Monday, July 5, 2010

Stone, Wood, and Wonder

"Please have ID ready and I need to see your shoes." The security guard repeats as we wait in line at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met as it likes to be called, is showing a very unique exhibit, The Big Bambu by Doug and Mike Starn, twin brothers from New Jersey. As we left the house at 8:45AM my son slipped on his sliders and hurried to the car. They only sell tickets at certain times and we wanted to get there in time to get tickets on the early side. It was not until we were half way there that my wife asked if everyone had sneakers on, and this is where we ran into our problem. I inventoried the activity basket in the back of the car in my head: basketball, football, frisbee, flip flops, and soccer cleats. "Maybe the soccer cleats will be OK?" We arrive at The Met and I drop my wife and son off at the front and I go park the car. After parking, I rummage around the back of the car and see something better than the cleats, I have a plan. I run back to the museum and my wife and son are next in line, I quickly pull my son over to the side and I implement my plan. The guard is now checking our ID and inspects our shoes, My wife is wearing deck shoes, I am wearing my running shoes and my son is wearing my size ten water shoes with thick black socks, the guard looks at his oversized feet and takes a quick double take, and waves us through. Plan worked, tickets in hand.

We secure a 12 noon tour time so we have about 1 1/2 hours to kill inside and my son immediately suggests the Greek and Roman Galleries. My son has been reading a lot about the Greek Gods and wanted to see these story book figures in larger than life images. My wife and I cannot keep up with him while he scurries from statue to head piece to large display depicting the ancient myths. "That one is Athena, and over there is Hercules!" He checks off in his memory. We walk through the great hall, bright light shining through the glass ceiling, with the majestic bodies of gods, goddesses and other mythical extras overseeing us, peering down from Mt. Olympus. We read the short bio attached to each cast, and imagine our own reactions if we lived during their time. No narration ending happily.

The tour guide walk us up the one flight of stairs and to the rooftop door. Its 12:15PM, time for our first view of the Big Bambu. The hot bright sun hits our face like a freight train but the first glance at the Big Bambu transports you to an amazing place. You feel like you are walking into a living ecosystem as you step under the structure and stand at the minimal bamboo gate. When you first motion onto the bamboo steps you hear little snaps and creaks as the organism gauges your weight and accepts you in. We stop at the first landing, 15 feet above the roof, which is about 10 stories above the street below. The tour guide describes the two artists, a history of their past works and the origin of this on-going installation. The guide points out the small rope ties holding the exoskeleton and the bamboo acting like tendons, wrapping around and through, in a chaotic design of strength and balance. We make our way up to the next landing, a long ramp skyward another 10 feet and look out over Central Park like a bird sitting in a high rise nest. My son is cautions, but not reluctant as he advances upward like a mountain climber reaching the summit. The guide points out that the brother's vision is reminiscent of a ocean wave and as you look across from the highest point you see the bamboo rise and curl downward and rise again like a surfers wet dream. You sense the organic feel of the art as you descend inside of it towards the bottom. "It feels like an old wooden roller coaster car rumbling under the massive framework above." one man points out while someone else says the pathway reminds them of muscle fibers stretching around bone. My son is speechless as his size 10 water shoes step onto the rooftop once again. We spend another 1/2 hour taking pictures and just walking under the bamboo creature standing above, overseeing the visitors on the roof and the other life forms inhabiting Central Park.

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