Remember how as a kid that tiny glob of mercury you salvaged from the broken thermometer (gee, how did that happen?) could keep you entertained for hours?
I remember being mesmerized as the mercury rapidly rolled along the crevices of my palm and then split like an atom when I applied pressure or let it drop to the floor. That tiny substance defied all logic, all experience, elevating it to something almost spiritual.
That’s always my experience whenever I visit Chicago’s “Bean.”
The “Bean”, as Chicagoans affectionately dubbed Kapoor’s sculpture just days after the unveiling in July, 2004, is the Chicago destination whenever family or friends come for a visit. It's one of several city attractions in Millennium Park that are out of this world favorites for locals and tourists alike. I was especially excited to share this mathematical and architectural marvel with my father during his latest visit. After all, this is the same man who inspired my love of mathematics. He was as subtle as an imaginary number.
I was 9 the summer my father introduced me to the game of chess. Had I any inkling the complexity and sophistication of such a pastime, I would have run for cover, at the very least for the back yard where my siblings were effortlessly tangled in the nearest jungle gym.
With a wooden checkerboard and a few knights, rooks, bishops and pawns between us, I felt a queen to his king basking in the sunshine of my father’s loving and watchful eye. A rich queen too (is there any other type?), given my father’s enticement of doubling my allowance (all 25 pennies) if I could beat him two games out of three (never happened!). Royalty has its price. But I digress.
After our 45-minute train ride in from the burbs, we (dad, Jim, me and my son Ryan) walked
Standing alongside Cloud Gate I cannot help but marvel at the mathematics behind the art. I’m such a geek! I hesitate to tarnish the aesthetics of this man-made wonder with the particulars, but those particulars lend substance to the very majesty of Kapoor’s vision and Chicago’s venture. I promise, I'll be brief.
One hundred sixty-eight stainless steel plates were created via computers and robotics and welded together on site around two internal support rings, then polished to perfection (no visible seams). See pictures during construction via this link courtesy of Chicago's public library. And if you still can't get enough of Cloud Gate (that would be me) this link provides over a thousand awesome images via Flickriver streaming that basically makes my photos look pitiful. Considering the extremes in temperature along Chicago’s lakefront, the yin-yang of expansion and contraction, and the sheer size and weight of this project, the engineering behind this sculpture is unprecedented, as was the $23 million price tag (all private donations).
But enough of the nuts and bolts – I promised I’d be brief.
Look up along the upper edges of the reflective surface and sky and sculpture become one as
The real kids though were on the ground beneath the “Bean”, playing freely with this big blob of mercuryness, touching it with their hands and feet, even their heads, experiencing the moment and magic with their usual savoir faire.
Thirty minutes into nirvana and I felt one with the universe and the three most important guys in my life.
Need I reiterate; I am crazy mad about Chicago's "Bean", and of course my dad, my husband and my son.
The bottom line on Chicago's Cloud Gate:
- Verdict: Put this on your bucket list. Admission is free; the experience is priceless.
- How to Get There: Head for Chicago's Lakefront and the famed Loop area; stop when
you get to Michigan Avenue.
- Insider Info: You won't want to leave, so allow yourself plenty of time to see, touch and
experience this phenomenal piece of art. It is one of four astounding attractions in
Millennium Park you'll want to see and experience. You'll need an entire morning or
afternoon to do the entire park justice.
- Nearby Food: The "Bean" sits atop the Park Grill Restaurant where the menu offers a wide selection of dining options, outdoor seating in spring, summer and fall, but for a true
Chicago experience, go for a hotdog from the local vendor just outside the Park Grill.