There’s one perfect fit. And, sugar, this one is it.

We saw a special exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art while in town for the holiday. Three of Monet’s water lilies panels were reunited for the first time in decades. I know some people are sick of Monet and his water lilies but I have to confess something. We got there when the museum opened and while standing in an empty, dimly-lit gallery in front of these three master works, I had a moment. Something washed over me. I’m not a skilled enough writer or photographer to replicate the sensation. But whatever Monet intended, for that one fleeting moment, it worked. I got it.

Cleveland owns the panel on the left. The others are in the St. Louis Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, which seems idiotic when you see them together. This is clearly one painting, not three. Broken apart, they seem incomplete. Not whole.

Water Lilies (Agapanthus), c. 1915-26

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I walked into the gallery and saw The Daughter sitting in front of the paintings. I thought she was talking on her cell phone and it made me blue. But she wasn’t. She was listening to the audio guide. So that’s a small victory.

I love the Cleveland Museum of Art. It’s a world-class collection that rivals those in New York, Paris or London. And that’s not one of my witty sarcasms. It’s the truth. When I walk through the galleries and see the permanent collection, it’s like visiting old friends.

Bonus track. Mysterious and haunting.

Jean-Léon Gérôme
Woman with a Veil
Bronze, c. 1891

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coffee

I was unaware of stroke prevention but I already knew that coffee prevents suicide.

Complementary, not opposing, forces.

Last week while visiting my family in Cleveland, I treated the girlies to two diametrically opposing forms of entertainment. As I’ve stated previously, it’s important to expand their tiny little minds by exposing them to high art, but it’s just as important to keep them grounded by sampling the more visceral forms of fun.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a kick ass, world class collection. Their special exhibits will also whoop yo’ ass. The museum recently had a major structural revamping. The results are spectacular. Currently on display in the new, humongous, light-filled atrium is Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. Twelve bronze sculptures represent the Chinese zodiac.

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I saw this exhibit last year when it was mounted around the fountains outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan and am happy to make their acquaintance again. They’re playful and a little bit nightmarish. The detail is extraordinary.

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Do you know your Chinese zodiac symbol? I’m a bore. Oh…excuse me…I mean a boar. Daughter the First is a snake.

art3Currently on a five-year loan is Damien Hirst’s Bringing Forth the Fruits of Righteousness from Darkness. These beautiful cathedral windows are made of…wait for it…

art4Butterfly wings. For real. He bred the butterflies specifically for these works. A lot of people think Hirst is a joke and I agree, he can irritate. His Spot paintings are idiotic. But I also think this guy can really turn out a spectacle. I still think his great white shark in formaldehyde was a scream.

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My bride explaining to Daughter #2 that Degas was laughed at for painting dancers tying their shoes instead of dancing.

art6Here’s another special exhibit to die for. Damián Ortega’s The Blast and Other Embers. It’s a suspended sculpture of found objects and tools. Every object emanates from the center outward. Its shape looks globular from a few paces back. Beautiful.

art7They only allow ten people at a time into the “glass box” space. Any more would spoil the effect. The sculpture has an opening in the center that allows you to walk through it.

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*     *     *

A few evenings later, I dragged their now-cultured asses to the premier event of the Cuyahoga County Fair: the demolition derby. Do you guys know what a demolition derby is? Have you ever been to one?

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For the uninitiated, some wildly spray-painted, beat-up cars with their windows knocked out drive into a ring and then repeatedly smash into one another until only one is still running. It’s awesome. There are a half dozen races, all segmented by car size, my favorite being suburban minivans. Here’s a clip of the compact car division.

If you’re having a hard time viewing the video, it’s a lot of this:

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Of course, something went horribly wrong.

The girlies were actually pretty freaked out about the fire. At the :16 second mark Daughter #1 says:

“Daddy! I want to leave now!”

“It’s okay.”

“No it’s not! It’s going to blow up!”

“No, it won’t.”

Then, of course, a giant flare-up at :27 seconds. Probably the gas tank.

Again, for those without video:demo3

My brother, brother-in-law, and I, along with the rest of the toothless clods in the grandstand, couldn’t stop laughing. Fathers of the year. It probably wouldn’t have been quite so funny if one of the drivers had crawled out of the wreckage engulfed in flames.

Had a crazy roommate who cut off his earlobe

Whilst in Cleveland I took The Daughters to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see the Paul Gauguin: Paris: 1889 exhibit. It was fortuitous that we were in town for it because Cleveland is the only U.S. stop. After Clevo, it heads to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. What a coup for Cleveland!

The show recreates the exhibition that Gauguin organized on the grounds of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which is now recognized as the first Symbolist exhibition in Paris. It included In The Waves, one of my favorite not-Polynesian Gauguin’s.

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Were you aware that the Cleveland Museum of Art has one of the greatest art collections in the country? It’s true! It can easily hold it’s own against the big houses in New York. They have some spectacular Calder mobiles and sculptures. I love Calder. So did the kids.

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One of my proudest moments so far as a parent occurred when we turned a corner and 8-Year Old Daughter casually said, “Look, Dad, there’s a Pollock.” My work is almost complete.

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Here’s something to tuck away in case you visit a museum in the near future: 3-years old is WAY, WAY, WAY too young for an art museum. Their attention span just isn’t there yet and you’ll have to divide your time between worshiping the art and making sure she doesn’t climb on the Degas sculpture pedestal. Just so you know.

3-Year Old Daughter did stop long enough to admire the Red Grooms diorama of New York. This scene is the corner of Broadway and Canal Street. Click on this one! Red Grooms and Alexander Calder are the most kid-friendly artists you’ll find in any museum, anywhere.

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3-Year Old Daughter got her first face-full of Monet’s water lilies. She was not impressed. Yet…

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The museum also has a pretty impressive collection of medieval armor and weapons. 3-Year Old dared him to climb down off of that horse.

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