Good Travel Timing and Monet in Paris

Posted on January 4, 2014. Filed under: Art, France, Paris, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

Paris - Monet ExhibitWe happened to be in Paris in November, 2010, right in the middle of the biggest exhibition of Monet’s works to be shown in France in 30 years.  160 paintings were gathered from around the globe; private collections and museums as far away as Russia and Australia.  We discovered the exhibit by the absence of Monet paintings at the Musée d’Orsay and the sign telling us that the Monets were all at the Grand Palais for a special exhibit.

So we wandered over the bridge to the Grand Palais to find out that the exhibit was sold out months ago.  There was a 1/4 mile line of people waiting for a chance to get in without advance tickets, but after waiting for hours it was still iffy whether they’d get in.  We spoke to one of the guards for advice.  What could we do to get in, we asked him.

Ha, ha!  He told us if we came back in the evening we would only have to wait a short time!  So, we came back the next day about 9:00p.m. and almost waltzed right in!

And then our eyes almost popped out.  We got to see Monet paintings that we would never see again nor would we have had the opportunity to ever see if we hadn’t made it into this exhibit.  We saw groups of paintings he did in different light right next to each other.  I loved to think how some of these paintings probably hadn’t been right next to each other like that since they were with their creator.  I got to see some old favorites that I had seen in the Chicago exhibit of impressionism several years back.  My heart broke to see his portrait of his wife, Camille, as she lay dying in bed, but I was lifted to see his depiction of a Magpie in the snow.  It was great, too, how we were walking through the galleries with no crowds.  There were barely any other people there to block our views.

There were only two downsides.  We weren’t allowed to walk backward through the exhibit which we love to do one time to play our game of picking out the one we’d take home if we could.  Also the curators included some Roy Lichtenstein paintings perhaps as a more modern progression of what Monet started, but really, they looked so out of place here.  We just ignored them, though, no problem.

This show was an icing-on-the-cake experience for us.  We were in Paris, so we were seeing amazing art every day, but to have been there for this show and to have gotten in was truly magical.  We will never forget it.  Here’s another travel bonus:  once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

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Humane Society Craft Day

Posted on November 17, 2013. Filed under: Art, Just Fun | Tags: , , , |

Humane Society 1Can you find Mr. Naughty in the craft supply bins?  I popped to the basement for something and when I came up he had that red goose feather trim out of the box and already chewed!  I had to shoo him away almost the whole time I worked.

Yesterday was my day to put together items for the boutique at the Washington County Humane Society Festival of Trees:

Saturday, December 7th and Sunday, December 8th at WCHS

Cost is $6 for adults and $4 for senior citizens 60 and older and children ages 3-12

It is a lot of fun and a great kick-off to the holiday season.  Unfortunately for someone like me, who doesn’t like to rush the season, this means I have to get going a bit earlier like now to get ready for it.

Here’s how my efforts ended up.  Everything is animal-oriented, with a lot of dogs and cats sprinkled in.  I hope someone wants to buy this stuff.  The animals need the financial support.

Humane Society 2

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The Cool Shops of Rome

Posted on November 16, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

Rome -  cool shop 1In Rome you will be immersed in the ancient.  And then you will be smack up against the here-and-now when you enter one of these contemporary design shops!  Italy is known for excellent contemporary design and to walk through these shops is a visual treat.  The contrast of the old and new is a nice break for the eyes.

Rome -  cool shop 2

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What is the Belvedere Torso?

Posted on November 15, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Rome, Travel |

Travel - Rome TorsoPeople go to the Vatican Museums in Rome to see amazing things like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Pietà, and the Laocoön.

You might walk right by this sculpture fragment known as the Belvedere Torso, but it was known as a favorite of Michelangelo himself.  It likely dates to the 2nd century BC and who it depicts is unknown.  The powerful musculature, though, was studied and incorporated into other works by many artists over  the centuries.

It gives me a feeling a bit like time travel to be right there in the same space as this piece of marble that was so inspirational to Michelangelo. Legend has it when the Pope asked him to remake the limbs and head he said, “No, it is too beautiful to alter.”  One wonders if this response was truthful in sentiment or a way to wiggle out of an unpleasant job!

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Fun with Aliens

Posted on November 8, 2013. Filed under: Art, Just Fun | Tags: , , , |

Alien 1

Just a little goofy alien for today’s post.  I found him at a thrift store and I just had to have him.  Every time someone makes an appointment with me (or Bill) and doesn’t show up for it I say, “Another alien abduction, apparently.”  So when I found this guy he had to come home with me.  He might make regular appearances here on my blog.  Today he is checking out the garden from atop a world-like bowling ball on a pillar.  I think he secretly wants to take over the world, but he is actually too small (unless he calls on a lot of friends.)

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Midwest Plow

Posted on November 6, 2013. Filed under: Art | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Art - plowI thoroughly enjoyed the latest issue of Smithsonian entitled:  101 Objects that Made America.  Here I read about the John Deer plow that the Smithsonian owns.  It was revolutionary because he redesigned the plow for the sticky mud of the Midwest.  Previous to this plows were not so curved and sculptural because they had to work with rocky soil.

This got me thinking about the old plow we have lying in a heap in the woods.  I pulled it up and had a good look at it.  I definitely have a descendant of that John Deere, because the heavy iron of the plow is beautifully curved to “scour” the heavy earth as it was dragged behind a horse.  This makes sense since it came from here, Wisconsin, in the middle of the country.

I agree with the author of the plow article, Ian Frazier, who states, “Beyond its bold utility, the plow qualifies as different categories of art.  It is sculpture:  The lambent black of its wrought-iron surface and the sinuous twist of its shape prefigure the abstract steel sculptures of the 20th century.”

This was fun to do – look at something I already have in a new light.  I appreciate this implement for it’s beautiful lines in the here and now.  I also appreciate this implement for how it helped to make farming more productive for my ancestors.

Just a side note:  While I enjoyed aspects of the magazine,  I was really annoyed by how they photographed many of the objects in such dramatic lighting you could hardly see the thing and also some of the objects weren’t photographed at all but rather rendered in drawings!  The whole point of this issue was to show these 101 objects, but many of them are impossible to see well.  Ridiculous!

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The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Calatrava Addition

Posted on November 4, 2013. Filed under: Art, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

Photography - Calatrava 1While in North Dakota a week ago I was asked what there is to see in Milwaukee.  I think there are several reasons to come to the city, but the Quadracci Pavilion by Santiago Calatrava is definitely my favorite and probably the most recent reason for the city to achieve international interest.

The building is breathtaking from outside as seen here with the brise soleil closed in the morning.  And the magnificent wings opening to greet the expansive waters of Lake Michigan is something to see.

Photography - Calatrava 2

Here it is opened just a few minutes later.  This was quite a feat of engineering.  I remember when it was in the design phase and there was a lot of concern about how to make this structure sturdy enough to withstand the wicked winds and snows that come off the lake.

Photography - Calatrava 3But then, to enter and experience this structure from inside, well, it moves me.  It provides such peaceful spaces filled with natural light.  Going to the museum to experience the art is a treat, but just approaching, entering, and experiencing this building makes it a very special day, no matter when I go.

It’s no wonder we get visitors from the world over who want to see this sculptural building for themselves.  North Dakotans, yes, it’s worth a trip to Milwaukee, if only for this!

A special thanks to William McCluskey for sharing his photography for today’s post.

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Roman Mosaics

Posted on September 14, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

31 mosaic

When you go to Rome you will remember that the Romans did fabulous mosaics.  You will not, however, be prepared for how masterful and prolific they were.

33 mosaic hippo

These are spectacular ancient examples from the National Museum.  But you will see them virtually everywhere including St. Peter’s where artisans copied paintings in micro-mosaic so finely that you cannot tell it is not a painting.  Theydid this because of the candle and incense smoke damage that would occur to real paintings.

32 mosaic birds

The detail in this work is fantastic.  I like to think of the hands that placed each tile.  It was a rich culture indeed that could produce such exquisite handiwork.









34 mosaic geometric

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Paris – The Musée de l’Orangerie Basement!

Posted on August 17, 2013. Filed under: Art, France, Paris, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 1The spectacular Musée de l’Orangerie has the enormous Monet waterlily series of paintings and it blows you away to walk amid his ponds.  But that’s upstairs!  Don’t miss the light-flooded basement, the Walter-Guillaume galleries, reopened after extensive construction in 2006.

There are some jewels here:  Renoir and Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse.  22 Soutines!  And a particular favorite of mine:  Kees van Dongen who I love because of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Woman with Cat.

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 5What a great place to learn about art by reproducing it.  I remember my last year of high school at the Milwaukee Art Museum where there is a painting I hated (Fragonard’s The Shepherdess.)  My teacher had me spend several hours with it, drawing it, and I fell in love with it.  There is much to be learned from copying another’s work.

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 4  Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 2

Paris - Musée de l'Orangerie basement 3

This place was quite a feast for the eyes.  Next time you get to Paris don’t miss it!

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Clear Focus with a Macro Lens

Posted on July 29, 2013. Filed under: Art, Health, Photography | Tags: , , , |

Photography - blurry frogI struggled with my macro lens last summer.  I could get incredibly close and focus in, but then only the center of my photo was clear as you can see with Mr. Toady here.

I finally checked some online sources and discovered the fix was to never use a wider  f-stop than 16.  I still forget sometimes that the internet has so much information!

Photography - clear frogMr. Toady 2013 is looking better!  I’m very amazed at macro photography.  When I get into my camera lens I see the world in a completely new way.  I was intrigued here by the gold-flecked black eyes of this little fellow.  There is something very meditative about seeing the details in very small things.  I can lose several hours if I’m not careful!  What a great way to de-stress.

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