22 Spectacular Finds Underground Chicago

Today did not turn out like it was suppose to at all.  Nope, not at all.  I had wonderful plans with my God-daughter to go to the Art Institute.  I was going to show her the hallowed halls of some of the greatest artists to ever live.  We were going to have lunch downtown, and I would take her picture with the lions out in front of the Museum.  It was going to be a glorious day, and we were both looking forward to it!

Then I received a text message that she would not be coming to visit me, and I was sad.  When she was a little girl, I made sure that she knew how to draw.  Her Mom was an artist, I am an artist and we both wanted to make sure that she had these skills, or at least developed them to the best of her ability.  Her Mom and I were both gifted in this area, and although being a gifted artist can make for a bit of a difficult life, it is still a skill that has come in handy for both of us.  When her Mom was tragically killed when her daughter was only 6 years old, I did everything I could to make sure that she still had the gift of artistry.  If you could see some of her work, you would know that she has that gift more than even her Mom and I did, and it was with great pride that I was going to take her to see the exhibits of some of the greatest Artists Chicago has to offer.

When I was in High School, we took a trip to the Art Institute.  I remember being inspired by the myriad of artists on display, and coming home excited and ready to create my own works of art.  Art was the one thing that I was really good at.  I could get myself lost in a piece of artwork.  I don’t create a lot of it, because it becomes all consuming for me to complete it, and so I will only do a piece when I am truly inspired by an idea.  I can lose myself in a piece of artwork, so it is with great care that I start a piece, knowing that I will work on it until it is complete, exhausted from it.  There are other artists that do not approach it this way, but that is what happens for me, and therefore I have become somewhat of a reluctant artist.

When I was 20 years old, I worked for a woman that had a membership to the Art Institute.  Her family had loaned the Museum pieces from their collection they had in Lake Forest, Illinois.  So when they had a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, I went to it and was able to have a personal tour with one of the Curators.  It was amazing and left me speechless.  I have a mad passion for Georgia O’Keefe, and her art is so much more than giant flowers that people have misinterpreted over the years.  I know a different artist than everyone knows.  I saw something different and was privy to personal stories about the artist, from those that knew her.  Her artwork is misunderstood like most great artists work, and that can be frustrating.

So, after I sulked around my apartment this morning, I thought that I would at least go downtown myself and see what I could find.  I went to the ATM to get some money for admission, and I hopped on the “L” and headed downtown.  Since it was almost Noon, I stopped in the au bon pain in the Pedway, and got some lunch.  Being a vegan can be rough, but I found a delicious and colorful veggie wrap, and some scrumptious zucchini bread that they swore to me was vegan.  The verdict is still out, I will have to check the website.  It was delicious, and I am trusting that it was vegan.  If it wasn’t, you can bet that I will be informing you in another blog that is sure to go off on a rant!  But, I was in a good mood and didn’t want to get irritated today.  I was downtown, and was trying to make a good day out of it.  I work all weekend 12 hour shifts, so this was it,  if I was going to enjoy myself, and I decided that without a doubt, I was going to!

I continued down the Pedway into Macy’s to get myself a vegan Mocha Frappaccino and I was headed up the escalator to the Art Institute, something caught my eye.  It looked like stained glass windows in the hallway. My first experience with a stained glass window that was not in a church was in a home from my childhood friend’s The Yohnka’s.  They had the most beautiful house in my home town, Chebanse, Illinois, and they had a stained glass window in their home that I loved very much.  I loved how the light would catch it and cast colorful shadows in the room.  One of my close friends from High School lives in the house now, and she has kept it in the condition that it has been in all those years ago, which I am so proud of.  She has raised 5 children in this house, and it one of those houses that I have childhood memories of, even though I didn’t grow up in it.   Since I absolutely love everything stained glass, I had to investigate this site that was underground in the Pedway at Macy’s.  (In my heart it will always be Marshall Field’s, but I have had to give up the fight, those days are sadly over).

I was elated!  What I saw before my eyes was amazing!  Absolutely stunning!

There was an entire COLLECTION of STAINED GLASS WINDOWS that illuminated the underground tunnel!  It was magnificent!  I meticulously took pictures of the windows and of the plaques that went with each one, so I could share them you.

Earth, Air, Fire and Water

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Arabesque (American Moorish Style)

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Flowers and Urn, a Triptych

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Lousiville Combo

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New England Victorian Jewel Window

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Double Hung Beveled

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Pond Scene

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Large Square Window of Leaves

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Stairway Triptych with Vase and Flowers

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Autumn Leaves

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Night Owl in Rounded Window

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Spider Web

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Chunk Jewel Window

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Standing Lady Window

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Twins Supporting a Knight’s Plumed Helmet

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Abstract Symmetrical Composition

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Garden of Jewels

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Heavily Jeweled Window

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Pair of Grain Bouquet Windows

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Stylized Floral Window

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Standing Woman

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Here is what is written about this exhibit on the large plaque at the center of the exhibit.  I have it transcribed here for you, just in case you aren’t able to read it in the gallery section of this article.

The Art of American Victorian Stained Glass

This exhibit is pioneering because the profound originality of American Victorian non-religious stained glass windows (for residences and public buildings) has not recognized by art scholars or the public.  American Victorian secular glass was an important link to 20th Century modernism.

American Victorian secular stained glass windows (1880-1910) were completely different from most painted European stained glass.  Innovators like Louis Comfort Tiffany and John LaFarge ulitlized opalescent glass (the glass itself is extravagantly colored) and focused on illuminating the glass, to let the light itself paint the desired image.

They also frequently imbedded glass chunks as well as acutal pebbles and shells into their designs.  Other American innovations included faceted-glass and cut-glass jewels, beveled-glass, pressed designs such as scrolls and stems of flowers, folded glass that looked like draped textile rippled glass that looked life feathers, and confetti glass.

Japanses influence became a central feature of late 19th century secular stained glass.  Stylized flowers and abstract pattersn in asymmetrical compositions demonstrate some fo the earliest examples of abstraction and asymmetry in American art.

American stained glass studios were among the first to be socially progressive in advancement of woman in a primarily male workforce.  The importance of this inclusion is only now beginning to be understood.

Macy’s on State Street is rich in history and architecture.  The building, designed by Daniel H. Burnham as Marshall Field’s and Co. in 1892, features a turn-of-the-centruy Tiffany6,000 square foot mosaic ceiling created from 1.6 million pieces of Favrile glass which took over two years to install under the supervision of Louis Comfort Tiffany himself.

During a 1902 renovation, 50 foot tall massive columns, rivaled in height only by the Temple of Karnak in Egypt, were installed to the sides of the State Street Entrance.  These pillars along with the Tiffany Ceiling and the great clock, located on the corner of State and Washington, were immortalized in a Norman Rockwell painting which helped make this building a shopping destination for generations of Chicagoans.

A proud curator of the Marshall Field’s legacy, Macy’s continues many of the traditions of the past such as the holiday window displays, which began in the 190’s as well as the Great Tree in the Walnut Room and the Flower Show every spring.

Macy’s on State Street has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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So as you can see, today did not turn out like it was suppose to at all, but it still turned out to be a great day.  After I took all these pictures, I grabbed some Frango mints for my Mom, my best friend and the Ladies from Montana.  (Frango doesn’t make a vegan mint yet, so I wasn’t able to get any for myself…but I am working on them!  There will be a vegan option for Christmas one these days, if I have my way about it!)  I headed back home on the “L” excited to post these pictures, and let my God-daughter know that I am still saving the Art Institute for when she comes to visit me. I had a beautiful art exhibit today, that was unexpected and as you can see, quite spectacular.  It changed my day and my mood completely…and isn’t that what art is all about anyway?

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