Friday, July 02, 2004

Jeff's Day Off

Well, actually it was an afternoon, but it was enough. After another 50+ hour week, I knocked off at noon, came home, pilled the cat, and headed out to Cap Hill.

Capitol Hill is one of several counterculture neighborhoods in Seattle (Fremont, Alki,and Green Lake also come to mind). It gets its name from the fact that the State Capital was going to be there. Actually, the Capital ended up being a little further south. In Olympia. But the name stuck, and its Cap Hill and its one of those creative and strange hubs in the Seattle area.

Actually, I ended up at the Frye Museum on First Hill (the hill closer to the downtown) first. The Frye is one of my favorite museums in Seattle, and probably one of the least-known. Here's the story in a nutshell. Charles Frye (and wife Emma) made it big in meat-packing during the Gold Rush Years, and starting collecting art, with an eye towards the more realistic painters of Germany, France, and the US of the end of the last century. When they passed on, the collection was to be left to a museum that would exhibit the works for free. No one took up that offer, and as a result, the Frye Museum itself came about. In addition to a great collection of mid-to-late 18th Century art (You ever heard of the Munich Succession? Me neither, until they had an exhibit on it), they have great curated shows. A show of Mucha prints that ran when I first came out here. Western watercolors. Holocaust dioramas made out of Legos. Its a very small but very rich museum which always surprises me.

Case in point. I look three steps into the lobby and immediately swung left, attracted by a picture of three red "Barrel of Monkeys" monkeys (the ones with the question mark arms) on a plate with a mousetrap next to it. It was a still life, but unlike any I had seen. Most still life art I've seen has been of the late 18th/ early 19th - flowers, bowls with fruit, that sort of thing. Seeing such a mundane and modern presentation just floored me for the moment, and halted me in my tracks, literally slack-jawed.

The artist is named Steve Fraser and he does amazing work that mixes the modern with the traditional and the transient with the truthful. A skull in bubble wrap. Goldfish crackers laid out in patterns. "See no evil/Hear no evil/Speak no evil" worked out with pears. Stuff that has both whimsy and deeper feelings beneath it. I can see why I've always disconnected with Still Life art in the past - those were historic records for me, while this was amazing and contemporary in a way that much modern art fails to be.

So I picked up a book at the Museum shop (The museum, as I noted, is free, but this is the third time I've been there that I've ended up picking up a book connected with the exhibit there, something I'm usually immune to). And the young woman behind the counter was former WotC and recognized me, and we chatted about the state of the company. I mentioned I was doing web design and she recommended a book on Information Architecture.

Then I hit Broadway, the spine that runs down the length of Cap Hill. Its a great people-watching neighborhood -a lot of young people, strangely colored hair, and locals with pets. Hit a couple bookstores (including Twice-Sold Tales, a used bookstore run by the widest cats in Christendom (and a few support-humans to run the register). Got a short story collection that included a nonfiction piece on the real-world events that inspired The African Queen and a book on the supposed Chinese discovery of America in 1421. Sat for an hour at a coffee house and watched humanity swirl by. I tried to locate another former WotCer who has been our administrative assistant, but her goth art shop had since been replaced by a bondage boutique. On the other hand, a new "Museum of the Strange" opened up near the north end of Broadway, which covered Fortean subjects (Bigfoots, UFOs - they were going have a Weird Science meeting this evening and create some ball lightning, but I had other plans).

And then on to a movie with Michael Moore. No, not the one everyone is talking about, but rather The Corporation, which was very good but very long (the seats at the Harvard Exit theater were not made for 2 1/2 hour marathons). Actually, the movie review should get its own entry, so I'll give it one next time, since I am still digesting it all.

And home. And while it was but a mere afternoon, I felt I got more accomplished for myself then I had in a very, very busy week.

More later,