EVANSVILLE MUSEUM OF ARTS, HISTORY AND SCIENCE*

* Subtitle: When I get Dizzy, I Confuse Sigourney Weaver and God**
** Subheading: Spectacularly Grainy iPhone Photos, but not of Sigourney Weaver. Sad Panda.


In 1963, an artwork titled Seated Woman with Red Hat was gifted to the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science. The piece was labeled, cataloged, and placed into storage, where it remained, in obscurity, for nearly fifty years. (So, roughly the same amount of time it would take for you to walk from San Francisco to New York and back two-hundred and thirty times.) 

In February 2012, the president of Guernsey's (a New York City auction house) called the Museum to ask about a piece of art. A Picasso, specifically. Museum officials were confused at first, but after doing a bit of research, they realized that Seated Woman with Red Hat had been mislabeled. Whoops.

For half a century, the Museum had been storing, unknowingly, a valuable piece of artwork. In an NPR story published in September 2012, curator Mary Bower is quoted as saying, "All the documentation associated with the gift indicated that this was by an artist named Gemmaux, which really happens to be the plural of the artistic technique." Gemmail is a layered glass technique in which pieces of glass are joined together with clear liquid enamel and then fired. Sometimes, the artwork can appear three-dimensional, but--when lit from behind--the light catches the varying textures, colors, and depths of the glass. (I plan to make my own gemmaux using shards of glass from the alleyway, Elmer's Glue, and a blowtorch. I'll let you know how it goes.)

Unfortunately for the Evansville Museum, Seated Woman with Red Hat was far too expensive to keep. In fact, the piece was worth five to six times more than the museum's endowment. The Museum could not afford to insure the work, and could not provide the necessary security. And so, they sold it. It's a sore subject for Evansville residents, who never had the opportunity to view the Picasso. And though selling the artwork may have been the best decision for the Museum, it's still unfortunate, as Evansville is isolated from the majority of Indiana and rarely receives the spotlight. It's the Hufflepuff of Indiana, I swear. 


In February 2014, two years after the Museum received the call from Guernsey's, an expansion was opened to the public. The expansion included an immersive planetarium and theater that features short films about space, nature, history, and the fragility of Earth. The theater features a 40-foot domed screen and a 10,000-watt digital surround system. In other words, if you're a curmudgeon like me, you'll end up shaking your first at the screen and yelling, "You're too loud!" 

Okay, not really. It wasn't that loud. I didn't actually curse the sound system. I did, however, keep my eyes closed for approximately one-third of the Sigourney Weaver-narrated film Ty and I attended. It was about space. Sort of. I think. I mean, I did keep my eyes closed because, in short, there was lots of zooming, lots of flying, and lots of dizzying panning. It was then that I remembered what my doctor had told me about my hypoglycemia: that it would be best to avoid roller coasters, motion simulators, Jacuzzis, saunas, wave pools, and basically anything that causes motion sickness. Way to go, me.

Immersive Theater: 1
Dawn's Vestibular System: 0

"I'm going to die," I whispered to Ty. 

"No, you're not." 

"I'm going to die, Ty. Right here. Now. In this theater."

"You're fine."

I closed my eyes and leaned back. "I see light at the end of the tunnel. I can hear the voice of God."

"No, that's Sigourney Weaver."

"Are you telling me that Sigourney Weaver isn't God?"

Ty sighed. "Nooooo. I'm telling you you're not going to die."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." 

"Are you positive?"

"Yes." 

"Are you sure you're positive?"

Ty hissed. "Stop whispering and pay attention to God." 

Before watching the film, we had spent approximately an hour and a half wandering the Museum, which is quite eclectic. There are hands-on exhibits to help you understand science, a collection of Native American artifacts, various pieces of artwork, an Abraham Lincoln exhibit, a replica of a 19th-century American river town, and a stuffed Alaskan brown bear. Grrrr.

We spent most of our time on the first floor, wandering the "Legacies of World War II" and "Decades of Change: Evansville 1900-1945" exhibits. The latter contained a collection of photographs of historic Evansville, and documented two floods, a major race riot, and other historical events. The World War II exhibit featured uniforms, weapons, photographs, and documents from the War, and, according to the Museum's website, explored "a variety of aspects of humankind's largest and deadliest conflict." (During the War, Evansville manufactured fighter aircraft, bullets, and other war material. The city also constructed a shipyard that produced LSTs.) 

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to the Museum. I found it engaging, interesting, informative, and pleasantly air-conditioned. I had never been there before and, actually, neither had Ty. And even though we weren't able to admire a Picasso, we sure as hell made fools of ourselves in front of the anti-gravity mirror. Because of course we did.

6 comments:

  1. This is hilarious! I'm sorry you felt so unwell in the cinema but you wrote it in such a funny way. I feel sorry for the place, that Picasso story sucks! xxx
    La Lingua : Food, Life, Love, Travel, Friends, Italy

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    1. Thank you! I actually ended up keeping my eyes closed for the last ten minutes or so, but, overall, it really was a fun experience. I enjoyed visiting, and I'm glad you enjoyed the story!

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  2. 1.) That is a hilarious story of human bladder. Whoops indeed.

    2.) Who knew they have such a beautiful museum there! I have got to get out of Indy more and actually visit around Indy. I guess growing up and being told a lot of places outside of Indy aren't safe for black people has affected me more than i ever thought it would. This place is gorgeous! I really have to talk Jason into a day trip on his next vacation.

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  3. Good thing the place was air conditioned or you probably WOULD have died on your spin through space.
    Also, if I bring my own alley shards will you please let me know when you are gemmaux-ing? ;)

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  4. Haha, the Hufflepuff of Indiana! I like it. You've been blogging up a storm lately! I have been meaning to blog about my visit to this museum for over a month now (oops!).

    I love the Victorian town. Those kinds of exhibits are my favorite. If I remember correctly, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has an even larger version of this, and it even includes an old fashion ice cream shop you can eat in!

    We missed the WWII exhibit by a few days. It wasn't open yet, and we could only peek in and watch them set up the uniforms. Overall, I'm impressed with the renovation and glad they didn't change too much of the exhibit space.

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  5. Very interesting story! I'm an Evansville resident, but I haven't been to the Museum in years. There just didn't seem to be any reason to go. As a child I went to the museum and visited the recreation of a town downstairs. I love that part of the museum. However, once you've seen it multiple times, it's allure lessens. When I taught preschool, I took my students there as well. It seemed to me that it had become nothing more than an art gallery for the most part. {which is ironic knowing now that they actually had a Picasso in the building and it was never displayed at any time.} After reading your story, I'm looking forward to a visit. {although I'm reluctant to make the theater visit. I get seasick easily, lol} I'm looking forward to more posts on your blog as well! Very funny!

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