As I was waiting for the traffic light to change, across from the Art Institute on a snowy afternoon before Christmas, I was startled by a booming voice right behind my ear, bellowing, “Make sure you wear two pairs of socks when you go to the golf course.” I glanced behind me to see the Streetwise hawker who commands this particular section of sidewalk addressing a pedestrian. Thinking he was being chastised for being well-heeled and not buying a Streetwise, the man answered loudly enough for everyone to hear, “I have never been on a golf course in my life.” Undeterred, the vendor continued, “Make sure you wear two pairs of socks when you go golfing, in case you get a hole in one.” A collective chuckle went up from the crowd, a sigh of relief, a sense of a barrier dissolved.
We crossed to the entrance, and made our separate paths through the museum. My destination was the America Windows, my first look after five years while they were undergoing restoration. Like many Chicagoans, I feel a connection to this work, a gift by the artist Marc Chagall to our city. Each of the six leaded panels represents a different creative medium—music, painting, literature, architecture, theater, and dance. They are unified by a color scheme of blue with mottled patches of green, yellow, red, lavender. The longer I looked, the more aware I became of how the paint is layered to reveal gradations of light, and how that creates a sense of motion. A dancer spins; a bird flaps its wings. Chagall said in 1962, “For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world.”
As this new year starts, I have the honor of taking over Matt Wood’s blog for TriQuarterly Online. I thought about my visit to the museum, from the street crowd to Chagall’s panels. I hope to provide you, our readers, with a sense of belonging to a diverse but connected community of the arts, particularly as we embrace new technologies for writers and readers.
If you have time to visit the Art Institute by January 9, don’t miss the Lewis Baltz photography exhibit. Say hello to the Streetwise guy, and please feel welcome to leave comments on the blog. Our new issue will be online in just another week.