While I was in Houston I managed to get a little sightseeing done in between filing paperwork and drinking. I stayed at Hi-Houston at Morty Rich Hostel. It was a lovely 15 minute walk to the Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel.
The Menil Collection is a free museum founded by two wealthy Houston socialites John and Dominique de Menil. The two began collecting art in the 1940s. They wanted to bring art to the masses believing that everyone should have right to enjoy its power. Both were advocates for melding contemporary art and Christianity together to create a modern spiritual experience. They created the Menil Collection to foster a new way of enjoying art and exploring spirituality. When they designed their building they believed that art is meant to be experienced in a intimate environment and with organic lighting.
The collection has 17,000 pieces of art from all over the world and all over the spectrum of art. There was Rene Magritte, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso pieces amongst other greats. There were also some rooms with ethnic art from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Northwest along with artifacts from ancient Egypt and Medieval art. The collection is diverse with impressive quality.
The temporary exhibit I saw was A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James. This exhibit had his clothing and furniture designs. All were luxurious designs with a vintage flare. The designs were mostly from the 1940s. The hats were to die for.
Around the corner from the Menil Collection is the Rothko Chapel. This project was also funded by John and Dominique de Menil as another venue to meld spirituality and art. Rothko is a abstract artist that is world renowned. This chapel is unique not only because it is filled with his art but also because it is a chapel for all faiths. Upon entering the chapel there is a bench with a variety of religious texts like the Bible, The Torah, the Quran and more. This is a place to meditate and immerse yourself in enlightenment and art.
I was talking to one of the local at a bar and he told me an interesting story. He said that Rothko was commissioned by a five-star restaurant to create a set of paintings. He completed the paintings and went to the restaurant to enjoy a meal amongst his masterpieces. As he was enjoying this chef’s masterpiece of a meal, he became distracted. There was clinking of plates, chatter from people, children crying and other noises. Rothko couldn’t concentrate on eating his meal and he decided that the blood, sweat, and tears he poured into his paintings were not being appreciated by the restaurant patrons. So he took back all of his art and the de Menil’s stepped in and created the chapel so that his work could truly be appreciated and adored.
Art is many things and among those things is a gate way to enlightenment. Whether you are creating it or looking at it. Art is soul splashed on to a page. Each brush stroke is a step towards self-understanding and enlightenment. You don’t have to believe in God to believe in the power of art.