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.