October 7, 2010

September 30: Dia:Beacon

Dia - Beacon 04, originally uploaded by Rodger Coleman.

THU SEP 30: We had to get up at the ungodly hour of 3:00 AM to catch our six o’clock flight from Nashville to Newark. We had checked the weather reports for New York the night before and it looked particularly grim. Tropical Storm Nicole was crawling up the coast, dumping ridiculous amounts of rain along the way. After the flood we experienced here in May, I am extremely skittish about heavy rains and I have to admit we seriously contemplated canceling our trip. But we really wanted to attend Scott and Rose’s wedding, especially because we had been advocating this union ever since we met her! Besides, it would seem grievously wimpy to let a little rain get in the way: it’s not like they were predicting snow and ice, fer crissakes. So we forged ahead.

Despite the agony of getting up in the middle of the night, it was a good thing we left when we did. Our flight was on time and although the descent into Newark was extremely bumpy (it felt at times like were were going to fall out of the sky!), we arrived around 9:00 AM EST. It was dark and rainy, but not the kind of torrential downpour I was expecting. So far so good. We decided to rent a GPS with the car (a decent little Hyundai) and thank goodness we did. While “Ms. Garmin” inexplicably took us on a tour of downtown Newark, she always got us to our various destinations, including some very out of the way places that would have been difficult to find with just a map. Well worth the ten bucks she cost. The rain was steady but not too heavy all the way to Beacon, New York, where we stopped at Dia:Beacon, a museum of contemporary art housed in a reclaimed Nabisco box-printing plant on the Hudson River that opened in 2003. We made decent time and arrived a little before 11:00 AM EST.

To be honest, a lot of this kind of art leaves me cold. I like to think of myself as radically open-minded and committedly avant garde, but a lot of “conceptual” art fails to impress me. Nevertheless, Lizzy’s enthusiasm for Dan Flavin’s fluorescent lighting sculptures (for instance) makes me question my own biases. In any event, the space is magnificent, with vast open spaces, exposed red brick, beautifully battered wood floors and angled skylights filling the rooms with the soft natural light of a cloudy day. Each set of galleries is devoted to a single artist, so one is immersed an oeuvre and allowed to dive deep into their psyches and obessions. The monumental Sol Lewitt wall drawings and the numerous “white paintings” of Robert Ryman were especially revelatory (and aesthetically pleasing to me). Additionally, the several massive Richard Serra sculptures created an oppressively claustrophobic atmosphere, as if they had been rudely shoved into space several sizes too small (but otherwise enormous), eliciting an intensely visceral response that would otherwise (for me) dissipate in the open air, where his torqued steel works are usually displayed. Sadly, the rain was really coming down and we were unable to explore the grounds and gardens (designed by Robert Irwin). Instead, we had a remarkably delicious lunch at the museum café. We were stunned to realize that we had traveled all the way from Nashville and pretty thoroughly experienced Dia:Beacon—and it was only 12:30 our time! For a couple of homebodies, this seemed completely insane.

We made our way in the rain to our hotel in Fishkill, where we took a much-needed nap before dinner. The hotel was conveniently located right next to the I-84 Diner, a genuine 1950s diner, all chrome, glass and neon. I really wanted to take a photograph of it glittering in the rain, but it was just too miserable out and I didn’t want to risk wrecking my camera. Dumb. It would have made for a great picture! The ambience and food were everything you could hope from such a place and it left us sated and sleepy. However, the weather was only getting worse and worse. We were glad we made it thus far, but what was tomorrow going to bring? Storm King is an outdoor sculpture park, after all. Plus we had a two-hour drive into the Catskills ahead of us either way. We turned on the TV to distract us from any such worries and drifted off to sleep.

1 comment:

Nancy Lutz said...

We're so glad you enjoyed your visit to Dia: Beacon. You did have quite the road trip! For suggestions on museums and historic estates to visit, or for others planning a trip to the heart of the Hudson Valley, visit us at www.DutchessTourism.com!