Friday, September 3, 2010

Sabbatical: Melbourne

What does one do with a sabbatical? August 3, 2010 I got on an airplane and flew to Melbourne, Australia to meet my "new best friends," otherwise known as my tour mates on a Grand Circle Tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Australia, and the Outback/Red Center in particular, have been on my bucket list for years and years.Many years ago, long before I moved to Minnesota, I went to the SOFA Fair in Chicago and saw my first Australian Aboriginal Art, in the flesh, so to speak. I saw dot paintings of the central desert (The blurry jpg above is x-ray style from northern groups). I was blown away. I think I had been at least vaguely aware of Aboriginal Art before. But seeing the real thing ignited a hunger in me to learn more and see more and to GO THERE. It took probably 15 years to get there...but I am soglad I did.
The trip got off to an inauspicious start! By the time I got to Los Angeles I had lost my Target brand watch, left all my art & journal supplies and and my reading glasses in my living room and had my knee high stockings lose their elastic and fall down! Somehow I managed to get on the plane with a lined journal(which I mostly filled!), a ball point pen and a new watch and effortlessly pass over the international date line and the equator. Can't say I felt any different for it, other than not knowing what day it was. They said it was August 5.
Melbourne architecture is really, really interesting: an unusual blend of styles.Row houses with ornate ironwork reminiscent of San Francisco (this is a brothel); moorish architecture; victorian,edwardian and utterly modern. We did a brief orientation walking,free tram tour. We ate at Victoria Market, which is a huge semi open air market that reminds me of Chelsea Market in NYC. We had world famous sausage there. Then Susan Pomerantz, from Toronto, and I went blasting off on foot to find me art supplies which I found next to the art school(of course)and to go see Federation Square and the rail terminal.Federation Square looks like it might have been built by the same architect as the new Walker. It is beautiful trapezoidal angles and openwork in colors to remind the Australians of their land. Like our new Walker, it has been very controversial and like our new Walker has become a gathering place. It houses among many other things the National Gallery of Victoria where we saw some awe inspiring Aboringinal art and some awe inspiring contemporary art and some less inspiring (to me) 19th and early 20th century art.
On the second day I went to the Melbourne Art Fair, rather like the Navy Pier Show in Chicago. It was full of the biggest and best galleries in the southern hemisphere. What a treat. I saw magnificent Aboriginal art as well as whitefella art. Lots looked like art anywhere...but some seemed to reflect the Australian experience more. Melbourne did not feel foreign...maybe European...certainly cosmopolitan. It was clean, stylish and friendly.
On the third day we arose before dawn to fly to Alice Springs and the Red Center.
Note 1: Melbourne is pronounced "R" sound
Note 2: prostitution is legal in Australia and New Zealand, hence the brothel.
Note 3: The iron lacework was seen all over town on many 19th cen houses, not just on the brothel It became the fashion when the ships left their pig iron ballast behind.
Note 4: even in the big city the skies sounded different. The bird song was noticeably different.

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