To continue on my little journey:
Yesterday, the highlight of my day was the two and a half hours in the car with Val Taylor, a well read, funny person regaling me with tales of children and art, family and his knowledge of Utah, Utah history, LDS history, and Native American tribes. Wow. There is nothing like seeing the countryside with a well-versed native who loves his people, his place, his history with a scoop of funny and fun thrown in. The time flew by along with landscapes that would make Albert Bierstadt salivate. It was remarkable.
Val told me about the St. George LDS Temple (the oldest one) and how the Mormons had to bury the foundation of the Salt Lake Temple to protect it from the forces who were coming to kill the Mormon men. He told me about his strong and industrious grandmother who had rolls of quilts framing her dining room for the Relief Society ladies to work on all year long and that the only day that the quilts did not reside in the dining room was Thanksgiving when his grandfather was charged with moving them to make room for all the family. He told me about the canning and the cidermaking they made back east. We talked about his new body of work (look out world) wrapping Kachinas, and stories, his knowledge of the Hopi and others, into a wonderful, decorative, chock fulll of detail series that frankly, I am holding my breath to see. We talked about his teaching, his children and the new path that has been made for him to grow and expand. Val is in a change period and he is embracing it with humor, intelligence and sparkle. It has been a delight to get to know him better, breath the Utah air with him, and begin to see the world a bit with his lens. I am so grateful that I had this really eye opening time with Val and Ron. Kind of a Hartford Art School experience without all the lecture demonstrations, and all the buzz that was so energizing for me. Maybe a Utah reunion?
So, from the sacred and solid to the ephemeral and profane. Val dropped me off at the Aria, a resort hotel (newest member of the MGM properties in Las Vegas). Very snappy, very service-y with all sorts of folks in uniforms wanting to make your day happy and your visit spectacular. The lobby is towering with enormous nested flower arrangements with lilies, orchids, pumpkins and other really amazingly high chroma (and pretty tasteful for the extreme colorations) tumbling down elegantly. Every opportunity to have a display, a window, an advertisement, a scrolling menu, a touchscreen interface--there was one--big bold and amazing...no museum graphics here--but something to sit up and take notice about--from the enormous Buddha in the lobby (you can rub his bronzed belly or leave money for luck) to the bird chairs by the sculptural waterfall near the path to catch a cab, art and signage, display and promotion link arm in arm in Las Vegas.
After finding my room walking through the ligthweight part of the casino--by coffee shops, bars, and patisseries) I put my things down in a very comfy, beautiful and tasteful room. Everything from the lights, to the window shades, to the blinds are operated electrically and took a minute to find the guidebooks and make a go of it. I was stunned that this Las Vegas thing, despite the high level I was staying in, really caters to the middle, and each of the casinos are essentially enormous, landlocked cruise ships that are docked alongside of each other. It is the cruise experience where one can really just stay at one property with fifteen restaurants, three clubs, a gorgeous casino with bars, and coffee, and pools and shopping and theater and music. It is airconditioned with art in the lobby, people ready to cater to any whim--and connected to other similar properties by an airconditioned tram where you can experience different flavors of the same format your particular resort offers. No criticism here. I think its great-- but just an observation.
Yes, there is art, but it is easy to digest, easy to understand art that is produced and displayed impeccably, but pretty much glossy art for the uninitiated. This same level of gloss and polish was everywhere at the Aria--beautiful, theatric, dramatic, tasteful in a reality t.v. sort of way-- but not reaching or stretching...very barcalounger comfy. And quite honestly, the things to do there are gamble and drink (fun and really fun to watch...but in a very modest way), poolside fun and rays, shopping (the town is a god damned mall at every level and point on the spectrum) to entertainment (framed around music and drinking) , to produced food experiences that are flattened out to appeal to all....to elaborate spa services from the magic rock treatment through to hair extension purchases, bridal updos and airbrushed makeup, to heated rooms to relax in front of a fireplace with your honey. They make it easy to part with your money....and all of this is continual...from one casino to the next.
I loved watching people gamble. Talk about theatre with the cool characters manning the craps tables to the deft hands of the women dealing the black jack tables. It is smooth and elegant--certainly not something I want to do, but I loved the look and smoothness, the art, the deftness of the dealers--and the toned down way they presented themselves. I spent time watching pretty much all of the live games and taking pictures of the machines. I was humored by the chic area where the card games/ poker was being played with the men (it is mainly men) all sported artifaces you see on poker t.v. from the bored looks, to the sunglasses, hoodies and baseball hats. There is so much acting going on it is amazing anyone can get to the work of playing for the show.
I took a little walk to see the sights but after five blocks got a bit sceebed out and went back to my comfy room (it was late East Coast time) to put my head down so as to brave the airport bright and early to come home to Rob, the cats and little miss Shady Grove. What a week!