Sunday, January 29, 2023

MODERN Letters

 A friend returned last week from Las Vegas. She told me about her nighttime tour of the Neon Museum's Boneyard, where remnants of old casino signs spend their evenings bathed in colored lights. I’ve enjoyed that tour as well, but it’s the same Boneyard in the unforgiving light of midday that has really stayed with me. I still think about the signs' crisp patterns of neon tubing lines and light bulb dots combined with their faded and worn textures revealing the ravages of time. The allure never subsides. It’s a never-ending source of inspiration.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Snowdrops at the Orange House

 Surely, you must admire a family with the confidence to paint their house orange. It's relentlessly cheerful all year round. In the middle of winter, when gardens are dormant, a brightly colored house brings cheer. A few mild days have encouraged their snowdrops to poke up through the mulch. The crisp while petals match the trim of the house. Even if ice or snow blows in next week, the hardy little blossoms will survive, and remind us that spring, and then summer, will be coming eventually.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Flow Blue

 The slightly out-of-focus-pottery known as Flow Blue has gone in and out of fashion for two hundred years. Europeans tried to copy the  porcelain coming from China but lacked the formulas for both the clay and the glazes. Imagine the disappointment those first potters experienced when they saw that their crisp blue designs were hazy---a chemical reaction between the cobalt-based decorations and the chlorides in their salt-glazed pottery. Somehow, this misty look caught on, but only to a degree. The "seconds" were sent to America, where you can sometimes see the flowiest of Flow Blue, with flowers barely discernable within the fog of cobalt.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Sari Ribbon

 A new shipment of sari ribbons had just been unpacked at Artistic Artifacts. The deliciously bright colors were the perfect antidote for a gray day. They came from a women's cooperative in India, rescued from the cutting room floors of sari manufacturers, cut into strips, randomly stitched end to end and recycled into skeins of ribbon. The rainbow of shaggy, soft strips includes jolts of vermilion, fuchsia and marigold, colors found everywhere in India. Why not unfurl a skein and begin a new project? Crochet or knit, sew them down or embroider them with a large needle. Take pleasure and inspiration from the randomness and surprise of the changing colors, and remember the ladies who turned a cast-off resource into something beautiful.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Starry Tunnel

 A moving sidewalk runs between the National Gallery of Art’s East and West Buildings. Leo Villareal's installation "Multiverse" surrounds you with 41,000 LED lights that glimmer and shift. He has created a magical high tech tunnel reminiscent of stars, planets, galaxies. As visitors move from west to east and back again, it's a perfect example of how art can be transformative, for a moment or for a lifetime.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Madonna of the Stars

 The attribution of this painting by Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art is listed as "Jacopo Tintoretto and Workshop." They can't be absolutely sure that he painted it. The hands, in particular, don't quite pass muster. In the late 1500s, artists often had many assistants working and learning, with the master, who painted the faces and sometimes the hands. In his day, Tintoretto was criticized for his speedy, less finished brush strokes. I love the unpolished look of the clouds and stars and the yellow background instead of an expensive blue sky. Mostly, I love that Jesus and Mary look like real people. Contemporary accounts describe Tintoretto as a family man who gave much of his earnings to the poor, the kind of man who would paint such an empathetic portrait of a mother and child.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

For Sale: Assorted Animals and Manger-Seekers

 Jumbled on a the table at a flea market was a conglomeration of Nativity figures in various sizes and conditions. Made from plaster of paris or low-fired clay, Woolworths sold them for generations.  Families could slowly accumulate three kings or spring for a camel with a fancy saddle. Children might have just enough pocket money for a little lamb. Like most kids, I could not resist playing with them--carefully--risking chips or broken sheep legs. How did the members of this holy crew become separated from their fellow worshipers? I hope that each of them finds a new home, even the cow with broken horns.