9 June 2016
June. Heat. Tropical Storms. Potential hurricanes. High humidity. What was I thinking? I’m a desert sort of girl and though I have lived for years with our west coast fog and its humidity, the 65° temps of home make a huge difference in my comfort zone. However, I picked up my flash red car in Miami and after a nightmare inching and crawling out of town, I now rest in St. Petersburg. And why here? Three words: history, Chihuly, Dali.
St. Petersburg’s Museum of History is located at the top of the pier and features not only snippets of local history and interesting artifacts, but some excellent special exhibits. This small but impressive historical museum offers good information concerning links to the birth of aviation and to local St. Petersburg history. There is also a small mummy room that holds some colorful sarcophagi, royal chair, and a 3000 year-old mummy known as their ‘Lady of the Nile.’ She arrived in St. Petersburg on a circus boat in 1922 and, considering her former life, is shown considerable respect in St. Petersburg.
Baseball fan, autograph collector, just inquisitive? This museum is the location for Dennis Schrader’s 60 years of passion culminating in the world’s largest collection of autographed baseballs. There’s a lot of history to be enjoyed while perusing baseballs signed by everyone from Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth to Amelia Earhart and Elvis Presley. Exhibit includes signed baseballs and memorabilia from the All-American Girls Pro League and a whole lot more. Be prepared to spend time looking for autographs of your favorites.
Opening in mid-June will be an exhibit on Cuba, a close neighbor and former yacht racing destination. Typically the museum cost $15 for adults with discounts for students and seniors.
The Chihuly Museum at the Morean Arts Center presents several rooms of this glass artist’s works. Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma WA and started experimenting with glassblowing in 1965. In spite of a car accident that left him blind in one eye and a surfing accident that damaged his shoulder and prevents him from the actual act of glassblowing, Chihuly and his team of artists create and sell millions of dollars of creations a year. And these are definitely not the typical vase for a shelf or a bowl for nuts. Expressions range from flowers to twisted chandeliers, shapes of orbs and still others like snakes, all designed with fluidity and brilliant colors. Chihuly has produced room-sized creations of intricate colors and dramatic spiraling shapes, some of which can involve over a ton of glass. (If on the west coast, be sure to see the larger and very impressive Chihuly Garden and Glass under the Space Needle in Seattle.) Cost of the exhibit is $14.95/$13.95 senior.
The Salvador Dali Museum is just a short walk along the water front and parks. I have enjoyed Dali’s work in special exhibits, but this museum is exceptionally well done and educational. The entrance price is steep at $22, but I went on a Thursday after 5pm when the price drops to $10. There is also a free guided tour or free audio tour, which I used. Dali is probably best known for his ‘anti-art’ or surrealist creations of melting clocks, ants and ‘life on another planet’ paintings. But it is in this museum that one can really understand and become a fan of Dali.
I never knew Dali had painted nudes, still lifes, and wonderful pastels his home village of Cadaqués in Spain. Or a haunting painting Dead Brother honoring of his brother, also named Salvador, who died as a toddler, perhaps causing Dali to question who was the real Salvador Dali.
Dali’s Portrait of Lincoln was painted after Dali learned that any face can be described in 121 pixels. Dali’s wife Gala became his muse and appears in many of his paintings. In this portrait, which is actually named Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea, Dali has created a double image. Close-up, it is a portrait of a nude Gala looking out onto the sea. However, walk to the end of the gallery, approximately 60 feet, and the painting becomes the head of Abraham Lincoln.
In the gallery are painted bronzes, pastels, and a huge wall painting of Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus with Dali as a monk who has also landed on the shores of the new world. In fact, Dali lived in America during the war years and during that time created jewelry and high fashion, advertising campaigns and store front windows, wrote an opera, and worked with Walt Disney. One can even learn in this exhibit how Dali used an octopus to paint. And if you wish to stand in line, there is an opportunity to explore one of Dali’s paintings via virtual reality. This might be the closest one will come to understanding how this surrealist imagined and created.
Dali was much more than a Surrealist yet it is two of these paintings that resonate with my current era. The Average Bureaucrat depicts a man (his father) with no ears, closed eyes, and a bowed head of holes filled with shells and pebbles. Seems very suggestive of the current political climate.
The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory depicts his famous melting clocks as an element of time. But Dali is saying time doesn’t restrict us, space does. We can go anywhere as individuals and time does not restrict as long as we use imagination. I can relate to that, both disintegration and persistence.
And time is whispering to me that my hotel, the historic Hollander, has Margarita Thursday. Sitting on its front veranda, I am able to contemplate my day in St. Pete while enjoying a delicious Cuban Sandwich and wonderful margarita. Well, make that two. After all, we used to have sailboat races from here to Havana and oh my, but the food and drink is good.
(The historic Hollander Hotel is conveniently located on 4th Avenue N. directly off the freeway coming into town. It was built in 1933 and restored in 2012. Comfortable, well located to downtown but still offering shuttle service, and with a nice level of charm, rooms include a refrigerator and microwave. Spa, poolside bar, good selection of draft beers in the Tap Room, front veranda, spa, and free parking are a few of the amenities.)