Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Four Season

(Most of this was my impression as I walked through the exhibit-- forgive any confusing construction. Also, be warned, spoilers ahead.)

I saw this really interesting bit of art in Lincoln. It was two pieces of a four piece story called Autumn and Winter, part of Four Seasons by several local artists. Apparently Spring and Summer are the story of a girl as she is born, grows up, and gets married. Then Autumn comes. Her husband has left and the oak tree which symbolizes their relationship is dead. There is a scene set out and you look at it while radios around set turn on and tell the story. Each corner represents a room in state of disarray with trees growing through them. Leaves are scattered over the ground and cardboard trees grow up through the furniture. A large old car is the center piece. The story told is one of an estranged man and wife and how they have fallen apart. Mr. Penn is a world renown pianist and she is the wife he leaves at home. The card board trees were covered in sheet music.It was the sort of thing to see with someone. I wished you were here.

Winter is next-- a walk trough display with headphones triggered by the first doorway. The first room is a hospital room with eye test charts that tells of an old woman found all at frozen in a park. Fake snow is scattered through the room. Through the doorway, I see a Christmas room, a tree and a table set for two. Also, the instruction say wait but now I'm bored. The head phones just have breathing and winter wind noises.

Next room-- decorated for Christmas with snow everywhere. Fabric chains match that of curtains from the hospital room. Music everywhere. Sheets, fabrics, piano, baby piano. A record player and White Christmas record. A tree decorated with tin foil balls, blue lights, santas, jingle bells, a homemade angel. On the headphones, we here the woman, driven to distraction by a tv news piece about her ex husband. A barometer on the wall is broken. She remembers a Christmas with him, where the day began so perfect and happy but then he abandoned her to write a song. Piano music plays you to the next room as she talks.

The next room represents a park. Benches, astro turf, lightposts. There is picnic on the snowbank and a news stand: man on southbank still playing piano.

The next room is dim, white tulle every where. Four snowshoes with paper cities sit on glowing pedestals.
In each city, a paper penguin plays a piano. Paris. New York. London. Rome. Paper Angels also stand by a christmas tree-- sadly. They are also in the Christmas room. A paper penguin with a paper piano is also on each city-- just like a little penguin decoration from the Christmas room. She tells of finding solace in making and selling snow globes.

Next is a music room. Stands with coffee-stained, marked up music, on pedestals. And in the middle is a small scene-- a piano in a snow bank, broken and filled with snow. Broken instruments litter the ground around. We hear her story, how why she went into the snow in her night gown.

Now a forest made from blue plastic on the walls. Four pedestals hold crafty bits frozen in plastic. Buttons, tape measurers, stamps, and bits. Further in the room is a hospital bed in a stand of pines sparkling with fairy lights. White lilies are on her hospital table and a small radio. A card-- it's the song he began on the Christmas he left. "Finally finished" reads the handwriting. There is a red ball on the bed. And the radio forecasts an early spring.

Spring and summer were good but not at poignant as Autumn and Winter. Sprig is a young girl's garden, embellished with childish fantasies. The bees get together and sing while the mushy peas swap endearments and the stone gnomes argue matrimonially. A pet cemetery is cheerfully dour. Polly's play house has dolls' furniture set up exactly like Autumn and the shed leading to the garden has a tiny version of the hospital room from Winter. Phones and headphones narrate as Polly, the owner, calls radio stations and her neighbors to chat about gardening. One old man, Mr. Penn, apparently plays a sad song in the winter to "remind someone special that she isn't forgotten." it's the song from Winter.

Summer is the most abstract. An iron bedstead is in one corner (like the one from autumn) with a tree of red balls on it. We hear a dream-story: a woman woke up in her iron bed and reached for the little baby at the foot of the bed. She took the baby and began to walk through the woods and before long, the little girl was walking, then running along side her mother. She spotted a red ball and raced after it; as the mother lost site of the little girl, she panicked. She came out of the woods and saw a beach-- a young couple strode along hand and hand in the waves. The lady walks to the edge of the sea and weeps for her lost little girl. Before long, the sun is setting and years have past. The daughter walks to her mother, a vibrant young woman, and the mother realizes she has gray in her own hair. Hand in hand, they walk back through the forest and the daughter helps her mother into the bed and the old woman falls asleep. We heard this same story on the radio in Autumn and Polly chased a red ball through her garden and found a hiding place in her hedges, which is the passage to Summer. The Summer room next has you talk to a fortune teller (via headphones) and hear Pollu (now a young woman) talk about a trip to the beach with her beau where she saw a precious little girl running around an a sad sad old lady on the beach. All he saw were the waves and he heard their song. The next corner is the Christmas scene from Winter-- tree with tinfoil decorations and a large old radio that plays Polly's narration of the Christmas he forgot her for the piano. The piano is in the next corner, surrounded by music stands and scores flying away into the ocean. The last stop of summer is back to the fortune teller, then on to trail lined by tree stumps and littered with leaves...

I wouldn't go into so much detail but this isn't something you can pop down to see in the Dallas Museum of Art. It was crafted for and in Lincoln and already left the Drill Hall. The story is sweet, poignant, and sad. It's all a cycle though and element like the red ball and the Christmas son weave in and out of the separate rooms. It's a bit of a dream, a hint of fairy tale, and wholly mesmerizing.

Friday, October 7, 2011


A waking dream. She is standing in a white room with gold accents. Very pretty, rather French in her home-grown opinion. The mirror in front of her is edged in gold and reflects the white dress back into the white room. Smooth satin white satin encases her-- simply designed and classically cut, the dress is beyond expensive while remaining demure. Pearl buttons run down her back and cap sleeves keep her arms from bare. The shoes are too big, plain white pumps that someone lent her. 

She descends the staircase with difficulty, only just keeping the shoes on. Pause for breath at the door and...enter. The room is small, again in the pretty, delicate, gold-laced style of the dressing room. A back room, more used to meetings than tiny weddings. Four steps take her down the aisle and then she is by him. She doesn't really know why-- she scarcely knows him. But he asked. And she said yes. 

Suddenly the dreamy feeling is gone and she looks around this small room with the plush chairs and sprays of flowers carefully squeezed into the corners. She looks at his two sisters at the front in pink satin tea-dresses and the sober face of the pastor, words droning into the half-awake crowd. Then she runs. 

There is a small white scooter outside-- the getaway car-- and she shakes off the silly shoes while hiking up the simple gown before racing away into the daylight. The scooter takes her away from the posh hotel, straight through the diners on the lawn, and into the streets of the city. Dodging in and out of traffic, riding alongside vendors, then the river, she shakes her hair lose as she goes. No one is coming after her; she races in freedom.

She ponders the day as she goes-- why is she here, marrying this man she barely knows, just because she wants to be married. How ludicrous! How stupid... Colors fly by and people shout but she ignores them all.

Eventually she is stopped by a flight of steps, back at the venue. Tempted to take the bike down the steps and into the perfectly manicured garden, she pauses. She should go in, tell them it's over. He didn't even come after her! for pete's sake... Or she could just go! And be gone. That's what they all think happened anyways. Just go.

The groomsmen are there suddenly, one gripping the bike handles, the other two helping her off. One gives her a bashful grin but there is censure in his face too. 
"He really loves  you, you know. I've never seen him so happy, but now..." She nods, feelings like a dream is overtaking her again. The dress is mussed, she thinks, and my hair is a mess. With the dirty-edged gown trailing on the ground, she descends another staircase, this time the stone cold on her bare feet. He waits there, watching. No smiles-- he isn't really the spontaneous smiler-- but all kinds of angst wait for her in that garden. But he holds out his hand and it's warm and familiar and just right somehow. Neither of them speak but the walk into the garden, hand in hand, as a light breeze pulls away the last of her pin-perfect curls and his shoulders are sloped forward, not a happy man. She leans in, he pulls away and laughs before pulling her close and leading her into a dance in time with the breeze. 

The groomsmen go inside and tell everyone to wait a bit. She is back.