Costume College – Day 1

19 Aug

I left Seattle early Thursday morning. A few weeks prior a local costumer attending CoCo, Bobbie, suggested a group trip to the Huntington Library on the Thursday before CoCo. Bobbie was amazingly kind and picked me up from the airport so that I could join the Huntington trip. I had no idea what I was in for and boy was I surprised. I had never heard of the Huntington. When we arrived it was excruciatingly hot and I couldn’t find my sunscreen. First stop was the gift shop where I found a teal paper parasol, a lovely addition to my collection.

Our next stop was the American Galleries. Bobbie had made reservations for tea at the Rose Garden Tea Room so we had only 45 minutes or so. The museum is beautiful. I was able to see just a little of the 18th and 19th century collection and most of the 20th century collection. The pop art (a favorite of mine) was ok. A few fun pieces. However the 1920s-40s stuff was amazing. I don’t know much about Social Realism but it certainly sparked an interest. They had several paintings by Charles White which were very evocative. They also had a painting I loved of a early American carnival with a fat lady attraction in the foreground. It also featured a “Men Only” tent of dancing girls and large crowds. I wish I took note of the artist. I have always been fascinated by early carnivals and side show acts especially how they related to human sexuality and the historical roll of women. Depictions of fat women in art are not too common and certainly not the severely obese women who became side show attractions.

The Rose Garden Tea Room serves a lovely buffet style tea. There were 6 of us mostly from Seattle. It was a great opportunity to get to know people I had met in passing. It was also a welcome refuge from the heat.

After tea Bobbie and I headed to the Huntington Art Gallery housed in the Huntington Mansion. When entering the gallery, there is a portrait of Arabella Huntington. A.HuntingtonI LOVE this painting and the more I discover about this woman the more I love her. The story goes that she requested the artist repaint her portrait because she wanted to be depicted as she really was, wrinkles and glasses and all. I love that! Clearly she was feisty woman.

The Huntington Gallery is FULL of amazing art work. Most of it is 18th century but some Renaissance and early 19th century. The beauty of visiting a museum with costumers is the conversation! I learned so much and enjoyed wandering around with such interesting ladies. It was a wonderful experience to hear bits of history, construction ideas, and general awe of the beautiful portraits. The Thornton Portrait Gallery especially had us all enrapture.

The portraits were amazing but my favorite was a small collection of Albert Durer prints. I have always admired his work but to see it in person is astounding. The details on such a small scale is impressive. I am also drawn to his dark subject matter.However I did note his depiction of women is a bit masculine. I’m sure their have been several papers written on it.

We had to pick up speed so we could visit the actual library before we left. This is when it hit me how HUGE this place really was. The library looked like a giant vault from the outside which isn’t far off. A curator said the collection includes over 6 million books. The library has a small display of the important books in the collection. I love books and more than that I love old books. The highlight of the entire visit was a complete Shakespeare’s First Folio. I had never seen one before. It was so exciting I almost started crying. I have been reading Shakespeare since I was 12 and it was the reason I started doing theater and costume design. It was very exciting! They also had a Gutenberg Bible and several Twain letters and first editions. I wish more books were available. Someday maybe I will be qualified to do research in the library. Maybe. Someday.

In order not to get stuck in horrendous traffic we had to leave the Huntington earlier than any of us would have liked. We made a quick stop at the gift shop on the way out. Museum gift shops are great places to find research books. This time I struck out as far as costume resources. I did get a kids art book for my son and a couple postcards of Arabella Huntington. Her portrait will have a place of honor in my sewing room.

The ride to the hotel was full of delightful conversion with Bobbie. After that, I had a quiet night in my hotel room, getting unpacked and some quick sewing projects.

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