Last Saturday my alarm went off way too early for a Saturday morning. In fact, any alarm set for a Saturday should be illegal. But it was field trip day for sculpture so I got up and ran and then drove myself to school to meet the sculpture gang. We loaded up on the rental van and headed north. North to McDonalds first because my illustrious and esteemed colleague assured me that in the absence of a real coffee shop, McDonalds "fancy coffees" were actually good. My hopes were not very high but I reluctantly agreed to get a vanilla mocha while Singletary gassed up the van.
This "coffee" did not even rise to my low expectations. It tasted worse than gas station coffee and started what will almost certainly become a coffee feud between Singletary and me forever.
The literal bad taste in my mouth was rinsed away with a nice lunch at Biltmore Village paired with an excellent vanilla mocha from an actual coffee shop. My mood was restored and the day could go on.
We arrived at the Biltmore Estate and quickly made ourselves at home on the front lawn. That's Hannah and my new friend Brianna in one of my many "mcselfies".
We were there to see the art, specifically the glass sculptures created by Dale Chihuly. This one greeted guests as they arrived on the front lawn.
We waited out front for Singletary to park the van and to meet up with some of our other travelers. These are my sculpture people...Brianna, Hannah, Ashley, Alana, Spencer, Hallie, Molly, Gazelle, Bolt and Victor.
We were waiting on Singletary because the traffic dudes directed us to drive up to the house to unload the van. What they meant was, we should drive up to where those vans are parked in the foreground. But once inside the gate, I convinced Singletary to drive us right up to the front door of the house and let us out there. I assured her this was what the dude meant and that it was totally fine. We looked like VIPs rolling out of the van up there at the house. It was great. Singletary skidded out of there right as an employee was coming over to tell her she couldn't be there. It was great.
This is an example of me not wanting to do something until I'm told not to do it.
The Biltmore House is located in Asheville, NC and it opened in 1895 after taking 6 years to build. It was the home of George Vanderbilt, his wife and daughter for many years. The house is nothing short of a work of art.
The juxtaposition of the old and the new provided a little extra life and energy to the house.
The juxtaposition of the blue sculptures with Alana's red hair also provided some energy.
We toured the interior of the home and there was plenty of visual information to take in.
The wall of Albrecht Dürer prints was one of my favorite things.
About halfway through the first level, the balcony provided a needed break from the visual overload inside. It also had a great view of the mountains. Another mcselfie.
Victor is a hoot. He's a freshman this year so I haven't even taught him in a class yet and he's already cracking me up. He's king of the selfie and master of the dramatic pose.
Even the stairwell is visual overload.
Brianna with her new friend Bertha.
Even the indoor swimming pool in the basement was visual overload. All the tiles were perfectly placed and beautiful. The idea of this being built in 1895 boggled the mind.
It was all too much to see in one day but we had perfect weather to see it.
Another mcselfie with one of the famous Biltmore lions and the sculpture lions...Brianna, Alana, Spencer, Ashley, Hannah and Gazelle.
Back to the artwork. We walked outside and down through the walled garden to the Conservatory past several perfectly placed glass sculptures.
If you're unfamiliar with Chihuly's work, each sculpture is created by placing many smaller glass forms together on an armature. Picture a steel shaft with lots of smaller steel rods stemming out in every direction. Then the glass forms are placed over the armature.
Everyone in the lion photo plus Victor walked together to the Conservatory. This group included Spencer who is heavy into plants. This meant we would spend just as much time in the Conservatory as we did in the house.
And this tour would be guided by Spencer who knew the names of all the plants and flowers we saw.
This one looked just like my own Gertrude the Orchid.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the house and the sculptures but the Conservatory was probably my favorite.
There's something inspiring about seeing the colors of nature at work in their own design. There was no wrong tint or shade, no color combination that didn't quite work. It was perfect.
Eventually we dragged Spencer out of the plants and back up toward the house. We were supposed to be back on the van by this time but I needed to run out and get some photos on the terrace.
And since we were already late, we might as well stop and see more of the glass in the sunlight.
We had tickets to come back after dark and see the glass exhibition under the lights, but I wanted to see them all in sunlight for comparison.
The sunlight was kind to the glass and if you looked close enough, you could see small details on the surface.
We tried to get our jumping photo with almost no success whatsoever. I'm reasonably sure Victor never left the ground. Still funny though, every single time.
Then we loaded up on the van again to go get dinner. We had a few restaurants in mind but when we called to reserve a spot they told us flat out they couldn't take us. I called several places and got the same answer at all of them. There was a game on TV and everyone had gathered at the local restaurants to watch. Do these people not have TVs in their homes? I don't get it. Either way, we needed a place to eat, so I found a Mexican restaurant nearby that was rated well and we decided to not call ahead and just show up.
I think a couple of our students were afraid to eat anything from here, but it wasn't bad. And how can you not appreciate the Minion on the window?
Then we were back at the estate with the lights on.
And everything looked different.
Which meant that the visual headaches we all had at this point were not going away any time soon.
The lights made the glass colors really pop.
And the details were even easier to see on the surfaces of the glass.
Some of the installations that were easy to miss in the sunlight were absolutely stunning at night.
I didn't see these at all during the day.
But now they were glowing.
Meanwhile Spencer was still more impressed by the plant life.
The glass in the water now featured great reflections and giant koi fish.
This was a different mood for art viewing. The whole group just stood for a while staring into the pools like you stare at a campfire. Maybe this had something to do with the level of fatigue we were all feeling.
Then on the way out of the estate, we saw one last Chihuly sculpture out the window. Singletary stopped the van and I jumped out to grab a photo.
It was late and we had a drive ahead of us. But sometimes I need ice cream. The students had my back but we struggled to find an ice cream shop that was still open. And then it was suggested by my illustrious and esteemed colleague that McDonalds had ice cream and they were open late. I gave her the meanest look and may have said some unkind words about McDonalds. But I was desperate for ice cream so we exited the interstate for the golden arches. We woke some people up and rolled out of the van and slowly walked across the parking lot. I pulled on the door. It was locked. I probably cursed.
Lucky for us, God created Cook Out and at least 40 wonderful flavors of milkshakes. Siri was kind enough to take us to the closest one and we were all immediately happy. If I never step foot into another McDonalds I'll be happier.
I know I brag about how great our students are a lot but really, if you got to hang out with these students like I do, you'd brag about them too. They really are stellar. They're great artists, great students and really great humans. I genuinely enjoy being around them. I may even travel with them again one day.
I made it home just after 3am and was in the bed at 3:30. I don't even remember my head hitting the pillow. Worth it.
H-Dawg was kind enough to take some real photos for us. This one was of the entire group, adult friends and all.
And this one is of our butts on the balcony. Thanks H-Dawg! It reminds me of Maxfield Parrish's "Daybreak" below...