Sunday, November 30, 2008

Autumn Chrysanthemums

What colors represent a particular season? As children, we learn to grab the red, orange and yellow crayons when it is time to depict an autumn scene. Looking at a bed of chrysanthemums in bloom, I marveled at the shades of peach and violet that mingled so beautifully with the yellows and oranges. The next time you choose paints or fabrics with the intention of creating something that evokes a sense of autumn, remember the chrysanthemums.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


For years, the building shared by the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of American Art was closed for renovation. The museums finally reopened but work continued on a glass roof that would span the courtyard. This was the view as the roof was being built. I love the layers of grids in different colors, and the fact that while so much of this view consists of strict verticals and horizontals, there is, to me, a feeling of controlled chaos.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Carnival Ride, Gouda

Arriving in Gouda on a sunny morning, we anticipated a day spent sampling cheese, seeing the stained glass windows in St.Janskerk, and searching for Gouda pottery. As we approached the market square, we discovered that carnival rides in garish shades of hot pink and florescent green filled the space. The cobblestones and ancient buildings were obscured by popcorn stands and a carousel. Modern life had intruded upon our vision of Gouda. How often do we have a pre-conceived vision of how something or somewhere is supposed to look? It's hard to give that up. I still regret trying so hard to NOT photograph the ubiquitous orange building cranes that marked the skyline of every town in Umbria. Nor did I have the sense to shoot the flexible scaffolding that covered the Washington Monument while it was being rejuvenated. This time, we laughed at the children going round and round or up and down, and marveled at the wondrous juxtaposition of the 15th century City Hall and the whirling arms of the Spider.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Art Nouveau Lady

In the town of Haarlem, two ceramic tile ladies stand on either side of a door that faces the Spaarne River. Most of the day, they are lost in the shade of the arched stone entryway, which is flanked by dragon downspouts. For over one hundred years, the lady on the right has been holding an apple, which catches the rays of the ceramic sun behind her. She and her left-hand friend are advertisements for businesses that met their demise long ago. What optimism it shows, to have commissioned these two women in as permanent a medium as ceramic tiles. Would a business owner do that today, in our time of banking crises, mortgage crises and economic recession? I hope that we can regain some of the optimism of that previous era.
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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Windmilll Silhouette

Until a few weeks ago, my experience with windmills consisted only of eating cookies baked in that shape and trying to tap a ball through the ones found on miniature golf courses. But in the flat expanses of the Netherlands countryside, you can almost always see at least one windmill somewhere on the horizon. Jeff and I drove down to visit a friend whose directions ended with "Mine is the white house across from the windmill." Can you imagine having this view every day? In the morning, the white-painted bricks and brightly colored blades emphasize the mill's details. In the late afternoon, the windmill is a massive silhouette, a sturdy cylinder with the grid of the blades partitioning the sky into little squares. This is not just a cliche. It is an icon that, experienced in person exudes strength and a unique sense of place.