When Marian Bantjes Comes To Town, Mercury Rises

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The stars aligned yesterday when we snatched a few precious hours with the lovely Marian Bantjes, who left her tiny Canadian island to speak tonight at Art Center at 7:30pm. It was hot and dry in the city, so we caught an air-conditioned shuttle to higher altitudes: refurbished Griffith Observatory, the LA monument that’s been used by space-gazers since 1935. When we got there about 50 enthusiasts had their tripods planted in the grass around the building, their telescopes craned skyward. Little did we know, this was a legitimate heavenly event. Mercury was traversing in front of the sun.

The exhibits, designed with care by C&G Partners, looked good enough, but couldn’t hold our attention: every time we walked by an exterior door, we’d wander out to the blinding white terraces for indulgent views of the palatial Art Deco details against the city below. And why watch Mercury on video feed from the coelostat when we could train our eye on the tiny grey dot of a planet through the actual hulking Zeiss telescope, continuously in use for over 70 years?

Besides footage of looping solar plasma, which we noted looked exceptionally like Bantjes’ work, the highlight had to be an unidentified exhibit that stretched from the Wormhole Corridor (no kidding) to the Gunther Depths of Space. Hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of celestial costume jewelry draped along the hallway, a galaxy of sparkling sunburst brooches, sheriff stars, and grinning moon earrings.