Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Dinner

Loaded Mac N' Cheese!

A Holiday Project

A dear friend of mine asked me if I knew of anyone who could make a custom holiday stocking for his new niece to hang upon the mantle at Christmas.  I'm sure my friend is quite proud of himself for being so clever as to not ask me directly, but, being so full of myself, I, of course, volunteered myself for the project.  An offer that he gladly accepted.  The games people who love one another play...

To be fair, I have not sewn anything of consequence for some years...maybe 5 to 7.  Since my quilting partner retired, I have just turned my energies in other directions.  But this project came at a good time, and it's reasonable in it's scope.  Also I greatly appreciate the freedom of creativity that he entrusted me with.  The recipient in just over one year old.  She hardly has any set preferences with it comes to design.  My friend also described the finished product as a keepsake that she would cherish throughout the years.  I agree.

Off the table were any "cutsie" little patterns or designs.  Equally nixed were any religious
images.  Also the child's name is Violet.  That was important to know.  So I began with an extensive search of Holiday fabrics both online and at local fabric shops.  My sense was to create a stocking that featured animals.  I love animals.  Kids love animals.  Little kids love to look at and imagine about animals.  And I wanted something traditional, too.

Imagine my joy when I discovered just such a print?  I immediately purchased it online and awaited it's arrival!  Imagine my initial disappointment when it arrived as seemed too large for the task at hand...  I look more.  I looked high.  I looked low.  I found nothing that inspired me like this print.  Ergo, it was time to get serious.  I considered the dimensions of the pattern and the area of the images on the print and devised a plan to reconfigure the image using appliqué techniques.

I completed the bulk of the front of the stocking today.  The images that follow trace the progress.
This is the print that I settle on and purchased online.  I love the blue motif and the choice of arctic animals that are also being critically threatened by global warming.
Here I centered the stocking pattern around St. Nicholas and added both toe and heal pads using an unrelated fabric featuring violets.  Additionally I cut out the Snow Owl, one of the Polar Bears and one of the Arctic Foxes from the original fabric and basted them to appliqué on the portion with Santa.  Further complicating the project, I also cut out around the bunny and basted it in preparation for a multi-layered collage of images from the original.
 PHASE 1: Appliqué in the Snow Owl and the then the bunny.
 PHASE 2: Appliqué in the Polar Bear with an extra layer of cotton banting to give it an elevated form.
 PHASE 3: Appliqué in the Arctic Fox with a layer of cotton banting for the same reason.

More to come!

The Adventures of Peter Pan @ Synetic Theatre

Another amazing performance (alas, final performance) in the world of DC Theater. The Adventures of Peter Pan at Synetic Theatre in Arlington, VA was simply magical. And I doubt any of the nearly packed audience (30% of which were in the discriminating 7 to 13 year-old-range) would disagree with me. The spinning sets and flamboyant costumes framed the story-telling and empowered the actors to bring to life again this well-known tale of the boy who refused to grow up. As with all Synetic productions the integration between the afore mentioned aspects along with the choreography, sound, and staging creates a seamless package that you just marvel at from start to finish. However, this production had something that many others by this company does not--dialogue. Very funny dialogue with an unmistakable pairing of the good captain Hook as narcissist in the mode of our current incumbent President. It escaped no one's notice and effected great torrents of laughter. Still the standout performances were those of Tinkerbell played by Ana Tsikurishvili, and Peter's Shadow played by Zana Gankhuyag. Ana's comic timing and extraordinary miming techniques often propelled the laughter in many a scene. Zana's command of his body in service to the choreography was impressive in a cast full of impressive, strong dancers. A hallmark of Synetic productions in my mind is that the members of the cast are in tremendous sync with one another. They have chemistry and they project an enjoyment of what it is they are offering to their audience.

If anything pissed me off, it was getting a two-sided black and white xerox flyer in place of a program. I guess they ran out of real programs during the run.

New Spaces at the NGA

After a chunk or two of expensive and really heavy marble fell off of the exterior of the National Gallery of Art's east building a couple of years ago, the NGA wisely used the experience as an opportunity to refurbish the entire structure and to extend it's capacity with new gallery spaces.  One is this wonderful rooftop sculpture garden.

Amazing Map of Delft

Included in the exhibit space for the new blockbuster show at the National Gallery of Art entitled: "Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting" is a little "reading room" space.  Only one work of art decorates it's walls: this amazing printed map of Delft featuring images of important buildings and landmarks.  It's from the National Gallery's Library collection, a portion of its holdings that rarely sees the light of day.

A New "Friend" to Me, Too!

And here's a really lovely thing that can happen when you go to an art exhibit. You think you're going to see and appreciate one thing, and then you discover and appreciation another thing for an entirely different reason. Thus was my experience today at the National Gallery of Art. I went to the exhibit "Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting" expecting to see some Vermeers and a smattering of other Dutch artists of the latter part of the 17th century. That did happen. Yet, I was delighted by the works of one of those other painters in particular, one whom I'd never singled out before, and in such an amazing way. How wonderful is that?

Frans van Mieris (1635 - 1681) was born in the same year as Johannes Vermeer, and managed to live past him by 6 productive years. Nearly all of his paintings included in this exhibition were small. Many would fit within an 8" by 8" frame. Yet their detail in execution was stunning. Dare I say, meticulously represented? Tiny item after tiny detail created with pinpoint accuracy. My friend, Barbara, even commented as to what size brush could accomplish such clarity on that small of a scale. Sometimes REALLY good things do come in small packages!
"Woman Playing a Theory-Lute" 1663
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
"Woman Writing a Letter by Candlelight" 1670
Private collection
"Woman Sealing a Letter by Candlelight" 1667
Private collection
"Woman Feeding a Parrot" 1663
The Leiden Collection, New York City
"The Duet" 1658
Staaliches Museen Schwerin/Ludwigslust/Güstrow
"The Doctor's Visit" 1657
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 
"Brothel Scene" circa 1658-59
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague

A Couple of Vermeer's "Friends"

There were other Dutch genre masters included in the exhibition "Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting" that I went to today. Here are some of the non-Vermeers paintings that caught my fancy.
First, "Woman at Her Toilet" by Caspar Netscher. It was painted around 1665 and is part of a private collection in London. To see any work held in a private collection is always a tremendous gift. This one was so exquisite in it's detail from the texture of the carpet to the shimmer in the satin dress.
Second, "The Serenade" by Jacob Ochtervelt. It was painted around 1669 and is also part of a private collection without any geographic assignation.
The next one is "Man Visiting a Woman Washing Her Hands" by Gabriel Metsu, circa 1663-66. It is housed at Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury, England, as part of "The Rothschild Collection".

And Finally, a pair of paintings from the National Gallery of Art of Dublin, also by Metsu. "Woman Reading a Letter" and "Man Writing a Letter" were painted as a pair and are rich with metaphor. I'd seem both before in the Metsu retrospective at the National Gallery of Art--a show also curated by Arthur Wheelock. It was nice to see them again.

Vermeer is Back

So why did my friend and I choose to go to the National Gallery of Art today?

To see the latest blockbuster exhibition titled: "Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting". Disclaimer, I did have the good fortune of being in a relationship with the man who was the office manager of the special exhibitions department of the National Gallery of Art back when the original Blockbuster exhibition of Vermeer paintings occured at the Naitonal Gallery of Art in 1995-96. It was cache enough to get me into the opening reception, and then I returned twice again. The exhibit was the largest number of Vermeers ever assembled in one exhibition to date (21) and was then topped by itself when it moved to the The Hague in the Netherlands and they picked up two additional paintings not sent to the NGA.

Given that, and the fact that it was Vermeer compared to his contemporaries and the specific form of "genre" painting, I expected a couple of Vermeers and lot of other "stuff". After all, there are only 34 works on the planet assigned to Vermeer, and a couple of those are lost. So it was a great delight to discover that 10 Vermeers were included in this leg of the exhibition. There are 12 in the catelogue, but two were not part of this third and final leg of the show. The exhibition originated at the Louvre in Paris, and then moved to the National Gallery of Dublin in Ireland before crossing the Atlantic to show here in Washington, DC.

Here are images of some of the Vermeers. It was also a crowded exhibition, which I really like--never bad when art draws crowds. They were taken with my little poorly understood (by me) camera, so clearly, like all art I photograph, they are poor representations of the actual works--images online of which would be better viewed if you are really liking them. The two images of the men are the only images of a man alone that he painting and both are Anton van Lowehook, a friend and the scientist who invented the microscope. In one he depicted as a Geographer and in the other as an Astronomer. The final image of the woman holding the balance is what I consider his masterwork. I don't think I'm alone.
"Woman with a Lute" circa 1663-64,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
"Woman with a Pearl Necklace" circa 1662-65
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer, Gemäldegalerie
The next two paintings are the only two Vermeer works with a single male subject.  It is agreed that the model depicted here is non-other than Anton van Leeuwen Hook, who was a friend of Vermeer's and also the inventor of the microscope.
"The Geographer" 1669
Stäfel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
This is my personal favorite of Vermeer's intimate catalogue of paintings.
"The Astronomer" 1668
Musée du Louvre, Paris

"Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid" circa 1670-71
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
"Woman with a Balance" circa 1664
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Visit to the National Gallery of Art

Met up was a dear friend on Saturday and we went down to the National Gallery of art together to see the Dutch Genre painters exhibit featuring Vermeer.  Had time to tour around the place.  Love the Grand Rotunda in the West Building with its Mercury Fountain.  Also glad to see that it wasn't all decked for Christmas yet.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Virginia Election Map Fades Blue

Seats flipped bigly in northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.  But also in both the Norfolk-Hampton-Virginia Beach AND Richmond metropolitan areas, as well as, on western district in Appalachia.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Our Town" @ Olney Theatre Center

Well I've managed to go and see another final performance of a wonderful play.  Seems like all I can do lately is tell about what you've missed!  Went to see Thornton Wilder's American classic "Our Town" at Olney Theatre today.  It tells the story of the inhabitants of a mundane little town in New England, but in doing so it has set Grover's Corner, New Hampshire into the permanent atlas of American literary places.  Set in three acts that transpire in single days across fourteen years and centered on the lives of two families, the Gibbs and the Websters, it masterfully transforms their mundane lives into profound studies of the human condition both living and dead.  And that's why it holds its own so well all these years later.

Now for the twist, outside of the seven principle cast members, beautifully crafted puppets perform the remainder of the characters.  A fact that didn't stop me from thinking how refreshing it was to see an adult production of this classic play as I have only ever seen it performed in high schools and universities.  The staging filled the center of the theater space with the audience distributed on either side.  At each end was the facade of a home (the Gibbs' and the Webb's) and the over all effect was at times bedlike and coffin like. 

The acting was wonderful without a weak link in the chain.  I have been to final performances that whimpered out, but not this one.  The air was charged with a love for the work and a joy to be performing it.  Jon Hudson Odom set the standard as the Narrator and his fellow cast members seemed only too happy to rise to the challenge.  Most notable among the others were Megan Anderson as Mrs. Gibbs and Cindy de la Cruz as Emily Webb.  While I suppose that the mark of a good director is to be unnoticed, I can't help but credit Aaron Posner with providing his actors the freedom to explore the silences between the lines and use those moments to enhance the dialogue and extend the power of its meaning.  It was such an unobtrusive, but power part of this production--it gave the play a radical freshness to me.
Jon Hudson Odom as the Narrator
Megan Anderson as Mrs Gibbs and Andrea Harris Smith as Mrs. Webb
Todd Scofield as Mr. Webb confronting the puppet of Simon Stimson under the control of Jon Hudson Odom.
Cindy de la Cruz as Emily Webb, Jon Hudson Odom as the owner of the Soda Shop, and William Vaughan as George Gibbs.

If I have one regret, it is that I cannot recommend it to you, I would if I could.