In a previous post I had mentioned wanting to see "Cloud Gate" (aka "the Bean") in Chicago during the 2011 US Air Guitar Nationals week - this being my first extended visit to Illinois, much revelry was to be had with many friends over the next few days and thus Millennium Park was a truly rewarding source of inspiration from and admiration for the Windy City.
Navigation of the Chicago Transit Authority train system proved convenient due to a familiarity with the complexities of New York City, and the Orange line from Midway Airport delivered me straight to Madison-Wabash Station which was a mere block from my destination. Despite a sluggish July heat pervading the Midwest, I eagerly followed the shadows at a decent stride with luggage in tow towards the lake. Emerging from the concrete canyon of West Madison Street into its intersection with North Michigan Avenue afforded a brief glint of the mid-afternoon sun sparkling off the metal monstrosity created by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. Though Jaume Plensa's monolithic "Crown Fountain" video sculpture flirted with my attention at the park entrance, the increasing allure of justifying this trip to AT&T Plaza as well as the siren call of over-priced hot dogs drew me upstairs instead. Peering through the stone railings on the south side of the plaza while ascending the stone steps, faint wisps of excited chatter floated past me until "the Bean" finally hove into full view. After settling down on the east side of the square at a sparsely-shaded table, I rolled a cigarette and took these notes.
7/20/11 3:30 pm
The size is impressive - a full height taller than most visitors standing within the concave underside. Surrounding skyscrapers arch gleefully towards the apex (standing 33 feet above ground). Multiple perspectives are visible from even a single viewing location. The polished and curved metal surface seamlessly reflects every object in a complete panorama. Despite its manufactured existence, the very identity and nature of the sculpture is organic. A blend of artificial and natural environments is accurately echoed by this high-concept, grand-scaled and truly unique work of art. The simplistic appearance is enjoyable for people from all walks and any stage of life, though a lasting appreciation is attainable by attempting to answer the many questions it raises of our own beings. Much like the seed of a fruit-bearing plant, this represents the potential of many new discoveries for humankind.
To further cement its distinctive impression, I walked around the 66-feet-long structure in a spiral circuit until reaching the comfortably shaded arch where many others had already taken refuge from the heat. In addition to the whimsically distorted images of others present, particular interest was paid to the multitude of hand prints and smudges left behind on the steel. Unlike the myriad of graffiti and stickers that pervade NYC structures, these marks were clearly meant to convey ephemeral messages by each individual who also came to enjoy what has become a world-class landmark in Chicago.
After this immersion in contemporary visual culture, I felt an invigorated sense of purpose in my own artistic ventures then reluctantly yet optimistically continued the journey to Ukrainian Village for a long-awaited reunion with Justin H. (aka "Nordic Thunder"), Chelsie J. (aka "Cannonballmavin") and other members of the US Air Guitar family from all over America. Though my luck and performance that week fell short of obtaining the 2011 USAG Championship title, ultimately I came away with an immeasurable wealth of love and respect for everyone who made this Baltimoron feel right at home in the Windy City.