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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Extreme Materials

You'd never know it to read this blog but I actually live near three of Rochester's four large museums. And the fourth is a short walk away.
The most famous museum here is of course the George Eastman House, home of Kodak's founder and one of the best repositories of historic photographic and motion picture materials in the world.
Eastman's house is on East Avenue. I live on Park Avenue. East Avenue is the 'Park Avenue' of Rochester. It boasts literally dozens of magnificent houses from 1890-1920, most of them either broken up into offices or condos. A few, thankfully only a few, were demolished in the Depression. I am talking about seriously large mansions and Eastman House is definitely the largest.
Mr. Eastman was so rich that
that when he didn't like the proportions of his new conservatory room he asked that the house be sawed in half and moved back nine feet. He also insisted that the water and electricity keep running while this was being done. The year was 1904. When told this could not be done, Mr. Eastman said, 'Of course it can', paid what was necessary, had it done and kept his hot tea and reading lights going at the same time. It is difficult to think of someone being able to move half of a mansion intact with 'modern' technology. Most likely in 1904 it was moved with horses! The conservatory is well proportioned and a slightly different hue to one section of the marble floor is the only sign of the surgery that survives.
The biggest elephant head I've ever seen looks down at you from the high wall. Unfortunately Mr. Eastman was into that Guy Thing of the early 20th century that had people killing stuff Because They Could. One of his desks is covered in hippopotamus hide from an animal he killed, and he used to joke that 'I shot the desk'.
The Dryden Theatre is part of Eastman House and it shows the best movies in town. I'm a member but what with one thing and the other do not get there much because of ...well, the book, and work.
I literally live right next door to the Science Museum, which boasts a nice telescope on the roof which is always open free to the public on Saturday nights. It dates from the 1960s but is still serviceable, and in the nice weather I go next door to literally see what is up after 9 PM.
I'm not enough of a geek to do it when the weather is NOT nice (they call it on account of rain or cloud, but are out in the cold winter weather).
The third close museum is the Memorial Art Gallery which is owned by RIT'S rival college, University of Rochester. My next door neighbor is the publicist there and I finally joined the museum last week. It's about three blocks away and their latest show is called EXTREME MATERIALS. WHAT a show this is!
Just go and see it. I won't spend time talking about something that already has a nice website showing just how beautiful garbage and 'found objects' can be made to be. I always maintained that the artists would be the ones who really solved the problems of the disposable society. And most of them had a lot of fun while doing it. My favorite is the zipper sculpture on the opening page.
So take a virtual visit there today! The fourth Rochester museum, the Margaret Woodbury Strong Toy Museum, deserves an entry to itself and will have to wait. I have to go play Mouse with Gizmo so will close now.