Message from the Overlords Arrives At MMFA

We had gone to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts for the “Flimp Festival.”

Yes, you are reading that correctly. Flimp.

We made plenty of jokes about how it was a festival devoted to a flaccid imperialist, a flannel blimp, a flaming chimp, and so forth, but upon arrival, we discovered that the word refers to a “flower imp.” Why? Well, there’s a large metal fountain crafted by a crazy person and donated to the State of Alabama, which has loaned it to the MMFA. It’s covered with flimps. And now, once a year, there is a Flimp Festival, which is designed to draw people into our local art museum.

And it’s pretty decent, we suppose. It cost $5 per person and there were about 6 tents or so with vendors and some guys from the Montgomery Model Boat Club were driving their strange and awesome boats around on the museum’s slightly-scummy and turtle-filled pond. There was a jazz band that was pretty rockin’ and a concessions tent that appeared to be selling high school football game grade snacks. And just as we, bemoaning the lack of shade, were about to say, “Is this all there is?” we decided to actually, you know, check out the inside of the museum.

Turns out, the $5 ticket price for the festival gets you into the museum, which alone is totally worth it. And they had some activities for children, such as a scavenger hunt through the museum’s holdings and some storytelling guy making sound effects into a microphone.

But the show-stopping piece that re-wired the circuitry of the entire day was a traveling exhibition by sculptor Jaehyo Lee. According to the museum’s website, the exhibit was only scheduled to run through May 8, so it’s probably gone by now. That means we saw it on the last day it was on display. And we are quite lucky for that.

We weren’t allowed to take any pictures of the exhibit, but several exist online. The logs smoothed into 3D shapes were certainly cool, including the one shaped like a kidney bean chair and the one shaped like a doughnut. Yes, yes, smooth wood, hewn from the forest and shaped into orderly shapes — nature compressed into geometric and spacial order. Very cool and all.

But the jaw dropping pieces were the things he has done with metal: one made of nails hammered into a wavy protrusion from scorched logs and another that, well, was clearly some sort of text-driven message from the aliens. It’s a rectangular column, calling to mind the obelisk from 2001, covered in tiny metal letters. And, well, here it is:

Tall. And covered in letters.

A nice docent explained that the numbers at the bottom of the piece are actually how Lee signs his name, which means that all of the pieces in the catalog are described as a string of numbers (Lee’s name) and then the piece number, leading people to just say, “that there wooden doughnut” or “the one with all the nails stuck in it.”

We won’t speculate about the mental health of someone who hammers nails into wood all day, but as people obsessed with codes and texts, we were in love with Lee’s tower. The fact that we got to see it before it left town made us feel both lucky, but also bothered that nobody had told us that something so cool was nearby. What other cool things have we missed? Note to selves: Start going to the museum more often.

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2 responses to “Message from the Overlords Arrives At MMFA

  1. Ayup. I saw the Lee sculptures when they were first put on exhibit.

    Keep your eyes on the MMA website!

    Anecdote: A few years ago the MMA exhibited two head-and -shoulders figures of young women. (I hesitate to call them “busts,” although that’s what they were.) These pieces seemed vaguely familiar to me.

    I read the labels. They were on extended loan by the Museum of American Art in DC while their building was being renovated. Instead of putting their paintings and sculptures in storage, the museum loaned out their pieces to other museums all over the US. No storage fees!

    I had visited the Museum of American Art many times during the 16 years we lived in the DC area (1980-1996). So, I knew those pieces. I’d delight in bringing friends to the MMA and introducing them to my “girlfriends.”

    However, I was careful to say that I wasn’t really interested in them because they had hearts of stone.

  2. There are perfectly sane people who hammer nails into wood all day.

    They’re called carpenters.

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