Discerning Eye Blog Dr. Leslie Hammond

01/30/13 - 72 Hours - Road Trip Houston

During part of this past MLK weekend, I completed a seriously condensed round trip, road trip from Ocala, Florida to Houston, Texas; thank you wingman McCall. The New York Times has a travel series call “36 hours in…” in which a city is explored during a weekend. Houston was also recently featured in the New York Times as one of the top 46 destinations for 2013. A requisite business trip results in my “Artistic Eye-View” of literally 36 hours in Houston.

Interstate 75 North at 6:30am (EST) and arrival in Houston about 11 pm (CST) necessitated only two significant stops: lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp Grill on Mobile Bay in AL and dinner at Blue Dog Café in Lafayette, LA. The Blue Dog Café was unwittingly discovery by my wingman via his smart phone while I was driving. When we arrived and I saw the sign, a light bulb illuminated; this was THE Blue Dog artist of New Orleans, George Rodrigue. Coincidentally, a work by this artist was the subject of an assignment earlier in 2012.

Having one business day to explore Houston, I had to my prioritized my goals: The Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I have known about The Menil Collection since the early 1990s when a traveling exhibit I was working on borrowed some ancient art from their collection. In addition to the stellar examples of ancient Mediterranean and African art, I was also anxious to experience the Rothko Chapel. My only previous enveloping Rothko experience was in the Rothko Room at the Phillip Collection in Washington D.C. Clearly that made an impression, but the Chapel, being a complete structure and experience unto itself brought serenity to the senses.

At the MFA-Houston many collections I hoped to see were closed for reinstallation including the American and 20th Century collections as well as the Arts of the Islamic World. However, there were plenty other stunning artworks to fill my afternoon including their featured special exhibit “Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.” A few of the permanent collection highlights included Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Tiger on the Watch (detail), an ancient Egyptian life-size gilded-wood and bronze sculpture of an Ibis, and a mid-18th Century Fly Whisk from India carved from a single elephant tusk. The latter seemingly defies physics with its whisper thin slivers of ivory comprising the hairs of the whisk.

Friday concluded with a glass of wine at The Tasting Room-Uptown Park with colleagues followed by dinner at the recommended Indian restaurant Pondicheri which exceeded expectations. Saturday morning the subject property was collected and safely packed for the long return drive. Despite the virtually non-stop trip, all arrived safely about 3:45am Sunday; thus ending the 72 hour, 1900 plus mile adventure.

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