Day Trippin’ Into Chicago

      5 Comments on Day Trippin’ Into Chicago
street signs for Center St and Front St

Last week the Chicago area recorded record rainfall for May. Getting our morning walk in between downpours, was a challenge. We spent three days down in the basement listening to the unlimited theories of Game of Thrones, with intermission breaks battling – with buckets – a leaky laundry room. Catherine is one of a few homeowners in The Woods without a sump pump, so we spent most of last week manually sump pumping what we quickly dubbed “our dungeon”.

Finally, the rain let up and we saw our window to escape “cabin fever” by taking the train into the city. First stop, front and center, one of the top 10 art museums in the country: the Chicago Art Institute, the second largest art museum in the US. Take a stroll through countless art pieces, to see one of America’s largest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.

Woody & Hali are subjects in a Renoir painting
Renoir Replica at the Arts & Food Festival, Epcot

Must See Masterpieces

Did we see them all? Probably not. But we did see Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, Rembrandt and more.

When we landed in the American Collection, I was reminded of a paper I wrote for my Art Appreciation course. I wrote about this piece:

American Gothic original oil on beaverboard
Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930

Why not? I was in college, and suppose I didn’t pay much attention to the fine arts. My appreciation was directed elsewhere. My head was falling in love with Hali, only the finest of art. I chose American Gothic for its simplicity, its matter-of-factness, and I liked the artist’s name, Grant Wood. I also time-traveled to imagine me and Hali posing for this 1930 selfie in front of a farm house in Iowa.

Yeah, I could have chose a piece by El Greco, Monet or the others, but those guys seemed a little fancy pants for me. I went with Wood.

6 Facts You Might Not Know About American Gothic

  • The farmer was actually a dentist. Looking for a male model for American Gothic, Wood asked a favor of his dentist, 62 year-old Byron McKeeby.
  • The farmers’ wife was Grant Wood’s sister, Nan. The first choice for a female model was his mother, Hattie. But, mom couldn’t sit still that long, so his sister filled in.
  • Neither of the models posed together.
  • Wood painted the house, his sister, and his dentist in separate sessions.
  • The farm house, built in 1881, became a tourist attraction in 1991 when it was donated to Iowa’s Historic Society. Transformed into a museum, I’m pretty sure this is Iowa’s only tourist attraction. (Hopeful list!)
  • Grant Wood’s signature is hidden. If you look at the bottom right corner of the farmner’s overalls, you’ll see the artist’s name painted in a light blue, almost illegible against the denim.

After A Good Dose of Art…

It was time for a beer. Next stop, downtown Chicago’s diviest bar: Rossi’s. Cash only.

My kind of bar~The colorful neighborhood dive

Most of the patrons were drinking PBR tallboys, and strategizing some horse race coming up in an hour. We ordered a couple pints of the local IPA, drank ’em fast, and got out of there. Apparently, discussing sports, in particular the Kentucky Derby, and politics – in particular the Governor – in Illinois can be deadly.

That’s when I realized, we should have come here:

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

Caught the 6:10 train back to Glen Ellyn and reflected on some of the most incredible artwork we had just experienced. Tomorrow will be sunny, and the basement will dry out. Good time to finally get muddy in the yard with our bedding plants. We need to add some color. AND, for Mother’s Day, my gift for Carli’s mother is this week’s newsletter.

Happy Mother’s Day!

About Woody

We are a couple who took the first step toward a life of traveling in May, 2015. Staying within the continental US, we amp'd the adventure-factor by traveling in a VW Vanagon, circa 1985. Our mission is to share irresistible and compelling stories conceived from this lifestyle of travel.

5 thoughts on “Day Trippin’ Into Chicago

  1. Ruth Lambach

    In 1974 Hugo and I posed in front of the Grant Wood painting ‘American Gothic’ and used that photo to
    announce our forthcoming wedding in April 1974. I tried to duplicate the facial expression of the woman. It was not difficult to do.

    1. Hali

      I wonder how many people think to that. It is such an iconic image of Americana. The man in the painting was Wood’s dentist. Can’t recall who the woman was….

    1. Hali

      Wish it was an Apple watch… but they didn’t have Fitbits either! The picture you’re talking about was a two dimensional “head-in-hole” type of board, rather than our head going through a hole, we walked into the image. I did add a blur effect to our bodies to make it appear more paint-like.


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