  At that stage it was a temporoary structure but in 1920 the city authorised and commissioned the reconstruction utilising permanent materials.  This reconstruction was necessary as the building was beginning to crumble with decay from exposure to life’s natural elements.
The first floor is a stroll down history lane, walls adorned with black and white pictures and artifacts relating to a far gone era. An era of effective simplicity.  I watched a small video that outlined the construction of the building.  With exact precision, piece by piece, each round in the columns was manually ground and pulley lifted into position.  Ground, in pairs, so particularly,  that they were perfectly matched.  Matched and joined with a gap no bigger than one fifth of the size of a strand of hair.  The thought of the labour involved is mind boggling as it truly is a massive structure. The columns are not exactly vertical although by appearance one would think so.  It is indeed a mathematicians heaven.  If they were to continue skyward they would not meet before they reached a mile high.  Venturing inside and it is camera’s away,  no gum, no food and no drinks.  Works of art, walls of them.  Pieces dated back to the 1700′s but still perfect.  Art that appears so lifelike you feel the impresssion that you are actually relating with the people in the frames.  Complimenting the history of The Parthenon there is one section dedicated to Greek Mythology.  The largest exhibition on this floor is a collection of paintings donated by American businessman James M Cowan, in the year 1927.  There are 63 items in the exhibit,  the earliest being Venus and Cupid by Benjamin West dated 1765.  Just beautiful and still so fresh in appearance.  Other items are by prominent artists, Sanford Gifford’s, Autum in the Catskills, Fred Church’s, The Wreck, Albert Bierstadt’s, Mt Tamalpais, and Edward Blashfield’s, The New Dress are to name just a few. My favourite was The Rose of Shiraz by Hosev Pushman dated 1919.  It is of a woman, shawled and sitting down holding an empty glass. The cascading colours including greens, reds and purples are so rich and vividand yet so balanced.  It is simply beautiful.  All of these Artists played prominent roles in the development of American Art.
I am still on the first floor, it was engrossing. To incorporate the old with the new there is a section allocated for showcase exhibits from prominent artists of our era. The exhibit I was fortunate enough to see was that of Lisa Rivas, an American artist.  The colours once again so vibrant they seemed to dance toward you. They just seemed to jump out and grab you. Her exhibit was exciting, demonstrating different effects created simply by using different techniques and materials.  I believe she developed her style from making comparisons to a computer program.  Very modern and very interesting.  Colour your world and check her work out online.
The second floor blew my mind.  As I climbed the stairs, I wasn’t sure what was in store, I knew nothing of the history nor the place but so far so good. I turned the corner and OMG AMAZING!!  There she was Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, Prudent Warfare and The Arts. The original was built out of gold and ivory in 438bc and since lost to time but completed  and reproduced here.  Upright at 41 feet and 10 inches, weighing approximately 12 tonnes, gilded in gold and painted with articulate precision, she blew me away.  Adorned with sixteen kilos of gold.  She glistened. So beautiful!!  In her right hand stands Nike, the Goddess of Victory standing at 6 feet 4 inches in the life like palm, in her left hand the spear.  Beside her the huge Serpent representing Erichtonias, the legendary King and of course the huge shield for protection.  On her helmet was the image of a sphinx and her breast plate was the image of Medusa, also painted with the same articulate precision.  The attention to detail on her face made her eyes alive, like she was actually staring. Her feet were painted to the point of petite reality.  At the base of the figure was the creation of Pandora, the gift of all.  It is so detailed, so precise.  In a word,  breath taking.  I can’t wait to post the photographs and videos.  It was another amazing day.  I encourage you once again to start saving your pennies and take a trip to this neck of the woods.  There is so much to see and experience.  It is a new adventure each day, simply wonderful.

A quick stroll through the park and I was back on the bus and downtown to the Tennessee Museum.  Nashville seems to be all about Country Music, History and fun, it’s great.  I have not blogged about the food yet but it too is something special oh and the shopping.
The museum’s first floor begins where history began in America. The Indians.  The wagons, the tools, the clothes, the tee-pees. In order to really appreciate the museum it would be advisable to have some knowledge of America’s early history. The 2nd and 3rd floors have a big focus on the bloodied battlefields of the civil wars, the slavery, the hardships.  So many lives were cut short.  The Nashville Cemetery is filled with rows and rows of white headstones, a representation of just that. There are landmarks all over town telling the tales of conflict and demise.  The weapons of days long past were presented in perfect display.  Pistols, rifles, bayonets, cannons, there was representation for each stage of conflict.  Also on display was a collection of artworks.  The beautiful paintings that hung proudly in the stately residences of the rich.  All beautifully restored and maintained.   I now know the reason behind “no flash lights” from cameras, preservation.  These paintings would have been fixtures on walls in well to do homes.  Homes that were built during the days of grand architecture.  Architecture of the Antebellum era.  It was all a little overwhelming.
Well as I said I am in Memphis today and have the next 6 days to check it out so stay tuned, hopefully you are enjoying the snippets I am relaying from this amazing country.  Still have 2 blogs to catch up on, The County Music Hall of Fame and The Grande Ole Opre’, you can be sure I will not forget the experiences.  Tomorrow is Graceland and Sun Studios and if there’s time Gibson Guitars.
Thanks for reading these blogs, you can leave a message if you like.  Take care and bye for now!

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