Hibernation Days

After a lovely December working in residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute, I found myself without any travel plans or art residency reservations until March. Not my ideal scenario at the onset of my sabbatical year, I admit, but it turned out that the downtime was just what I needed by that point. Six solid months of residencies and travel, and I was ready for a break!

And so, I headed to cold and snowy Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Drew was living at the time because of his PhD program at the University of Michigan – it’s the land of “Go Blue!” and giant letter M’s where they take school pride to a whole new level… IMG_2318 11.48.15 PM

IMG_1562 6.42.39 PM IMG_1798

Look closely... the U of M pride of this house is a bit 'classier' than others, but it's definitely there...

Look closely… the U of M pride of this house is a bit ‘classier’ than others, but it’s definitely there…

But no matter. I get to live with my boyfriend whom I haven’t seen for more than a week in four months AND play in the snow while I’m at it? Yes, please! IMG_1571 6.42.39 PM

All in all, it was a quiet and cold two months out there in America’s Midwest. I think this picture sums it up pretty well… IMG_2256 11.39.32 PM

It really is cold in Michigan in January and February. Really, really, REALLY cold. Did I mention that it is COLD!? (Remember, I’m a southerner at heart)… IMG_1836 IMG_1599 6.42.39 PM

And it’s grey too – day after day of nothing but grey skies. I could probably count the number of sunny days that we had in two months on two hands. Seriously. Not the easiest thing for this sunshine-lover to take. It was so consistently grey that a sunny day was an ‘event,’ always noted amongst friends and strangers alike. The checkout clerk at the grocery store might hand you your change, tell you to have a nice day and to “enjoy the sun out there!” The appearance of the sun is a BIG deal – when something is that rare, how could it not be?! (Looking at the photos for this blog post, it seems I subconsciously did most of my photographing on those few precious sunny days. Please don’t be fooled – Ann Arbor is not a sunny place in the winter time. I repeat: NOT a sunny place!)

Between the cold grey outside and me being generally worn out from the previous six months’ travel, most of my days were spent restfully indoors – at coffee shops reading, journaling, and working on my blog… IMG_2335 12.18.10 AM

…or in Drew’s tiny studio apartment where I had set up a ‘mini-studio’ of my own to work on small commissions and other miscellaneous projects… IMG_1565 6.42.39 PM IMG_1688 9.20.47 PM IMG_2323 12.18.10 AM

My  tiny 'studio' in a studio apartment...

Tiny ‘studio’ within a studio…

When I was brave enough to venture out into the freezing temperatures, I took walks through town…

Drew's quiet residential neighborhood...

Drew’s quiet residential neighborhood…

... with a lovely church on the corner...

… with a lovely church on the corner…

IMG_1668 9.20.47 PM

State St. - the commercial hub of central campus...

State St. – a commercial hub near the university…

… or along the banks of the frozen river… IMG_2307 11.48.15 PM IMG_2303 11.48.15 PM IMG_2188 5.09.59 PM IMG_2311 11.48.15 PM

… and through the University’s amazing arboretumIMG_1583 6.42.39 PM IMG_1577 6.42.39 PM IMG_1581 6.42.39 PM IMG_1584 6.42.39 PM

…and through the University of Michigan’s campus, of course… IMG_1796 IMG_1795

One of my favorite things to walk past on campus - the greenhouse on one of the main quads...

One of my favorite things to walk past on campus – the greenhouse on one of the main quads…

The campus (and most of town) is crawling with what might be the most adorable squirrel population of all time (aside from those majestic Tassel-eared squirrels we found in New Mexico, of course). These mid-western red-haired buddies eat quite well out of university trash cans and bird-feeders, which results in them being just as fat and cute as can be… IMG_1672 9.20.47 PM IMG_1670 9.20.47 PM

They are surprisingly tame, and I’ve heard rumors that they will quite literally eat out of your hands. And apparently, there is a squirrel fan-club at the University. (No, really. This is a real thing. They even have a website!) I have a feeling this guy I found feeding his furry friends might be a member… IMG_1878(When did this blog become all about squirrels?! Not quite sure how this happened – so sorry).

Another cute-but-slightly-odd thing you can find scattered around campus in the winter time are the snowmen. I guess college students + spare time + snow = snowmen everywhere! Not an unreasonable equation, I suppose. Of course, these being college students, the designs for these snowmen range from ‘classic’ to …ummm… ‘naughty’…     IMG_1570 6.42.39 PM                IMG_1590 6.42.39 PM

And sometimes they dispense with the idea of snow-people all together… IMG_1646 6.57.23 PM

Another oddity you can find around town are these admittedly tacky, but kind of fun bike racks (I mean, who doesn’t want to lock their bike to a giant carrot?)… IMG_1557 6.42.39 PM IMG_1667 9.20.47 PM IMG_1799

When it was time to warm up after one of my long walks, the University of Michigan Museum of Art fit the bill quite nicely. I was excited to find pieces by Kara Walker and Jenny Holzer there… IMG_1802 IMG_1804 IMG_1811

Kara Walker - oh how I love you...

Kara Walker – oh, how I love you…

And Jenny Holzer - I love you a bit less, but you're still great...

And Jenny Holzer – I love you a bit less, but you’re still great…

Popping into the weekly farmer’s market in Kerrytown always made for a pleasant -if not cold and a wee-bit overpriced- outing… IMG_1658 6.57.23 PM IMG_1659 6.57.23 PM

Being in Ann Arbor reminded me a lot of my college years at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. (In fact, I often jokingly referred to Ann Arbor and U of M as “UNC-Midwest”). Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill both have that ‘college town’ vibe with their large student populations and small commercial hubs of businesses that rely almost exclusively on student dollars. But Ann Arbor has an actual ‘downtown’ area that -albeit small- feels removed from the campus, which is quite refreshing. (The folks in Chapel Hill aren’t so lucky). We spent many an evening there, eating out and sharing beers with friends from Drew’s grad school cohort… IMG_1692 9.20.47 PM IMG_1690 9.20.47 PM

Other night time activities included the occasional sledding trip in a park down the hill from Drew’s apartment…

Happily on our way...

Happily on our way with our cardboard boxes because… umm… no sled. But no matter! Who needs a sled when you have a cardboard box!?

Not an enormous hill, but it'll do...

Not an enormous hill, but it worked…

IMG_1871                         IMG_1869

We managed to find some fun outside of Ann Arbor as well. We spent a great weekend in Chicago visiting friends and admiring the city’s amazing architecture… IMG_1718 9.40.44 PM     IMG_1704 9.40.44 PM                IMG_1738 9.40.44 PM IMG_1782 9.47.27 PM IMG_1777 9.47.27 PM IMG_1781 9.47.27 PM IMG_1772 9.47.27 PM

I got to see the

I got to see the “Adventures in Babysitting” building! A true child of the 1980’s, I was probably a bit too excited about this…

While there, I finally managed to find a few pieces of public art that I genuinely like – a rarity for me. Most of the time, I find large pieces of public sculpture aesthetically unappealing and, more often than not, a nuisance to the flow of a public space rather than something that actually enhances the space. However, Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate,” affectionately referred to as ‘the Bean’ by locals, is quite beautiful, and -more importantly to me- is a piece of public art that the public actually wants to engage with. People crowd around, take pictures, stare at the distorted reflections in the surface of the sculpture, and laugh at themselves… IMG_1761 9.47.27 PM IMG_1745 9.47.27 PM IMG_1746 9.47.27 PM IMG_1749 9.47.27 PM IMG_1750 9.47.27 PM

We were amongst the crowds of gawkers and silly-picture-takers, of course...

Of course, we were right in there too, amongst the crowds of gawkers and silly-picture-takers…

Just a few steps further into the park where “Cloud Gate” is located, you find Juame Plensa’s “Crown Fountain” in which human faces become just as monumental as the grand buildings that surround them – brilliant… IMG_1767 9.47.27 PM IMG_1763 9.47.27 PM

It wasn’t functioning while we were there because of the cold, but in the summer months, these sculptures spout out water, creating a large open fountain in which kids play in to stay cool. All this public art that people actually want to engage with!? Can it be? So refreshing! (Philly, please take note – a large clothespin will no longer cut it).

While living in Ann Arbor, I also took a very quick ‘field trip’ to nearby Detroit for a few hours… IMG_2219 11.39.32 PM

Although I didn’t get to see nearly enough of the city, I did manage a short visit to Belle Isle Park, on an island in the middle of the Detroit river… IMG_2257 11.39.32 PM

It was very windy on that February day, and out there on the island, I think I felt the coldest I had all winter long – perhaps the coldest I’ve ever felt in my life! It was a just a whole new level of cold – I mean, wow. Again, for good measure…

IMG_2256 11.39.32 PM

BUT it was gorgeous in its deserted, grey, wintery way… IMG_2250 11.39.32 PM IMG_2249 11.39.32 PM

The island sits between the U.S. mainland and Windsor, Canada… Hello Canada! IMG_2220 11.39.32 PM

And ever on the look-out (apparently), I found this interesting little black squirrel there – a unique sighting for this here amateur squirrel-watcher…

Again, with the squirrels! What is this blog coming to!?

Again, with the squirrels! What is this blog coming to!?

While in Detroit, I also had the chance to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum (DIA) where I stumbled upon a small but great marionette exhibit… IMG_2296 11.39.32 PM IMG_2291 11.39.32 PM IMG_2289 11.39.32 PM

… and an excellent exhibition of photographs taken in Detroit with work by Robert Frank, Henri Brassai and other photo greats… IMG_2293 11.39.32 PM

… and, of course, I spent a lot of time with Diego Rivera’s incredible “Detroit Industry Murals” – what amazing frescoes and what an amazing space to create them in! IMG_2269 11.39.32 PM IMG_2277 11.39.32 PM IMG_2276 11.39.32 PM IMG_2272 11.39.32 PM IMG_2275 11.39.32 PM

In all of my outings from Ann Arbor, I even managed to get a little break from the cold, wintery Midwest. A quick plane ride, and I was back down south visiting my family in Tennessee, where I walked through the woods and basked in the warm sunshine on my mother’s porch… IMG_2090 9.48.01 PM IMG_2096 9.48.01 PM IMG_2115 9.48.01 PM       IMG_2112 9.48.01 PM

I also visited family in Georgia where you would *think* I enjoyed more warm weather, but… ummm… no. IMG_2010 IMG_2040

Between all the snow in Santa Fe, Ann Arbor, and Georgia (of all places!), this may have been the snowiest winter I’ve experienced to date! (Well… with the exception of the winter my family lived in Minneapolis, I guess. But I was only 6 months old at the time and don’t remember a thing so… you know… it doesn’t really count)… IMG_2011

And so it went… with the exception of a few trips here and there, it was a quiet, cold, snowy, and restful two months of winter hibernation out there in the Midwest. Good thing, too, because I needed to prepare myself for the next three months ahead. Paris-bound and tasked with finishing my large dollhouse embroidery project at an upcoming residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts, I needed the rest!

3 thoughts on “Hibernation Days

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s