Benji, Boris, and Boston

This week was quite a week.  I drove up to Boston to pick up a friend and her dog Benji to bring them to Philadelphia for a visit.   Benji is a Yorkshire Terrier who has a thing for stealing glasses and chasing cats.

Benji                                                      Benji the terror and cat chaser

BenjiwithGlasses copy                                                            Benji the glasses thief.

Boris spent the week in the basement with his toys and food.  An attempted meeting betwen Benji and Boris was a disaster.  Only then did we learn that Benji is a cat chaser.

I got lost in the Big Dig tunnel in Boston after I dropped Benji and his human companion back at their apartment.  So I got a tour of downtown Boston which has changed immensely since Benji’s human companion and I were students at Emerson College.

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We were able to get together with a third friend from Emerson before I drove back.   We were so young when we first met.  Now we are grandmothers.

Boris      Boris has reclaimed his house now that Benji the cat chaser is gone.

My Introduction to the Construction Junction.

My husband is a silly man who often claims, when I ask him a question, that I am “grilling him like a salmon.”  But he is a good sport.  After all, he married me, didn’t he?  So when we were in Pittsburgh last year for the opening of Into The Forest, he agreed when I told him I needed to make a stop at the Construction Junction. He even opened the door for me!

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The Construction Junction is a nonprofit used and surplus building material retailer.  It accepts all kinds of donations-construction materials, old appliances, electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, tools, lighting, building materials and many other things too numerous to mention.  This keeps stuff out of landfills and gives it a second life when it leaves in the hands of a customer to be used in a new project.

 

 

But the construction junction is also a mecca for creative types.  I found some embossed tiles there that make perfect polymer clay texture sheets.  I got some brass pipe and metal parts that I will recycle into jewelry.   If I wanted one of the vintage stoves that seem to be all the rage these days,  I could pick one up at the Construction Junction and restore it to working order.

 

 

 

The place is HUGE, the staff is friendly and there is plenty of parking.  Check it out if you find yourself in Pittsburgh.

 

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Dubliners for a Few Days

Here are some of the sights we took in on our wanderings around Dublin recently.

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The Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square near the Dublin Writers Museum

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O’Connell Monument

2.GPODublinGeneral Post Office known as the headquarters for the Easter uprising in 1916

5.InsideRestoredGPODublinThe Interior of the GPO as it appears today.  It was virtually destroyed during the Easter uprising and restored in the 1920s.  The GPO now houses the GPO Witness History Museum, a chronicle of the 1916 uprising.   You should not visit Dublin without seeing this remarkable exhibit.

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Christ Church Cathedral

6.Leprechaun MuseumSignDublinLooks like the Leprechauns have gone and started their own museum.   (We skipped this one.)

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The Old Library at Trinity College

Another View of Edinburgh

This has been a good week for spinning my wheels, losing things and taking forever to get things done.  I will not bore you with the sordid details.

I had the good fortune to visit Edinburgh, Scotland recently and took hundreds and hundreds of pictures.  I decided to skip the scenic travel pictures and share the more unconventional ones  ones with you.

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My husband, apparently encountering a clown on his way to  a circus dress rehearsal.

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It’s no stranger than an English sign in China, but the juxtaposition of “Tartan Weaving Mill”  caught my eye.

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What us this world welcoming us into?

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A new world disorder?

 

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We can meet at the pub at The World’s End

 

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And if the Zombies find us.

 

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We can escape to Edinburgh Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to Rothko’s Rooms

here.I plan to return to London soon and one of the items on my list of things to see is the Mark Rothko exhibit at the Tate Modern Gallery.  I had heard about the paintings Seagrams commissioned from Rothko to hang on the walls of their new Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City.  I know that the paintings never made it to the restaurant and  wondered what happened to them.

 

 

 

Well, on my last visit to London, I learned that they are in a room at the Tate Modern Gallery.  The pictures you see here are not meant to be accurate representations of the paintings, but rather, to give you an idea of their scale.

A placard accompanying the exhibit stated:  “ROTHKO was influenced by Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence with its blind windows and deliberately oppressive atmosphere.  Rothko reportedly commented that Michelangelo ‘achieved just the kind of feeling I’m after – he makes the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up, so that all they can do is butt their heads forever against the wall’.

Wall Text Accompanying, In The Studio Exhibit, Tate Modern Gallery, London, England.

 

 

I am not sure how these paintings would have looked in an upscale restaurant, but I did not feel trapped in the room where they are displayed at the Tate.  In fact, I found it hard to leave.  The paintings have a singular calming effect.   Viewers can get close to them or sit across from them and look as long as they want.

If you want to learn more about Mark Rothko and these outstanding paintings, watch film documentary Rothko’s Rooms.  The film charts his life, artistic development and includes commentary from his family and friends.   Rothko’s Rooms used to be available on YouTube.  You can order it from Amazon.  Just click on the graphic below.

 

 

For additional information on Mark Rothko, go to artsy.net’s  Rothko page here.

The Kiln Waster

I had jury duty and when you are on jury duty in Philadelphia, you bring a few books, maybe a crossword puzzle, some snacks and whatever else allows you to pass the time because there is a lot of waiting before you are either selected to serve on a jury or dismissed. You serve for one day or one trial. 

I brought a couple of old catalogs from a pottery auction in the early 1990s.  I spent my waiting time pouring through pictures of work by the likes of  Bernard Leach, Lucie Rie, and  Mary Rogers.  

Which brings me to The Kiln Waster.  The Kiln Waster  is the opposite of inspiration.  If it were possible to have a front-end car collision in a kiln, The Kiln Waster would be the result.  See for yourself:

Kiln Waster refers to tin-glazed earthenware dishes that collapse in a kiln during firing and fuse to each other and to the  kiln furniture.  The above example is from Delft, Holland  circa 1655.  

I came face to face (or face to plate) with the Kiln Waster at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.   I had gone to the V&A to see its well-known jewelry collection.    I did not know, however, was that the V&A is also home to a fabulous, HUGE (huge as in rooms and rooms and shelves upon shelves) collection of ceramics and pottery dating from ancient times to the present day.  And while pottery from the Americas is not largely represented,  you’ll find just about everything else in the V&A collection.

Unfortunately, the V&A does not have a book or catalog of the collection for sale in its museum shop.  I would would have loved to buy one.  But the museum allowed visitors to take pictures and I snapped and gawked and gawked and snapped.    If you get to London, run to the V&A to see this astounding collection.  The next time I am in London, I plan to go back.  If you want to search the collection online, press here.

Here are some  pictures of pottery that fared better than The Kiln Waster

 

 

 

 

Rembrandt Huis

Rembrandt bought a house on Jodenbreestraat  in Amsterdam in 1639 and lived there until he went bankrupt in 1656 and lost everything.  There is a debate over whether Rembrandt’s  lavish taste caused his financial problems or whether he was a victim of  a shift in the art market.

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Rembrandt made his fortune as a portrait painter (and-this was a surprise to me-an art dealer!)  Prior to Rembrandt’s time, only the nobility could afford to sit for portraits. But social, technological and economic changes changed that.  By the early the 17th century,  the social fabric that had carried Europe through the last 1000 years was starting to fray at the edges. Holland was a Protestant country where to profit by one’s hard work was considered a virtue. Amsterdam was a commercial town with a wealthy merchant class. Then as now, the existence of a group of people with disposable income  was  good for business and a boon for artists.  Rembrandt did so well that he was able to buy his  grand house  on Jodenbreestraatin.   The house  is still there  and it’s open to the public

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Rembrandt Huis was a must-see for me because I have always loved his work. Rembrandt’s paintings make an impression on the viewer  because they do more than reproduce people and scenes in pictures: the tell stories. When you look at one of his Biblical paintings, or example,  you think about the people in it and what they must be doing and thinking. They look like they are engaged in something  rather assuming poses for a painting. Their engagement, in turn, engages us because on a fundamental level, we humans are story telling beings.

Rembrandt is also known as the master of light and his skills were unmatched.  He could make the paint look like lace, gold, sunlight, or gossamer layered fabric. He did not use gold paint, but he could paint gold so convincingly that it is hard to believe he did not use gold in his paint.

Rembrandt  was an art dealer as well as an artist, and sold the work of other artists that he displayed in   a showroom in the main room of his house.

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He also ran an art school on the top floor of his  house and taught several students at a time.

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Rembrandt  had a well-stocked room full of costumes and props that he used in his paintings. Some say that he was more of a shopaholic, buying anything that caught his fancy.  His profligate collecting  did not do his pocketbook any good and when he was forced to declare bankruptcy, all his belongings and his house  were sold at auction to cover his debts.

I learned about how Rembrandt’s paints were mixed  when I went to the Rembrandt Huis this past summer.  I made a short film in which a docent explains how it was done.  I hope you enjoy it.  Be sure to visit Rembrandt Huis if you are ever in Amsterdam.

 

 

 

Lessons from London Street Art

Two photos taken on the streets of London this week seem to provide timely advice given recent events.

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Graffiti in Bordeaux

Some cool graffiti seen in the streets of Bordeaux, France this summer.

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The Katten Kabinet

A charming side trip in Amsterdam is a visit to De Katten Kabinet, a museum set up in an old mansion that is devoted to displaying art depicting cats.  You’ll see everything here: paintings, prints, sculpture, movie posters-even a mummified pussy cat.  The Egyptians loved their cats, too.

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The story is that a rich Dutch banker wanted to do something to commemorate his beloved orange tabby John Pierpont Morgan (Tom for short).  So he turned his house into a museum and put J.P.’s image on a fake dollar bill.   This seems strangely appropriate cine De Katten Kabinet is located on Herengracht, a street in  Amsterdam that is home to numerous banks and investment firms.  On the other hand,  I have yet to meet a cat who gives a fig about money.

After we went through the museum, we went into a back garden area where two kittens were engaged in some serious play.  

And then out sauntered three chickens who were more concerned with sunning themselves than worrying about the kittens!

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Cat who Walked by Himself

The Cat Who Walked By Himself

If you are a cat lover, De Katten Kabinet is worth a visit your next time in Amsterdam.

Herengracht 497 – 1017 BT Amsterdam