#InfiniteKusama Comes to Cleveland, & I Could Not be More Joyful about It

Monday, July 16, 2018


When I learned that the Cleveland Museum of Art was hosting Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors exhibit starting this summer, I pulled the trigger & bought a museum membership. I'd been considering it for awhile, but as soon as I learned that museum members got first crack at Kusama tickets, that sealed the deal for me. The day tickets when on sale, I was in Columbus with my mom - & joined the long online ticket queue from brunch! Thank goodness for technology.

CMA has really gone all-out for this exhibit, hiring 100+ additional employees to staff it & even decorating the outside of the museum - & the surrounding trees! - in Kusama's signature red & white polka dots.

When you walk into the museum's massive, beautiful atrium area, you're greeted by the first exhibit, a field of large, mirrored balls lying in leaves. Behind it, you can see part of another exhibit - those giant, pink orbs suspended from the ceiling, which are part of an exhibit on the lower floor that extends allllll the way up. The overall effect is very cool & modern - & makes you really excited for what's to come.

Tickets are sold in 15-minute time increments, so when you get there, you just pop into the line labeled with your assigned time. This helps ensure that the exhibit runs smoothly & isn't overcrowded - which is important considering that tickets to see this exhibit have been selling like gangbusters!

The exhibit includes a few installations you can wander & explore at your own leisure, but the real meat of it is five small, free-standing rooms that are entirely enclosed. You wait in line at each one until it's your turn for a museum employee to let you into the room for a 20- or 30-second period. 

Yep. Twenty to 30 seconds is all you get in each room of the exhibit - & you're not allowed to get back in line to go through again. It's barely enough time for your eyes to adjust, much less to really take in the art or to photograph it, which is really disappointing but also, apparently, "the artist's intent." OK. 

This room is... full of polka-dotted phalluses, yes. The room is called Phalli’s Field, & phalluses are made up stuffed cotton. They look like wacky barnacles growing out of the ground. Kusama found the process of creating these tubers to be taxing, so she began to use mirrors to create the illusion of more of them. 

This room isn't the only place where she uses these phallic tubers, which Kusama calls Accumulations. She's covered furniture in them, made hanging wall art of them, & created a garden of them that's reminiscent of the Loch Ness Monster.  

I didn't get great photos in the other rooms because of the time limit. More than I wanted to photograph them, I wanted to enjoy them, & I decided that was more important than being able to blog about them. None of these photos to justice to any of this art, but that's OK. Maybe that's how art should be sometimes, you know?

These exhibits have really dramatic names, like The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away & (that's the one with the colorful lights), Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity (the one with the golden lanterns). Perhaps the coolest, in my opinion, is All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, which visitors aren't allowed to photograph (though no one explained why, exactly). That one is full of glowing, polka-dotted kabocha squashes, & a museum staffer accompanied us into the room to be sure we didn't break the rules. 

One of my favorite parts of the exhibit is Love Forever, a box made of wood, mirrors, metal, & lightbulbs. You can look in either of two holes in the side of the box to see what felt like an infinity's worth of flashing lights - like being on the inside of a kaleidoscope. I wish I could've fully captured it in photos, but this will have to do (unless you want to check out other people's awesome Instagram videos of it). 

The description of this exhibit says, "For the artist, the concept of 'Love Forever' stood for civil rights, sexual liberation, the antiwar movement, and the activist groups of the 1960s." Heyyy, social justice art! As much as I loved looking in the box, I really loved watching other people look in the box. Everyone just seemed so joyful as soon as they popped their heads inside. 

And how about those giant pink orbs? That exhibit is called Love Transformed Into Dots, & it has a very stuck-inside-a-dollhouse feel. There's a 20-second room full of them, but they're also all over the rest of the exhibit so that you can see them up close. They're inflatable... & enormous

There's also a small version of them. You peek through a tiny hole & see hundreds of thousands of tiny pink orbs, mirroring off one another, forever. 

These very colorful displays are both 1D & 3D, & they represent Kusama's more recent work - as recently as 2016, in fact, which is kind of amazing given that she's 89 years old. Did you hear me? She is 89 years old creating all these amazing, glorious, intricate artwork, proving that ain't nothin' but a number.  

The final room of the exhibit is one that's fully interactive & where visitors can spend as much time as they want. The Obliteration Room, set up like a home - complete with a kitchen, a library, an office, & more - is painted entirely in white, from floor to ceiling & everywhere in between. When you enter the room, a museum attendant hands you a small sheet of colorful polka dot stickers, with instructions to stick them wherever you want (except on the ceiling).  

I especially love the Cleveland touches, including a leg lamp a la A Christmas Story & the Cleveland skyline above the sink. I wanted to take more photos in here, but Mike didn't want to disrupt anyone else's experience - perhaps because of what happened the last time we went to a Kusama exhibit

Yayoi Kusama has been making art for a damn long time, but it's only in the past few years that she's been truly recognized & respected for the breadth of her work. She's achieved cult status - at nearly 90 years old! She lives in Japan, where she continues to make art shown around the world, including a new upcoming exhibit in London. 

"I love painting so much that nothing else matters," she said in one interview. 

I felt so lucky to be able to score tickets to this exhibit - & I'd like to go again, if I can manage to get a second round of tickets. If you're able to go, I can't recommend it highly enough. Though Kusama's art is said to be inspired, in part, by her severe psychiatric issues, they manifest themselves in such a way that you can't but feel joyful & full of awe when viewing her work. 

What I Bought Myself for My Birthday

Friday, July 13, 2018

My birthday is the first week in August, &, look, no one buys you piles of birthday gifts when you turn 34. (I mean, if you want to, please feel free!) I am, instead, a firm believer in the #treatyoself philosophy when it comes to birthday gifts. Though my birthday isn't for another few weeks, I've already purchased myself some pretty sweet gifts in early celebration.

Hamilton tickets

These were a triple gift: for Mike for our three-year dating anniversary, for my mom for Mother's Day, & for me for my birthday. We're going on August 3rd, the start of my birthday weekend - yes, all three of us. I couldn't resist! We are all so excited about it.

Secret Hitler

OK, bear with me. This game sounds weird & inappropriate, but it's a lot of fun. If you've ever played Mafia, this is similar, though in this game, you're trying to weed out the fascists - including one player acting alone as "Secret Hitler." We played it at the cabin in June, & I bought it almost immediately upon returning home.

A clip-on book light

Mike & I are smart, capable people with a nice, real, adult-ishs home... & yet, we didn't, until now, own book lights. That meant we had to read on Kindles or phones in the dark, or else get out of bed to turn off the lamp when we wanted to sleep after reading a paper book. Now, we have two book lights, one for each of us, so when we're done reading, we can simply flip a switch from bed. Magic!

Newsies enamel pin

Poor orphans & runaways, the Newsies were a ragged army, without a leader - until one day, all that changed..." I am the biggest Newsies fan, don't @ me - & don't talk to me about the Broadway version. I am a movie die-hard, & this pin is my favorite thing that has ever existed, I think, aside from the movie itself.

Eyerusalem Leather Passport Wallet

I first saw this passport cover on the Cleveland blog And Then We Tried, & at just $35 (plus a 20% coupon code for first-time buyers), I couldn't resist snagging one for myself. I got it personalized with my new initials, KBK - to match my new passport, coming soon.

A neon pink dress

This very brightly colored, lightly ruffled dress absolutely should not be my all-black-loving style, right? Right. And yet... it is. It so is. It was on clearance at Dress Barn, & it seemed like the perfect frock for the Lake Erie wedding I'm attending in mid-September. I couldn't resist.

What have you gotten for yourself lately? Or what's on your want-to-buy list? 

Seneca Lake: 48 Hours in Upstate New York

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

If you've ever wanted to visit the trout lake capital of the world, you're in luck: I'm here to tell you all about it!

OK, OK, not all about it - we weren't there for very long, & we certainly didn't see or eat any trout - but I did visit the trout lake capital of the world last weekend, so I'll tell you what I know about it.

Geneva, N.Y., is situated at the north end Seneca Lake, the largest & deepest of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, which is home to a whopping 50 wineries. One of those is Belhurst Castle & Winery, where our friends Sam & Ryan tied the knot last Saturday.

Yes, it's a castle, open to the public as a hotel/winery/restaurants/spa combo in 2004. We booked The Bamboo Room for the weekend, in part because we wanted to experience Belhurst's famous hotel wine spigot, which dispenses complimentary red wine to hotel guests.

On Friday night, we went to downtown Geneva, which has a small-town vibe that reminds me of Kent, OH, where I went to college. Mike found a restaurants called The Red Dove Tavern, a husband-and-wife-owned gastropub that specializes in farm-to-table foods.

We split the gemelli (that's twisty pasta; I had to Google it) with pesto, grilled shrimp, & burrata. It was so good, & it was a surprisingly large portion, so splitting it was the right choice. Mike got the oysters - his new obsession, & definitely not mine - while I got the sugar snap peas with ricotta & basil, which were so fresh & refreshing. I needed something green!

I was excited to see Allagash Saison on the drink menu because I haven't had an Allagash beer since my D.C. days., but they're based in Maine & always remind me of my time living in New Hampshire. Hey, Allagash Brewing Co. folks: Make your way to the Buckeye State so I can drink your beer way more often.

Afterward, we headed over to Lake Drum Brewing, a small, intimate brew house in downtown Geneva - the first one there since Prohibition! It feels more like a coffeehouse, with live folk music playing in one corner of the room & huge shelves of books lining one wall. There's not a ton of seating, but it all feels very close & communal.

Lake Drum originally specialized in sours, but I wasn't sure I could handle one of those (sensitive stomach over here!) so I went with the Gateway Kolsch. Mike, ever the IPA lover, went with the Bad Dog IPA, & we drank them on a bench just outside the brew house so we could enjoy the unseasonably cool weather.

We called it an early night, but on Saturday morning, we woke up earlyish & headed downtown again. This time, our destination was the H.J. Stead Company, a cozy eatery in an historical building that once housed a bifocal company of the same name.It only has a few tables, & you're expected to share the space with others, which can mean communal eating. That's not quite our jam, so we were glad to find spots open at the bar.

Look how adorable all of this is, from the street art to the street itself to the crowded-but-cute inside of this spot!

It took us ages to order because everything on the menu looked so good.

Mike went with the FLX Burger, done In-n-Out style with two smashed patties, & though it didn't photograph well, he loved it. I decided on the chicken & egg breakfast sandwich, served on a big, beautiful brioche bun & topped with cheddar, greens, aioli, & pickled veggies. Fried chicken is a toss-up food for me, but I had a good feeling about this one... & I was so right. I left feeling satisfied but not gross or overly full.

H.J. Stead & Company also has a great beer & wine menu, so Mike, ever the brunch boozer, went with The Big Broadcast, a double IPA from War Horse Brewing in Geneva. I got the cold brew, which was damn strong.

We stopped in at the new Finger Lakes Welcome Center because I wanted to take a pic with the "I ❤ NY" statue you see in the banner photo in this post. You know I'm a sucker for a good Instagram spot! Unfortunately, there were people sitting all over it watching their kids play on a nearby playground. Maybe not the best idea to put it right there? Alas, it's the only shady spot in the area, so I can't blame those parents too much.

We took some pics by the water & went back for an "I ❤ NY" pic before we left town on Sunday. Can you even with how gorgeous this place is? Everything just felt so serene - even with kids on monkey bars screaming in the background. 

We headed back to Belhurst Winery for a wine tasting in the hotel's gift shop. Chrissy, the bartender, was friendly, knowledgeable, & efficient as hell, running all over the place to conduct multiple tastings as once. You can do cheese or chocolate pairings, too, but we went straight for the wine.

We didn't love any of the wines, but they were all fun to try. I tasted ice wine for the first time (which tastes like liquefied strawberry jam), & we also sampled a couple beers brewed by their own beer company, the weirdly named Mabel's Oat Soda Co.

In the end, we bought a bottle of the Belhurst Red (Semi-Dry) to drink on the patio outside, & when we finished that, we grabbed a cheese board from Stonecutter's. It was a really solid cheese board, I've gotta say. Just look at that thing! Pesto hummus!

And then it was time for the wedding! We saw Sam, Ryan, & their families while sitting outside at Stonecutter's, which only made me more excited for the big event. The weather was so perfect. They tied the knot under a rose-studded canopy in front of Lake Geneva, their two young kids their only bridal party. It was a quick ceremony, followed by cocktail hour on the castle lawn & a reception inside.

I'm so bummed that this photo of Mike & me on the water didn't turn out well, in part because I loved my dress, a glittery, sequined bodycon with a low-cut mesh V at the chest - that was still classy & subtle despite that mega-trashy description. You can sort of see it in the selfie below.

The wedding itself was so lovely & fun, despite the fact that we didn't know many other people in attendance. Mike got to catch up with some of his high school friends, & we spent a lot of time laughing at all the little kids on the dance floor. Why do kids dance like all their bones are breaking?!

At one point, the groom rapped the entirety of "O.P.P." for his bride - "You asked for a ballad," he said - & the night ended with personalized wine bottles & hand-rolled cigars & s'mores. Oh, & some more spigot wine, of course. 

Seneca Lake, the closest-to-us of the Finger Lakes, is about a five-hour drive from Cleveland, & it's an easy, straight shot. We left around 2pm on Friday after working almost-full days, & we made it there before sundown. On Sunday, we had brunch at the castle, took photos at the "I ❤ NY" sign, & headed home by noon, with plenty of Sunday to enjoy when we got back. I'd really like to go back to the Finger Lakes region for a fuller wine tour sometime in the future. Way cheaper than Napa!

I loved this little weekend getaway, but I'm also glad that it was the last out-of-town trip on our calendar for a couple months. We're going to the Marblehead Peninsula on Lake Erie for a wedding in September, but for now, we're just enjoying Cleveland & spending some time in the home city.

Have you ever been to the Finger Lakes region? What's the last weekend road trip you took?

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