Monday, December 17, 2007

Chicago, Below Zero

At Christmas

And so it officially begins. Our debut, the first installation of Paintings Below Zero in the United States. Featured next to The Bean at Millennium Park. For the whole month of February, 2008.

So last Friday, two and a half months before opening, on a below-freezing winter night, we told our cabbie about Museum of Modern Ice and he told us about The Billboard. Passing it under the bridge on Ohio Street on our way in from the airport, Jaz and I chimed in unison, "Whoo wheee! Paintings Below Zero by Gordon Halloran!” and the cabbie said, “Who is Gordon Halloran?” so we said, “He’s right here, in the back of your cab.” And he didn’t miss a beat, that cabbie, he said, “Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Halloran, we’re proud to have you here.” Or something. Like he was the official spokesman for Chicago, and we were the special guests they were all waiting for.

THAT’S WHAT’S SO COOL about Chicago. The personal touch, the human contact. No one is going to put you on hold here. So at the entrance to The Hard Rock Hotel, we snapped his photo. That’s Lester, Gord and Jaz. The flash gave us away as tourists, but we didn't care. Everyone else was styling: white furry coats and snappy hats like they’ve all figured out that winter is the fashionable season.

Inside that dark, music-beat lobby, (fashionistas gathered around low tables with drinks & appys). Admittedly we didn’t fit in yet, droopy from hours of sitting in small seats too close together, dragging suitcases, taking shoes off, putting coins back in our pockets for security and listening to loudspeaker safety lectures. But Trevor brightened as he checked us in and then said proudly, “You’re in The Tower Suite”. He introduced us to Denise James, Director of Guest Services, who agreed to be the go-to person if we need anything. We shook hands, pleased to put faces to our hotel sponsor.

Later, after opening the door to that marvelous suite and unpacking all those bags, (Van Morrison is the celeb rocker on our floor) we broke into a bottle of red wine and chocolate covered strawberries which had been placed for our welcome.

Here’s Jaz and Tim with Ice Man and Patrick in our Tower Suite. It’s big enough for us to gather together and glamorous enough and functional too; I’ll have my office here for the duration and one night we’re all going to gather for a meal and a movie around that huge screen.

Outside, we bundled, hungry against the chill. I suggested Mambo Grill, as I remembered that the food there was tasty and the prices, reasonable. It was Friday night, within walking distance.

What were we thinking? It was a full hour we waited while the tangy, spicy aromas of Cuban cuisine wafted around us, and all the cozy December cheer. Friday night at 8 PM, downtown Chicago, excellent food, reasonable prices? With our appetite, the meal was Beyond the Beyonds. We're going again, next time with a reservation.

On Saturday, we took to the streets. Production meeting at breakfast in Old Timers, a greasy spoon on Lake Street.

Tim and Patrick reported that The Fulton is c-o-l-d and the fork lifts buzz quickly; you've got to watch where you're going. Then:plans for the first "pour" into the huge cookie sheets. It will be yellow paint. And I remember last year's warm colors at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square. Here's our crew a year ago, assembling those large ice slabs of luscious color, just prior to installation.

Then, we mingled with State Street Shoppers.

Enjoyed the buskers: young, black drummers (white, plastic ice cream buckets - awesome rhythm!), a disco dancer from the Seventies (?), a pair of worn hand-puppets which danced to wacky piped-in music and brought a smile to absolutely everyone's face.

We had our dollar bills ready for the homeless newspaper vendors. Such extremes in such bitter weather on the same street: devastating poverty and conspicuous abundance with little children, so recently in the world, wishing for everything.

Macy's famous windows, everybody had to get a look.

We kept walking.

Patrick kept saying, “Is this the Miracle Mile?”

It began to snow. Ah, Chicago!


Jennie said...

Welcome to the Chi! I googled your exhibit looking for the link on the Park District's page (as I'm planning an outing next month) and I landed here. We're really looking forward to Paintings Below Zero!

All the best to ya's! Keep warm :)

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