Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On Cars and Manticores but Nary a Cup of Tea

Like most New Yorkers, we don't have a car, relying instead on foot and public transportation. However, I rented one at the weekend to take 23 of my oil paintings down to Philadelphia to hang a solo exhibition of the Perfect Family portrait series.  

  Cup of the Day #61
Harpies and Griffins Cup by Gwyneth Leech
India ink on "Ecotainer" paper coffee cup

Back in the city, left with an extra day on the rental, I puzzled over how to make use of it. Driving here is an adventure. Honestly, I am just a pedestrian behind the wheel, but I immediately forget that pedestrians have the right of way at lights and am consumed with restlessness as they drift slowly across the intersections in all directions. Double parked vehicles, gaping potholes and the occasional orange and white striped tube belching steam turn the streets into slalom courses.

All right then, let's go somewhere in the city which is out of the city. And a short run up the Henry Hudson Parkway brought me, my seven year old daughter and her friend to the Cloisters, that stunning museum of Medieval art and architecture at the tip of Manhattan, perched high up in Fort Tyron Park.

Narbonne Arch, 12th Century France
The Cloisters Museum, NYC

I promised the girls a castle filled with dragons and unicorns, and they were not disappointed. The coat check lady told them the real creatures were in hibernation and only show up once a year at the October Renaissance Fair. However, she said, if we looked hard we would find murals, tapestries, door hinges, cups and carvings in the shape of all manner of mythological creatures. Thus a satisfactory afternoon was passed, and we found not only the promised dragons and unicorns, but griffins and harpies, a manticore and an amphisbaena, carved pug dogs on the tombs of knights, brilliantly sunlit stained glass, giant icicles and a terrace to dance on against the backdrop of a snow-filled garden, the Hudson River glistening below.  

Was there anything at all to complain of? Only the lack of a cup of tea. I have never been at the Cloisters in the right season for the "seasonal tea-room", and it is a long hike indeed across Fort Tyron Park to any sustenance. We went without, but after a long meander Southward in the car along Riverside Drive, where we enjoyed the sunset through the bare branches, we brewed a big pot of tea when we got home. 

And no, I never told them that the Cloisters is a museum.

Drawing on steamy glass 
at the Cloisters,  January 2011

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