Saturday, November 14, 2015

Eventually Everything

Have you noticed that InLight is the visual cousin of the Folk Fest?

Who doesn't go? For eight years now, people from all over Richmond have made it their business to be anywhere the one-night extravaganza happens - Broad Street, Grace Street, the Canal Walk, Monroe Park - and see what light-based art awaits them.

Then they go and put InLight in the museum's sculpture garden and bam! Even more people are going to feel comfortable coming to see what the fuss is about.

Add in streets being closed for the VCU homecoming parade and it took a record-setting 20 minutes to go the two miles from Jackson Ward to the VMFA tonight.

Crazy. Sounds like this place is getting a little too big for its britches. Since when do I have to build in time to allow for traffic? Hello, this is Richmond?

Meeting my friend on the steps to the Boulevard entrance, the first words out of her mouth were, "I didn't recognize you. Your walk doesn't match who you are." She seems to think I appear to walk with purpose in contrast to having a laid-back personality (her words). She lopes, I march, according to her.

Early as it was, the museum was already jumping when we headed up to Amuse and a bird's eye view of the sculpture garden abuzz with last minute activity. Hell, I'd seen an artist setting up before noon this afternoon and the exhibit didn't open until 7.

A night like tonight is a seductive reminder of how lucky we are to have Amuse in the VMFA. From the moment we arrived until we left to go outside, it was like being part of a big party with strangers, but all celebrating the same thing: yet another standout happening in River City.

Moira and I seized the moment, beginning with Cava studded with multi-color cordial-filled jello shooters (baby's first Jello shooters, so a baptism of sorts for her), a cheese plate, oysters and some major dishing. Adulation was discussed and better phrasing sought. D.C. and the Renwick beckon.

Looking around the dining room, it was easy to tell  that people were jazzed about the evening. I, for one, am thrilled any time the museum is willing to stay open until midnight.

Properly fortified, we headed outside after a sigh-worthy stop to see "Nightfall: Prints of the Dark Hours," and ogle 400 years of print-makers' ability to convey so much with line and rubbing. Yankee Stadium at night took her breath away.

Then light beckoned.

Perched in the sculpture garden, the view looking inside the brightly lighted interior abuzz with activity made Richmond look urbane, sophisticated and art-loving. We could have been a picture postcard.

From the people milling around the Best Cafe deck next to the glowing red Chihuly reeds to clusters of people, drinks in hand, on Amuse's balcony of ipe (a Brazilian hardwood I learned about from a British carpenter later), a visitor would likely think, wow, seriously epic place.

Meanwhile outside the museum, scads of people were patiently traversing the walkways to see the two dozen installations. Less than half an hour after opening, "Problem Piece," the installation in and around the Confederate Memorial Chapel, had a line down the walkway that turned the corner and turned another.

Last time I saw a line like that for art was for "Disrobed" at Gallery 5, an all nude show.

I'm inclined to think that all the fuss the Sons of Confederate groups raised only served to pique public curiosity. Unintentionally, they succeeded in getting probably hundreds more people to see a chapel they'd have never seen otherwise without their bellyaching.

Personally, I thought the installation was brilliant, from the cinematic lights outside shining a literal light on antiquated attitudes or the unexpected soundtrack once inside the once-sacred space, it definitely challenged your take on it.

From further away, "Dielectric Bridge" looked like a dazzling beacon of light, but once on it, the light effect was dim and less dazzling, like being in a wholly different place. Truly beautiful was "no_places_nostories," which involved a collage of colorful media images projected onto the 1936 facade of the VMFA.

"Object-Orientalis" was provocative and political, using women's bodies as symbols, but isn't that what Eva Rocha does best? I saw a bit of  Bohyun Yoon's "Glassorganism" performance, watching the sounds made with the glass bottles translate to visual imagery.

Where I saw the Big Mouth Singers game, Moira saw electrocardiogram images. Go figure.

Coming back down from the highest level of the sculpture garden, we followed a barely-moving pack of people making their way along.

Kid #1: It's like a prison death march.
Kid #2: That was the worst joke.
Kid #1: It wasn't a joke.

To set the record straight, they were ten years old, tops, albeit jaded and politically correct ten year olds.

Around at the front, trying to understand "Circuit," I overheard a woman complaining to her husband. "It's like the Greek festival, it used to be fun but now it's too crowded. It's no fun being herded."

It is fun seeing so many people with alcohol in hand, the first year it's been a part of the InLight experience, legally anyway. It's less appealing seeing a big table set up for ID checks and bracelets like just another beer fest.

My thoughts exactly, so I did what any self-respecting iconoclast would and temporarily abandoned InLight for the museum. Taking a break on a low-slung chair, I had an ideal view of the passing parade, which included some familiar faces - the former restaurateur, the retired PR queen and world traveler, the gentleman farmer.

Back at Amuse, I joined Homes and Beloved for a glass of Rose and an offbeat chat with the carpenter from Manchester named Rhett (because of course a British woman is going to name her son Rhett a dozen years after "Gone with the Wind" comes out), who has taken a shine to Holmes and is rabidly discussing the Beatles, the Damned and the Sex Pistols.

I am brought into the conversation. Most unexpected question? "Are you heterosexual?" Aren't I?

There is banter, talk of a northside pool where the membership is chiefly reprobates and outlaw types, as well as lively discourse on why 30-year old males are not yet men. Rhett and Holmes discuss the wearing of Chuck Taylors post-30 and sing snippets of a Captain Sensible song to each other.

After a great deal of happy talk, we adjourn to Holmes' pad for Corail Rose and a short record-listening party before walking the block back to InLight and finding the crazy Confederate protesters just outside the entrance.

Out of the way, losers, we've got art to see.

Making my way around for the second time, only this time with male company, I finally make it into the chapel, see a few pieces I missed on my first round and make the most of the lack of crowds at 11:30.

For the first-time visitor, the disappointment is that some pieces are already turned off and abandoned. It's a shame because it seems lame to cut out before the official ending time. It's wonderful not being herded; it's unfortunate not to see everything still fully lighted.

You don't see any of the Folk Fest acts skipping their last set, do you? Frankly, my dear, we're a big town now. We can stay lit 'til midnight.

No comments:

Post a Comment