Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Natural reds and greens from our trip to Arizona
Wherever you might be celebrating, I hope you have time to be with loved ones -- family and friends -- during this season of peace and love.  I am home, blessed to be surrounded by my husband and children.  It is awesome.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Polymath

Sketch of Leonardo da Vinci
It's sort of spooky when a theme keep reappearing in your daily life.  Lately the phrase "polymath" keeps coming up in my reading.  What's a polymath?  In simple terms, it's someone who has expertise in a broad range of topics and interests.  Da Vinci was a polymath.

Here are two polymaths whose names you may not recognize.  Do you know Sir Francis Galton?  I didn't.  In The Geography of Genius  I learned he was a 19th century scientist who coined the phrase nature versus nurture.  He introduced the questionnaire and statistical analysis, forensic fingerprints, and composite portraiture.  He was one of the first meteorologists.

Sir Francis Galton, circa 1850s

In The Invention of Nature:Alexander Humboldt by Andrea Wulf I'm learning about Alexander Humboldt, another relatively unknown polymath. He invented isotherms -- the lines of temperature and pressure we see on today's weather maps, discovered the magnetic equates, posited the idea of climate zones and the interconnected web of nature.

Portrait of Alexander Humboldt by Joseph Karl Stieler
I'm finding it fascinating to read about people who've made remarkable contributions to our society, yet whose names most of us don't know or, that I don't know.  It makes me think of all those master craftsmen who helped build and embellish  architectural masterpieces such as Notre Dame and the Vatican.  What about all those Roman aqueducts?  The pyramids?   I'm thinking also about the women in the movie, Hidden Figures, who most of us would most likely never read about had their stories not been told.  How many other people haven't see the spotlight?

So here's to the unsung heroes.  I'm raising a glass to you all.

Be well.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Arizona Travels

A panoramic view of the trail into the wilderness
After Thanksgiving, my husband and I traveled to Arizona to visit his parents; he had some business to do during the day and I got to explore.  I hadn't been to Arizona in years so I was snapping pictures left and right. It's not the time for cactus blossoms, but it was fascinating to see the variety of cactus spine textures.

Somehow, the cactus wren calls this home.
We came across some petroglyphs during a hike.  Very cool.  It's a bit mind-boggling to consider how long man has had the urge (or is it a need?) to record his actions and his environment.

We spied a natural phenomena as we boated along Saguaro Lake that a native who'd live in the area for 32 years had never seen before.  They looked like nets that had been suspended all along the shore, just above the water line.  My mother-in-law thought they looked like web worm webs, but no one was sure. Any ideas?

I took a tour of Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and architectural "campus".  I loved the angles that let in the light.

A view of the garden room
Frank Lloyd Wright was uncompromising about his design.  When the structures were originally built, all the spaces were open; there were no windows.  When the time came to add windows, you'd think there might be some adjustments to interior design.  Absolutely not.  Do you see the pair of vases in the background in the picture below?  

Frank Lloyd Wright was adamant that the vases belonged RIGHT THERE and that the shelves could not be extended or moved.  So how, then, do you add windows?  You cut a hole in the glass so everything can stay put.    

It was a very nice visit.  Now I'm back on the East Coast, catching up on all that needs to be done.  It will be a busy few weeks to prepare for the kids all coming home.  I can't wait to have a full house again!  I also have lots of docent trading reading to do and research to write.  More news on this very exciting exhibition soon.  

Be well.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Christmas Ornament Reveal

As we have for years, we celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents and then, in the same visit, also celebrate Christmas.  That means it's now time for the Christmas ornament reveal.  

I always planned to make something for each of our children, but earlier this year I was at a needlepoint shop when they had a trunk sale.  There it was: a Xavier University ornament.  My father-in-law is a Xavier alum and it seemed to be a sign.  I had to stitch it for him.  Well, if I was going to make something for him, then I had to make something for my mother-in-law.  And heck, if I made something for my in-laws, I should make something for my parents, too.  That impulse shopping meant I had a flurry of stitching ahead of me.

Well, my eldest didn't get an ornament per se.  She's busy as an investment banking analyst and that leaves little time for Christmas decorating.  I stitched a small tree for her to set on a shelf so she can have a bit of Christmas spirit at home.  It's a little more than an inch thick and can stand on its own.

The tree is stitched in Alternating Mosaic.

You can guess what my son loves on all his sandwiches.

I stitched the bottle with a thread that has a bit of a sheen to resemble a glass bottle.

No surprise as to why my youngest got this ornament.  She's having a great freshman year.

The words Fighting Irish are stitched with a metallic thread
My mom got this chickadee ornament.  I loved the stylized bird with a minimalist twist.  Unfortunately, she's having a hard time deciphering the image.  Bummer.  Do you see it?

The berries are beads and the background is stitched in Alicia's Lace varation.
I made this one for my dad.  It's a "stash buster", the kind of thing you can stitch using what you've already got at home.  Thought it's hard to see, the background is a pretty metallic blue.

I'm heading out for a visit with my in-laws on Tuesday, so I plan to take these along.  Hopefully they'll find a spot on their Christmas tree.

The sign: I never thought I'd find a Xavier University ornament on the East Coast.
I'm hoping this Bethlehem scene will appeal to my mother-in-law.

And, finally, here's the stocking I stitched for our own tree.  Once our children take all their ornaments with them, our tree will look bare - - unless I get busy making some for us to keep.

Probably no surprise why I made this one for us.
Yep, it's actually a stocking!
And now it's time to get moving on something for my husband's birthday.  Fingers crossed I can get it done.  SHHHH!!!!!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

What would you include?

I'm prepping for my Object Out Loud: Arman and Nick Cave tours at the KMA:   public tours and stroller tours.  The latter are designed for caregivers with children under 18 months old.  The museum opens up early on a designated Friday once a month for these tours; the second in the "series" is happening this Friday.

Why do I call it a series?  Well, there's a chance that someone returns a second time.  Maybe because they like the exhibition.  Maybe because they want to get out of the house for adult conversation.  Whatever the reason, there are usually three stroller tours per exhibition and I have to be prepared to lead three different, but complete, tours, so that the material is fresh for any repeat visitor, but still captures the exhibition for someone who only comes once.  It's a challenge I enjoy.

The first stroller tour was about identity.  The identity of the artists themselves.  The identity of the visitors.  For example, you can see the influences of their respective identities in what the artists have created.

Arman (among other things):
  -- an immigrant
  -- a French-American artist
  -- an activist making statements about materialism post-WWII
  -- a music lover

Nick Cave (among other things):
  -- a black man in America
  -- an artist whose start was in fashion and design
  -- a "messenger" focusing on civic responsibility
  -- an artist pondering the past, and new future, of objects

And here's a fun thing to consider: if you had to use objects to identify who you are, what would you choose?  What objects do you think help to celebrate and capture some or all of the aspects of who you are?   Here's how Arman and Cave have shared some of their self-reflection -- and statement making -- through their art.

Arman, Robot Portrait of Arman, 1992
In exhibition
Nick Cave, Hustle Coat, 2017
In exhibition

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween Reading

I'm amazed it's almost Halloween. My youngest daughter asked if I'd decorated; this is one of her favorite times of year.  She's off at school and I'll admit it's not the same without her giggling in my ear about where we should put everything.  Nevertheless I couldn't resist putting up some of our favorites like the murder of crows, eyeing us from their perch above the kitchen table.

It seems my reading also takes a turn to reflect the season. Are you interested in something good to read to match the Halloween mood?  Here are some of my recommendations, books old and new, fiction and non-fiction, to get you into the spirit.


Erik Larson's account of the majesty of the Chicago World's Fair is also chilling in the telling of the serial killer who haunted the halls of the event.

From Here to Eternity is about death rituals around the world.  It might be macabre for some to learn about an open-air crematorium in Colorado or you might be fascinated.  The book's not meant to be frightening, but some might not want to read about what other cultures do to honor their dead.


Ah, Rebecca The book that introduced me to the potential creepiness that can be contained in delicious and quiet prose. A classic.

Theodora Goss has a bit of fun with Victorian heroes and villains in her book, The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter.  Can you imagine what would happen if the daughter of Dr. Jekyll met up with a survivor of Dr. Moreau's island?  And, what if they joined forces with Sherlock Holmes to solve murders in London?  It's a fun offshoot from some old horror stories.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Work in Progress

I love to scuba dive.  It's something I wish everyone could experience.  The beauty, both familiar and foreign.  The colors, rich and surprising.  The rhythm of the waves as you descend.  The stillness as you explore.  The serenity you feel as you become a part of such a magnificent world, even for a short time.

It has inspired me to create a new series of work.

The first piece is now on my design wall.  I'm hoping the piecing and the colors are evocative of rolling waves.

If all goes well, the three sections will be separate pieces of a larger quilt.  The way I'll connect the sections is an experiment yet to be tried, but fingers crossed.

It feels great to be back in the studio again.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Feathers: A mini obsession

Does this ever happen to you?  You take a bunch of pictures and, when you look back through them, you realize you've taken pictures of the same subject over and over and over again.

That happened to me last week: I took a ton of pictures of feathers.  Wherever I looked it seemed there were feathers that grabbed my attention.  No, there wasn't a pile of feathers where something had met its demise.  Instead, these were feathers I saw -- almost daily -- on my walk/hikes.  Different species. Different locations.  I wonder why these captured my eye.  What, perhaps, is my subconscious saying to me?

Even took pictures of a bush with flowers that look feathery.  HA!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Little Things and Big Things

Here are some life highlights since my last post.

  • My design wall is no longer empty. Hooray!  More on that in another post, but here's a sneak peek. (Apologies for the bad lighting.)
  • Docent training for the upcoming exhibition Object out Loud at the Katonah Museum of Art, featuring Arman and Nick Cave.  Many of you may know Nick Cave, but many may ask, who is Arman?  He's a French-American artist that I hope you'll get to know.  He was a contemporary of Rauschenberg and Warhol, yet didn't get recognition by the NY art critics at the time; that said, he is in the collections of the Met and MoMA.  (He was very well regarded in France from the almost the start of his career.)  It's going to be an exciting exhibition.  It's great to work with a museum that so often creates its own exhibitions and, therefore, furthers artistic scholarship. The exhibition opens October 15th.
    The home page banner announcing the exhibition.
    L: Detail Nick Cave, Hustle Coat
    R: Arman, detail, Big Parade
  • A trip to Chicago and Indiana to see my parents, spend a bit of time with our oldest,
Fun graffiti in her neighborhood
Sweet Piper, who was a foster and now has a home with my daughter.  At 9 years old she was having a hard time in the shelter, after being surrendered when her original owner died.  Now we're having fun speculating about her genetic makeup.
  • and visit our youngest a Notre Dame.  We also tailgated with the in-laws and friends who's daughter is also at ND.  A fun-filled weekend.
  • My mother-in-law's 75th birthday:  Somehow, I forgot to take pictures when we had 10 people over to celebrate.  I have to get better about taking family photos. I don't know why I always forget.
  • Simple pleasures: I'm enjoying reading and taking pictures on walks and in my garden.  It seems there are a lot of praying mantis in my garden this year, though I'm not quite sure why.  My reading is keeping step: The Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery and The Queen Must Die by William Longwood.   Anyone read either of these? My book group is now reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn so I guess I'm switching to coming-of-age stories. (We just finished The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Anyone read that?)
Praying mantis giving me the evil eye when I jostled "his" leaf.  I'm certain I blinked first in this stare-down.
Up next: October break with my two college-age children.  I'm so looking forward to spending time with them! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

NYC Gallery Hopping

A bad head cold + bad rain kept me from attending the immigration panel discussion.  Bummer.  But, I was able to head to the city to go gallery hopping.  In Chelsea, a number of the galleries will host their openings on Thursday nights, and the streets are packed with people going from one to the next.  There were a number of fascinating exhibition openings.  Here are glimpses of what I saw:

Some of Robert Motherwell's early paintings were on view at the Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Orange Personage, Robert Motherwell, 1947
Oil and sand on canvas
Orange Personage, detail
You can see the fabulous texture in this detail image here
Maya Lin had an opening of "Maya Lin: Ebb and Flow" at the Pace Gallery.  It was too crowded to be able to get full pictures of her installations; many of them are huge and extend from floor to ceiling.   There were guards posted throughout the gallery to protect the work on the floor. I asked one of the guards how all the marbles were adhered to the walls, and he said hot glue.  I don't know if that's true or not but it gives me pause to think about finger burns and threads of glue if I had done it (but nowhere to be found here).

Detail, "Ebb and Flow", Maya Lin

Detail, "Ebb and Flow", Maya Lin
I discovered a new-to-me artist that I found captivating: Nathalie Boutté.  Her exhibition at the Yossi Milo Gallery called "Crossing-over" was amazing. From a distance, these works seem to be, perhaps, a woven textile.  But no.  They're collages made from tiny hand-cut strips of Japanese paper, individually assembled into rows, using the tint and text on the paper to create images.

L: The African Choir (9), 2016; Japanese paper, ink
R: The African Choir (11), 2016; Japanese paper, ink

Detail, The African Choir (11)
Detail to appreciate the complexity of these collage constructions
The James Cohen gallery featured, A Line Can Go Anywhere, a curated exhibition featuring seven Bay Area artists who use fiber as their primary material.   It was a wonderful compilation of a variety of work dating from the 1950s to the present.
Installation view
Trude Guermonprez in front
Untitled (Space Hanging), 1965
silk, double weave
Ed Rossbach
After Miro, 1970
jute, horsehair

Any of these appeal or resonate with you?