Sunday, July 29, 2012

Black Eyed Susans

The relentlessly hot days continue. While petunias wilt and tomatoes wither, the black eyed susans stand in sturdy groups with sunny upturned faces. What marvels of geometry, mathematics and design they are: Fibonacci-series buttons surrounded by the radial symmetry of their stamens and petals. But wait, there's more! Don't those buds look like bottle caps? The stamens make me want to grab some bugle beads and begin stitching. Some gardeners consider them too coarse, too common. The black eyed susans may be lacking in refinement, but they are there when we need some inspiration and a bit of color on a sweltering day.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tiles and Geraniums

Who are the lucky people living in the apartment with the tiles? Who set out the geraniums? I lingered to study this mix of red, yellow and blue. In a neighborhood of somber stone, a gently curved  window frame or a row of  bright tiles adds character and individuality. The undulating art nouveau style of those tiles quickly fell out of fashion after the Great War. They have survived long enough to be treasured once more. It's a deserving fate for an elegantly designed bit of ornamentation.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Side Street

All along lower Broadway, the sidewalks teemed with people hurrying in and out of stores. This part of Soho has been taken over by the "nationally known brands" that populate many high-end shopping malls. We headed west. Within two blocks, it became quieter and less crowded. On the back streets, carefully painted and polished art galleries and tiny boutiques alternate with rougher neighbors. Looking down the almost-empty street, I thought about how this could be 1950 or even 1930. It was a black and white moment, part of the charm and mystery of a large city 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Icy Cold

The bottles stood in neat rows, up to their necks in crushed ice. The caps looked like polka dot fabric. How well I've been trained, after years of wandering through fabric stores. Place before me any regularly spaced pattern, whether it is the slats of a wooden fence or the bright metal caps of frosty beverages and my mind will organize it into a facsimile of a fabric print. Our brains naturally search for order and repetition. During a disastrously hot week that left most of us without power, there was no chance that anyone besides me would only admire these chilly patterns. This is a pause that refreshes more than just the eyes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Arab Room Ceiling

This week, I'm reading a delightful series of emails from a friend who is making her way across England and Wales. I urged her to visit Cardiff Castle, where brilliant colors abound and every surface is carved, painted, stenciled or gilded. That fantastical residence is the work of architect William Burgess, who reimagined the ancient castle for the Bute family. It illustrates the Victorians' romantic view of medieval times. Here is the ceiling of the Arab Room, a kaleidoscopic masterpiece of gilded wood. A docent noticed that I was photographing the castle's many elaborate ceilings. She offered to take us into the most fabulous one of all, where I set my camera on the floor and captured this amazing sight. Thank you, kind lady.