Jul. 17th, 2013 11:59 am
clevermynnie: (smile)
I had one last trip, to cap off a month in which I visited five other countries and filled two pages of my passport: to Amsterdam! This actually got planned further back than all those other trips, before I realized that I wouldn't be able to travel much in late July and August. But I really wanted to see the newly renovated and reopened Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh Museum, so I recruited some like-minded friends from Dublin, and we headed over just for the weekend.

The museums were great, just so good. We went early to both and pre-booked tickets, because I had heard some horror stories about lines, but we had no lines at all! I loved all the Dutch golden age stuff--Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, Steen, Ruisdael--and actually there was a lot of historical context that was really helpful. And the Van Gogh museum was great; I loved a lot of what I saw, but was especially surprised and pleased to find that Van Gogh had actually painted versions of two Hiroshige woodblock prints that we have up in our house. And I loved lots of the pieces they had, and the context, though I found the omission of any discussion of Van Gogh's mental state kind of weird in the areas that focused on his later life. And we went to this concert in the Royal Concertgebouw, which is apparently famed for its acoustics. They did some Brahms variations I didn't care much about, and then the Ravel orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition which is always enjoyable, but the really amazing part of it for me was Isabelle Faust playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. I saw the piece in the program and thought, Mendelssohn, cool, violin concerto, yes! But I didn't realize until the opening notes that, oh, I know this piece, when I was a kid we had a recording of Jascha Heifetz playing this and the Bruch violin concerto and we listened to it a lot on weekends. Hearing it performed in person was rapturous.

We also had a lot of fun poking around Amsterdam, going to little shops or outdoor markets, having nice food and beer, and just wandering up and down canals. I think I was a bit prejudiced against Amsterdam, which is part of why it took me this long to get there; it's often the favorite European city for people who are really into partying, who will enthuse about the open availability of drugs and prostitutes. And okay, fine, but that's not my thing so I kind of assumed I would not click with Amsterdam. But actually, there's so much culture and history there, and it's such a lovely place, that I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed being there! I would totally go back, though in the near future I will just be sticking around Dublin, where I can enjoy lovely summer weather and have ice creams and go swimming and spot urban foxes.


Jan. 10th, 2013 12:35 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
We had to go to the US Embassy this morning, to clear up bureaucratic issues with our passport renewal. I'd never been to an embassy before, and it's an odd thing to get to cut all the lines and go to the fast windows just for being American. Plus there was a weird exchange where the security guy was listing all the things we can't bring into the embassy (liquids, gels, powders), and I said 'none of that' dismissively, and he said 'are you really telling me there is no makeup in this bag?' And I raised my eyebrows and said, 'I'm not wearing any makeup so I don't have it in my bag,' which was probably better to say than the raging makeup rant that came into my head.

But what was most interesting was actually the embassy building itself. It was set back from the street, of course, but circular in a way meant to evoke ring forts and Martello towers, to imply that an embassy turns its back on no one, and to make use of a wedge-shaped plot of land. I found a history of the design here, which mentioned a cool-sounding foyer which is sadly not the entrance you use for passport appointments. But the building itself was very striking, to me.


Mar. 12th, 2012 10:31 am
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I went to Vienna for the weekend to visit my old friend Daria, who is temporarily living there. What a great city! I flew in Friday night and we caught up over dinner, and then over the weekend we did quite a lot. We went to a Viennese kaffeehaus, saw the amazing art collections at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Belvedere, and went on a walking tour around the core of the city which has a beautiful cathedral and a huge sprawling palace. We also got very cheap tickets to see a ballet in the Vienna State Opera House, which is one of these towering small performance spaces with balcony after balcony: very beautiful. And the ballet itself was interesting, with two Jerome Robbins pieces to Glass and Chopin that I really enjoyed (and two Balanchine pieces to Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky that I didn't like as much). We also talked a lot and had time to relax and have cakes and such, so it was a very nice weekend.

There is one cake that I had which I should make at home. It was in the Belvedere cafe and it was two layers of very dense, almondy cake, a layer of orange buttercream between them, and a very pretty fondant layer on the outside. I probably could skip the fondant but the cake was delicious.

And I feel like I only scratched the surface in terms of all the museums and sights in and around Vienna... which is good because Ben was away and so didn't accompany me, to his regret. So I'm sure we'll go there together at some point and see some of the many things I did not have time for on this trip.


Jan. 30th, 2012 09:23 pm
clevermynnie: (smile)
We had a really fun time in Barcelona! I had high expectations for what the city would be like, because many people have told me how much they enjoyed it, and those expectations were certainly met.

Having recently read a lot about Gaudí and modernist (art nouveau) art and architecture, I had a list of buildings and parks that I wanted to visit in Barcelona. Which meant that we spent a lot of time walking around looking at buildings; fortunately this is something Ben enjoys too. We went to the huge Gothic cathedral and walked around the Gothic quarter a lot, and that served as a really nice anchor to all the modernist buildings we saw: houses, pavilions, apartment buildings, a theater, and of course the Sagrada Familia which is an enormous cathedral that's still being completed. I took tons of photos of all these buildings, and since we had somewhat poor weather I think the conditions for photos weren't great, but I could not help myself. I really love the expressive shapes and colors, inspired by nature, in so many of the buildings we saw.

There are also a lot of excellent museums in Barcelona, so many that we had to be a bit choosy with our limited time there. Ben had grown up enjoying Miró so we went to the Miró museum, which was very thoroughly representative of every period in the artist's life; it was moving to see how his art evolved in parallel with the political environment of Spain and I was relieved to learn that he saw Spain finally shake off dictatorship before he died. We also went to the Picasso museum, which had some interesting early Picasso and then this great series that Picasso did where he reinterpreted the Velasquez painting Las Meninas. They had all the paintings there, fifty-some, but you can see a few online here. We also went to a house museum about Gaudí, and a cool archaeological museum where you went down under this castle in the Gothic quarter to see Roman ruins of the original settlement of Barcino, as well as an outdoor museum where many different styles of Spanish building were collected in one small village. It was also especially cool to see the park where the 1992 Olympics were held; I was 8 at the time and they were the first Olympics that I remember being aware of.

In between all the wandering around to look at everything, we ate a lot of amazing food. We had tapas, Ben had paella for the first time (a dish I had tried before he had! will wonders never cease?), and we had a lot of good cheap wine and good cheap coffee. We even had caipirinhas, which I had not had in years! And a crazy amount of seafood. It was a lot of fun.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I finished reading Janson's History of Art!

I started reading it in September and realized pretty quickly that there was only so much I could really absorb from it per day. It's a slow and dense read, even with the many pictures. But I settled into a routine of reading 20-30 pages each day and now it's over! It's kind of sad, actually. I knew a fair bit about western art going in, but I got a lot of context and historical placement from the book, and learned more about many art movements that I sort of knew about. I imagine I will retain that more than individual artists or paintings, mostly likely... though I have found a lot of Janson's flashcards online if I wanted to drill those.

One of my favorite unexpected things about Janson's is that it covered architecture movements as thoroughly as painting or sculpture movements. That's pretty sensible now that I think about it, but it was like a happy bonus. They covered photography quite a bit as well, but I expected that.

Does anyone have recommendations for other art type books that are worth reading?

the sierra

Dec. 19th, 2011 10:40 am
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I rediscovered a really wonderful book that we have, The High Sierra of California, which is a combination of the writings and poetry of John Muir and Gary Snyder as they explored the Sierra with these gorgeous woodblock prints of the Sierra by Tom Killion. The writing is very evocative and interesting in exploring why people (like me!) are drawn to the wilderness, and the prints are just gorgeous.

I looked up Tom Killion's website, where he sells handprinted books (as opposed to the mass produced one I have) and you can also see some of his other series on other regions in California. I love these: they merge a subject I love with an art style that I've enjoyed since I was a kid. (Remember how I made wall scrolls awhile back? We brought those to Ireland and now they're in our bedroom.) A few more Killion woodblock prints that I liked:

clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I am now 27 years old, which is 3 cubed... hopefully this isn't the last time that my age will be a cube, though presumably it is the last time that my age can be represented in the form n^n, using integers anyway.

I'm feeling good on this particular day, as I'm starting to feel settled in to our place and this area. I finally have my computer up and running, and my desk assembled. As I have gone to art museums over the years, I have collected a few postcards of paintings that I really liked, and this desk has a big white area to the left of my computer screen where I've taped them up. I love seeing them; they all give me a similar feeling of serenity and I think they go well together. They also tie in to something I really like about where we are living now. I bet you can figure out what it is.

Read more... )

J.M.W. Turner - The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her Last Berth To Be Broken Up

not so big

May. 29th, 2011 01:00 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
I read a pretty cool book recently, The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. It's about identifying the features in your living space that are important to you, which rooms you use and what you use them for, and designing living space features around that. There were a lot of design ideas about how to make a room more multiuse with different lighting and organizational practices, and also discussions of how different room layouts contribute to room use, and a lot about how to really efficiently use the space you have. There were a lot of photos of spaces that exemplified the various ideas, and even though I am unlikely to build my own house from scratch anytime soon, I really enjoyed reading this book and I think there's a lot that's pretty useful to anyone trying to lay out their own living space well.

One thing that's going to be weird about our move is that apartments in Dublin tend to be furnished, so we'll be leaving a lot of our stuff here. We've got a lot of wall decorations that I don't know if we'll move or not... some of them, like our homemade wall scrolls, I suspect wouldn't make the trip very well. Though, much of our furniture is the cheapest IKEA stuff that we would have sold no matter where we were moving. And our basement has accrued a lot of scarcely used things which I suppose should be called junk, that we'll have to go through. Like our box of computer parts and our duplicate kitchen items.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
Had a great weekend with Ron. We went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Longwood Gardens, which are great places to go back to again and again, and we also visited the Barnes Foundation. The Barnes is this incredible collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, displayed in the namesake's display rooms at a mansion in Merion. From their website:

The Barnes Foundation houses one of the finest collections of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings in the world, including an extraordinary number of masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (181), Paul Cézanne (69), and Henri Matisse (59). The collection also includes important works by Pablo Picasso (46), Chaim Soutine (21), Henri Rousseau (18), Amedeo Modigliani (16), Edgar Degas (11), Vincent van Gogh (7), Georges Seurat (6), Edouard Manet (4), and Claude Monet (4).

It was pretty phenomenal, especially for someone like me who loves that art period so much. And the grounds were really great too, very green and lush with an incredible rose garden. They're moving from their suburban location to downtown Philadelphia very soon, and I'm glad we went to the old site. Also, man, really good food at Resurrection Ale House, which is pretty close to us and yet somehow we don't go there much. It was great having so much time to talk to Ron, one of whose virtues is that he is fun to talk to about a wide variety of things.

My favorite painting that we saw, which I got a postcard of for my desk:

I should do a post of desk postcards sometime. I have a little collection here, which mainly has the theme of water.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
Awhile back, I was talking about finding your voice, so to speak, in photography, and I wrote, "I have found that for me, the types of pictures I am best at taking (and enjoy taking the most) are ones that give some sense of place, possibly of awe. I want to show the art in the world, in how nature and man-made vistas are arrayed. And, from the perspective of memory, I want to have records of the art and beauty in the places I have been (records made by me!)." I find that of all the elements of a pictures, the ones beyond emotional impact that speak to me the most are color and composition. By composition I mean placement, framing, lines, and since those are the elements I can most directly control, I really like to play around with those, both when I'm taking the picture and when I'm cropping later at home. I like the feeling that whenever I take photos I am learning to find better and better compositions, more pleasing and memorable ways of seeing things, and to me one of the best parts of photography is that it encourages you to look around constantly to find things that are beautiful.

Anyway, I say this all as a preface to my photos from New Orleans, which now cannot possibly live up to what I just wrote. :)

Read more... )
clevermynnie: (Default)
When we were in Los Alamos, we made a stained glass window with my mom and stepdad, to give to Ben's mom as a Christmas present. The process consisted of choosing a pattern, making a window design from that pattern, choosing glass, cutting out glass pieces, lining each piece with copper foil, tacking the pieces together with solder, connecting everything with solder, adding more solder to look nice, soldering on a metal frame, staining and cutting a wood frame, attaching the wood frame, and attaching hangers. It was a lot of work but pretty interesting, and I took pictures!

the process )

making a stained glass window 7
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
One of the things at the Whitney Biennial that I really liked was this video piece by Kate Gilmore. I am not usually into modern video art installations for some reason but this got to me and I couldn't stop watching it.
clevermynnie: (Default)
This weekend was fun; after doing chores, having a guitar lesson, and volunteering at the Philadelphia Marathon expo on Saturday, Ben and I went to Manhattan for the day Sunday. We basically just ate delicious food and went to museums, because there is an exhibition at the Met that I wanted to see (Robert Frank's The Americans, many wonderful photos from the mid-fifties around the U.S.) and we still hadn't been to the MoMA. The photos were great, and it was worth going there specially to see them. And the MoMA was really cool, with a great space and many really nice pieces. Although, I realized my two biggest problems with modern art museums which are when something is too far from being art and suddenly I am yanked from art mode into skeptic mode, and the artists who get famous for one clever gimmick and then reproduce that gimmick over and over again. Hey, it's a metallic, ovoid sculpture like Bird in Space! Must be Brancusi! Black-outlined boxes of primary color, hello Mondrian! Fuzzy, huge boxes of color, Rothko of course! Skinny matte sculptures with big feet, ah yes, Giacometti. It's like a pop quiz with really easy answers. Of course, you could probably make a similar criticism about, say, Kandinsky, and I really like Kandinsky. But I prefer artists who are a little more broad, try a lot of things, and they had some great collections of that at the MoMA, like a huge amount of Picasso. Though, it was incredibly crowded because this Tim Burton exhibit had just opened (the line was huge, over an hour wait). I enjoyed the day a lot overall, though. It makes me want to spend more time reading the big art history book we have, actually.

And now I am back at work, taking a lot of data and trying to get to some follow-up measurements to the stuff we recently published. It's great to be taking data again after so much time writing, preparing for my oral exam, and upgrading the setup. But of course the data isn't quite what I would expect, because that is how experiments always go. It feels great to be productive, though.


Jun. 22nd, 2009 07:54 pm
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
My mom has gotten very into glassworking over the last couple of years, and keeps sending me links to all these gorgeous pieces that people have made. I know at least a couple of you will find them interesting, so here are a few very impressive galleries:

Kenji Ito
Kentucky Arts
Christopher McElroy

This is my favorite from that goblet page:

And man, I just love this teaset: very large image, but you can really see the detail )
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I had been thinking about getting more BPAL when [ profile] mousekinn had a sale of her BPAL fragrances to finance medicine for her sick kitty. It was a perfect opportunity to try new scents out!

talking about the scents I got )

In the past I have rarely worn perfume but I often use scented lotions or shower gel or candles or bath salts. In actually wearing a scent I worry about overwhelming the senses of people around me. But I really like when you are putting on a lotion and big clouds of the scent waft up, and if you use it before bed a few times then you will get into bed and faintly smell whatever it was. I am actually considering mixing some of my own body oil and scenting it with some of the perfumes that don't last long on me. The best ingredients for body oil are really cheap, and it would be fun to do. I saved a glass bottle which used to have body oil in it just for this purpose.

Getting more into perfume and smell is a little like exploring painting for the first time, looking at works of art in a medium I have been taking for granted. But concoctions of scent, like foods where different flavors have been carefully balanced, are strange as works of art. Visual media is constant, real, tangible, and we can close our eyes and view it again in our mind's eye. Music is real in the sense that it does have a physical existence, but a necessarily fleeting one. However, if you know a musical piece well, you can replay it for yourself countless times and hear it almost the same as hearing it in person, so in some sense you can carry a musical piece with you using only your mind. But while scent and food have a corporeal existence, we cannot remember them accurately. You can recognize the taste of orange or rosemary or milk, but if you imagine them, you cannot re-taste or re-smell them in your mind. To me, that gives them a poignancy and immediacy different from other media.
clevermynnie: (Default)
I am not the sort who often creates photoessays, but then again I am not the sort who often finds an abandoned piano on my walk to work. I knew I wanted to take pictures of it, its water-swollen keys and misaligned hammers. The cover for the keys is gone, as is the panel that usually covers the soundboard. And then it snowed.

no more words )
clevermynnie: (wealthy young woman-about-town)
Hey, remember when I talked about making wall scrolls? Well, I forgot to post a picture before now, but I actually did that.

wall scrolls, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

Basically, I picked out the posters and ordered them. We bought the fabric from IKEA, dowels (for the top and bottom of the scrolls) from Home Depot, and spray adhesive (thank you Chih for telling me this existed) from an Utrecht art store. Ben helped me a lot with putting them together; we hemmed the sides with spray adhesive and tacked the dowels into the tops and bottoms, then cut a little hole for a nail to go in on the back. I am really happy with how they came out; I think we finished the last one in early December. Our next big home project will probably be to build some cat furniture.

jmw turner

Sep. 20th, 2007 12:00 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
As anyone who's been to a museum with me can tell you, I love impressionist painting. And I've always liked JMW Turner, the English painter who arguably was an impressionist long before the actual movement began. The Tate Britain has a huge collection of his paintings, an entire wing devoted to him, because he gave them all his unfinished and unsold canvases upon his death. Jeanine and I saw and loved this collection in London, and when I saw the article below in this week's New Yorker, I thought I'd share it with you, along with some of his paintings. The analysis of the paintings is inspiring, but even more so if you can look at them as you're reading.

The first Turner painting I ever saw, in AP US History: Rain, Steam, and Speed
A postcard I sent to Ben: Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth
Described in the article:
Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying
Staffa, Fingal's Cave
The Battle of Trafalgar
The Field of Waterloo
Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons
Disaster at Sea
And one I have in postcard form on my desk: The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to Her Last Berth to Be Broken Up

the patriot )
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
My mom is visiting me here in Philly for the first time in a couple of weeks, and naturally I want her to really like my house. Thus I am spearheading the initiative to actually decorate the big blank wall in our dining room. I also have something to gain from this, since when we eat I am looking at said wall. I have a big framed print hanging in the same room already, which I don't know the painter of, but I believe it's Chinese. The reason I am fairly into Asian art is simple: around when my parents first married, they bought and cheaply framed a lot of Japanese print posters, mostly Hokusai and Hasui. When they divorced, they split the prints, and so both of my Los Alamos homes have a lot of that style of art in them. I like it, and I especially like it in long fabric scrolls with a beautiful painting in the middle. I'm looking at making my own scrolls from dowels and fabric, getting some posters off the internet, and affixing the posters to them. But I'm trying to decide on three prints that would go well together. Here's what I'm looking at:

Hiroshige: Plum Garden over Shin-Ohashi Bridge
Hiroshige: Snowy Landscape
Hiroshige: View from Satta Saruga
Hasui: Moon at Magome
Hiroshige: Sudden Shower

I'm currently leaning towards the first three. There are some that I like but feel weird about getting because they are actually prints hanging in one of my parents' houses, like this one.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
After a frustrating week at work last week, on Friday I finally got some great news, that the cryostat I'm working on finally does what it's supposed to. And then in the evening I flew out to Indiana, to spend the weekend staying with Jeanine and Andrew in West Lafayette. It was a blast!

First thing Saturday morning we went out to the farmer's market, to buy meat and berries and egg noodles, and then headed over to Samara, a Frank Lloyd Wright house in West Lafayette. It's still owned by the original owner, and lived in, and occasionally he opens it for tours and talks given by extremely enthusiastic volunteers. The talks were interesting, and the space inside was just beautiful. It was one of the last houses he built, and thus free of many of the engineering problems that plagued earlier projects. And something that must have helped was that his wife, an interior designer, worked with the owners to do a lot of the color and decoration inside, though Wright designed most of the furniture and put many motifs in that are repeated in windows, hinges, linens, room shapes. What I really loved was the living room, huge and stylish and accomodating, with all sorts of seating: long cushioned benches, couches and chairs, hassocks with small cushions, steps, a coffee table that split into six stools. Everything was modular, everything was cantilevered, everything was open. Two walls were taken by windows out to trees and brick, and there were curtains covering the posts so it looked like a wall of glass. The corner was solid glass, held together by glue. And the fireplace was incredible, massive and brick but floating in the air, dramatically lit. The rest of the house was cool, but it was catered to the couple living there, who wanted big open spaces for entertaining but private, small spaces for having their bedrooms and bathrooms, so the ceilings in the rest of the house were so low I could touch them with my elbows. The hallways and doors were tiny, to give you the sense if you wandered into that part of the house from a party that it was private and you didn't belong. But then in the smallish bathrooms, huge lofted ceilings with skylights were raised up above you, so you didn't feel you were peeing in a closet. The showerhead, though, was about 5'3". The kitchen ("workspace", Wright called it) was nice and airy but had a minimum of easily usable counter space, because of big imposing cabinets right over many of the counters that probably helped the short-ish denizens. But many vintage 50s appliances. And the landscaping outside was excellent, Oriental (for lack of a better word... the decor mixed Japanese and Chinese art with abandon), and matched by the style inside. I'm not a big fan of Wright furniture, much of it is too ugly, but he had some great stylistic ideas, like using an obi as a runner for the center of your dining room table, and china with off-center colorful geometry meant to hide lipstick prints on cups. Apparently he designed every last detail for the house, left the plans with the owners, and as they got more money over the course of their lives (the house was built 50 years ago), they had more of the pieces made. It was really amazing to see.

Then we had lunch, and I went to the Victoria's Secret sale yet again to help Jeanine with bra-shopping. We went home, Sam showed up from Bloomington, and we made dinner. We then left for the Wolf Park, where you can see wolf packs up close and howl with them, and hear a lecture which is not that informative and clearly designed for children. But the wolves are really cool, and the park volunteers can enter and interact with them, and they also have several foxes and a herd of bison. And when you go at night, to howl with them and hear them howl, you have the pleasure of watching fireflies dance over the grass when dusk sets in.

On Sunday we lazed around more, made scones, watched the first Harry Potter movie, walked around the garden plots that married graduate students can plant things in, played gin, and eventually went to Indianapolis so I could come back here. I was especially glad to spend the weekend with friends because Ben and I are in the middle of our apart-time; he's been gone seven weeks and will be gone another six. This means I'm not in as high spirits as I've been, for whatever reason, and it was nice to see people to help me take my mind off that. Especially people I miss. :)


clevermynnie: (Default)

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