Going around Philly


Standing at the Rocky Steps

Hello.

I am in Philadelphia. While standing at the bottom of the Rocky Steps, a band of musicians look at me and sing ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ (The Philadelphia Eagles Fight song).

I want to tell them that what they see on my either side are not wings but flippers. I want to tell them flying is overrated. Instead, I straighten my red bow, flap my flippers, and with all the endurance I could muster, I jump up the 72 stone steps that Rocky Balboa sped with ease. It works, they stop singing, and throw miniature soccer balls into the audience’ hands.

I waddle to where a larger-than-life hangs with a little crack along its body. The liberty bell is 250 years old, that’s the life span of my fellow water buddies – the tortoises. The bell, I learn, stands as a symbol of political and religious freedom of all people who make America their home.

As a proof of this, I see a bunch of Asians, practice Falun Gong, an ancient Chinese practice that combines meditation and martial arts, at the park right opposite to where the bell hangs.

People practising Falun Dafa

I walk on. Past City Hall, the largest municipal building in the United States, and Carpenters Hall, where the first continental congress meet was held to discuss the Americans’ grievances against Britain’s unjust laws. Past the Museum of American revolution, the Irish Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

I only stop to buy a block of cheese from the Reading Terminal Market, and watch kids and adults skate (some fall) at the ice rink in Penn’s Landing. Then I continue my walk past shiny and shimmery Ferraris and Maseratis at Simeone Foundation Automative Museum.

My bill begins to chatter as the first powdery snow of the year falls on my back. So I seek shelter in the Christ Church Neighborhood House, and sit for a play called The Boomerang Kid, until my tail unstiffens and claws uncurl.

D

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Day at the Museum


Where artworks come alive.


 

“Can you untie my hands please?” asks a man pressed against a wall by a ladder. We barf incoherent apologies and walk on.

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Orpheus Bound by Varujan Boghosian

Only to be stopped by another voice coming from a lady in white. “What you did there was not great. You know we are watching, don’t you?…”

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Mademoiselle Pogany [III] by Constantin Brancusi
“…your every move, all the time.”

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The Evil Eye by Enrico Donati

And just when we wonder how we can hear them all, we see this.

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So we walk up to Picasso in the hope of having a hearty conversation and sharing some laughs. But he continues to stare listlessly at no one in particular. He refuses to talk.

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Self-Portrait with Palette by Pablo Ruiz y Picasso

So does the little ballet dancer.

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Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

And Lady Eden.

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Portrait of Lady Eden by John Singer Sargent

Some see us approach and turn their backs.

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To the Universe by Rockwell Kent

Some others just bluntly ask us to go away.

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Pythian Sibyl by Marcello

The toddlers scurry away in fear.

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The Source of Life By Leon Frederic

Some simply start bawling.

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Boy with a rooster by Adriano Cecioni

At this point, the golden girl Diana is almost tempted to release her bow.

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Diana by Augustus Saint Gaudens

So we seek refuge in the company of Andy Warhol’s Joseph Bueys, who seems to be the only one with kind eyes.

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Joseph Bueys by Andy Warhol

Maybe the trick is to see the artworks through a new pair of lens, his look suggests.

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Probably then, the art shall reveal some mystic truths.

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You might be welcomed with a dance.

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Tambourine Dancer I by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Some music.

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Sonata by Marcel Duchamp

And a vase of flowers.

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Sunflowers by Vincent Willem van Gogh

Served fish.

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And cigar.

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Dreams by Varujan Boghosian

And who knows, you might even be able to strike a conversation.

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Boy with Toy Soldiers by Antonio Mancini

With those who seem as keen to talk to you as you are to see them.

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Portrait of Madame Renoir by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

 

The mysterious Little Dancer


She is everywhere.


I have a new mission in life. To see all the 28 Little Dancers.

I know it’s a little crazy, but what’s crazier is the story behind the sculpture which is so stunningly realistic.

When I was in Museum of Fine Arts Boston last month, I was recommended Edgar Degas’ The Little Dancer as a must-see. And I did. Safe within the glass walls, the 14-year-old ballet dancer stood with her head held high. The expression of dignity stealing the focus off from the rest of her that screams of poverty. The tights are lumpy and the fabric on the tutu looks like a piece of rag.

A month later, my husband and I were at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and I see the same piece in the gallery. This time out of its glass case. How could this be? Is this piece on rotation?

And then I read the story.

As it turns out, it’s not the same one. This Little Dancer, like the one I saw in Boston, was completed much after Edgar Degas death in 1917. But… why does it say that Degas is the creator?

Flashback to 1881. The gates open to the display of select artworks at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. One among them is Degas’ The Little Dancer. However, she is not made out of bronze, but out of wax. She is wearing linen slippers, cotton and silk tutu, and a wig of real hair! Art critics devour the work. Some find it tasteful, some others think it looks like a monkey.

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The Little Dancer at Philadelphia Museum of Art

Unsold, The Little Dancer is back in Degas’ studio. And it lies among 150 other similar looking wax and clay sculptures at the studio. All of them look like clones of Marie Genevieve Von Goethem, who modeled for it. She was a young ballet dancer who, as a means to earn some extra cash, stood as a model for Degas. What she will never have the fortune to know is that she is today worth close to 18 million dollars.

This was the only sculpture Degas ever exhibited. After his death, in 1922, 28 Little Dancers were cast in Bronze and are now housed in the best of museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Tate Modern, London among others.

I have seen two of them (in Boston and Philadelphia), and it has only left me wanting to see the rest.


References: The Telegraph, Google Arts and Culture, National Gallery of Art, Tripsavvy