So, I was able to make it to the US for Christmas in the end, though both the US and UK governments seemingly conspired to make it as stressful as possible by requiring testing before and after arrival on both ends, yet simultaneously having a shortage of tests that made this almost impossible (only for the UK to scrap the requirement for testing before entering the UK about a week after I got back). The US was by far the worst – Marcus and I spent several stressful days searching high and low for a test (we had brought some NHS ones with us, and I’m glad we did, because I was obsessively testing the whole time I was there, but those aren’t valid for travel) and eventually just ended up testing at the airport right before our flights back to the UK, because that was the only place that still had tests, at the hefty price of $95 each. And considering how stressed I get before a flight anyway, the combination of flight plus waiting to see if I would even be allowed to board said flight almost killed me. My stomach was a disaster that day – I don’t think I would have even physically been able to make it to the airport without the help of my friends Imodium and Pepto Bismol. All was well in the end, but jeez, maybe make sure that tests are actually available first before requiring people to take them.
I know that I’m the one who chose to travel during a pandemic, so I only have myself to blame, but this was the first time I’ve left the UK in two years. I hadn’t seen any of my family or American friends since Christmas 2019 (though I know many people are in the same boat, or worse off!) – and Omicron wasn’t yet a thing at the time I booked my flight, so at time of booking, I felt the benefits outweighed the risks. And even though it was super stressful, I loved getting to meet up with a couple of close friends, spend lots of time with my brother, and most importantly, finally meet my “niece” (my brother’s dog) who is so sweet and adorable – I’m definitely going to miss her!
Anyway, because I was pretty paranoid about getting Covid whilst I was there and not being allowed back in the UK, I didn’t do a whole lot on this trip other than see family and friends, but one place I did feel comfortable going was the Cleveland Museum of Art, which was rigorously enforcing mask-wearing (unlike almost anywhere else…). The CMA is one of my favourite museums, so I always like to see what’s new when I’m in Cleveland. On this occasion, they had one major special exhibition that was charging an admission fee, and a few other free temporary exhibitions (in addition to the extensive permanent collection, which is always free). Since I wasn’t super interested in the paid exhibition (it was about a statue of Krishna the museum had restored), I opted to just check out the free ones.
The first was “Collecting Dreams: Odilon Redon”. I’ve really only heard of Redon from the Lewis Barnavelt book series by John Bellairs. Lewis’s neighbour, Mrs. Zimmerman, is a witch obsessed with the colour purple, and in every book, you get to hear about another purple painting on her walls, allegedly all gifted to her by famous painters when she was living in Europe in the early part of the 20th century (the books are set in the 1940s-50s). One of these paintings was a purple dragon by Redon, so I got the impression that he was probably into the metaphysical, and this exhibition confirmed it.
Redon used a number of different materials to make his art, including pastels, oil, and charcoals (he went through different phases with each) and my favourites by far were the charcoals, which were inspired by both fairy tales and his own dreams, and were splendidly weird and creepy. Apparently, the CMA has one of the largest collections of his works outside of France, and I’m all for it. Good stuff!
I also wanted to see “Ashcan School Prints”, so we headed there next. I wasn’t really familiar with the Ashcan School before visiting, but after hearing they were urban realists who depicted major American cities from 1900-1940, I was completely sold. This exhibition contained more pieces than the Redon exhibition, and I particularly loved the lithographs by Mabel Dwight of people at an aquarium and the various lithographs of flappers going about their business in the city. We seemed to have caught it just in time, as it closed shortly after Christmas, but you can still view a few of the pieces on their website.
We also saw Derrick Adams’ “LOOKS”, which only contained nine paintings depicting various wigs, but it was very bright and colourful. And after seeing the fabulous Peru exhibition at the BM, I had to check out the ancient Andean textiles they had on display here, which were not quite as well preserved as the ones at the BM, but were still great (yep, more severed heads!). I also loved the Peruvian animal figurines in the same gallery.
Finally, we saw “Fashioning Identity: Mola Textiles of Panama”. I have to confess that at first glance, I thought they were all abstract patterns, which is not really my thing, and was about to walk away, but then I looked closer and realised that each piece actually had animals and people cleverly hidden in the design, so I had to take the time to peruse the exhibition. Helpfully, the museum even provided instructions on how to look at a mola, so people don’t accidentally miss the best parts like I almost did. Mola blouses have been made since the early 20th century by the Guna women of Panama, and were used as a symbol of independence during the Guna Revolution of 1925. They’re really fascinating, and worth a closer look! I think the exhibition has now ended, but you can view quite a few of them on CMA’s website.
I always enjoy a visit to the CMA, and I’m glad I got to see it on this trip. We also swung by Lake View Cemetery so I could get yet another photo of the always spooky Haserot Angel, and went to my old favourite East Coast Custard (which I ended up visiting three times on this trip – I really cannot get enough frozen custard!), so it was definitely worthwhile going out to the east side. A bit more Cleveland coming next week.
The Cleveland Museum of Art looks like an amazing place to spend an hour or two ☺️
It is! I’d highly recommend visiting!
I suspect I would love the Ashcan School Prints exhibit. The CMA is one of my favorite museums as well.
It’s such a great museum. I love that it’s free, which is common in the UK, but not so much in the US.
Glad you had a good time, despite the testing problems. I haven’t been outside the U.K. since May 2018! (Before covid there was a period when I didn’t feel I could leave my mother.) I’ve almost forgotten what the world out there is like.
I don’t know if I’d say I had a good time, exactly. Just trying to mention some of the positive aspects in the post! But at least it was a change of scenery.
Change of scenery is always good!