Monday, March 08, 2010

magnificent kitsch

a fish made of fish agate

In Elmhurst, Illinois, there is a small museum dedicated to the lapidary arts. According to Google there’s another one in Hendersonville, North Carolina and a third in Ghent among the ruins of St. Bavo’s Abbey. (Among other things, St. Bavo was the patron saint of falconry.)

The second page of Google search results (but who ever looks at the second page?) reveals another within easy reach of the Isenheim Altarpiece and its pustulent Christ; and yet another in North Cyprus, in the small town of Nicosia, in an ecclesiastical structure left behind by the Venetians when they blew through the Mediterranean and lit the fire that gave us El Greco and other bits of beauty.

But back to the rocks of Elmhurst, cut and polished and fashioned by hand. The Lizzadro Museum is full of them, as Mr. Hoo and I discovered late last summer entirely by accident when we crossed the park after taking in an exhibit at the Elmhurst Art Museum (which has the dubious distinction of salvaging and transplanting a complete Mies structure to the site and appropriating its rooms for administrative offices).

little piggy

It’s my fault we went in. The ragged unfinished hunk of Jade mounted near the front door drew me through the doors; and it’s my fault that we stayed longer than Mr. Hoo would have liked.

The room, you have to understand, was filled with Jade. And yes: Intaglios and intarsias and faceted gemstones -- but the Jade! Carved into vessels and scepters and screens, worked so thin as to be translucent, it breathed the same green of regeneration that led the Maya to revere it.

Rimmed around the room, however, was the greater curiosity: frame after frame of lapidary dioramas. Mother birds feeding their young. Dinosaurs roaming the earth. Vast herds of buffalo bringing steam trains to a full stop as they migrated across the vast open prairie. Jasper seemed to be the stone of choice, but obsidian and quartz and tiger’s eye and lapis lazuli also put in an appearance; as did agate and aquamarine.

Magnificent kitsch.

The twelve year old in me kicked in and I took an eternity to circle the room while Mr. Hoo waited patiently near the snuff bottles carved out of stone.


This weekend I returned with my camera. The room was smaller than I remembered (isn’t it always) which means it didn’t take me long at all to get my shots (photography is allowed at the Lizzadro Museum), which is a good thing, because a cold bug was settling into my sinuses and I didn’t have the endurance for much more than that.

I’ve posted them here for you. You may be intrigued, or you may be indifferent. This is how people generally are about rocks.

It's all or nothing, really, when it comes to the lapidary arts.

Flickr slideshow: Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art »

The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art
In Wilder Park
220 Cottage Hill
Elmhurst, Illinois, 60126
(630) 833-1616


anne said...

too cool!

I dated a geologist for 6 years, so I guess I "get" rocks.

thanks for sharing!

anniemcq said...

Oh,I love this. I looked at every shot on Flickr, then looked at them all again. I love that someone thought making these was a worthwhile use of their time and talents, and I LOVE that you went in, and then WENT back, so you could share this with us.

suttonhoo said...

yay -- thanks you guys! I had serious misgivings about posting this, for fear that no one would be interested.

so so glad you enjoyed them. there are several dioramas that I have no photos of because I bungled up my white balance, and they went all weird and monochromatic. but maybe I'll see if I can save a few by converting them to greyscale...

thanks again for stopping by.

Bonita said...

I used to work in a factory where I helped build lapidary tumblers for the amateur market. It was exacting work and gave me a real appreciation for the hobby of polishing rocks.

I was already a lover of polished rocks from picking up agates on the beach polished by the waves. My father also loved polished rocks and gave me his collection.

On car trips I always find one of those roadside rock stores and search to find my "trip rock". Guess all of this qualifies me as something of a rock hound.

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