Thursday, December 31, 2009

Art I'm Seeing #41

As I mentioned yesterday, I'd been down to the Mall to see highlights from the Meyerhoff Collection show at the National Gallery of Art. First off a word about the Meyerhoff's. They are legendary philanthropists whose money has been channeled into the arts (Their art collection rivals any other of its kind in the world and is valued at over $300 million dollars, their namesake Meyerhoff Symphony Hall is home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) and education (They have an endowed chair in Biochemistry at the University of Maryland, a visiting professorship at Goucher College, and a scholarship program targeted at underserved minority communities for students seeking degrees in the sciences, technology, engineering and math) to touch but the tip of their iceberg of giving. The art they collected was a labor of love that began in 1950's and ended in 2004 when Jane passed into Ancestry. Their entire collection has been gifted to the National Gallery of Art (a gift that includes their amazing home, as well).

While seeing fewer than half of the total works they collected in this exhibition, I was struck by the desire to build an entirely new dedicated wing to house art from the collection on a permanent basis. I sincerely hope that someone has arrived at this conclusion before me. The Meyerhoff's are contemporary versions of the Frick's, Phillip's, Barnes' and Carnegie's from the turn of the last century. I would love to see something like the Lehman wing at the Met in New York City become part of the National Gallery of Art here in D.C. ... but I digress.

For any fan of Modern Art post World War II, this exhibit will provide you with one thrill after another. Arranged along ten themes and featuring the works of 6 of the masters of the era: Johns, Kelly, Lichtenstein, Marden, Rauschenberg, and Stella, it none-the-less includes dozens of works by their contemporaries, too. One of the first large canvases you will encounter is one of the sweet whimsical paintings that Wilhelm de Kooning did at the end of his life (one of the controversial Alzheimers works); and an absolutely stunning Kenneth Noland painting of concentric circles called "Mandarin" from 1961.
This Jasper Johns from 1993 is entitled "Mirror's Edge," and really spoke to me...then several works later and on another floor I encountered a trio of works from the late '80's by Johns on the theme of "Spring" which celebrate ideas only hinted at this work. A lover of metaphor could OD on the works of this artist alone. Other highlights for me included the stunning pencil drawing by Ellsworth Kelly entitled "Beanstalk," the series of wall-sculptures by Frank Stella on the "Play-skool" themes, and the amazing portrait of "Josephine" by Grace Hartigan.

And here's the best part of all. The exhibition will be open to the public through the 2nd day of May, 2010! Friends in the D.C. area, you have no excuse not to go.

In Context: Lego City

I've shown several of my Lego Factory Series inspired buildings on this blog, but never shown the structures in the context of my "Lego City". So here for some perspective are four images of the buildings together. Still don't know where all of this is going....

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Art I'm Seeing #40

One of the shows that I went to the NGA to see was a collection of portrait photography by Robert Bergman. For nearly two decades, he's taken photos of the people he's encountered in the cities and forgotten places of America. They are all anonymous. They are all printed from his digital camera on an inkjet printer. And they are all utterly amazing.

There is a catalogue that can be purchased, but it's not just from this exhibition, although it seems to include all of the images found in this two-room show. Housed as all photography shows are at the National Gallery of Art in the basement of the West Building--like some dungeon or set of dark rooms. Yet this venue feels very appropriate. While none of the images is the least bit lurid, they are all so fucking intimate that you find yourself trapped by competing emotions. One is to avert your uninvited gaze and the other more powerful feeling is to move closer and to allow yourself to be absorbed into the soul of the person before you. Observing my fellow gallery mates I witnessed both extremes. I watched people giggle nervously and move quickly from image to image, skipping some completely, and I saw one young man sit and stare at the photo of little boy with such steely conviction as to create between them a space separate and wholly there own in our midst.

The catalogue contains no writing from the artist. His voice remains as anonymous as his images. It does, however, come with an introduction by Toni Morrison and an afterward by Meyer Shapiro. The introduction is worth the price of the catalogue as Ms. Morrison paints the image of an encounter with an anonymous woman that is as deep and rich and demanding of your engagement in the ideas that it births as are Mr. Bergman's images. And there is also a quote from Isabella Stewart Gardner, a turn of the 20th century Bostonian philanthropist and art collector who died in 1924 and who left that city a museum with her name upon it to house her amazing art collection. The name made me intensely curious as to the relevance of her thoughts in connection with these portraits. Here's her quote:

"If there is a theme with which I am particularly concerned, it is the contemporary failure of love. I don't mean romantic love or sexual passion, but the love which is the specific and particular recognition of one human being by another--the response by eye and voice and touch of two solitudes. The democracy of universal vulnerability." ~ Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1840-1924

So why did I choose this particular image to sum up the whole?--because no one image can or does. Two reasons: 1) The eyes. The eyes are so endemic of way the artist captures the soul of the subject. He time and again shows you the way our eyes are like galaxies of light spinning within the mystery of a dark universe. And 2), I thought he looked like Abraham Lincoln.

Washington In December

Some images from my visit to the Capitol end of the Mall today.I went specifically to tour a couple of the shows at the National Gallery of Art and more about them in separate posts. It was a cold day here 27˚F, and I wish I'd remembered to wear a hat. Still there were crowds of people. The line outside the National Conservatory and Botanical Gardens turned me away from there. Thankfully, the National Gallery of Art was not the main destination of most of the people.
If you've never been and you find yourself in the Capitol of the free world, you really need to make the time to visit. The open beauty of I. M. Pei's East Building is really cathedral-like. The iconic Calder mobile is the pinnacle of his ouvre. In this photo you can also see the whimsical array of Ellsworth Kelly paintings across the rear right wall. Few other venues could even display such a work.
The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is a series of bronze sculptures found on the edge of the reflecting pool at the base of the U.S. Capitol Building. It's probably the most anonymous presidential memorial in Washington D.C. The reason being, that the majority of people who see it, don't even know what the hell it is!

The Washington monument rising out of some post-apocolyptic forest, the eerie reminder of the once great city? Naw....
It's just what it looks like from the mini-wetland/woodland garden outside of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Art I'm Owning #7

This postcard arrived on Saturday with a holiday greeting from my friend and photographer, Todd Boebel. It's entitled "Loew's Kings Theatre" Flatbush Ave Brooklyn New York © 2007 by the artist. Who knows? It may be the inspiration for an upcoming Lego creation? And in any event, it made me cry. The continuity of friends in a world given to fleeting moments, I guess, but then I tend to cry easily...

Lego Factory Series #15

As Rocky Squirrel was famous for saying..."And now, for something completely different!" Clearly I'm in a manicly creative mood with both the time and means to make something of my energies! And here I've built a modernist office building for my Lego City.
It's five stories of minimalist wonder. The street level features a clothing store complete with a set of four window displays. To enter the lobby you need pass under the two story tall portico past the sculpture. The elevator shaft is real and opens to all five floors.
I was inspired by two buildings. The first is an office building on the corner of Georgia and Wayne Avenues in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the second is an apartment complex on North Charles Street just north of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The latter was designed by the noted German architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who famously coined the line, "Less is More." (And, who less well known, was also responsible for the ubiquitous aphorism, "God is in the Details," but I digress.) Still an empty shell, I look forward to renting out the interior and outfitting it to meet the needs of the clientel? Who knows, an architect? an ambulatory care facility? an ad agency? an insurance company? Interested parties should contact me directly for square footage rates and design specs....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What I'm Watching #225

Spent the last two days watching the first season of The Wire. Set in Baltimore (My favorite American City) it's a very highly acclaimed police drama. I can see why. I've already started the second season.....

Lego Factory Series #14

My final bricks to complete this structure arrived on Saturday. And here is my latest addition to the Lego City "The Magic Dragon Chinese Restaurant" and the "Ruby Scimitar Flower Mart". Designed to fit behind the Fire Station/Museum (Legos Factory Series #12 11 OCT 09) I imagined this building as having another purpose when first it was new.
And that's why I designed it with the arched pass through that leads up to the back entrance of the old Fire Station. Perhaps it was even a stable for horses in the late 19th century. But now the opening and the former stables have been transformed into a florist shop and flower mart with one of the building's two appartment units above.
Here is photo showing the detail in the back side of the pagoda tower. Like all factory series wannabe's this structure is designed modularly and can be separated into various units to allow access to all interior spaces. This building was designed with 8 separate units.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What I'm Listening To #73 & 74

Recently bought two more of Rosie Thomas' CD's She is one of the most amazing vocalists you'll ever have the chance to hear. Her pixie speaking voice transforms into a vehicle for the communication of emotion and ideas that is iconic in its power and uniqueness.
No matter what she sings, you'll be transported to a place of transcendence. I tend to like "These Friends Of Mine" more because she includes studio banter before a couple of the songs. It's a device that increases the sense of intimacy even more. I love her! I'm sure you will, too!

(PS added 27 DEC) And OMG, I just realized that I know the guy who's singing the duet with her on "All The Way To New York CIty". Denison Witmer's voice is like the perfect companion to Rosie's. 6 degrees of separation, chah!? One more reason why you will love this CD!

What I'm Watching #224

(500) Days of Summer is a quirky, sort of bold, film about a relationship. I bought it because of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I'm glad that I did because of Zooey Deschanel. She clearly stole the show. And I don't know how I feel about the movie in general....I find myself in agreement with the underlying premise, yet I feel how painful life is when lived like that -- and yet it's magical, too. Another movie in the chain of modern relationship films that includes "Juno," "Garden State," and "Benny and June" among others.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Gift From The Great Unknown

My ex- introduced me to orchids, and over the years I've succumbed to their allure and purchased them only to watch them die off after their amazing blooms have faded. That is until now. This simple and beautiful Cymbidium Orchid has just begun to bloom for the second time! I bought it last December at a local Home Depot. It bloomed then most magnificently. I kept it inside until the weather permitted and then set it upon my deck for the duration of the warm weather. In October, it sprouted blossom stems from two of its bulbs. And now they are opening with all of the miraculous beauty of Orchids everywhere.

Xmas Cheer 09 #2

Based on Norman Rock- well's iconic world war II painting, "Free- dom from Want" out of his series of "The 4 Freedoms" may my brother's (and sister's--and yes, everyone in between) have a fabulous holiday surrounded by those they love.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What I'm Listening To #72

When you dare to comment on an artist like Sting, you need tackle so many things. But no matter how you call it, Sting is Sting. You can't expect him to be something other. And for those of us who love him, he has yet again struck a true north on the compass rose of our hearts. This album, like George Winston's "December" and Mel Torme's "Christmas Song" sung by Nat King Cole will be a part of my ChismaChanaKwanza/Winter Soltice tradition from this year on. It's just that beautiful.

History Is Made

With all of the hullabaloo about snow, another event has nearly slipped by unnoticed. On Friday, December 19th, Washington D. C. mayor Adrian Fenty signed the Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 at the All Souls Unitarian Church. With the bill's Republican author, and D.C. council member-at-large, David Catania standing nearby (2nd on the left with fist raised), D.C. enters the ever expanding pantheon of civilized society in the 21st century by recognizing that marriage is a civil right and not simply a religious commitment. By permitting individual churches and denominations the freedom to opt out of conducting ceremonies, this law really sets the standard for marriage as a civil act, and therefore a right. And that's exactly where it belongs. As long as the government "of, by, and for the people" chooses to confer special privileges and responsibilities upon people who choose to unite in matrimony, there is no place for denying this right of contract based on religious dogma. If you are a citizen, you have full and free right to exercise all aspects of civil commerce and polity. Period.

The Catholic church was particularly vociferous in opposing this moment stating that it would no longer provide services in the District of Columbia if forced to treat all people with equal dignity in matters of civil law. They thought that their bullying would once again force the majority to knuckle under to their minority, archaic world view. When it became clear that they would not prevail, they began singing a different tune: "Oh, we'll work to find common ground. We are all about playing nice...." Bull Shit! They are all about loosing financial advantages that underwrite their bigotry. Hypocracy knows no limits....and in a rare moment in history, neither does justice.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Xmas Cheer 09 #1

May your stocking be stuffed with something extra specially nice this year!

Lego Factory Series #13

I haven't posted anything from my lego creations in a while. This is a 4 story walk-up apartment with an adjoining diner. The challange was to create a structure to fit onto a narrow corner, and the choice of the diner was a natural.
Yet, a diner wouldn't work over a two deep lot and so I attached it to the larger building. Orgininally only 3 floors tall, I also decided to replicate the top floor twice and give it the additional floor, which I think gives it a much more solid appearance in contrast to the diner's simplier more streamlined profile.
Seen here without the palm trees, you can see how I incorporated elements from the rail cars to enhance it's vintage sensibilities.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Halleluia Chorus

Winter Wallop of Ought Nine: The Morning After

A different view of the back deck, a bird's eye view from the second floor of my home.

A front view with the beautiful blue sky.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What I'm Listening To #71

With the snow for inspira- tion, I'm listening to a compila- tion CD that I made as a gift for friends back in 2006. The idea was to select two versions of the same song by different artists. It was a juxtaposition of musical ideas.

It was heavy on country singers and then jazz with instrumentalists tossed in here and there.
There were also a fair share of repeat players like Rhonda Vincent, Chris Isaak, Michael Bublé, and Sarah MacLachlin. These are among the essential holiday songs. Not complete, I failed to include Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby.... When is anything perfect? But it is a pretty darn good play list.

Winter Wallop of Ought Nine #5

This is what it looked like at about 8:00 PM and it's still snowing steadily. My stick measured just shy of 19 inches!

Winter Wallop of Ought Nine #4

@ 4:00 PM I yardsticked 16 inches, and yet the changes on my deck seem almost subtle between 4:00 and 1:30, the 16 inches and 13.5. The Weather Channel claims that this is the greatest one day snow total since 1926 in December. That I can believe, but it still hasn't quite risen to the depths of the February 1996 storm. Although it's still coming down with gusto!

The second view of the front of my home gives a better sense of the snow in scale to the house.

And the day was spent on the inside making a pot of beef vegetable soup. The aroma fills the house! I begin by cutting the stew-sized cubes of lean beef into bite-sized morsels that I flour, brown using olive oil, and simmer for about 30 minutes on medium low . In a soup pot I bring 3 quarts of water to boil with two beef boullion cubes and 6 scallions chopped into quarter inch sections. When the beef is done it goes into the water with a little salt and freshly ground pepper, I dissolve the skillet browns with some water and add that, as well. Next I chop and add in this order, 3 carrots, 2 yukon gold potatoes, a bag of fresh green beans, a bag of frozen white corn, a bag of frozen petit peas, and two cans of diced fire roasted tomatoes. Everything is organic. Set to simmer and let gently cook for a couple of hours to infuse the flavors. More salt and pepper to taste or not as is your taste.

Winter Wallop of Ought Nine #3

Reporting in at 1:30 PM with 13 inches. Again, the view from my kitchen door.

And I'm glad I shoveled the front walk. The mailman came!

Winter Wallop of Ought Nine #2

10:00 AM and we're at 9.5/10 inches. To recap:

2:30 AM ~ 3.5 inches
5:00 AM ~ 5.5 inches
10:00 AM ~ 9.5/10 inches

The local weather folk are now predicting 24+ inches....

Report: Winter Wallop of Ought Nine #1

As the mid-Atlantic and most especially the piedmont region of Virginia and Maryland spent the day preparing and speculating about this winter storm event, I couldn't help but hold a childlike sense of anticipation that with all of the conditions in place, this year might bring a white Christmas to Takoma Park. I've lived here nigh on 16 Christmases now, and not a single one stands out as particularly white. Oh, there were no doubt a couple that came with a skiff of snow, but nothing like the ones I remember from childhood spent in the mountainous panhandle-berg of Maryland called Flintstone. As a child, every Christmas was spent at the home of my paternal grandparents.

One Christmas morning in particular stands out. We'd gone to bed with about 2 inches on the ground and a storm that was just starting to kick into high gear. On Christmas morning we awoke to discover that over night a huge comforter of sparkling crystalline fleece had been draped across the landscape. Our station wagon was just another lump in a world buried beneath 3+ feet of snow! It was awesome.

And while I don't expect this storm to produce like that one, it's gotten off to a good start. First flakes began their gentle decent around 8:30/9:00. By 11:00 PM there was a solid .5-inch dusting and then things picked up. At 2:30 AM I dipped my ruler into 3.5 inches on the deck railing outside the back door of the kitchen (the same perspective as the photo). At it's present rate, I would expect a 5 inch total by daybreak, and then the forecast calls for 8-12 more inches during the day, followed by 2-4 inches more through Saturday evening/night, and then lingering flurries on Sunday morning.

Reporting from ground zero of the “Winter Wallop of Ought Nine” --- "O, the weather outside is frightful, but in here, it's so delightful.....let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bon Appetit

My friend K. took me out to dinner tonight to celebrate the holidays, and we went to the Cafe Berlin on Capitol Hill, just a couple of blocks away from Union Station. I'd eaten there once before in the summer when I first moved to D.C. back in 1994. This evening it was decked out for Christmas, and our server sat us at the table next to the Christmas tree. It was very beautiful.

We began the meal with Heringstip as an appetizer. It's a mound of herring tidbits marinated in a stiff sour cream with apples and onions on a bed of bitter greens with a garnish of quartered tomatoes. K. loves fish with a passion, we rarely dine anywhere that he doesn't order some form of fish during the course of the meal.

For the entree, I chose the Roasted Loin of Venison with a Mushroom-Walnut Duxles Filling served over Cabernet-Fig Reduction with Maccaire Potato Cakes and a Cranberry Garnish. K. went with the Kassler Rippchen (Smoked Loin of Pork) served with sauerkraut and home fried potatoes, which he substituted for the spätzle. Both were well filling and so we forewent dessert as tempting as it was! For a simple digestif, he had an herbal liqueur, and I a shot of apple corn schnapps. It was delightful, and Irene, one of the owners was brouding over the place. If you are ever in D.C. and interested in authentic German cuisine, a quaint and sure to please option would definitely be Cafe Berlin.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What I'm Listening To #70

A holiday gift from dear friends. It's an amazing choral work, by an often neglected composer. You may not know it by name, but I'd wager that once you hear the sublime first movement "requiem aeternam" you'll either recognize it immediately, or never want to forget it. I have some really wonderful friends....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Current Computer Wallpaper

Comes from my own gardens in April. As the weather has turned cold, snowy, sleety, rainy, windy--all the best stuff of Winter, it's wonderful to sit down in front of my computer and delight in my gardens to come.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Art I'm Owning #6

Some of the art I own is my own. I've already shared how I'm a quilter--and proudly so. I also paint in watercolor.

Here's a male nude that I painted back in 1991. It was when I was working on the human form. I thought I did a pretty good job, and then I showed it to my friend Susan. She seemed impressed with it, yet when I next encountered her current boyfriend, he siddled up to me to ask about the nude painting I'd made of a woman.... Oh bother, I guess I didn't quite get the chest...but honestly the abs, the genitals?

Art I'm Owning #5

This is one of two works I own by Ohio based printmaker, Andy Au. It's a monoprint entitled, "Turret 54". I love it. It references the power of Leonardo da Vinci's "Man," played against the suggestive sexuality of the gas-masked (rubber bondage) fetish in a doggy style position. I don't find it sexually stimulating in the least. But I appreciate the way it challenges contemporary mores in the same way that da Vinci's man hit his 16th century contemporaries. It's also a beautifully executed print.

What I'm Watching #223

Late to the party as usual. I just watched the 6th installment of the Harry Potter movies: "Harry Potter: And The Half-Blood Prince." I think this the worst one of the bunch. I was mostly bored by it. At times confused by the characters, and had no idea what either Harry or Dumbledore were trying to do. And then Dumbledore died. In between, Hermoine cried, Maggie Smith looked horribly old, Helena Bonham Carter acted like a freak, Malfoy cried, Ron still looked and acted mostly stupid, and his parent's home burned down, because Helena Bonham Carter was acting like a freak, and did I mention that Hermoine cried? People, this does not make for a good movie.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

3 Takes On Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss and set policy regarding this global environmental holocaust, here are 3 takes in art relevant to the event.