Chihuly – small sand to glorious glass

On a recent family vacation, my family had the opportunity to view the Chihuly exhibit at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. I cannot recommend this exhibit strongly enough. Seriously, if you are anywhere in the Tampa/St. Pete area, you must find time to get by and see this exhibit.

chihuly ceiling 1

Dale Chihuly is an artist who currently lives and creates in Seattle. I first encountered his work when we were living in Virginia and he had a visiting exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I was spellbound by the way he utilized both glass, color, and shape to create sculptures that are full of grace and movement.

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This particular exhibit is unique in that Chihuly himself has been instrumental in determining the arrangement of the exhibition, down to the very order in which his pieces are displayed, in which rooms, and how the rooms are designed. The experience was truly breathtaking.

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Most of the rooms were kept dark, the walls painted dark colors. And then, glowing with an ethereal warmth, the glass pieces were displayed. I cannot remember the last time I turned a corner in an art museum with an audible gasp at the immense beauty of the art that was just around the corner. As we entered each room, there was yet another stunning work of glass, alive with color and form to delight our eyes.

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Some of Chihuly’s works were new to me. I had not seen his baskets or his bowls previously. Then there were the vases, some that even had the flowers with them too. I was fascinated by his ability to take glass and create things that looked as if they were created out of an entirely different media, as if they really were basket, bowls, flowers.

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“I want my work to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in a forest, they might think it belonged there.” – Dale Chihuly

I had encountered several of his hanging sculptures previously, but they still take my breath away. They are at the same time both delicate and bold. The individual tendrils of glass seem so fragile, yet the structure itself dominates the space.

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If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the works that he often displays in gardens, here displayed in a large room all to its own.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures. It seemed as if there was a new aspect with each vantage point. As I discussed the piece with my family, each of us found something different that captured our attention.

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“I’m amazed at what people seem to find in my work, and I don’t like to limit what they see with a title. For me, titles are very difficult, and I don’t usually even think in terms of a theme when I’m creating a sculpture. Once it’s finished, I’ll come up with a title, but one person might see flowers, another something from the sea or something from a dream.” – Dale Chihuly

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As incredible as these pictures are, they don’t even begin to display the incredible beauty of seeing these works in person. Sometimes, you just need to be reminded that there is beauty beyond anything you can imagine. While human beings are indeed capable of great evil, we are also able to create stunning beauty. Delight your eyes with such beauty. Go visit the Morean Art Center and spend a little time with Chihuly. You won’t regret it.

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All photos posted with permission of the Morean Art Center. All works photographed are from Dale Chihuly.

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5 Ways to Bring a Little Art to Your Summer

Summer is upon us. While June 21st marks the official start of summer, many of us mark the unofficial start with Memorial Day weekend or the end of school. For those of us in coastal states, summer is often marked with trips to the beach. If we’re in most of the US, summer means hotter weather, for some of us, too hot to even make that trip to the beach. And if we have kids, summer marks the time when mornings start a bit later, time moves a bit slower, and we ward off sibling squabbles and cries of “I’m bored.”

But what about bringing a little art to your summer? If it’s too hot to play outside, why not play inside? Here are five quick tips to put a little art in your summer – enjoy!

  1. Visit your local art museum.

Don’t just limit yourself to the biggest game in town. Most cities have smaller (and often more affordable) museums. Often during the summer, art museums will offer special programming or the occasional free day. It’s no secret that my family frequents art museums, and some of my favorite have been the smaller venues. These museums have the ability to focus on a limited number of exhibits and often do them quite well and display pieces that wouldn’t be shown in a larger museum.

summer art museum

  1. Take a stroll though a local art gallery.

Many of the cities in which we’ve lived have an “arts district”. Does your town? Is there a little neighborhood where many different artists have galleries? Or perhaps there is a larger gallery that displays works from several artists? Why not spend an afternoon or evening strolling along and letting your senses be stimulated with locally created art? In addition to seeing incredible art, you may have the opportunity to meet the artists. Check your local events calendar, regular “art strolls” are becoming very popular – galleries staying open later and vendors providing food, beverages, and even live music. Simple ask Siri or Google and see what adventure awaits!

art-less children, summer

  1. Enroll in an art class.

Summer art doesn’t have to be limited to what you find in museums and galleries. From paint-your-own studios to ceramic studios to library classes to art schools, there is an endless supply of art classes. Find a medium you enjoy or stretch yourself to try something brand new. Just because school is out doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a class just for fun! If you have kids, don’t just sign them up for art camp, why don’t you sign up for family painting night? Make some art together!

stamping art, summer

  1. Pick up a book about art or your favorite artist.

Maybe taking an art class feels a bit intimidating, while I’d still encourage you to go beyond your comfort zone….why not pick up a great book? You could read an art book, an artist’s biography or autobiography, or something that might grow your appreciation for art. Head out to your local library, look up your favorite artist, or ask the helpful librarian where the art books are and find one, two or more to take home and enjoy. Here’s a great list to get you started.

  1. Make some art of your own.

Sometimes, you just want to stay home, I get it. So why not use that time to create a masterpiece of your own? Summer is a time to relax and destress – so why not pull out a coloring book and have a little fun? Or ask your kids to get out all their art supplies, pull on some old clothes and have an art party and see what you can create? Tap into your inner creativity that unfortunately can get buried in the everyday-ness of life. Make something beautiful!

grateful for kids, summer

So how about it? How will you put a little art in your summer? What ideas do you want to try? What else would you add to this list? Now get out there and do it! Then come back, post a picture or leave a comment about your art adventure!

 

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Magnificence and a moment at the Morse

I wrote recently of my family visit to the Morse Museum, and I’d like to return to that fascinating museum in today’s post. This week is Holy Week, a celebration of last week of the life of Christ, culminating in the glorious celebration of His resurrection on Easter Sunday. At first glance, the Morse Museum may appear to have very little to do with Holy Week, but keep reading, and I think you’ll be surprised.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 1
Tiffany Chapel Reredos, c. 1893
 Laurelton Hall, Long Island, New York, 1902–57
 Exhibited: World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
 Glass mosaic
 Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York City, 1892–1900
 90 x 72 in.

Tucked away in the exhibit halls of the Morse museum in a magnificent work called simply “The Chapel”. But there is nothing simple about this chapel. Originally crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the chapel re-opened at its current home in Winter Park in 1999.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 2
View of the chapel interior designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

Though originally displayed as a work of art, the chapel was so exquisite, that male patrons would remove their hats, and all who entered would sit in reverent silence, as if entering a functioning church. In fact, after the 1893 exhibition, the chapel would be moved to St. John the Divine in New York City, where it did actually function as a chapel.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 3
Altar from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum.

There is a deep connection between art and worship. Anthony Esolen in his book ten ways to destroy the imagination of your child states that “In both art and worship, the heart seeks out something beyond itself – a beauty or a power that is not its own.” (pg. 225) Tiffany’s chapel does exactly that – it shows us a beauty and a power that is so clearly not our own.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 4
Baptistery and Field of Lilies leaded-glass window from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum. Photo by Raymond Martinot.

Even as we entered the chapel at the Morse Museum, there was a little placard urging silence, and we coached our children to be respectful and quiet. The day we visited, there was a small crowd of other folks in the chapel as well – some were sitting quietly, admiring the art, some were taking photos and pointing out details in the mosaics, some appeared to be praying.

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Lectern from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum.

When we encounter great works of art, silence is often our best response. We are confronted with the transcendent, and words somehow seem inadequate.

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View of Tiffany chapel leaded-glass windows and electrolier. Left to right: The Story of the Cross, c. 1892; Adoration, c. 1900–1916; Christ Blessing the Evangelists, c. 1892. Photo by Jimmy Cohrssen.

For Christians, the events of Holy Week are the pinnacle of our faith. Good Friday services are often marked by silence and a contemplative sadness as we reflect on the death of Christ for our sins. Easter services in contrast resound with joy and delight as we celebrate His resurrection.

Morse Museum, Tiffany Chapel 7
The Story of the Cross, c. 1892
 Leaded glass
Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York City, 1892–1900
D. 104 1/2 in.

A trip to the Morse Museum and a time for reflection in the beauty of the chapel can be the perfect venue for me to reflect on these Holy Week events. And I am not alone in those thoughts. In fact, the Morse Museum is free on Easter weekend. A tradition begun in 1986, the museum offers a free open house on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you are in the area, I suggest you work in a visit to the Morse and a visit to your local church to celebrate this Holy Week. He is Risen!

 

All photos graciously provided by and used with permission of the Morse Museum.

 

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Dillydallying at the Dali – care to join me?

Let me tell you about my day with Dali! Last week, my good friend Pam, from Ft. Worth, Texas came to visit. It was her first trip here to our home and we aimed to make it a big visit—Texas and Florida style!

Dali museum 1

One of the places we visited was the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, only an hour from our home. What a spectacular destination. The building alone is stunning with ocean views and a waterfront setting. The building features a large glass entryway and skylight made of 1.5 inch thick glass.

Dali Museum 2

The remaining walls are composed of 18-inch thick concrete, designed to protect the collection from hurricanes.

Dali Museum 3

The museum is a dizzying array that includes one of the largest collections of Salvador Dali’s works. 96 oil paintings, over 100 watercolors and drawings, 1,300 graphics, photographs, sculptures and objets d’art are on display.

Here are 2 shots I took of the “Enigma”, the glass entryway is 75 feet tall and encompasses this spiral staircase. It is just amazing.

Dali Museum 4

Dali Museum 5

I would have been delighted just to dillydally at the Dali for several days. Why? Simply…Dali was so inspiring!

Here are a couple of highlights that gave me a better view of art and in particular an artist’s life:

  • Dali’s work was so, so varied. Just going through the galleries of the 96 paintings, I was astonished at the range of style, subject matter and methods, from oil painting to sculpture. Here is a very tiny portrait of his wife and muse Gala, painted on olive wood. It’s just 3 7/16 inches x 2 5/8 inches, but so full of the intimacy of her character. The golden light infused throughout that tiny painting speaks of Dali’s love for her.Dali Museum 6
  • Dali’s work reflected different passages and phases of his life. While Dali is best known for his strange and unusual surrealistic paintings like The Persistence of Memory, completed in 1931.  In later years he explored his interest in Christ, the Catholic church and Spanish history. Here in The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, you can see in this gigantic work (161 1/2 inches x 122 1/8 inches, that’s approximately 13.46 feet by 10.18 feet!) a fusion of religious symbols and Dali’s love for his homeland, CataloniaDali Museum 7
  • Dali’s paintings showed master craftsmanship and a strong foundation in the history of art. As I viewed his portrait of his Aunt Tieta, I was struck by how impressionistic this portrayal is, fractured light that is so reminiscent of Renoir’s work. There are many paintings of Dali’s that allude to the great and early masters, but are refreshingly different. It is like he took an earlier idea and masterfully stamped his own imprimatur, that turns it all upside down and inside out and makes it only Dali’s.Dali Museum 8
  • Dali’s work was insightful and intriguing. He teases us with images that are so unusual! He stares out at us with unvarnished frankness, putting himself right in the allegory of The Ecumenical Council painting. Here he assumes the pose of another famous Spanish painter Velazquez.

Dali Museum 9

Dali Museum 10

Dali was personal. His painting reflected his life and gives us a glimpse of his inner thoughts and ideas. He makes us think. Here in the Portrait of My Dead Brother (69 x 69 in) he explores optical illusions, his dead mother (portrayed as a The Vulture), the dark cherries creating the image of his brother. There on the bottom left you can also see Dali’s homage to Millet’s L’Angelus.

Dali Museum 11

There is so much more to see, I encourage you to visit this fascinating museum. But you don’t have to be in St. Petersburg, Florida to visit the Dali Museum, you can also take a wonderful virtual tour.

It’s good to be inspired; it enables us to be an inspiration to others. Where have you found inspiration lately?

 

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Small but Memorable

Art museums may not be high on your list of places to visit with small children. I can understand that. We’ve heard an annoyed “shhhhh” from more than one art museum docent in our years with small ones in tow. But sometimes, small children and small art museums make for big memories!

We are Bank of America card holders, so we have the opportunity to enjoy a free museum on the first weekend of every month as part of their “Museums on Us” program. Being new to Orlando, we thought this would be a great opportunity to try out a new museum. This month, we selected the Mennello Museum of American Art.

The museum itself is small, only one floor with a few carefully chosen exhibits, both permanent and rotating. However, it sits on a beautiful expanse of land along the shores of Lake Formosa in downtown Orlando. We were also able to wander through its well manicured gardens which are amply supplied with comfy adirondack chairs for lounging, and engaging sculptures to enjoy.

small 1

No small sculptures

Currently, they are featuring the sculptures of Alice Aycock – Waltzing Matilda and Twin Vortexes. These sculptures are anything but small. My daughters were fascinated just by walking around them and noting all the various details. As they viewed the sculptures from different angles, they pointed out different features and had lively discussions about what the sculptor was creating.

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There are a variety of other sculptures to view along the pathways in the garden. My family was particularly delighted with the larger than life crayon sculpture.

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No small impact

Inside the museum, we noticed that we had arrived on the final weekend of the visiting exhibit The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William EgglestonEggleston’s photographs have shaped many in the art world beyond just photographers. American novelist Megan Abbott said, “To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch…When you look long enough at his photographs, [like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images] you get lost in it. You’re in another place.”

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Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, 1973, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

Indeed, even our small children were in another place as they walked slowly and quietly through the exhibit. Ordinary moments in time become extraordinary works of art. In ways that I cannot quite explain, Eggleston’s works were remarkable in their power to capture my attention and my imagination with scenes as pedestrian as laundry hanging on a clothesline.

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Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

My girls were full of big questions about the photos and why they were so powerful. They began creating whole stories around the snapshot moments captured and displayed on the walls of this small exhibit. Unfortunately, the exhibit has moved on, but I would encourage you to check out the works of this groundbreaking artist.

The Mennello Museum also has permanent exhibits featuring self-taught landscape artist Earl Cunningham, and a fascinating sculpture by Albert Paley, entitled Hector. 

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art credit: Albert Paley (b. Philadelphia, PA 1944), Hector, 1990, steel with red paint. Collection of The Mennello Museum of American Art, purchased by Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art, 2016, from Paley Studios Archive, Rochester, NY

This towering steel sculpture calls to mind the character of Hector from Homer’s Iliad. My husband has had the pleasure of teaching the Iliad and my daughter has read a children’s version of it as well. We had a rather interesting and engaging discussion about Hector the Greek hero and the sculpture.

No small stories

We spent not quite two hours exploring the Mennello museum, both inside and out. I’m so glad we took the opportunity to visit. I have no doubt that we will return. The museum offers multiple opportunities to engage with the art they celebrate. They offer free docent led tours on the first Friday of every month, a monthly free day for families (where your small ones can create their own art), a monthly documentary movie screening, and even a puppet led story time for toddlers.

I was thrilled to find a museum that was accessible, engaging, and thought provoking to enjoy with my whole family. Even my six year old has asked if we can return! But you don’t have to be small to appreciate the Mennello. My husband and I were grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to some new-to-us artists and look forward to our next visit.

If you’re in the Orlando area, I would encourage you to check out the Mennello Museum. If you’re not, I have a hunch that you have your own small museum in town. Maybe you’ve always overlooked it because of it’s size. You may just find something there you never expected. What’s your favorite small museum you’ve explored? Share your experiences in the comments, I’m always looking for new places to see!

 

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Two Ways to Visit an Art Museum

Recently, we loaded up the kids and headed to Houston for vacation, endeavoring to cram as much touristy fun into five days as was humanly possible. One of the places on our itinerary was the Museum of Fine Art. My husband and I have always enjoyed art museums, and our oldest is now a huge fan as well. But the five-year old… she’s along for the ride. It’s a lot of “Don’t touch the art” and “Don’t run” and “Shhhhhh,” but she’s learning. I tell myself that there is no other way for her to learn how to behave in and to appreciate art museums if she is not given the chance.

Houston art museum

Our experience in the morning was very different from our experience in the afternoon. In the morning, we leisurely ambled through gallery after gallery, talking quietly about our favorite pieces and exhibits that piqued our curiosity. After a break for lunch (to refuel) and a trip to the children’s museum (to placate our children), we returned in the evening to finish the galleries we had missed. Only now we were all tired, our feet were sore, more people were there, and there was really loud music playing in the lobby. So while the girls and I took a restroom break, my husband breezed through the remaining rooms to tell us where to find the big-name artists (Picasso in the first room, back wall; Monet 2nd room, left side etc.) so the girls and I could hit the highlights as we cruised through the remainder of the museum.

Houston art museum piece

That crazy day led to an interesting discussion: What is the best way to visit an art museum? I know I posted previously about the reason for benches in art museums. And truthfully, that is the way I prefer to visit — slowly, carefully, taking time to really see the art, to think about it, to be simply surrounded by beautiful works of art. 

But what if my regular, everyday existence did not regularly have room for art? What if I had never been exposed to such works of beauty? What if I had been given only one hour to walk inside the doors of an art museum? Shouldn’t I try to fill my visual cup with as much art as I could? Would it be worth it to breeze through just to have that art imprinted in my visual memory? I think so.

My brain cannot process information it does not have. My mind cannot ponder in a vacuum. It needs fuel. We live in a world that is too often ugly or sterile. We work in dull cubicles; our conversations occur all-too-often through technology instead of face-to-face. Our children play video games instead of drawing pictures or building forts. And our minds and imaginations grow dull. How many five-year olds have never even been to an art museum? Did my daughter sit and meditate on the wonderful Pissarro landscapes we saw? No, and frankly I’m not sure she could tell you much about what we saw that day. But her eyes saw much that was beautiful that day, and it will shape the way she thinks and feels. While I did appreciate the beauty of individual works, I also benefited from swimming through that vast collection of art. The world of human creativity is much bigger than I am, and not everyone looks like me, thinks like me, creates like me. To focus on a single work of art is to focus on a single drop of rain. But sometimes I need to see the immensity of the ocean.

What about you?

houston art museum Lewis Glacier

Are you a stop-and-ponder, focus-on-one-work-at-a-time sort of person? Or do you tend to breeze through and let it all flood over you? I think we all need some measure of both. What do you think? What do you do when you visit an art museum? How do you enjoy experiencing art? How do you take in the beauty of this world, both that of the Divine Artist and the human artists made in His image?

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