First Kings Of Europe

This Field Museums exhibit tells the story of the first kingdoms on the Balkan peninsular.

The international group of museum curators and historians started to work on putting it together back in 2015. Everybody knows what happened next, but this exhibit faced more challenges than any other, including expiring grants. Now, the exhibit is finally here, at the Field Museum, showing the historical objects from ten different museums in different countries, 700 objects which were never displayed together,

The whole exhibit is set up like a giant book, so that you walk through and turn the pages.

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After I Returned

There was a lot going on. Chicago conference remains my major concern: it is just two weeks away, and there are so many things that still should be addressed! I am working them out one at a time, but still!

On the positive side – I am going through my to-do lists, and I am doing a lot of cultural activities! I guess it will take a while for me to compensate for the pandemic cultural desert.

Things I’ve done so far.

Last Wednesday, I went to see “Tina” – Tina Turner musical.

I chose an outfit that I didn’t put on for a while, and my coworker liked it so much that she insisted on taking a picture of me. So that’s how I was dressed on that day:

I liked it, but I was not crazy about it, in part because the music was just too loud to enjoy – the first time in my life I regretted I didn’t have earplugs.

Earlier that day, we had a book club discussion at work. Believe it or not, but that was the first time in my life I participated in the book club, and it was only because it was at my workplace. We chose the book collectively back in February: first, people were just suggesting titles, and then we had a vote on Slack. When the book (“Never let me go”) was chosen, our hR sent copies to everybody who signed up (or ebooks or audiobooks). I already had my audiobook purchased several years ago; I just never came up to reading it.

As I mentioned earlier, I had mixed feeling about that book. Although it is very well written, the whole plot seems to be very artificial. Although I understand that the idea was to highlight how humans make excuses to pronounce other non-humans when it is convenient to them, I did find the book convincing. Possibly it’s because these days, we know that cloning cells and even stand-alone organs are more achievable and less expensive than cloning humans. And I can’t relate to books that can’t make me believe that whatever is described in the book could happen. As usual, the problem might be with me rather than with the books :). In any case, it was a relief to find out during our book club discussion that some other readers shared my feelings.

On Friday, it was “Cry it out” – a play written by Molly Smith Metzler and presented by Above The Law – a small theater just across my house. I’ve been to one of their performances before and loved it, and wanted to see another show. Since it was so close, I suggested that my mom and Igor also come, and I invited my friend MaryAnn. Since the theater is so tiny and each performance is sold out, I booked our tickets back in February. I was glad that everybody, including Mary Ann, could make it! I found a play synopsis from some other theater just to give an idea of what this play is about. The “Above the Law” theater cast was amazing, as always :).

On Monday, I listened to Bach’s St. Mattew Passion, presented by Music of Baroque. I remember hearing this piece for the first time – in the spring of 1991 when I was pregnant with Vlad and Anna. I believe it was the first time it was performed in the Leningrad Philharmonic, and listening to unmistakable religious music felt very revolutionary. It made such a profound impression that I still remember what the soloists looked like.

This time, it didn’t feel revolutionary, just a beautiful music. I didn’t stay till the end because I knew I won’t get enough sleep, and I had the whole week of cultural events ahead.

On Tuesday, I went to the Member’s Event at the Field Museum for the opening of the new exhibit “First Kings of Europe”

I will blog about it separately because I want to show more pictures.

And finally, yesterday I saw “A Soldeir’s Play” at CIBC Theater. Although this performance was a part of Broadway in Chicago, it is not a musical (several musical numbers are included, but overall it’s drama based on the movie of the same name).

Chicago Tribune noted in the review that it was very symbolic that the play premiered on the night when Brandon Johnson won the mayoral elections!


Almost three years after Anna’s family moved to Milwaukee, we finally had our first day in Milwaukee Downtown!
The reason for my travel was Nadia’s first recital, but the whole day was amazing!
I used the Milwaukee streetcar for the first time. These streetcars look a lot like trams in Helsinki; even the buttons which open the doors look the same!

They are nice and clean, and they are free!

Robert Burns monument


I liked the recital; it reminded me of the ones Anna’s piano teacher had, where the students of all different skill levels had a chance to participate. Nadia did great, and I think listening to more advanced students perform inspired her.

Milwaukee Conservatory

And then, I finally visited the Milwaukee Art museum. Many people toladme how awesome this museum is. My neighbor sometimes goes to Milwaukee just to see a new exhibit.

FInally, I made it there! The building architecture is breathtaking! Lots of interesting exhibits, and they have an educational center, too!

Thaitian Art
Still need to figure this out – see description below
leaving the Art Museum after closing

While we were at the Art Museum, I received a notification on my Amtrak app, that my train was canceled “due to equipment problems,” so I had to rebook for two hours later. On the bright side, we had dinner together 9and the girls seriously discussed the idea to go to Chicago with me :))

The African Exhibit At The Art Institute p.3

I still want to show the remaining pictures, and I even didn’t see the whole exhibit, so I am sure more posts will follow.

Some of the cultures presented at the exhibit are well-researched, and there was a lot of interesting information explaining how the languages reflected some important concepts and beliefs. For example, many languages had the same word for “good” and “beautiful,” meaning the being good is an equivalent of being beautiful.

Also, I learned about the purpose and meaning of body scarsing in African cultures. The people wanted to distinctuate themselves in the eyes of gods from the “wild life,” and from their point of view, an intelligent creature can be identified by their ability to alter their natural appearance.

A choker with leopard teeth
Almost a “Thinker”
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The African Exhibit At The Art Institute p.1

On my actual birthday, Boris and I went to see the exhibit in the Art Institute called “The Language of Beauty in African Art”

That was one of the most astonishing discoveries for me! The only thing I knew about African Art was the art of Benin. Even though I saw some artworks in the Art Institute’s permanent exhibit, I didn’t explore them deeply enough.

Before I explode with a million pictures, let me summarize what was so astonishing. We know how Ancient Greek art was taken away en mass and how greeks thought for returning many of the artworks. We know about a similar struggle in Egypt. However, Greek and Egyptian art were at least studied and carefully preserved, and all the circumstances of when and where objects were found were recorded.

With African art, the situation is different. When Europeans arrived to Africa (specifically, when Germans arrived to West Africa at the end of the 19th century), they saw a “primitive” art, which looked cool, and they just took the objects of art and brought them to Europe! I am not even talking about asking for permission, or paying in some way, but they didn’t even asked what these objects meant!!!!

Looking at the exhibit, you can see that some research followed, and in many cases, you can read about language, beliefs, gods, etc. But in many cases, it’s “the purpose is unknown”, and “16 – 19 th century”, and “Southern or Western Africa”. And that’s it!

And look at all these amazing artworks! Can you see why German artists were so fascinated? Can you see how this art influenced German Expressionism and Cubism? Do you see Picaso’s big feet and Modigliani’s women?

We had to leave after almost two hours because of emotional and informational overload, and we haven’t see about a third of this exhibit. And as I said, I have tons of photos. Posting some here, and hopefully more later.

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Field Museum Exhibit

On Sunday, Boris and I went to the Field Museum to see a relatively new exhibit, Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery

I wanted to go to this exhibit with Boris because the subject of the exhibit is uncomfortable to many people, and I knew for sure that it won’t be uncomfortable for him, and that our views on the subject of the exhibit are similar.

Did I see what I expected to see? Yes and no. I expected a little more comparison of different cultures, rituals, and religious views. It was all present, but less than I expected. On the other hand, more emphasis was on “what do you think?”

The model of ta dead whale sank to the bottom of the ocean becoming a foundation of a new ecosystem
I was not aware of that concept. It basically means you are dead (or is not born yet, I guess) until you are baptised
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Art Institute

Since mom started to have difficulties climbing the stairs and walking, I stopped taking her to any cultural activities. I knew this was not the ideal situation, and I was trying to find a way to resume them. Mom said that taking a bus to the Loop would be worse because the bus takes longer, she would have to sit for longer, and it would be even harder for her to get up. I started to contemplate how I could convince her to take Uber, but then she said she wanted to try to climb the stair at Morse CTA.

One thing I knew won’t be working anymore – she won’t be able to take CTA by herself and meet me in the Loop, so whenever we would go for any cultural activities, I would have to be a weekend so that I could pick her up from home.

This Saturday, I planned to go to the Art Institute with her – there are three exhibits that I still didn’t have a chance to see, and two of them are closing in January.

Overall it was a success. Mom was so tired of sitting at home that she didn’t have time to complain about anything during our field trip. She said I ordered too much gelato for her at Amorino, but then she finished everything :).

Here are the exhibits we saw:

David Hockney

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Two meetings I planned for Saturday morning before leaving for Chicago got canceled, but I already knew what I was going to do: The Museum of Modern Art was less than a 20-minute walk from my hotel. The last time I was at MoMA was with Igor’s friends’ family, and it turned out that I completely missed some paintings. I can’t say that we didn’t visit these rooms, because I remembered some paintings very well.

As I often do when I have limited time in a huge museum, I decided not to rush and see just a part of the museum but to pay close attention to each painting. The room with WWI and WWII-inspired art immediately caught my attention. It is possible that I saw these paintings last time as well, but they didn’t feel so timely back then. Unfortunately, I just realized that most of my photos from that room are very blourry, so there s almost nothing to show.

Collective suicide
Beckmann- “Hell”
Beckmann – Family picture
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The Art Institute And Gelato

It was more for today’s day! After all of the morning /afternoon activities in Palatine, I returned to the city and met the youth from the shelter in the Art Institute.

We were there a month ago, and although some of the youth appeared interested, the field trip was pretty chaotic. I was unsure how things would turn up this time, but to my surprise, seven of the youth showed up, including a couple of folks who were there on our previous Art Institute outing. Another surprising thing was that everybody was very engaged, and we stayed in the museum until it was about to close. I had to answer the same questions they usually ask in Medieval art: where are people of color? And as usual, they shake their heads in disbelief when I tell them that people lived in one town or village throughout their entire lives, and they didn’t know: you mean, they didn’t know there were other places? They thought that people everywhere were like them? 

After the Art Institute, I took everybody to the new gelato place. Some people started to walk forward, and our volunteer coordinator told those still there that I was taking them for gelato. 

— What is gelato?

— It’s a kind of ice cream.

— Ice cream?! Hey, stoop! STOOOP! She is taking us for ice cream!!!! 

We got to the gelato place. When the youth realized they could try multiple flavors, one of the girls asked: can I try all of them?!

The staff of the gelato shop was super-patient, and when the youth got all the flavors they wanted, there was peace, quiet and eternal happiness.