For us, we remember Dallas Texas not because of the iconic TV show (1978-1991) but due to the 1963 murder of President John F Kennedy. We were in both in Junior High School at the time and just becoming aware of current events and government. It was inconceivable that someone would have killed our President. As we were travelling through Texas, we knew we had to stop in Dallas.
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Square
Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot President John F. Kennedy from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository I(which is now a museum). The tragic event helped galvanize Tom’s interest in learning much anything he could find on Kennedy, Oswald, Ruby, Garrison and everything else related to the Kennedy and the assassination (including a few subsequent book on Kennedy and his family). We anxiously looked forward to visiting the museum.
But not all things go as planned. When we got there, we discovered that the museum was closed on both days of our Dallas visit. Lesson learned: if you want to visit the museum, research its opening times before travelling to Dallas. Who would have thought they would be closed 2 days a week.
Since we lived through and continued to educate ourselves about the event, the conspiracy and coverup stories as well as the accomplishments, missed opportunities and promises of the Kennedy administration, we probably didn’t really miss all that much. But missing our chance to actually visit the historic site will almost certainly assure a return visit to the city.
The Historic West End
Texas Book Depository is located in Dallas’ historic west end. Dallas was founded here in 1841.The founding is commemorated by John Neely Bryan’s 1842 cypress log canyon (common among the early structures) and the Old Red Courthouse. The current building is the 1892 replacement of three previous courthouse (all destroyed by fire) that had existed on the site since 1846. It now serves a museum of Dallas history.
Interesting, this first courthouse in the county was also the first in the state to empanel a woman juror. This happened in 1954 despite the fact that women had gained the right to vote in the state in 1920 and women were already eligible to serve as judges. Go figure!
The district is also home to the Phillip Johnson-designed John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial consisting of four concrete slabs walls with a simple stone slab in the center. While intended to allow people to find their on meaning in the life and death of Kennedy, it left both of us cold.
The huge, 277-acre park is home to the Cotton Bowl stadium, several museums (African-American, Women, Firefighters, etc.—all of which were closed when we were in town), an aquarium and several gardens.
We, however, went for another site in the park—a group of seven elaborate, monumental Art Deco-style buildings (of an original total of more than 50) that were built to house the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition. They surround an esplanade and lovely reflecting pool. The highlight of the grouping is the elaborate Hall of State—which is at the head of the esplanade. It was built to represent the State of Texas and later served as a Texas State Museum (now closed).
The other six buildings—the Porticos of, France, Spain, Mexico, Republic of Texas, the United States and the Confederacy—are named for the six flags under which Texas had been governed over its history.
Each of the monumental front colonnades contains a massive female sculpture that contains some element representative on the country. Each of the porticos also feature large murals to represent the exhibits each house (generally around transportation and various industries).
The entire site is beautifully maintained. The buildings, sculptures, murals, blue reflecting pool and the streamlined sculpture at the head of the pool are a dramatic sight. Kudos to the state and the city for maintaining them.
Dallas Arts District
We spent most of our limited time in Dallas in the large Arts District. The area is home to several museums, theaters, opera, symphony and other cultural sites.
Nasher Sculpture Center
The Nasher Sculpture Center has over 300 modern and contemporary sculptures both inside the museum an outside on its grounds. by artists including Matisse, Miro, Serra, etc.
Crow Collection of Asian Art
Located the University of Texas at Dallas, the museum focuses on Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Southeast Asian art. Unfortunately, the building was closed while they reorganized galleries. From what we could see, the walls were stripped down to the bare walls. We were only able to see the few pieces outside the museum’s entrance.
Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art has 25,000 works of art that cover over 5,000 years. We entered the museum past Miguel Covarrubias’ impressive glass mosaic vision of Genesis and through a tall glass-walled entry with a display of Dale Chihuly’s blown glass plates.
Our visit began on the fourth floor which is dedicated primarily to American art. Art of all the Americas is arranged here by time period: Colonial era, 19th century and 20th century.
Of the colonial period works we were particularly drawn to a few Mayan and especially Peruvian sculptures (especially an architectural piece, a representation of an idol and especially an amazing, 17th-century, roughly ten-foot tall Peruvian cabinet made of mahogany, ivory, mother of pearl and tortoise shell).
We admired some of the 19th century work, especially the furniture. But we were particularly drawn to the early 20th-century work: especially Thomas Hart Benton’s painting of the ravages of the Depression-era Dustbowl and Edward Hopper’s realist and Marsden Hartley’s abstracted landscapes.
While the European galleries included work from many centuries, the late 19th– and early 20th-century galleries featured selected works by all the usual suspects: Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Dali, Magritte and many others. Among the more unusual pieces we found to be of particular interest were:
- Wolfgang Paalen’s surrealist painting that begins by burning candles beneath a canvas to deposit patterns of smoke soot and then expanding on it;
- Munch’s expressive representation of a partially deforested landscape;
- Naum Gabo’s ivory sculpted version of a head;
- Kandinsky’s brightly pastel painting of small town;
- Edouard Manet’s energetically painted, but subtle portrait of “The Bugler”.
We were happily surprised to see a couple other artists that were represented in the European, rather than the American galleries:
- American Jean-Michel Basquiat’s portrait of a European art dealer painted on an old door; and
- Uruguayan Joaquin Torres-Garcia’s abstract, yet evocative representation of Parisan Café life.
Africa, Asia and Pacific Islands
Although American and European works are the most prominently displayed, other continents, countries and cultures are also represented. Some of those pieces we found to be most interesting include:
- Several African headdresses and ceremonial sculptures;
- Buddist, Hindu and Islamic art and an elaborate Indian Mughal backgammon board on which the winner was rewarded by an opportunity to see a couple pop-up images;
- A pair of fierce Chinese “Heavenly Guardians” and a graceful Court Lady burial figure;
- A complex, large-scale Japanese bronze sculpture of a warrior/statesman meeting with the Dragon King of the Sea; and
- A 19th’century Indonesian sword in a sheath decorated with tiger teeth.
A large, open garden contained a handful of sculptures where our tastes ran to one each by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Tony Smith.
The museum also had two special exhibits, one of works by Flemish Masters and another that used some of the museum’s early-to-mid-20th works to demonstrate the emergence of kinetic works that either imply or embody some form of motion.
Other Museum District Attractions
The District has much more than museums, including
- Architecture such as the 19th-century Arts District Mansion and the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
- Klyde Warren Park, a beautiful and functional use of land above a highway that contains open lawns and a number of engaging and interesting, often participatory pieces of public art;
- Numerous other public art works spread through the district
During our short Dallas stop, we only had time to eat in two places.
Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse where our dinner started with two chicken-fried boneless quail medallions. The quail was quite good, but it unfortunately was overwhelmed by a wild mushroom brandy demi-glace that was more of a gravy. Tom’s espresso-crusted elk tenderloin was also very good. But again, it and the brown rice served with it was swamped in what sounded like an interesting blackberry port reduction. The saucing story continued with Joyce’s shrimp and grits cake with bacon and portabella in cream sauce which was good, other than for the big pool of sauce. On the more positive side, we were very pleased with the loaded smoked baked potato and with our wine—a 2018 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee.
We had lunch at Sammy’s Barbeque. We enjoyed a half rack of ribs and giant sides of onion strings and mac ‘n cheese. It was more than enough for both our lunches.
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