Thursday, October 21, 2010

Omaha Attractions

Since Blogspot will allow me to upload the picture from yesterday's post, I'll show you Jim--alone at the IMax!

Today we decided to spend the full day in Omaha, so after a leisurely start (boiled eggs and bread with jam in the motel room), we drove to downtown Omaha again. The zoo, where we were yesterday, is near downtown on the Missouri River.

This morning we went to the Joslyn Art Museum. This is a fabulous pink marble
building, constructed in 1931 as a gift from Sarah Joslyn to the city of Omaha. Sarah and George Joslyn were benefactors of their adopted city, Omaha, where they had made fortunes, first in the newspaper business, and then in real estate, and other ventures. This Art Museum is only one of their many gifts to the city. The large square building on the right is a later addition, built with the same stone, and on the same grand scale.

The interior of the building was also beautiful. Even the washrooms, which were
obviously a modern addition were beautiful, with black marble floors and walls, stainless steel cubicles and a huge mirror at the end of the row, making the whole room look twice the size, and startling you with your image coming towards you as you turn the corner.

This is a view of the interior center of the museum, a courtyard-like space with a beautiful tiled fountain. You are looking from one gallery, through a corridor, past the central fountain into the opposite corridor and the far gallery, which has an enormous painting on display on the far wall.

One of the most interesting displays for us was the work from 1970 to 2005 of the artist Kent Bellows. I had never heard of him before, and was just totally amazed at his work. Called a "hyper realist" he painted mostly portraits of people but also did some amazing work of natural scenes. The astonishing detail in his work is what makes some people call him a "hyper realist," but what you feel when you look at his work is the emotional charge. He is an artist I want to learn more about.

We left the Joslyn after about 3 hours, and drove to the river front to another great Art Deco building, the Union Pacific train station, also built, if I'm not mistaken, at the same time, 1929-1931. Omaha was booming, growing in population and becoming a transport hub at the "door" to the west.

Omaha also had massive stock yards at that time, and I can just imagine how bad Omaha smelled!

We sat down at the old fashioned Soda Shoppe in the former waiting room of the station. I believe the figures are 60' height, and 72' width to this room. Well over a 100' length. Beautiful terrazzo floors, and a fantastic ceiling. The picture doesn't do justice to it!

We had a great lunch: turkey and cheese on a Ciabatta bun, with pickle and carrots. And then spent a few hours going through the displays. It's very well set up, and gives a lot on the history of the station, which was used by UP for only 40 years. When Amtrak took over passenger train service, the station was closed (1971), and fell into disrepair. It was given to the city, and through the efforts of many fundraisers, was restored to the wonderful condition it's in today.

There are great displays of the history of Nebraska, and particularly of Omaha, with good explanatory signage, and lots and lots of pictures and objects. Very well done.

After we finished here (this museum closes at 5 p.m.) we went back to the Joslyn to finish (try to finish) viewing all the works on display there. I had a few favorites (the Equation by Manniere Dawson, and the Grasshopper and the Ant [I forget the artist, but it's in the older section].) The Joslyn is far and away the best art museum in terms of explaining the art and educating viewers that we have ever visited.

We ate supper in the café of this museum, a big bowl of wonderful bean soup, definitely not out of a can. Something we've found in our travels: the food in museum cafés is usually very good--healthy and interesting. Does it reflect an attitude of care and attention to detail? We've had some great meals in museum and art gallery cafés.

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