December 16, 2011

The Art of R&R - New Britain, Conn.

Me, marveling at the museum's giant wall o' color
(made of paper and plastic cups painted in bright colors and
nailed to the wall by the thousands), by Lisa Hoke.

The holidays can get a tad overwhelming.

Particularly if you're, say, hosting a big holiday dinner, having family and friends from out of the state stay over, or trying to fit in all the last-minute shopping, gift-wrapping, and cleaning around your day-to-day life.

I'm doing all of the above - and let's just say I was in dire need of an afternoon filled with nothing but peace and quiet.

For you Connecticut peeps, it may come as a surprise that of all places, Hard Hittin' New Britain offers just such an oasis.

My husband and I recently ventured to the New Britain Museum of American Art, a great spot to spend a relaxing couple of hours just ... unwinding. Here, you can take in the art at your own pace, check out whatever exhibits interest you, wander around the outside grounds to see cool pieces of sculpture, and, perhaps, find a bit of inspiration and calm.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: A wonderful place to de-stress during the holidays. 
  • Where You'll Find it: The New Britain Museum of American Art
  • When to Go: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays noon to 5 p.m. (Closed Mondays!)
  • Cost: Admission is a super reasonable $10 per adult and free for kids under 12. Senior admission is $9, and student admission is $8.

The museum, which underwent an expansion a few years back, features 10 galleries with a surprisingly diverse collection of art - from sculptures of bronze or glass to paintings to interactive installations.

A visitor checks out a very realistic
painting of the Arragoni Bridge, situated
between Portland and Middletown,
by Connecticut native Peter Waite.

What's especially cool is the assortment of pieces created by artists associated with Connecticut. Who knew such a massively talented populus had any connection to this little state of ours?

My favorite was a painting by George Chaplin, who once upon a time studied art at Yale, and previously taught at Silvermine Art College in Norwalk, Conn. and at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

His "Untitled (Yellow #2)" looks deceivingly simple at first glance - a rectangle of yellow surrounded by a thin edge of lavender. But take a moment to contemplate this painting, and it will kind of blow your mind.

My husband, Matt, reads about
one of my fave paintings in the place.
The painting literally looks like it's glowing - like it's luminous at its center. But that's just the way it's painted that makes you perceive this. The palest white-yellow fades into colors of brighter and deeper gold so realistically that you could swear the painting has a spotlight focused straight on it. Super cool, I'm telling you.

I also recommend checking out the installation by Mississippi native Carson Fox, whose indoor "fire-and-ice" rooms - complete with resin snowflakes, ceiling icicles, and hand-painted flames - tell the story of her family background.

All in all, the museum offered a nice way to unplug for an afternoon. Of course, if you *must* squeeze some holiday shopping in, there's always the museum gift shop.

A sculpture of Don Quixote invites
you to the museum entrance.

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