November 8, 2001

Out of the Ordinary

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It was no ordinary scene at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art last Saturday night at the opening reception for several late fall exhibitions. Director Frank Robinson and his exceptional staff have saved the best for last, providing Cornell with an oasis of breathtaking art work.

Taking up residence on campus for the remainder of the fall semester are the exhibits No Ordinary Land, Carlos Ulloa: Admissible Luz, Is It Real?, and Sleight of Hand: Old Acquistions of Old Master Drawings and Prints. These new shows create a refuge from the all-too-familiar confines of Uris and Olin libraries during finals. Whether you’re looking for a fun game of brainteasers with a friend, or just need to vegetate in front of an awe-inspiring view, the hundred foot walk to the free JMA is no obstacle. Picture this if you will.

Scenario One: You and a friend are in the fishbowl fastidiously quizzing one another about the effects of temperature and depth on the crystallization sequence along Bowen’s Reaction Series. Although you are usually fond of your comrade, you have begun to transfer your annoyance with the realm of geological science onto him or her. Said friend suggests getting a cup of java at the coffee shop in Olin, but intelligent you knows that your wrath will not subside in the time it takes to drink a demi tasse latte. What to do? Take a trip to the other side of the arts quad, enter the large cement edifice to your left, proceed downstairs, and enter No Ordinary Land.

Sure, you’re sick of the physical side of land, but the aesthetic side might be just what the doctor ordered. With crisp, vibrant photographs collected by photographers Virgina Beahan and Laura McPhee from their book of the same title, No Ordinary Land explores the beauty of our visual world, while subtly highlighting the role that our inhabitance has played in it.

The exhibit features such exotic locations as the alien formations of Volcano, Italy, the dramatic terrain of Iceland, the lush vistas of Sri Lanka, the sublime curves of the Hawaiian Islands, and even the geometric landscapes of urban and suburban New Jersey. Visit the exhibit to complement your study of unworldly volcanic creations, or simply to meditate on the beauty and grace of some of the world’s most exquisite panoramas. No Ordinary Land offers an aesthetic melding of science and art that can transport you out of the confines of study and into a world of calming beauty, or can provide a new vantage point while keeping your mind on finals.

Scenario Two: The walls of the Phillips lounge are beginning to close in around you. You and a friend have been diligently working through a five-question take-home exam for three hours. You’ve reached problem five, which asks how one would phase the array in order to make the beam point in the maximum direction.

You want to ask your friend if the professor has deceptively snuck in new material in order to subvert your efforts at beating the mean. But you don’t for fear that he’ll figure out that you’re really an imposter and are only studying with him because he’s smarter than you are. Thus comes the perfect time to suggest a jaunt out of the engineering quad to try relaxing your right-brained minds with a little game of Is It Real?

An exhibit fit for those you who scoff at doltish puzzles on The Weakest Link, Is It Real? features astounding etchings and prints by D