Take your pants off
Before you fight. – Yoko Ono
I’m shocked that it took me so long to visit the Taubman Museum of Art, just down the mountain in Roanoke. We (a couple of close friends and I) went for the last day of the Yoko Ono Imagine Peace exhibit, an interactive, mostly retrospective show featuring John and Yoko’s Year of Peace activism. It was well worth the trip, and we discovered so much more than the Imagine Peace show.
The Taubman (formerly the Art Musuem of Western Virginia) opened its new impressive building in the city’s historic Market district in 2008. The museum’s current 50 piece exhibit, Reunion, highlights pieces from its much larger permanent collection and includes works by well-known artists of the past like John Singer Sargent (far right), Norman Rockwell and Winslow Homer. The sculpture pictured in the forefront is a contemporary piece done by Roanoke artist Betty Branch.
It’s a small world, after all, even when you go down the mountain. We bumped into some Floyd friends in the room where the movie of the John and Yoko’s week-long Bed-in for Peace to protest of the Vietnam War was running. After that I spotted Roanoke artist and activist Polly Branch (daughter of Betty Branch) writing down a wish to hang on Yoko’s Wishing Tree.
My friend Katherine got into the world map exhibit and stamping Imagine Peace all over it. Yoko’s instruction for this new installation was to stamp peace on the places we think needs it.
It took me a few minutes to get that Yoko’s over-sized chess board was all white so that players could not take sides. “Play it by trust,” the Conceptual Artist suggests. It was another interactive installation, and some did try to play the metaphor.
I wish I had known that all the wishes hanging on Wishing Tree were going to be delivered to the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER (a memorial to John by Yoko) in Iceland, to shine on eternally with more than a million previously collected wishes. I read about that after I made my wish and might have been more mindful if I had known.
I think the exhibit in this room was called Ambiguity and Interface: Art Across the Spectrum. There were some thoughtful, stunning and whimsical pieces in a variety of mediums displayed. I took this photo of a color spectrum of bricks for my potter son Josh, who loves, collects and frequently makes bricks. Read about his connection with bricks in He Gets a Kick out of Bricks HERE.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the day’s experiences was coming upon the This Light of Ours exhibit, a chronicle of the Civil Rights Movement by a collection of activist photographers.
“How did we not know about this?” we said to each other, as we moved from room to room with stunned looks on our faces, taking in the hate, solidarity, struggle, death (MLK) and triumph the photographs so plainly conveyed. This particular exhibit is up for one more week (with next Saturday being the last day), and I encourage others to make the effort to see it. You won’t be disappointed.
Good art can make me feel as if I’m coming unglued. Some of the paintings in the Reunion exhibit made me breathe deeply and feel transported. The documentary photographs in This Light of Ours reached deeply, taught and moved me. The Peace exhibit expanded me, showed me the possibilities and reminded me of my roots. It was a good reminder of the influence Yoko Ono has had on me, from the late 60’s when I carried her book Grapefruit around. Even the architecture of the building was an inspiration that delighted me.
I can’t think of a better mini-vacation. We promised each other that we would make the Taubman a regular destination in our lives.
Post notes: Sorry I didn’t get a shot of the outside of the building. It’s striking. You can see a picture HERE. Watch for an upcoming show (February 15 to May 17, 2014) at the Taubman, titled The Great Road: Contemporary Wood-fired Ceramics. My son Josh Copus will have some work in the exhibit. This post is linked to Our World Tuesday.