by Maggie Denena
Day two of our LEAP Retreat, the Ambassadors got a late start to the morning allowed us to catch up on some much needed rest after our first week of classes. Our first outing was heading to lunch at Arnaldo Richards’ Picos Seven Regions of Mexican Cuisine where we were meeting Mark Burns. While a couple of ambassadors have spent quite a bit of time with Mark during our travels, others have not, and we appreciate Mark for taking the time to come to lunch and answer any and all questions we may have. Picos was on the higher end of Mexican restaurants and offered a diverse menu of authentic Mexican dishes, and it may have been the first Mexican restaurant we have visited during a LEAP trip. As an appetizer, we ordered the Vuelve a la Vida Cocktail. Orders from our table also included Mancha Mantles…
….Lamb Mole Coloradito…
Chiles Rellenos, enchiladas….
….and a very impressive order of quesadillas. Because we had three different plates of Mole at our table, our waiter made a point to tell us about their “12 Days of Mole” event the second weekend in December, where they have 12 types of mole available for customers to try. Sawyer, a mole enthusiast, was more interested than Makayla, who was not a huge fan of her order. Sawyer, the mole enthusiast, ensured us that the discrepancy was Makayla and not the mole, which is almost certainly true.
We were sure to pick Mark’s brain about some of his ideas for upcoming gallery openings and some of the trips he has planned. He told us about a neat idea he has to accent one of his photographs, that quite honestly went over our heads. However, he did take the time to break down some basic techniques that are beneficial to know when handling cameras. After we were sufficiently stuffed, we finally said goodbye to Mark and headed out to visit The Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Houston Museum of Natural Sciences
by Sawyer Massie
After an extended lunch, we made plans to explore the Museum of Natural Sciences just a few blocks down the road. Short on time, we sped up the parking garage, through the gift shop, and to the ticket line. Actually, we hadn’t realized how long our lunch had truly lasted until the gentleman at the ticket counter told us we’d have a hard time fitting all of the exhibits into an hour.
We entered the museum portion of the building without a plan however our attention was soon captured by a prodigious moon replica hanging in the lobby of one of the corridors. We could not resist taking one of those cliché, picturesque photos where the four of us acted like we were holding up the moon.
Due to my lankiness, I appeared to be shoving my head into the core of the moon whereas Ilexus was using her telepathy to hold it up.
Continuing with the theme of the moon (on exhibit owing to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing) there was a nearby astronaut cutout where the two of us put our heads in the holes and posed for a picture. Fortunately for her, there was a bench that she could stand on. I, on the other hand, had to get down on my knees and could barely fit my head inside the opening.
There were no maps to direct us, so instead we followed the sounds of the cacophonous screeching echoing throughout the museum. This led us to the paleontology wing of the building. The next hour was thrilling. Upon entering, we were greeted with fossils and dinosaurs within view from every angle. Interestingly, I met my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, which is clear from its skeletal resemblance to me.
While scientists call this creature a Dilophosaurus, we call it a DinaSawyer.
Pterodactyls soared above and remnants of early humans were displayed neatly along the walls. We enjoyed seeing the first flying human flying majestically alongside a pteranodon.
The next section of the museum was the quintessential reason why I avoid deep water. Thalassophobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of large bodies of water, however I’m sure many would agree, given the leviathan exhibited in front of me, that it is in no way irrational at all.
The megalodon was 60 feet long on average, and it could bite with a force of 140,000 newtons. That’s eight times more powerful than a great white shark. To demonstrate this, the museum displayed a megalodon’s jaws opened up behind the skeleton of a baby mammoth showing that it easily could have swallowed it whole. After seeing a myriad of reptilian monstrosities with sharp teeth, it occurred to me that only 5% of the world’s oceans have been discovered. Needless to say, I had even more reasons to avoid deep water after seeing that exhibit.
Finally, the walkway fed into a palatial, open space with some of the more commonly known dinosaurs. We met a Tyrannosaurus Rex named Stan…
…a Triceratops named Wally, and a Dimetrodon whom did not have a name, so we called him George.
The entire room was teeming with employees eager to demonstrate their knowledge of dinosaurs, so it was no surprise when we were approached by one when he caught us admiring the skeleton of another T. Rex that was on display. He knew plenty about the animals alive during the cretaceous period, and we appreciated his enthusiasm and knowledge.
Then, a bell rang over the intercom indicating that the museum would be closing in five minutes.
Up next, we made our way to see a LEAP favorite: James Turrell!
James Turrell’s Skyspace
By Maggie Denena
After an eventful trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, we decided to take a trip to Rice University’s Campus where one of James Turrell’s skyspaces is featured. On our way, we saw a James Surls’ piece…
We also saw a squirrel. Maggie has a knack for getting close to and photograph squirrels, so we let her do her thing. Amazingly, the squirrel posed for her.
Tearing ourselves from the wildlife, we made our way to the Turrell.
One of 85 pieces by James Turrell, Twilight Epiphany Skyspace was built in 2012 and is engineered to house an LED light show accompanying the sunset. This particular Skyspace is constructed from steel, concrete, and glass with a rectangular cutout in the roof.
In this cutout, the sky can be seen from within the pavilion. Several of our LEAP Ambassadors have already visited other pieces by Turrell, including The Color Inside on the University of Texas at Austin campus, MoMA PS1 Skyspace in New York, and The Light Inside at The Houston Museum of Fine Arts.
This particular pavilion can hold up to 120 visitors and has two stories. We sat on the bottom section, walking through a short tunnel to reach the interior of the design, and decided the view was slightly better from there than upstairs.
Light sequences are open to the public everyday except Tuesdays, for 10 minutes before and after sunrise or sunset. I believe this time is intended to be used as thoughtful reflection or relaxation, which we definitely enjoyed after a busy first week of classes. We really enjoyed using our cameras to capture the different colors of the light sequence that complement the changing sky.
It was pleasing to see how quickly the sky changed and how different the color of the sky looked with each color from the sequence.
After watching the sky fade to black, and with the fun activities over for the day, it was time to get down to business and have our meeting back at the hotel.