Sunday, December 30, 2012

Highlights and Details from My Visit to the Walters Art Museum

The holiday tree greeting me in the lobby. When I arrived I was the only visitor in the lobby and when I stepped up to the cashier I said, "One adult admission, please." She smiled back and asked, "Just one?" Have I gained that much weight? So I looked around behind me and turned back saying, "yes, just one..."
There's a magnificent staircase in the lobby, but it doesn't start until the second floor. So you basically have to take the elevator up one floor to get to the stairs. Although it does make for a very interesting composition for a photograph.
"Ganymede," 1777-87 by Claude-Claire Francin (1702 - 1773)
"Portrait of Decatur Howard Miller," c. 1850 by Alfred Jacob Miller (1810 - 1874) The artists here paints his younger brother. And here in the 19th Art on the fourth floor is where I spent most of my visit.
"Landscape In Scotland," c. 1878 by Gustave Doré (1832 - 1883) This is a monumental and lush painting. The artist has another painting @ the Philadelphia Museum of Art called "The Neophyte" that is also among my favorite works from this time period.
Doré's use of paint is visceral and rich, like icing on a cake.
The Walters has a very impressive collection of table sculptures by Antoine-Louis Barye. Most depict humans on horseback (or even elephant back) in the thralls of battle with some beast, a lion or lions, a tiger, a bear, a pair of nearly prehistorically-antlered bucks, even a mad bull. Thus the amazing contrast with "Two Rabbits," c. 1840 by Antoine-Louis Barye (1796 - 1875) in both scale and subject.
"Art and Liberty," 1859 by Louis Gallait (1810 - 1887)
A closer inspection revealed words painted into the column in the form of a vandal's message. It pays to spend time with a least one painting every time you visit a museum. This next one caught my attention this time at the Walters.
"An Accident," 1879 by Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852 - 1929) There is such a rich story in this beautiful painting. And the artist has taken great care to fill it with facts that will both delight and challenge your imagination. Study the full image. How many people do you see? Where do ideas contrast? Do you see the cat? Do you see the top hat? Why the gilded clock? Look at the work as both a whole idea and as a collection of details that support, enrich and even challenge that idea. How many people did you count? Did you count 9? There are 9. Click the image to see a larger version and look some more.
The first thing that jumps out is the complexion of the boy. Positively jaundiced against the rudy cheeks of the others in the room. Next you just have to marvel at the basin of bloody water. It's so realistic, perhaps the single most realistic detail in the entire painting. Notice too, that it sits at the veritable heart of the composition. Finally you can't help but contrast the two feet. One richly attired; the other dirty, battered, barely kept within the sorriest excuse of a shoe imaginable. There is no question who is the recipient of charity and mercy here.
Now you can see the cat. And also the 9th person. A woman. The boy's mother? Sister? Does she weep for fear? for shame? for guilt? Her emotions are driving her to a state of near invisibility and in her sorrow, she is alone. Not a single other player in this snapshot drama gives her the slightest notice, hence, when first viewing the painting, neither to we. In this one revelation we now are no longer passive observers, we have become part of the drama. We now stand on this side of the room awaiting the outcome of the good doctor's ministrations.
Don't you love their noses? They are clearly related. The young man and the woman share the nose, the eyelid, the push-up of their lower lips away from their chins. They are also obviously poor, yet the artist gives them a transcendent calm that comes across as dignity. Amazing painting. Oh, the clock. The gilded clock--the most precious item in the room. Time, the most precious thing we have. We never know when it will run out for us--we still do not know if it is about to run out on the boy. His fate is uncertain, but we have, like those caught in the trance of the moment, hope. It's not a perfect hope, the young woman still weeps.
"Route To Versailles, Louveciennes," 1869 by Camille Pissarro (1830 - 1903)
"Paris Kiosk," c. 1881 by Jean Béraud (1849 - 1936)
"Lion Drinking," c. 1897 by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859 - 1937) Tanner is one of my favorite artists. I never miss the chance to enjoy one of his works no matter how small.
"Damascus," 1880 by Alberto Pasini (1826 - 1899)
The courtyard on the other end of the museum, the original entrance.

Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe @ The Walters Art Museum

Looking around for an exhibit to visit on this cold and blustery day, I scanned the websites of museums from Philadelphia to Richmond and settled on the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore after reading about this special exhibition. Sounds amazing, right? And perhaps that's the problem, it's such a good idea for an exhibition that when it's done poorly, it just kills me. The idea deserved a better treatment and I was frankly disappointed. Now, that's not to say that there weren't things of interest, there were. Here they are, in fact.
This cover to the catalogue features a detail from "The Adoration of the Kings" c. 1514 from the workshop of Gerard David. From what can be determined from the records of the time, when this was painted there were between 8 and 10 Africans living in Antwerp. And here are two of them! I loved that. It's clear from the details of the portraits that we are not looking at contrivances of African people but images of two real people. That was very powerful.
"Study of Katharina" 1521 by Albrecht Dürer was hauntingly beautiful, tenderly depicting the young woman's permeating ennui.
"Chafariz d'el Rey in the Alfama District (of Lisbon)" c. 1585, anonymous Netherlandish painter is, in spite of its indeterminate authorship, the master work of the exhibition in so far as it's premise is concerned. It's a beautiful work of social intrigue and cultural record. It deserved a better representation in the exhibition (a large "print" of a etching had a more prominent placement--like an advertisement in a department store. Sheesh!)
Other works of lesser proportions like this beautiful little cameo were also very much appreciated. "Bust of a Black African Woman" c. 1575-1600 by the Workshop of Girolamo Miseroni. I bought the catalogue and hope to get more out of it that will enhance my appreciation of the exhibition, the audio tour was 90% useless. The thing is, when someone takes on a great idea and does a mediocre execution, it still bears the stigma of having been "done" and it's not likely to be attempted again for decades. Therein lies the real shame.

Pride Birthdays and Memorials for the Week ~ December 30th to January 5th, Up-dated

Ten Views Of Washington, D.C. In The Middle Of The Night

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Veggie Casserole

Begin by preparing 1 package of Zatarain's Garlic Butter Rice. Set aside to cool slightly while preparing the following ingredients. In a good-sized mixing bowl add: 1 medium yellow Onion, diced, 1 bunch Brocolini, chopped, 1 Zucchini, cubed, 6 stuffing Mushrooms, cubed, 1/2 Green Pepper, diced, 1/2 Red Pepper diced, 1 clove Garlic, minced, 1 C. Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded. Combine well, and then add: 2 cans of condensed Cream of Celery soup. Fold in the cooked rice and placed in a greased casserole dish with a cover. Top with more shredded Cheddar Cheese and French's French Fried Onions. Bake at 325˚ for 55 minutes covered, uncover for another 10 minutes. The long cooking time allows the Brocolini to cook through.

Pride Birthdays and Memorials for the Week ~ December 30th to January 5th

Friday, December 28, 2012

Gerry Anderson - RIP

Another iconic spirit from my childhood passes into ancestry.
Gerry Anderson, a British filmmaker who transformed old-fashioned puppets into futuristic action heroes in the 1960s in the hugely popular children’s show “Thunderbirds,” and later cast real people in series including “U.F.O.” and “Space: 1999,” died on Wednesday in Oxfordshire, England. He was 83.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Time to Share Holiday Wishes

And these intriguing little Pumpkin Spice Cookies made with Maple Syrup, Bananas, and Craisins. I love craisins! Made 6 dozen and gave 5 dozen away to immediate neighbors.

Lego City Train Station Opens!

Still More Santa, From Alaska!

Joyous Fudge!!

More Santa, From Australia!

Though my friend didn't actually send it for Christmas, that's when it arrived!
It's like a giant "Taste of the Land Downunder"--what fun!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Snapshot

I love where I live. I hope everyone does. It's a wonder- fully diverse place full of interesting things and quirky moments. For example, after making the purchases for tomorrow's victuals, I stopped by the Tick Tock Liquors for a bottle of wine. Tick Tock is an institution on University Boulevard at the corner of Riggs Road approximately equal distance from downtown Takoma Park and the University of Maryland's main campus in College Park. I have friends who have lived here all of their lives and remember their adventures in college back in the 1960's that almost always involve some subterfuge and Tick Tock! In the nearly 20 years that I have lived here, it's been owned by an Indian (New Delhi-type) family. About 3 years ago now, it ran into a bit of a row over taxes and the patriarch of the clan is doing time in some federal penitentiary somewhere, but Tick Tock just keeps ticking along. When you've frequented an establishment consistently over the course of 18 years, you get this false sense of familiarity with the staff, many of who have actually worked there for longer than that. One cashier in particular is hard to ignore. He must be related to the owner, and he definitely lives on the autism spectrum...I'm talking "Rain Man". When he's working a cash register, you can watch and see that some patrons choose to wait in other lines. They know the peril of getting caught in one of his odd "conversations," or perhaps they've been there when he's been upset. He can become very childlike and unruly in a wink of an eye. One time I witness a near total meltdown all based on a cell phone conversation that he'd had with his mother. In moments like that, everyone who works there follows the leads of his relatives and remain exceptionally calm, while the alpha male present cajoles him into a calmer state of being. Today, however, he was in a buoyant mood. The place wasn't busy, but I decided to take my purchase to his register and upon making eye contact, he smiled and serenaded me with an a cappella rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." I had to admire his timing! As he took my money, made change, and "bagged" my bottle, he punctuated the verses with a brief and detailed history of the song's success by Gene Autry, and then Elvis, and then how the two men knew one another. I mentioned "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" and Gene Autry, and he knew all about that song, too. He ended with a brief observation that karaoke doesn't always show you the right words--most the time it does, but not always. And the final assertion that "I use my own words." The last flurry gave me enough time to re-bag my wine so that the bottle was in the bag instead of just sitting on the counter with the bag draped over it. And the best part? He has a nice voice.

Santa Claus Came Via USPS!

This time with photos, art, music, and more joy!

Christmas Eve Breakfast!

I hope that those of you with a busy day of cooking and planning didn't forget to start with a hardy breakfast. Hickory smoked bacon, scrambled eggs with morel mushrooms and tomatoes with a little sea salt and basil for my part. By now you understand that my definition of a perfect meal would have to include morels. By extension, any meal that includes morels is just that much closer to perfection!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Repurposing Pot Roast

What to do with the rest of yesterday's Mississippi Pot Roast? Why make sloppy Joe's, of course! And I even stirred into them the remaining sauteed kale--why not? It's actually worked very well.

15 More Views Of Childhood Poverty In The United States