Saturday, December 5, 2009

Finding Joy in a Jumble of Steel Cylinders

Christmas is coming.

I know this because holiday tunes have aired since before Halloween; the day after Halloween, neighbors were hanging lights and decorating trees; and yesterday the baby I saw in the back seat of a BMW was wearing a Santa hat.

When I trekked to the lawyer’s office the other day, the train dropped me off on State Street—that Great Street, as the song holds—midst shoppers and tourists and panhandlers and workers playing out their day against a backdrop of shimmering, beckoning store windows.

Christmas was in the air. And every bit of positivity I’ve tried to sustain through The Lull vanished. A serious case of woe hit me, just as it has in past Decembers.

Christmas is a time of obligatory giving, which is a great deal of pressure to be under for someone who thrills in giving the perfect gift to each person on her list. Worse, the brilliant ideas I have stretch far beyond my financial means. Never is the chasm between the haves and the have-nots so obvious in a big city as at Christmastime.

But then a sculpture caught my eye.

I detoured to the lobby of the
Inland Steel building, where an abstract crisscross of golden steel cylinders hung suspended from the ceiling. It was an enormous three-dimensional asterisk-like star held in place by silver strings of steel anchored to the ceiling and to the pool rising from the floor beneath it. Carefully placed lighting illuminated the sculpture, reflecting light in the water and off the ebony polished marble walls. It was the mastermind of industrial designer and sculptor Richard Lippold.

I continued watching light play off it for some time, and my mood started to lift. Small wonder. Its title?
Radiant One.

Once I left and crossed the street to continue my trip to the lawyer’s office, I spotted a
Chagall mosaic adorning a public plaza.

Two great works of art in the same city on the same block!

I felt like I was the only one seeing them. They lifted my spirits, blurred my perception of the uglier side of Chicago and Christmas, and moved me forward into the day.

They’re no substitute for giving the perfect gift to a favorite someone, but they were the perfect gift for me in that moment—art as Rescue Remedy.

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