Sunday, January 19, 2020

Lalique Fern Brooch

Hovering in a case in the Walters Museum is a large brooch that once graced the bodice of a fortunate Belle Epoque woman. In 1903 this jewel was a cutting edge design. The magnificent iridescent glass leaves, underlaid by enameled ones, are as important as the opal and the diamond stems. Lalique was one of those responsible for the world realizing that the value of jewelry no longer depended solely on the size of diamonds or the amount of gold. A heart-stoppingly beautiful design and exquisite craftsmanship could be just as important.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Deadwood Arches

A woody installation curves along a walkway outside the Smithsonian American History Museum. With shapes reminiscent of gothic arches, they invite you to touch their irregular surfaces, smell their woodiness, peer inside and through them. This installation is all about deadwood: fallen branches and trees that no longer live but still stand. Signs describe how living things depend upon deadwood for shelter, protection and sustenance. Looking closely I see the holes bored by insects, patches of fungi and areas scratched or worn down by both animals and weather. It's a magical sight that will remain with me when I pick up fallen branches in my yard.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Margaret's May Queen

In 1900, Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh and her new husband set out to each create fifteen-foot panels using techniques that were new to them. With plaster-embedded burlap as the background and smooth plaster faces, painted string became bold lines. Papier mache leaves and petals and a restrained sprinkling of glass beads completed what we would now call a mixed media artwork. Margaret went on to create many such panels. They were installed in her architect husband's interiors. What a thrill to examine one so closely in "Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style" at the Walters Museum. Her May Queen attendants represent that moment when she found a way of working that suited her artistic vision.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Bartolo's Nativity

"Madonna and Child With Saints Jerome and Mary Magdalen" hangs in a quiet gallery at the Metropolitan Museum. I try to take myself back 500 years, to the workshop of Matteo di Giovanni di Bartolo. Who posed for Mary? Does the painting really look like her? The saints are lost in contemplation, but Mary looks directly at me with a mother's protectiveness, tinged with some vague understanding of what is to come. Whose baby sat for Jesus? A relative or friend? Unlike many conventionalized religious images, this little Jesus has a distinct visage. Did these people go back some time to see the portraits of themselves? What did they think? Lives pass but art remains.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Winner Takes All At Bergdorf Goodman

Games are the focus of the holiday windows at Bergdorf's this year. Who knew that glamorous women would find a round of musical chairs to be such fun? Bursting with pattern and texture, it's almost too much but I think it works. Limiting everything to black and white reins it in just enough. Viewers stopped to puzzle out the scene and enjoy the details. I suspect that some of them, like me, left feeling a tad underdressed.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Saks Holiday Lights

Sometimes being late is fortuitous. A walk up Fifth Avenue took us past Saks. The front of the building was paved in holiday lights but they were not doing their usual tricks, flashing and changing colors. This was actually a good thing, a chance to take in the beauty of the design and colors, inspired by "Frozen 2." An icicle-laden tree spread gracefully around the door. Colored lights scattered within the white swags made them seem to glitter. We returned another night to see the spectacular show, but it is the facade in its state of calm that I will remember.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Anthropologie's Holiday Words

When the weather outside is frightful, fools like me traipse around New York searching out the holiday windows. This year Anthropologie's are key words writ large, knitted, woven, fringed, wrapped in yarn. They speak the language of the holidays while reminding viewers that a wooly sweater or nice warm scarf might be a very good thing.