Nestled in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains, the small city of Roanoke always surprises me.
This time the most startling sight among the beautiful hilly landscape was the new Taubman Museum of Art, designed by a protege of famed architect Frank Gehry.
My friend Gretchen suggested we meet at the museum for lunch. "You'll see it on your right," she said. "It's a monstrosity. You can't miss it."
Whenever someone tells me, "You can't miss it," I groan inside. It's a sure sign that I'll fly right by the supposedly obvious turn.
Not this time.
Architect Randell Stout has crafted a building that stands out, even from the driver's seat on the highway.
(This view is from a walkway.)
Wow. It's a glass and metal piece of art, complete with a giant pyramid stuck on the top and an undulating roof. You can find more (and better) photos here.
It's beautiful inside. Lots of open space, soaring ceilings and bold museum walls.
Those two "people" sitting cross-legged are pieces of art work. The one on the right is fuzzy and purple, like a muppet.
I really liked this colorful, spunky mural. It was created by a collective of 30 artists from Brooklyn and Tokyo who worked in the setting of rural Cameron, North Carolina.
Here's part of the wall note:
"The citizens in the small town of Cameron (pop. 281) opened themselves to the impulses of this multi-talented, creative group of artists: they provided food, shelter, supplies, found barns for the group to paint, and, during late night outdoor painting sessions, provided power generators for the light. The urban, hip-hop, hard-noses, hit-and-run artists collided with the honest-working, down-home, southern-style hospitality, and the interaction profoundly affected both the group and the community at large—they became family."
What amazing connections art can create ...
This sculpture's title translates to "Howling Faces," above.
A few more pieces that intrigued me ...
I loved the wide range of time periods. The museum went from modern to historic in a few steps, and the transition was flawless.
This hanging cloth was intricately cut. Imagine the most exquisite paper snowflake ever, and you'll get a glimpse of the workmanship here.
A close up:
Ah, right! Lunch! I knew I was forgetting something ...
The museum restaurant is called the Norah's Cafe, after the subject of one of the museum's most cherished pieces, an 1888 painting by John Singer Sargent.
Norah (Mrs. George Gribble) overshadows the other pieces on this wall:
Norah's Cafe is probably the most delicious and reasonably priced of any museum cafe I've been to. View the menu.
Gretchen ordered the "Verdant Panini" ($8) — "Eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, carmalized onions, and pesto on a focaccia roll."
I ordered the Asian salad ($8) — "Boston bibb lettuce layered with crumbled Maytag blue cheese, candied cashews and pears topped with seared tuna , dressed with a toasted sesame dressing."
It came with grapes and a mini chocolate chip muffin. And it was delicious.
Can you see what a great surprise this museum was? It also has a nifty Norman Rockwell painting, and one by Winslow Homer, if you are interested in art superstars.
And the Roanoke downtown is charming, too ... photos of that in another post!