Friday, April 22, 2011

As I Prepare To Leave Kansas City (I find my work in the newspaper)

The sun is setting on my last day in suburban Kansas City, Kansas. The clear blue sky -- something that's been absent from most of this trip -- is hanging on and seemingly afraid to let the night take over.

The project that brought me out here, like the weather, started out rather bleak--Based on scheduling my client hadn't completely finished what they needed to finish when I arrived, which means both that things move a little slower because I wind up doing some troubleshooting ideally would be done before I got there, and there's also a bit of scheduling juggling involved, as in "I really need this done now, that done next, and whaddyamean that part isn't going to arrive until Wednesday? Ok, can we move this hear, that there, and use some spit and electrical tape in the meantime?"

On the other hand, though, by the end of the day yesterday things were looking really good, and the vast majority of work that I had planned on spending 7 full business days on was done by the end of a late day Thursday. I returned to the project site this morning to tie off the few last loose ends and to run my client through what they needed to know before a grand opening event on Tuesday. Then I had the rest of the day to myself.

Yesterday, the Kansas City Star had a photographer and reporter doing a lot of shooting and the gallery is on their website already.

In this shot you can see me and some of the on the fly engineering and troubleshooting that was going on, the two gentlemen I spent most of my week with. My laptop even makes a cameo, sitting on the lectern in the near background.*

In this shot you can see my work -- the touch screen on the left is my programming, though it's not the most exciting mode that they could have put it in, but they did it with out asking me for help, which means that my work was a success.

Anyway... I made my way back to KCMO and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Between my left foot being a bit...irritated, I guess would be the best word...and having just been through the museums I didn't linger as long as I might have planned or hoped. At Nelson-Atkins, I revisited the photography and contemporary galleries and spent a bit of time lingering in the American galleries.

Parting from the museum itself, despite a pretty continuous drizzle I basically walked the perimeter of the museum including finding some interesting pieces in the Kansas City sculpture park that I had missed on the previous occasions.

My primary purpose for visiting the Kemper on the other hand was to see if the robot that caught my eye in the museum store could persuade me to buy him. He, for better or worse, had disappeared, to be replaced with some largely uninspiring pottery... as the Kemper doesn't have the largest display galleries and I had just visited, my visit was kept short. On the other hand, though while walking up to the front I saw... could it be? Yes! It is. Tom Otterness's Crying Giant (edition 2/3) sitting to the left of the museum's main entrance.

I love Mr. Otterness's critters -- which I've seen adorning The Gates at the Cleveland Public Library, greeting visitors at the Hilton Times Square and passing visitors by on New York's Subway -- there's something delightful about their simplicity, they're just plain cute, and the social commentary adds another dimension -- but until the Crying Giant they've all been relatively small critters. The Crying Giant is huge, but no less cute. As a single figure, without a given context, the social commentary is less clear but still possibilities run through my mind.

The drizzle continued throughout but I walked to a place I had walked by on my last visit for lunch -- Winstead's Drive-In. The place looks like it's been in that location and largely untouched since the 40s which was kind of cool. I have to say, I wasn't that impressed by the food. The fries were OK, the burger was about as thick as two quarters stacked on top of each other and generally wasn't anything to write home about. Probably not a place I'll plan on stopping at on my next visit.

Returning to my car at Nelson-Atkins I wanted to visit the museum gift shop to see if anything pulled my eye, but before I got there I found the installation-in-progress of Roxy Paine's Sumacks and Dendroids -- using a computer programmed to quasi-randomly extrude plastic resin in various patterns with varying amounts of time, motion, etc. I'm fascinated by it because Industrial Automation has always interested me and this strikes me as an interesting application. And when the machine is in action it draws quite a diverse crowd from museum staffers ("Are we supposed to dust it or...?" "Well, actually they recommend Armor-All") to children ("Cool! What is that thing?") to seniors ("How can you call that art! A machine is making it, not a human!" -- where I had to quite forcefully bite my tongue to avoid retorting that a human made both the machine and the program by which the art is being created.

Breaking my gaze on the molten plastic that had stopped pouring out of the machine and was no in the "cooling" cycle, I browsed the museum store before finding a book for my flight home and a gift for my very good friend. At checkout I was asked if I was a member... I said I was visiting from out of town and asked if my Cleveland Museum of Art membership card would work. It did. The gentleman assisting me mentioned that he had tried to visit the Cleveland Museum of Art but "most of it was closed" at the time and we discussed the renovation/expansion and the similarities in architecture.

All in all it was a good visit, but after six nights in a hotel, I am looking forward to my own bed -- but a Cleveland Orchestra concert first. When I tried checking in for my flight I wound up having to call and spent a total of about 90 minutes on the phone. But everyone I talked to was quite helpful, so... fingers crossed.

*- Note: I don't work for the company named, the company I work for is a specialty subcontractor.

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