In my “roomette” on the Sunset Limited, the train I’m taking from Houston to L.A. Thus far, things have been enjoyable. The train attendant is a friendly, amiable chap. He setup my bed, which I am now lounging in, and politely answered the couple of questions that I had. My expectations for meals may well be very much exceeded too if tonight’s supper was any indication.
I’m looking forward to the next 34 hours or so. I have much work to be done, and with no distractions should be able to plow through a fair bit of it. No wifi is likely to be a boon.
I’d like to sum up my thoughts on Houston, though I’m not certain I did or saw enough in the three short days I was there to justify that sort of thing. Furthermore, because I was there for such a short period of time there is likely little that I will have to say. So why even write about it? What is the point if I don’t feel like I have much of substance to write? I guess I feel that there may be something in it worth something to someone—perhaps it will encourage an arts lover to travel there, because if there is any reason to travel to Houston, it is for the arts scene.
I found the city to be a surprise for various reasons, so as a journal entry this will be written regardless, but to post it publicly for the consumption of others…. I just don’t know…. Granted, I could toss this whole blog in the garbage and I doubt it’d make much of a difference to anyone, including myself, because, after all, my primary audience for writing is myself, not anyone else.
Now, with my usual “what is the point of doing anything” ramblings out of the way, here are a few thoughts on the city of Houston.
Houston is a big advocate of the arts. This is something I was not expecting to find upon first investigating the city. Its Museum of Fine Arts is two, and soon to be three, beautiful, spacious (prodigiously so in places) well designed buildings, and should rank highly amongst the best art museums in the world in terms of its collections (this is arguably the most important qualification to check off when ranking museums, I would suppose), but of equal importance, in my opinion, is its curation. The rooms, many of them, are large, and this is necessary in order to give the displayed works space to be; to breathe, as the saying goes. This is very much a case of less is best. It also contains in one of its buildings a theater within which they regularly show movies. Sometimes these are art-related, sometimes not. In fact, one of the reasons I visited the HMFA was to catch a viewing of a new film on Edgar Degas.
Aside from the Museum of Fine Arts, the one other collection of artworks and antiquities objects that one must pay a visit to is The Menil Collection, 1) because it’s one of the best collections of works, brought together by a married couple, on the planet (and it continues to grow through gifts to and acquisitions by the foundation), and 2) it is FREE. Essentially it is a labor of philanthropy, with works from Picasso, Joan Miro, Mark Rothko, Renee Magritte, Max Ernst, Jasper Johns, Alexander Calder and many others on display, along with a fine collection of artifacts from the South Pacific, Africa, Byzantium, and ancient Greece. As well, there is a permanent installation by Don Flavin housed in its own building, and another dedicated to Cy Twombly. Also, near to the Menil Collection is the Rothko Chapel which I may dedicate a post to my experience there later.
While in the HMFA I had a conversation with a lovely, older couple in their 70s or 80s about the museum and the city. The woman approached me after I had taken a photo of the city skyline through a window, her favorite window as it turned out, that was draped with small, aluminum beads as well as a piece of perforated fabric, all this presumably to diffuse the light which would shine through blindingly, and glaringly throughout the morning. Well, she recommended to me that I check online for information regarding theaters and plays, as there is a strong thespian community, and numerous theaters throughout the city. Unfortunately for me I forgot. Typical… Well, they were lovely people. The gentleman didn’t want to stop talking to me about the city and its history. Meanwhile, his wife is trying to get him to move along. Sometimes it can be such a pleasure to speak with older folks, particularly those who glow so warmly as these two did, who still have an interest in life and in their community, and who have something of importance to impart, some story to tell to a tired, solitary traveler, an appreciator of the arts.