House of Mirrors and Wonders
Picking up where I left off in Durham...
Sunday was our last day in the city. It also proved to be the fullest. Forgive me, then, if I seem a little rushed with this entry, but there is a lot to get through here. It involves bread, and art, and a house made of mirrors.
Or at least decorated with them.
A picture is of Martha with a friend at Nasher Museum. Okay, actually, it is the sculpture “Mama Ray,” by Wangechi Mutu. But I thought it was cool just the same.
Martha and I got up early and headed over to Vincent’s. He was giving us breakfast -- eggs, again, plus speciality breads from a food truck that parks in his neighborhood on weekend mornings. Leave it, of course, to Vincent to buy a house in a neighborhood with its own food trucks. And, leave it to Vincent to become friends with the food truck operators--particularly the bakers, who have also recently opened a storefront.
We got there and joined him and two of his neighbors, Carol and Donald, who were having breakfast with us. They are a charming, older couple whom he sees for coffee almost every morning. Again, I’m amazed at Vincent’s ability to win friends and influence people wherever he goes. Carol, laughing at one point, described him as “a social f**king butterfly.” This, by the way, from a woman in her 80s who looks as refined as an episcopal bishop just before mass.
We finished and then Carol and Vincent both wanted to take us to see “the Mosaic House.” This is a private home quite near where Vincent lives. It is owned by Gene Dillard, who describes himself as an “organic artist.” You have to be careful with that. He’s not a “self-taught artist.” He isn’t a “outsider artist.” He is an Organic Artist.
What this means is that he’s spent the last decade or so turning his house into a single vast work of art. His home is the “Mosaic House,” and you can find it easily on the web. Just do a search for “Mosaic House Durham.” There are articles and stories and pictures of it everywhere. Or, if you like, and you have access to Instagram, check it out here: https://www.instagram.com/dillard.gene/
Carol and Vincent call themselves “the docents for the Mosaic House,” because they are Gene’s friends and supporters, and give tours to visitors of the house when asked. We followed them, our docents, now to the house and stared in amazement.
It is really stunning. The thing is encrusted with mirrors, bits of colored glass, carefully fashioned metal, sculpted stone and shaped concrete. What is it like? I’m not quite sure how to explain it. I guess Burning Man springs to mind, or maybe The Tinkertown Museum in my old home of New Mexico (https://tinkertown.com/) but on a smaller scale either way.
We circled the house, looking at the various installations, and then discovered that Gene Dillard was in the backyard, working on something new. Vincent introduced us, and I had a nice chat with him. He is a quiet man (at least when he isn’t being prodded to fury by insensitive art critics who are just certain they know “what he really means,”) but, if you’ll encourage him a bit, he will happily chat about his efforts.
We had a good talk and then, after a while, we made our exit.
Seriously, if you get a chance, and you’re in Durham, do drive by the Mosaic House. It is quite a sight, indeed.
And his house...
More of Mr. Dillard's art...
Finishing with the house made of art, we then drove to a gallery full of the same. Our finale for the trip was to be a visit to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Again, this was one of Vincent’s suggestions, and, as it turned out, an inspired one.
Also, again, I’m not going to go into too much detail of what we saw there. Visual art can be described in texts, but it will not have the same impact as the art itself. That’s why I’m going to ask you to, instead, go there yourself, in person, or at least do virtually, via their website (https://nasher.duke.edu/).
Briefly, though, when we were there, the museum had two exhibits. The first was a standing exhibition of the museum’s American, European, African, Asian, and other arts. And, frankly, it is an excellent collection. I was particularly taken by some of the contemporary pieces, such as Kehinde Wiley's painting, St. John the Baptist II (https://nasher.duke.edu/artwork/14866/), and by their African Art collection.
The second was “Reckoning and Resilience: North Carolina Art Now,” which is running through July 10, 2022. The Gallery describes this as “With media ranging from traditional drawing, painting, sculpture and photography, to ceramics, textiles, performance and experimental video, the selected artists explore themes surrounding historical and current events, identity, loss and remembrance, and trauma and healing.” (https://nasher.duke.edu/exhibitions/reckoning-and-resilience-north-carolina-art-now/)
Much of this work is stunningly powerful, and deals with issues of race and oppression. Frankly, it can be very hard to look at some of this material, but, if you are wise, you also will not look away.
We finished. It turned out that the Museum had a golf cart that we could hitch a ride on, so Martha wouldn’t have to walk down many, many steps, in the heat, to get to the car. We were, of course, delighted by that.
And, of course, it turned out too that the young man who was working at the desk, and who arranged the golf cart, knew Vincent. His grandmother goes to his church.
After that, it was dinner. Then, we had many hugs. We thanked him for having us. He thanked us for coming. And we all promised to meet again soon. I think we will.
Then we parted company with Vincent and went our way.
And that was the end of our trip.
Well, except for one little thing...
And that would be a mess. And a half.
More to come.
An assortment of images from the museum follows:
And last, and perhaps least, me and some mates just hanging out...
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