Spring Break –> Chicago VI
14 March 2018
Our final day in Chicago began bright and early with a trip into the city – and Fr. N’s first Uber ride – to attend a Latin mass. We arrived at St. John Cantius with some time to kill, but it being chilly outside, we headed into the vestibule to warm up and peek inside. It was interesting to see that, similar to St. Patrick’s, this church was decorated with the native language of its founders: Polish. Looking back, I enjoy the fact that the two churches we visited in Chicago were started by people from two countries that my family came from – also, the origin of my first and last name. Mass started, the large and beautiful church virtually empty save our group, a woman reading, a few priests, and an older woman who became our leader for when to stand, sit, and kneel. Even Fr. N wasn’t sure what to do during mass because he obviously only remembers what church is like post-Vatican II. I’d been to a few masses before, but this certainly felt the most awkward and confusing to me, with the entire mass spoken quietly in Latin and the priests with their back turned away from the congregation. I can see why Vatican II was a necessary step in the evolution of the Church, and how prior to that, mass could feel alienating and impersonal for the layperson.
Mass finished up and we decided to look around a bit before leaving. A passing priest showed us the huge case full of reliquaries, his manner quintessentially Chicago – “nice, but not too nice” as described by Fr. N. Leaving the church, we made our way back towards the AIC for our third and final visit. As it wasn’t open quite yet, we grabbed breakfast, Alex heading out to meet a friend. Us girls and Fr. N went to Macy’s, once Marshall Field’s, to see the grand Tiffany mosaic ceiling, and it was quite breathtaking. It was also pretty funny, because here were four short college-age girls following a priest through the women’s underwear department.
With the AIC open for the day, we went as a group to the American Folk Art gallery. Though it’s small and in an odd room in the museum, surrounding the library, the pieces on display were endearing artifacts of American art history. I loved this little weathervane with a Native American and his hunting dog, fish pointing the cardinal directions.
Unsure where to go next, Fr. N asked us what else we wanted to see. I pointed out that I was fairly certain we’d missed an entire section of the European art galleries, and sure thing, we had. I’m glad we went back through, because there were some exciting pieces we would have missed! I had no idea that Manet’s Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers was in Chicago, so stumbling upon this piece was a great surprise. The scale and intimacy of the painting, the scene rendered in Manet’s signature style and brushwork, the relationship of the colors in the piece, its frame, and the wall it hung on… it was beautiful.
After a little while, our group decided to split up and have some free time in the museum, with plans to meet up in just under two hours. I continued through the European galleries, and found one of the most amazing bits of sculpture I’ve ever seen. This marble bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon had such exquisitely rendered lace that I did a double-take to make sure it wasn’t real fabric on a sculpture, like a Degas piece might have. It was so hard not to reach out and touch it; I was mesmerized.
In the same area was Antonio Canova’s plaster study of Medusa for his Perseus Holding the Head of Medusa. I instantly recognized it was her, not only because I’ve seen the final sculpture, but because I stared at her frozen face for many hours while working on a painting. It was exciting to see a piece of the artist’s process hundreds of years after he worked.
My free time in the museum was dwindling quickly, but I wasn’t sure exactly where to head next. I passed the entrance to the Prints and Drawings gallery, and decided to head inside, which I’m so glad I did. The exhibitions on were “Shockingly Mad: Henry Fuseli and the Art of Drawing” and “Gods and (Super)heroes: Drawing in an Age of Revolution.” I loved every piece on display. Illustrations of stories ranging from Shakespeare plays to the Aeneid to Dante’s Divine Comedy, studies of characters, and sketches of scenes decorated the walls. I don’t know how I hadn’t heard of the artists or seen their work before, considering how relevant to my taste in art and interests they were – now that I have, I’m excited to discover more about them and their work. I also left inspired to try my hand at illustrating a scene from one of my favorite books or plays.
Down to about 20 minutes, I begrudgingly left the Prints and Drawings gallery for a quick stop in the Islamic art section of the museum. I wanted to make sure I saw this area because I had just learned about it in my Non-Western Art History class, and although the gallery was small, I’m glad I stopped in. I left the Islamic art, walked quickly through the Ancient and Byzantine art – where I finally snagged an interloperless photo of this bust of Athena – and into the Modern art wing.