Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Wings Over Water," Houston

Step out of the Houston Convention Center and you can enjoy the new pedestrian-friendly Avenida Plaza. A gigantic kinetic sculpture with its feet in a fountain is instantly mesmerizing. A rainbow of colored lights plays across the winglike sections as they slowly undulate. The artist Joe O'Connell was surely thinking of birds. This part of Texas was and still is a wetland and an important migratory route. Recently, everyone has been reminded about Houston's wetland origins, but it’s nice to think that birds still see the city as a good place for a bit of respite,

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Japanese Maple, November Colors

The full glory of autumn is the briefest of seasons. A day or two of rain and wind can send all the leaves flying. When the sun is out, let's remember to stop under the trees and look up. There, right above our heads, are all the colors of a rainbow, completed by the sky. In any season, one of the most comely attributes of a Japanese maple is the delicate and complex shape of its leaves. On this day, the sun turned some of the higher leaves into shadows dancing against the colors of ones right above me. The bare branches of this tree's neighbor are a reminder that soon the maple will be reduced to the essential winter design elements of line and shape.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Red Couches In Houston

A year ago, the front part of Houston"s George R Brown Convention Center was already in the midst of an expansion. Six weeks ago, it housed thousands of people who were flooded out of their homes. Those of us who come here for the international quilt Festival every year were not quite sure what to expect when we arrived this past week. The convention center came through the floods safely and the new spaces are real wowsers. Circular shapes and the color red are design elements that link the new sections with the building. Looking down from the third floor, these curvy couches form an alluring design. The new spaces contain art and lots of light. They have been readily embraced by visitors. Kudos to the architects and designers.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Grieving Woman

Different times and cultures deal with grief in varying ways. The Victorians embraced it, with sentimental paintings, drawn-out death scenes in plays and complicated rules about proper mourning dress. Our present culture is uncomfortable with much of this. It's okay to mourn with decorum but then you are expected to either snap out of it or at least keep it to yourself. Perhaps there is something to be learned from the old ways. This young woman has thrown herself across the coffin of her loved one. There she mourns, in Milan's Monumental Cemetery. She will continue to do so as long as her bronze body can hold up.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Lower Garden, La Foce, Italy

The flowers are fading and going to seed. Many people tend to think of the greenery in a garden as nothing but a backdrop for the flowers. As the weather turns colder, it's easier to see whether or not a garden has "good bones." Trees, shrubs, pathways and walls define where a garden begins and ends. Classic geometric hedges and topiaries were never my favorites, but they have grown on me. These living, growing sculptures in many shades of green, set off by stones and lichen, offer a more subtle type of beauty.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Cake Lust

Last weekend, we attended a lovely, low-key wedding. The wedding cake was decorated with a whimsical collection of brides and grooms. The youngest flower girl studied the pairs of just-marrieds posed on the cake, but the scent of the icing began to get to her. She picked up a plastic fork and twirled it in her little hands. She leaned over as far as she could. The fork slowly edged across the tablecloth. Finally, she could resist no longer. The tines of the fork scooped a bit of icing from the edge of the cake, just as her mother realized what was happening. It reminded me of the famous Marshmallow Test, given to young children to assess their level of self control. I'd say she did pretty well. Our flower girl soon had her own piece of cake. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Vines On a Wall

Parking lots can be such dreary places. One of the colleges downtown has a small lot next to a what could be a completely boring little service building---except that it was built from two different tones of concrete bricks. My compliments go to whoever decided to add a jazzy pattern to the building. Vines have taken hold in the foot-wide strip of earth that marks the border between the lot and the building. They creep up the bricks, adding color and interrupting all the straight lines and angles. That natural, rambling asymmetry makes this a surprisingly delightful view.