Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Rainy Day in St. Pete

On a rainy day when the walls of our RV seemed to close in us, Tim and I fled to the scenic downtown waterfront of St. Petersburg, FL, the location of the city's museums.

St. Petersburg Museum of History

St. Petersburg Museum of History is a small museum and home to St. Petersburg's oldest resident Our Lady of the Nile, an Egyptian mummy estimated to be 3,000 plus years.

When King Tutankhumun's tomb was discovered in 1922, a wave of Egyptomania swept the country.  A circus operator staged shows up and down the Mississippi River that featured this Egyptian mummy which somehow ended up on a ship bound for Tampa Bay.  When it arrived, the ship's captain could not afford to pay the port fees so its cargo, including Our Lady, was confiscated.  The mummy apparently changed hands several more times before it found a permanent home here.

The museum also boasts an extensive display of 4,895 (at last count) baseballs autographed by famous coaches and players.  I suppose the size of this exhibit is not surprising, given that back in 1914, the St. Louis Browns began spring training here.  Today so many professional baseball teams train and play in Florida that their competition is informally known as the Grapefruit League.

Currently, the museum is hosting Fighting for the Right to Fight: African Americans Experience in WWII, a collection of artifacts, photographs and oral histories that we found absorbing.  

Alex Haley (1921-1992)

My favorite was the account of Alex Haley who wrote the 1976 bestseller, Roots, later released as a mini-series blockbuster on television.  I never knew about his military stint; how he served in WWII's Pacific Theater as an officer's steward and then as a career Coast Guard member.  His talent as a wordsmith was noticed by his fellow soldiers who paid him to write their letters home and by his superiors who promoted him to Journalist First Class.

The Dali Museum

Afterwards, we dodged raindrops as we dashed along a few city blocks to the Dali Museum, the most comprehensive collection of works by surrealist painter Salvado Dali outside Europe.  

Salvado Dali (left) with Reynolds and Eleanor Morse whose collection of his works formed the foundation of the museum.

Dali was a leading representative of surrealism, what is described as "the 20th century advant-garde literature and art movement that tried to unlock the creative potential of the unconscious mind."  Yet his body of works ranges from his early landscapes, portraits and still lifes to his mid-life surrealistic artwork to the immense religious paintings he created later in life.

The building itself is a work of art, with an interior three-story staircase that resembles a strand of DNA.  

We accepted audio tour cassettes and wandered through works from every major period of Dali's long career spanning the years from 1917 through 1976.  Listening to the cassettes while viewing selected paintings, we learned about the symbols prevalent in Dali's paintings such as his melting clocks that represent the omnipotence of time and its mastery over humans.

Below I've linked a few of the paintings I especially liked to their web pages in the Dali Museum's online Permanent Collection.

Daddy Longlegs of the Evening--Hope!

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory

Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of New Man

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus

Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln-Homage to Rothko

The Gala really must be seen in person for its optical illusion to be so startling.

Tim's top pick was the Dreams of Dali, a virtual reality tour of Dali's 1935 Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet's "Angelus.

Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's "Angelus"

To venture inside the painting's twin towers or to view them from afar, we donned headsets that made us look like clone troopers from a Star Wars movie.  

It was a novel way to experience art.  And a great way to spend a rainy day!

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