A trek to Philadelphia for art and music

For my birthday earlier this month, my sweetie gave me a day ticket to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, about three hours away — he’s not crazy about either folk music or festivals, but his sister Ghislaine in Philadelphia is, and he bought her a ticket too. I invited my museum-and-music buddy, Judy, to make the trek with me, and, last Friday morning, off we went.

Our hopes to see the new Barnes Museum were quashed by the wait for reserve tickets — now into October, unless one wants to go for a half hour in the evening — so we set course for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and their current show, “Visions of Arcadia: Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse.” After a few wrong turns, unintended tours of the ghetto, etc., we arrived mid-afternoon at the museum.

'Where Do We Come From', 54.75 x 147.5 in., by Paul Gauguin -- 1897
‘Where Do We Come From’, 54.75 x 147.5 in., by Paul Gauguin — 1897

It was a wonderful exhibit, with works by many more than the three named headliners. The Arcadia theme was quite a clever umbrella for the collection, and worked well, I thought. Thrilling to see Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From? in person — the thing simply glows with light and presence. I liked some of the smaller Cezanne bathers, but the Large Bathers was a ho-hum for me. Call me a philistine. What really captured me was the work by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, an artist I was only tangentially aware of from art history in college, primarily for The Poor Fisherman, which — I am grateful to report — was not here.

'Summer' by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, 1891
‘Summer’, 1891, 150cm x 232.4cm — one of the rather grand but magical pieces by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

His Arcadian-theme work was a revelation: pale, mystical, ethereal, pristine yet sensuous — and somewhat self-consciously Grand — obviously influenced by classical Greek and Roman statuary and the frescoes of Piero della Francesca, they were the pieces that drew me back through the show. It was all dreamlike, spirit-lifting work, and a fine show altogether.

Ghislaine and her daughter Ahisha met us after work hours for dinner in Manayunk — and the next day we were off to the folk festival, supposedly a half-hour away. Excitement again ensued — bridges out, detours, truly “remote” festival parking, non-existent shuttle buses (you’d think the flawless organization of a 51-year-old festival would be a given, but such was definitely not the case; kudos to Ghislaine for talking the organizers into upgrading our tickets! ) — but with a lot of laughter and minimal whining we eventually made it there by late afternoon, missing a couple of the acts we’d wanted to see but catching a couple of them as well. One of my “must-sees” was Steve Earle. I’d never heard or seen him, but his song “My Old Friend the Blues” is a favorite in my trio‘s repertoire. He did not disappoint. As Ghislaine said, just before we headed back to find a shuttle bus, he alone was worth the price of admission… along with the fabulous Nag Champa body butter I bought in the arts & craft stands from BAMI products. I now smell like a particularly delicious incense shop.

Left my sketchbook at Ghislaine’s, but I have others and she’s promised to send it back… and the 3:00 a.m. fire alarm/evacuation of her apartment building added to our growing travel log as well as the general sleep deficit. A stop at IKEA, then a drive home, blessedly free of further adventures… yawwn. Glad to be home. Still recovering. Still aglow. Must find out more about Puvis de Chavannes.

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