Penland School of Craft

Penland School of Craft dates back to 1929 when Lucy Morgan offered quilt making lessons. The facility quickly morphed into a school offering classes in other craft media as well.  Over the years it has gained an outstanding reputation for fostering skills in specialized craft techniques taught by nationally recognized instructors.  Workshops are offered year round. https://penland.org/

From their website:

School of Craft is a national craft education center dedicated to the creative life. Located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Penland offers total-immersion workshops in sixteen beautifully-equipped studios along with artist residencies, a gallery and visitors center, and community programs.

The campus is remotely located on a side of a mountain surrounded by forest.  Some of the studios are in their own buildings (woodworking, metal forging, glass blowing) while other buildings may contain more than one studio (book making and painting/drawing.) There is a dining facility, large room for meetings, art supply store, administrative building, a large gallery, and several buildings offering living and dormitory accommodations.  All of the studios are very spacious and very well equipped.  For example, I was given a kit of specialized tools to use for the duration of the workshop.

The Penland Gallery consists of 4 large room filled with high quality, fine crafts produced by instructors and former students. Both traditional forms as well as contemporary pieces were on display.

Charlotte and I enrolled in the 4th session of the summer program.  There were 16 workshops taking place with 159 students from 29 states and 3 foreign countries.  Everyone we encountered –  instructors, students, and staff – were friendly and enthusiastic.  The total experience was an artist’s paradise.

THE BOOK MAKING STUDIO

This is the bookmaking workshop that contained heavy duty equipment for pressing books and cutting paper and cardboard as well as all sorts of gadgets and accessories. Each of the 12 students had a generous workspace.

Our instructor was Maria Veronica San Martin, originally from Chile and now living in Brooklyn.  Her handmade books document the period in Chile during a time of harsh and repressive political turmoil when a huge number of citizens disappeared, never to be found or accounted for.  Her books are in important collections world wide. https://www.mveronicasanmartin.com/

From her website:
“IN THEIR MEMORY is a book of resistance that carries forward the protest begun by the families of the disappeared in Chile during the military dictatorship (1973-1990). More than forty thousand political prisoners were victims of torture, execution and exile, and 3,550 people were disappeared. Nameless crosses are all that they have received by way of a burial.It is to honor the missing and their families that this object-book seeks to disseminate and communicate human rights’ violations in Chile. By documenting the identities of the victims, In Their Memory also invites reflection and puts forth a message of hope founded in truth.”

During the course of the workshop Maria demonstrated the construction of several book and box forms and offered all sorts of tips and technical advice.  She introduced monotype and lino-cut printmaking for those who were not printmakers.

Maria demonstrating the use of the guillotine, used for cutting book board which is used in the covers of books.
Maria and Reagan, our studio coordinator
Ginna making a monotype print

This is Salvador, Maria’s nine year old son who joined us everyday at 4 pm after a day at camp. He devised a system of riding around the studio on a roller suitcase collecting trash from our worktables. Here he attached a rolling barrel to the suitcase so he could push a broom at the same time. He left a note on each of our worktables for where we should leave our scraps. A sweet, clever, self-entertaining young man!

My messy worktable.

I made several books with some prints I brought with me. As the days went by I became increasingly more skilled with taking exacting measurements, applying glue judiciously and assembling the books with care.  It was wonderful to focus on my projects without the interruptions of everyday life.

My classmates were a wonderful group of talented artists/craftspeople who all produced unique books in structure and theme and design. 

Ginna made a book where the pages opened up to reveal dangling letters : DEMOCRACY HANGING BY A THREAD.

Donna made a Flag Book with images of her wonderful colored pencil drawings.

Marty explained her book as a personal journal with text and drawings recording her experiences at Penland during the two weeks we made books.

Kathryn made a Flag Book from intricate collaged bits of colors and textures cut from magazines.

Paulina’s book displays words and watercolor images that reference her Chinese family’s culture on one side and her personal identity on the other.

Lindsey incorporated into her book a number of photographs she had taken in various parts of the world, all rather desolate, otherworldly and haunting.

Tony made his book out of handmade papers that he had made in previous workshops. He delicately decorated the papers with watercolor.

In her Flag Book, Susan combined lino-cut and watercolor images to depict a story about a hawk and a dove where the dove wins out over the hawk as message of hope.

Reagan created a 3-D book of a dinner table with pages that layered the silverware, the plates, napkins, and dinner conversations on separate pages. So ingenious!

Kathy created a Flag Book with striking hand drawn and painted flags,

Here is my book of Mexican masks.

I spent the second week working on a book where I collaged textured papers with metal debris I had collected from the streets of Pawtucket. My idea was to connect present day trash with my interest in archaeological detritus. Some day in the future, archaeologists will be trying to make sense of 21st century junk!

I made the covers and four pages, but still have to assemble them into a book.

THE WOODWORKING SHOP

Here is the woodworking studio. It consisted of a room with worktables for each student, a large room with woodworking machinery, and another room for laminating.

The instructor for the woodworking class was Michael Puryear, a nationally recognized furniture maker. To see his work, visit https://michaelpuryear.com/

Charlotte spent her time making curved wooden forms from bendable plywood while laminating with wood veneer at the same time. The process involved putting the pieces in a vacuum bag that held them while the glue solidified and held the forms in place.

Here Charlotte is placing the wood, supported by forms, on the vacuum table.
This is the piece held tightly in place by the plastic cover after the air is sucked out.

Most of her classmates were successful furniture makers with lots of woodworking experience, so Charlotte felt, as a sculptor, somewhat technically inexperienced by comparison.  But at the end of the second week she gained their admiration for her invented and creative work.

The first week was frustrating for her because of unpredictable results and mistakes, but using her creative ingenuity, she managed to transform her pieces during the second week into five successful works.

She worked with curved leaf forms with the intent of making them into wall hung sculptures. Here are some in process.

On the left below is the form used to bend the plywood and wood veneer while in the vacuum chamber to produce the seat of a chair created by one of Charlotte’s classmates. The legs of the chair were also bent and laminated with veneer using the process.

Another classmate made a cabinet laminated with a design of wood grain veneer.

Here are more pieces produced by others in the class.

It was a wonderfully creative and productive week! It will take me a few days to recover from the intensity of the experience!

North Carolina

I flew to Cleveland on July 1st where I met up with Charlotte, my travel buddy, and we took off on a road trip to North Carolina to attend workshops at Penland School of Crafts where Charlotte had signed up to learn how to laminate wood using a vacuum system and I had registered for an artist book making class.  We took two days to get there stopping in Charleston, WV on the way to visit the Clay Art Center where we visited an exhibit of innovated quilts.

Clay Art Center, Charleston, WV

The drive took us from Ohio through West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee before crossing into North Carolina.  Since Charlotte preferred to do the driving, I had the luxury of enjoying the beautiful, mountain scenery and noticing the variety of roadside vegetation along the way. And what I did notice from state to state, is that the appearance of the highway borders in OH, WV, and VA are left quite natural. By that I mean that the in these states the sides of the road are mowed, but then comes weeds, bushes, and trees up to the private property lines. 

Ohio natural vegetation along roads

By comparison, TN and NC roadsides have an incredibly manicured appearance.  For the two weeks we spent in NC driving between our B&B and Penland, we enjoyed gorgeous views of densely wooded areas and acres of closely mowed, extensive lawns and fields – no brush or bushes.  Huge lawns and fields were mowed right up to the edge of the road.  And, in the two weeks of traveling back and forth every day, not once did I see any mowing taking place! NC must have the slowest growing grass ever!

Adding to the manicured appearance of the landscape were large swarths of a particular weed, feathery in nature and low growing that densely covering of the roadside fields. The effect was that of a plush carpet.

Adding to the beauty of backroads were bountiful patches of graceful, wild ornamental grasses.

Penland is located near the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway in the Black Mountains.  The scenic views were wonderful!  The well maintained, curvy, 4 lane highways wound through the mountains up and down.  The equally well maintained side roads that we traveled, however, not only went up and down but twisted tightly with no more than 500 feet of straight roadway between turns. 

Lots of Twists and Turns

And our B&B was located down a twisty, half mile, graveled, single lane running though dense forest. Luckily we never encountered any on-coming cars. Charlotte got a work out!

Gravel lane to our B&B in morning fog

The weather was very changeable during the day – a combination of fog, mist, bright sunshine, quick showers, and an occasional deluge, but mostly sunshine. Since we were in our workshops from 8 am to 5pm, we only experienced weather in the morning and evenings when we sat on our private, covered-deck at the B&B enjoying our breakfasts and suppers. The house was on a hilltop flanked by forest.  The view from our deck was an 180 degree panorama of the Black Mountains.

Four views from the deck with changing weather.

Our apartment had two spacious rooms, a huge bathroom with Jacuzzi, but a small, galley kitchen with a 2-burner hotplate, microwave, and a mini frig. In this setting, we met the challenge of preparing some delicious meals creatively produced with limited ingredients! 

On the weekend, Charlotte and I took off for Asheville, which was about an hour away.  There we visited a number of art and fine craft galleries and were excited to see such excellent work.  Known as a center of crafts, we were also delighted to see some galleries in the city showing paintings and prints as well.  Here are some that caught my attention.

The Asheville area has a lot of ceramic studios producing both traditional, functional wares as well as contemporary sculptural forms.

Also, woodworking is popular. I especially enjoyed the whimsy of these two pencil pieces.

This knitted sculpture is made out of glass! The artist knitted the piece with wax formed into a cord, then caste it using the lost wax technique. A fascinating video depicted the technique.

These pieces are manipulated handwoven, hand-dyed cloth transformed into wall hangings.

I loved the concept of combining the weighty hammer with the delicacy of the fragile glass! Clever!

Many artists used found objects in their work, but none took it to this extreme. A ceramic cat made out of ceramic cats!

And then I recognized these steel sculptures! They are the signature style of sculptor, Rob Lorensen, a former colleague at Bridgewater State University in MA.

I was very impressed by the work of Seth Clark who created these works by collaging drawings and bits of painted papers into incredibly complex images. The subject reminds me of the devastation caused by tornados and earthquakes, not pleasant subjects, but a reference to the extreme weather resulting from climate change.

Here is a detail:

These two pieces reminded me of the many old barns and sheds I’d seen along the NC highways.

In my next post I will focus on my wonderful two weeks at Penland School of Crafts.

Hartford, Connecticut

I have recently traveled to Hartford to the Mark Twain House. & Museum several times because I currently have three prints on exhibit in the gallery of the museum. The exhibit is titled, The Evocative Mark Twain Inspires the Printmakers Network of Southern New England and includes 58 prints by 18 members of the group. Each print is inspired by a Mark Twain quotation. We began creating the artwork for the show three years ago.

Mark Twain House

At the time that I began thinking about making a print, I had been working with images of stones. Thinking that I could spin off from those images, I looked for a quote by Twain where he referenced stones or rocks. I didn’t find one that inspired me, but I did find an amusing quote where he mentioned fossils. I figured I could make fossils lodged in rocks.

Nature made thousands and thousands of now extinct species in her apprentice-days which turned out to be pure failures, like the flies and the Russians, and she devoted millions of years to trying to hunt up long-felt wants for them to supply, but there were none, and a museum never occurred to her. So she abolished them all, and scattered their bones in myriads in the eternal rocks, and there they rest to this day, a solemn reminder for us that for every animal-success achieved by her she has scored fifteen hundred failures. “Flies and Russians,” published in 1972 in the collection Mark Twain’s Fables of Man

First I made plates, inked them, printed images of fossils, and cut them out.

Then I had to figure out how to incorporate images of Russians and flies with the fossils. How could compose a print with these disparate images that would make some kind of sense? My solution was to arrange them in a display cabinet, a cabinet of curiosities.

I then created a digital image of a cabinet with flies buzzing around it and had Staples print it out 36 inches by 24 inches in dimensions.

I then pasted the fossils into the cabinet.

The biggest challenge was how to depict the Russians! I gathered lots of images of Russians – historic and modern, leaders, peasants, military, etc. But none seemed to be right.

So I researched why Twain held such disdain for the Russians and I learned that at one point he thought highly of them. In 1867 Twain visited with the then Czar of Russia, Alexander the II. In fact, they met in the Ukraine.

At that time, the US and Russia were on friendly terms because Alexander II had just abolished serfdom in Russia and emancipated the serfs. He also supported the abolitionist movement in the US. But as time went on the former serfs, now freed farm workers, struggled for their existence. Russia did not provide any economic or social support for these workers and they were starving to death. Their protests were ignored.

The situation became worse under Alexander II’s son, Alexander III, who was a tyrant. It continued under Nicholas II when he took over the reign. Protesters were routinely rounded up and sent permanently to work camps in Siberia. An example of the brutal treatment by the military took place in 1905 outside of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg where 3000 farm workers who gathered to protest encountered 10,000 troops of the Imperial Guard. Chaos broke out and at least 130 workers were massacred and many more injured.

L to R: Alexander II, Alexander III, Nicholas II
Bloody Sunday

As reports of this cruelty reached the US, Twain reversed his opinion of the Russians and he went so far as to advocate for the assignation of the Czar. He urged the Russian citizens to revolt, but died in 1910 before they did seven years later.

After learning about this history I realized that I could not treat the Russians with any degree of respect, so I depicted them as Russian dolls, printed and collaged into the cabinet. I hope Twain would approve.

Can you identify these Russian leaders?

I made this print in 2020 – not knowing the state of the world in 2022! Nature’s mistake by creating Russians is again confirmed.

Cabinet of Nature’s Failings

For the second print, I browsed Twain’s writings looking for quotations that inspired images and came across his description of the fashions worn by women attending an elegant ball at the Lick House Hotel in San Francisco in 1863.

At that time San Francisco was enjoying a great deal of economic prosperity due to the Gold Rush. James Lick, earning his fortune in manufacturing pianos and in real estate, was one of the most wealthy individuals in California. The hotel he built was the fanciest hotel west of the Mississippi. It had a dining room that sat 400 hundred people that was a replica of a salon at Versailles. (The hotel was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.)

James Lick and the Lick House Hotel

Women’s fashions at that time were very lavish in the use of layers of fabrics and a profusion of embellishments of bows, trims, lace, buttons, and ruffles. Hats were equally elaborate with lots of stuff heaped on top.

In the article published in a San Francisco weekly journal, Twain pointed out that no man should describe women’s fashion, but since he was requested to do so, he did by describing the attire, from head to toe, worn by five women attending the fancy ball. He used the opportunity to humorously satirize the fashions as only Twain could do. His descriptions were outrageous! I selected these phrases of the women’s hats to inspire my print:

On the roof of her bonnet was a menagerie of rare and beautiful bugs and reptiles, and under the eaves thereof a counterfeit of the “early bird”…tule hat, embellished with blue-bells, hare-bells, hash-bells, etc., with a frontispiece formed of a single magnificent cauliflower imbedded in mashed potatoes. …from her head depended tasteful garlands of fresh radishes. …a tall cone of brilliant field-flowers, upon the summit of which stood a glittering ‘golden beetle’ … a graceful cataract of white Chantilly lace, surmounted by a few artificial worms, and butterflies and things, and a tasteful tarantula done in jet. “The Lick House Ball,” The Golden Era, a San Francisco weekly literary journal, 1863

My first step was to collect photographs of items he referenced and digitally transform them into black and white outlines.

I then arranged the images into two millinery creations of my own. This is the lithographic plate, which I printed by hand.

I then hand colored the print and decorated the frame with items reflecting the hats – butterflies, insects, reptiles, and flowers. Notice that when printed, the image is reversed.

To promote the exhibit in various media, I created a colorful digital image of Mark Twain using a historic, copyright free photograph of him.

He likes Color

This is the quote that goes with the print: You know I like color and flummery and all such things–I was born red-headed–maybe that accounts for my passion for the gorgeous and ornamental.

The exhibit is open until January 23, 2023 at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, CT. https://marktwainhouse.org/

There is a catalog of the exhibit that you can review online. If you click on the book, the pages will turn and you can see all the other wonderful prints in the exhibit. https://www.blurb.com/books/11064832-the-evocative-mark-twain-inspires-the-printmakers

Seeking art in Maine

Last week I spent several days traveling the coast of Maine with my friend, Betsey. Our destination was Bar Harbor where we visited with friends. Along the way we stopped to investigate art museums and galleries. Our first stop was Portland where we stayed in the heart of the old part of town along the harbor, a charming area full of restaurants, shops, and galleries with narrow brick and cobblestone streets.

We stayed in this lovely old hotel.

We were assigned to Room 335. This is the sign that faced the elevator when we arrived on the third floor. This is one of several dilemmas we encountered with much laughter along the way.

This is the a view of the harbor near our hotel.

Portland has a number of very nice galleries and we visited four of them: The Casco Bay Artisans, Greenhut Galleries, the Portland Art Gallery and Cove Street Arts.

We enjoyed viewing a lot of realistic and expressionistic coastal landscapes along with a variety of other themes and styles.

We were intrigued by these large brushes and tubes of paint all made out of glass. (the brushes were 2 feet in length.)

I discovered that there are other artists using images of stones. It was interesting to see how they depicted them. Mine is on the right.

I apologize for not taking the time to record the artist’s names.

The Cove Street Gallery was in a huge space and displayed several exhibits. One was a show of prints by Peregrine Press, a group of printmakers with a shared studio in Portland. Some of the work pushed the traditional definition of prints, like the one that consisted of cut outs that were mounted around a corner of the gallery.

We then visited the Portland Museum of Art, a real gem of a museum featuring the work of artists, both contemporary and historic, who have lived and worked in Maine full or part-time. Here is a short list of notable artists who have found inspiration in Maine:
George Wesley Bellows – Frank Weston Benson – Frederic E. Church – Thomas Cole – Thomas Doughty – Richard Estes – Red Groom – Marsden Hartley  – Robert Henri  – Winslow Homer – Edward Hopper – Robert Indiana – Alex Katz  – Rockwell Kent = Fitz Henry Lane – John Marin – Louise Nevelson – Georgia O’Keefe – Fairfield Porter – Neil Welliver – Andrew Wyeth – Jamie Wyeth – N.C. Wyeth – Marguerite Zorach – William Zorach

Some of these artists were attracted to Maine as instructors or students at the Skowhegan School of Art, a nine-week summer residency program now in its 75th year.

In addition to an impressive permanent collection of art, we viewed two special exhibits. The first was an exhibit of very large photographs by Clifford Ross. The photos that I was most taken with were of waves where the exquisite tones and detail of the water along with the scale of the prints combined for a powerful impact. As I stood in front of the images I could almost hear the sound of crashing waves. They were beautiful.

Betsey breathing the salt air.

In dramatic contrast with the waves, we viewed a portfolio of screen prints by Richard Estes of urban scapes. In Estes’ Photorealism, he heightens the sensation of light in his paintings through contrast and highly polished surfaces. Nothing is out of focus – he collapses the space between background and foreground and reflections on windows with images behind the glass, which is something the eye does not do. (Looking at a reflection your eye focuses on the surface of the glass. To see what is behind the glass, your eye refocuses. So, you can see both by refocusing, but you cannot see both at the very same moment. It is the same when looking at something up close and then refocusing to view something in the background. But the lens of a camera can keep all in focus with a long depth of field.) By doing this, Estes creates patches of abstract patterns and hard edges in a super-clean environment void of humans. I appreciate how creative he is with his compositions.

We spent a night at this comfortable resort hotel in Rockland, Me. that overlooks the ocean.

We also visited galleries and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Me., known for exhibiting the work of N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth.

The museum had two exhibits focusing on the accomplishments of Maine women. One of them was devoted to Betsy Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth’s wife, who managed his career, catalogued his extensive output of work, promoted him and acted as his agent. Here are a couple of the paintings of Betsey done by Andrew.

Here is a painting by Jamie Wyeth demonstrating that he learned a lot from his father.

And here is a painting by N.C. Wyeth, Jamie’s grandfather.

Women of Vision honored the following women: photographer Berenice Abbott, businesswoman Linda Bean; painter Katherine Bradford; philanthropist Edith Dixon; photographer Cig Harvey; poet Edna St. Vincent Millay; sculptor Louise Nevelson; philanthropist Elizabeth Noyce; Molly Neptune Parker, basket maker and Passamaquoddy civic leader; Maurine Rothschild, women’s advocate and philanthropist; Phyllis Wyeth, champion of the arts and education; and artist Marguerite Zorach.

This is a hooked tapestry by Marguerite Zorach.

The Farnsworth also featured an exhibit of art by Robert Indiana done as a homage to the artist, Marsden Hartley. Hartley executed a series of paintings in Berlin in 1914-15 that refer to a friend, a soldier, who was killed in the war. These paintings are very early experiments with abstraction.

Indiana’s silkscreen series, titled Hartley Elegies, pays homage to Hartley. From the museum: The ten large-scale silkscreen prints of Indiana’s Hartley Elegies comprise a visual poem on the two artists’ shared interests in radical formal vocabularies, and their innovative combinations of words and numbers into their boldly colored geometric compositions.  They were also a coded commentary on their lives as gay men, as well as their experiences of living and working in Maine after leaving the artistic center of New York that earlier had nourished their careers.

This is one of Hartley’s paintings in his War Series, some titles of these works refer to German Officers.

Here are two of Indiana’s versions in his well known Pop Art style.

Rockland has quite a few galleries, but some of them were closed for the season. There were a couple of galleries still open that exhibited high quality art. One in particular, was the Stanhope and Spencer Gallery that displayed metal work by goldsmith, Henry van Wyck Spenser. This was the sign on his door.

In addition to the fabulous gold jewelry, the gallery also carried beautiful metal art containers by David Huang. Betsey now owns one of these gorgeous, unique objects.

Along the way, we were keeping an eye out for public art and encountered several murals.

This one in Portland contained bits of tiles, ceramics, and mirrors that sparkled in the sun.

Can you find the ceramic kitty?

These murals are in Rockland.

In downtown Rockland we saw an utility box covered with stickers. On close inspection, we discovered that the stickers were entrance stickers to the Farnsworth and Contemporary Art Museum. So we added ours!

As we traveled along, we had wonderful views of the Maine coastline, not yet quite “peak” foliage. Here are some views taken in Acadia National Park.

We took a little side trip to Port Clyde and we passed these cows eating pumpkins. Of course when I wanted to take a picture, they weren’t interested in eating. But I was patient and finally got my snap.

In Thomaston we stopped at the Maine State Prison Woodworking Shop, which is filled with all things wooden from furniture to gadgets to toys to jewelry. The shop has been on Rt. 1 for ages and has more than 10,000 people following it on Facebook!

In Bar Harbor we visited Willis Rock Store, another Maine institution.

We had some great meals, but lobster was not one of them! We passed by the famous Red’s Lobster Shack in Wiscassett, saw the long line (which is usually there) and passed on by.

Instead we had great ethnic meals: Lebanese, Thai and Indian. We recommend Olives in Portland for gyros and swarmas.

In Ellsworth, we enjoyed Massaman curries at Thai Sana where I met up with Mary Ann, a friend and travel companion who now lives in Maine.

We had to work for our Indian meal. The restaurant, Namaste, appeared on Google Maps as located on the same street as our hotel. We ordered by phone and went to pick it up. But, although we looked really hard, we did not see the restaurant or any signs for it. We drove to Rockland, then to Rockport, and backtracked, laughing as our stomachs grumbled, amazed that we could not find our dinner! As it turned out we travelled about 15 miles going back and forth to finally finding it .02 miles from our hotel, or 3 minutes walking. The reason we had such difficulties is that the restaurant was located off the road among motel units with NO SIGN.

We ravished our eggplant curry!

We had two outstanding breakfasts, each at a diner. In Portland, we ate at Becky’s along the waterfront.

In Darmriscotta, we dined at Moody’s famous Diner.

Cheese filled sausage, and biscuits with sausage gravy. Yummy!

It was a wonderful trip and we are looking for another destination. Stay tuned.

Michigan Part 3

Charlotte and I traveled the area looking for art galleries. We wanted to see what Michigan artists were creating and, perhaps, find galleries that might be interested in carrying our own artwork. As would be expected, we found many galleries carrying art that reflected the region, with varying degrees of quality of execution. We were pleased to discover some galleries featuring high quality art.

Here is Charlotte at Sleeping Bear Gallery in Empire, MI that carried her transformed organ pipes. For Charlotte’s website, click here.

One of the largest galleries in the region is Synchronicity Gallery in Glen Arbor.

We spent a bit of time in Leland, MI, which is where I spent eight summers working to earn money to pay for my university education – an undergraduate and two graduate degrees. I waitressed at the Bluebird Restaurant, a popular, family-friendly restaurant with a reputation for great food, especially Lake Michigan white fish. It was so popular that we would stop taking reservations for weekend dining on Thursday! I worked really hard and played really hard! It was a wonderful place to work. I and the other waitresses lived in the apartment above the restaurant.

The restaurant is located on a river, so patrons can arrive by car or boat in from Lake Leelanau, an inland lake. The dining capacity has greatly expanded since I worked there.

The restaurant has been operated by the same family since 1927. I worked for Leone Telgard, her son, Jim, and daughter-in-law, Nancy. Now, one of Leone’s grandson’s , Skip, manages it. His older brother, Cris, operates a Mexican import shop in town. When I first worked there, Leone’s grandsons were seven and eleven. Now they are sixty-six and seventy! I was able to connect with Nancy, Skip and Cris and enjoyed reminiscing with them about when I was there in the 60’s.

Nancy Telgard and sons Skip and Cris.

Pictures from the mid-60’s: on the left are some of the waitresses in front of the player piano next to the jukebox in the dining room. On the right is Jim Telgard with waitresses behind the bar.

Left: L_R: Diane, me, Linda, and Nancy

Bluebird website

Leland is located on Lake Michigan and is small like other towns in the area. It has a winter-time population of 377 which grows many fold during the summer with summer residents and tourists. The commercial section of Leland takes up two blocks on Main Street. There is no stop sign or traffic light on Main Street. The harbor has been upgraded since my time there and attracts pleasure boats navigating the Great Lakes.

Leland is known for its quaint, historic fishing harbor, “Fishtown,” where commercial fisheries maintain shanties and dock their fish tugs. Many of the old shanties are now gift shops.

Once we arrived in Fishtown, Charlotte remembered that she and her late husband had stayed at the Falling Waters Hotel forty years ago.

Frames around which fishnets were strung to dry
Smoke house on the right

I used to take a hunk of bread and a beer and get fresh smoked chubs and sit on the dock and enjoy lunch. Yum!

Below is a Fishtown scene, dated 1965, that I painted. To this day, it hangs on the wall of the Bluebird.

Another art project that I undertook one summer was to make silkscreened posters. Mark Carlson, son of one of the local fishermen, and I made and sold collectable posters advertising the Bluebird and his father’s fishery. We charged $5 per poster, and after paying for expenses, we each made $50 on the sales!

Charlotte and I took our search for art into nearby counties and discovered another outdoor sculpture display. The Elk Rapids Art Walk, more modest in scale than the Meijer Gardens, is set in a woodland park. It was very pleasant strolling the trails along the beach and through woodland settings to view the sculptures.

(The orange Honda was our vehicle for the trip.)

After visiting Charlevoix, we returned to Traverse City and visited the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a unique collection of shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants in a cluster of cream-colored brick buildings in a Victorian-Italianate style surrounded by 140 acres of beautiful wooded grounds and a botanical garden. The buildings date to 1885 and were constructed as part of the Northern Michigan Asylum for mental patients. The main building is 1/4 mile long.

From the website: At the time of its completion, The Northern Michigan Asylum served 39 counties, including all of the Upper Peninsula, and almost immediately there was demand for additional patient rooms. Starting in the 1890s, standalone cottages  were constructed to serve the increasing patient population.

Just as Building 50 was segregated, so were the exterior cottages. Cottages to the south were for the men and the cottages to the north for the women. Cottages also provided spaces to separate patients from the larger population based on severity of condition, age or illness. For example, Cottages 19 and 20 were patient infirmaries, the “hospitals within the hospital” for patients recovering from surgery or contagious diseases.

Founding Medical Superintendent, Dr. James Decker Munson, had a very progressive philosophy regarding the treatment of mental patients.

Munson, believed If patients were surrounded by a beautiful environment, from the architecture to the campus grounds, their emotional and mental state would be uplifted. He made an effort to ensure that patients felt at home rather than trapped in an unfamiliar place. Use of physical restraints was forbidden, except for the most extreme patient situations. Meals at the hospital were served in dining rooms on fine china glazed with the State Seal atop white linen tablecloths. Fresh flowers and plants decorated dining tables & resting areas. Artwork and inspirational sayings adorned the walls of the wide hallways.

Renovation began in 2002 to preserve and repurpose the buildings. Today 30% of the project is completed and renovation continues.

Charlotte and I visited the 4 story, main building where we found interesting shops, boutiques, and restaurants on the ground floor.

It was as we began looking around that we met a delightful woman, Lucy, who offered to answer any questions that we had. She then offered to give us a tour of the upper stories of the building, which are residential, and to tell us about the renovation. We gladly accepted her offer!

These photos show you before and after views of the wide corridors.

Today, the residential units are condos, many used for AirB&B’s. Lucy invited us to see her unit, located in the attic. It was a spacious and well designed space with quality details and interesting angles. Some of the historical features were maintained like exposed brick walls.

This is Lucy in her kitchen. It had a very high, angled ceiling and skylights. She revealed to us that she was 92 years old, absolutely loved her condo unit, and her secret for good health was a tablespoon of cod liver oil daily and an exercise routine. We marveled at her enthusiastic attitude toward life!

Lucy was expecting a visit from her son and had made three batches of cookies. She insisted that we each take a cookie from each batch! We agreed that Lucy was one of the highlights of our trip!

On the return trip, Charlotte and I marveled at how well the trip had gone. We had perfect weather every day, experienced interesting art, met friendly people, had comfortable and clean accommodating, and great food. And our timing was right on – we left the area feeling we had seen everything we set out to see.

Charlotte did all of the driving, insisting that she preferred driving to navigating. I managed to get us to where we were going fairly well. I had maps on my lap and my new, first smart phone to help. I am grateful that Charlotte has a great sense of humor when it came to me leading her off track requiring U turns and backtracking on a number of occasions!

I still have the hankering to travel, just haven’t decided where next.

Michigan Part 2

In all, we traveled about 3000 miles roundtrip on our jaunt from Cleveland to Michigan. The focus of our travels was on Leelanlau County, which is the “little finger” peninsula of the Michigan mitten. It sticks out into Lake Michigan.

Our base was in Maple City at a comfortable apartment, and from there, it was about 20 miles to Glen Arbor, to Leland, and to Traverse City. We traveled the peninsula enjoying the scenic views as we looked for art galleries.fThe countryside in this part of Michigan is beautiful! As we toured we experienced rolling hills, lots of forests with very large trees, miles of cherry orchards, picturesque farms with wheat and corn fields, lots of vineyards, and, of course, the beaches of Lake Michigan as well as those of inland lakes.

Lake Michigan’s water is crystal clear and beaches are sandy above the stoney edge.

This is my favorite beach in the area. Here is where I spent eight summers many years ago sunny myself, swimming and walking the shoreline looking for Petsokey stones (petrified freshwater coral.)

Vineyards are increasing in the region where award winning wines are produced.

This region is the cherry capital of the US and cherry products of all sorts are sold – candies, pies and pastries, dried cherries, vinegars, jams, jellies, and preserves.

Along the shore of Lake Michigan near Glen Arbor is Sleeping Bear National Park consisting of 450 ft. high bluffs of beach sand along a shoreline of 65 miles.

From the park website: Although the Lakeshore is long and narrow, it still has the depth for excellent representations of several northern hardwood and conifer forest types, abandoned farm site meadows, wetlands, lakes, streams, and bogs and splendid examples of glacially caused landforms.

A popular site is Sleeping Bear Dune, a huge dune named from a Native American legend that told of a mama bear and two cubs swimming across Lake Michigan. Due to a storm, the cubs didn’t make it and they formed two islands off the coast, North and South Manitou Islands. The mama bear made it to shore and rests there for her cubs to return. The exhausting, but fun sport at Sleeping Bear Dune is to scramble up the dune, slipping back in the sand with every step, and once at the top, running and tumbling down! Great fun!! I did it many years ago, but not this time.

The National Park also includes the two off-shore islands. Charlotte and I took a ferry and spent a day exploring South Manitou. The uninhabited island measures 3 miles by 3 miles and consists of trails, abandoned farms, a lighthouse, and campsites. The island was settled in the 1830’s and eventually gained a population of 170 permanent residents. They practiced subsistence farming and provided cord wood to steamers passing by on the lake. When steamers began using coal, the population on the island diminished.

We encountered several abandoned farmhouses that the Park Service has kept by. I took this photo from inside the foundation of an old barn. The lower part of the foundation was made of stone, but the upper part was made with wood and mortar.

There is a wrecked ship on the other side of the island. We did not have time to see it.

We did learn about shipwrecks on the Lake Michigan at the Leelanau Historical Museum. Since the early 1800’s there have been 1500 ships wrecked by ferocious storms, fires, and groundings. As the water level in the lake recedes, more of these wrecks are visible.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Michigan

Michigan Part 1

I recently spent several days in the Leelanau County of Michigan. I traveled with my friend and travel buddy, Charlotte, who is a sculptor. So on our way north we spent a day in Grand Rapids visiting the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Neither of us had heard of the park and we only found out about it by Googling places of interest in Michigan, so we had no expectations. But, WOW, were we pleased with our visit there!

Frederik Meijer inherited and expanded a chain of stores in the upper mid-west. The stores are a one stop for all, much like Walmart, with groceries, pharmacy, home goods, etc. Even gas stations. He also collected sculpture.

From the garden website: Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park opened in April 1995 after 13 years of planning and fundraising by the West Michigan Horticultural Society. In 1990, Fred and Lena Meijer were asked for their support, and they embraced the concept of a major cultural attraction centering around horticulture and sculpture. The original vision has turned into a top cultural destination in the Midwest region, known internationally for the quality of the art and gardens.

On display are 300 permanent sculptures located both outdoors and in the conservatories. There are also temporary exhibits with work on loan. Charlotte and I strolled through the extensive gardens that spread over 158 beautifully maintained acres that includes lakes, ponds, streams and waterfalls along with specialty gardens such as wetlands, a large Japanese garden, children’s gardens, meadows, flowers, even vegetable gardens. They also have a huge outdoor amphitheater and are in the process of adding more.

And we viewed sculptures by world famous artists! Here are just a few.

Claes Oldenburg on the left and Roxy Paine on the right.
Barbara Hepworth on the left and Louise Nevelson on the right.
Magdalena Aabakanowicz
Andy Goldworthy

Andy Goldworthy’s arch reminded me of a print I made recently, also a stone arch!

Joan Hausrath
Juan Munoz
Nina Akamu

This HUGE bronze horse is 24 feet high. Look for Charlotte for a sense of scale.

We saw many, many more impressive sculptures including ones by Rodin, Degas, Miro, Calder, and Serra. It was a wonderful day! Here is Charlotte getting friendly with Fredrik Meijer and his wife.

Leelanau County, Michigan coming next.

Visiting NYC

I just returned from NYC, my first post- vaccination travel. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the New York Botanical Garden to see the delightful installations by the popular Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama. At 92, she is experiencing international attention with exhibitions in major museums all over the world that feature colorful and highly ambitious installations employing her signature polka dots and, sometimes, mirrors that create infinity environments. Google “Kusama artist” images to see her wild aesthetic. To learn more about here, visit: https://whitney.org/exhibitions/yayoi-kusama

Kusama’s artwork was sited at several at locations throughout the gardens. The weather was nice, warm with a slight cloud coverage, which was perfect for strolling the grounds. I enjoyed the day with my friends Linda and Margery.

Kusama likes pumpkins. Here is one of her whimsical variations on one.

And here is another one.

Exotic flower sculptures were exhibited in the conservatory and in the waterlily pool.

In addition to the artwork, we enjoyed the natural wonders of the gardens and conservatory plantings.

In full bloom were peonies – many, many beautiful and unusually varieties. Here are a few.

We finished our tour by walking through a grove of wrapped trees.

This is the fence at the Botanical Garden train stop.

I also visited a retrospective of paintings by Alice Neel (1900 – 1984), People Come First, at the MET. Neel painted people without glamorizing them. Instead she used expressive color and line along with candid poses that sometimes appear a bit awkward when compared with conventional portraits. Because the figures often stare directly at the viewer, they make a psychological connection. She was a champion of social causes and her subjects are from all walks of life. As a feminist, she painted women nudes in a forthright manner, even pregnant women. I especially liked the paintings she did during the last two decades of her life. Here are a few. For more about Alice Neel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Neel

At the Museum of Art and Design I viewed a glass work by Beth Lipman consisting of a banquet table piled high and low with dazzling hand crafted glass bowls, candle sticks, plates, goblets, vases with ferns, and even table linens (broken pieces were heaped under the table.) In the dark setting, the glass looked especially fragile, like ice crystals. The work is reminiscent of 17th century Dutch still lifes that speak of materialism and over abundance.

While out and about in the city, I encountered some interesting public art. Here is a mural, also with a flower theme, located in SoHo.

This is a sculpture by Robert Cook, titled Dinoceras. It is a large cast bronze piece with sweeping lines and a rough surface that is sited against the smooth and sleek geometry of the building behind it.

And then there is subway art! At 86th and 2nd ave, the subway station displays multiple images of paintings by Chuck Close executed in mosaic tiles. Here are two of them.

This porcelain enamel piece by Josh Scharf was installed at the subway stop for Carnegie Hall.

These glass windows were at the Jazz Museum train stop.

And then I discovered a form of street art new to me: Sticker Graffiti, Sticker Tagging, Sticker Bombing, Sticker Slapping. Sticker art has been around for a number of years without my being aware of it until I walked down Prince Street in NYC where I noticed multiple surfaces covered with stickers. I learned from Wikipedia that there is a sticker culture and a sticker industry! Some stickers are just tags, but other advertise, others are statements relating to causes, and some are images. This street art exists around the world.

The multiple stickers on the mailbox in the center say, “I like you.”

My next travels will take me to Michigan. I’ll report on my trip in a couple of weeks.

Hoover Dam

I took a 30 mile side-trip from Las Vegas to visit Hoover Dam.  What an incredible construction project!  I thought Las Vegas was huge in scale until I saw the dam!

Here is an aerial view of the dam, the Colorado River, and Lake Mead.  The red arrow is pointed to some cars to give you an idea of scale. (Many of these photos are from the internet.)

The dam was constructed to control the devastating flooding of California croplands and to generate electrical power.  It is considered to be one of the Wonders of the Modern World.

The dam is located on the state line between Nevada (left)  and Arizona (right) with a road that passes over the top of the dam.  Because the dam attracts so many tourists, the road became a bottleneck for local traffic. In 2010 an arched bypass bridge was constructed just south of the dam – another spectacular building project!

During the construction of the bridge when the arch was completed.

The dam was constructed between 1931 and 1936.  To build it, the Colorado River had to be diverted so a temporary bypass was created.  On the right in map below,  a barrier (red-orange) and the underground diversion pipes (lavender) are depicted.  The 4 pipes were 56 feet in diameter and, combined, measured 3 miles in length.

A section of a diversion pipe.

The dam was built with huge, steel-reinforced concrete blocks, constructed on site.  The base of the dam was thicker than at the top.

Molds were made for the blocks, they were filled with concrete, and when cured, another layer of blocks was constructed on top.

Diagram of the block construction.

The blocks were huge. (Maybe the size if a transport container.)  The concrete was delivered in big buckets.

Constructing the dam was one undertaking, the other was the infrastructure and housing for up to 5250 workers and their families.  A rail line was built across the desert to the site to bring in materials and supplies.  During the first summer, workers and their families lived in shanties and tents in up to 130 F temperatures.  The location was called “Rag Town” because rags were used to cover poles to provide shade. The following year, basic housing was provided nearby, a site that is now Boulder City.  Transporting thousands of workers from their homes to the site was accomplished with transporters carrying 150 men at a time.

Of the 5000 workers hired for the project, no more than 30 were black.  Native Americans were hired for scaling the sides of the canyon, very dangerous work. These workers dipped their hats in buckets of tar to harden them – the first hard hat.

This is a sculpture honoring the the Native American Scalers.

Two hydroelectric power plants exist at the base of the dam, one in Nevada with eight turbines and the other in Arizona with nine.  I visited the Nevada side.

 The power that is produced is part of a grid that provides electricity to neighboring states. This diagram shows the grid.

As I walked around the site and learned about the history and capabilities of the project, I got chills thinking about the human ingenuity and commitment it took to construct this dam, the same kind of ingenuity and commitment that it took to put a man on the moon.  Humans are amazing!

 

 

 

 

More Las Vegas

As I visited the Hotels, I became intrigued by some of the over-the-top chandeliers.  This one is in the lobby of the Bellagio.  It is made of numerous handblown glass forms by Dale Chihuly.

This grouping is in the Wynn.

Also at the Wynn.

This one is at the Luxor. It constantly changes colors.

For more spectacular chandeliers, click here.

As I deplaned at the Las Vegas airport, I was greeted by slot machines at the gate! In the 3 days I spent in the city, I encountered thousands of slot machines in casinos and other locations.  But I was not even tempted!

The CASINOS are multi sensory.  There is loud, rhythmic music, the racket of the slots, the ambient noise of people talking, the swirling, flashing and colorful blinking of the machines, and there is the smoke. At my hotel, it was a struggle not to get lost in the maze of the casino floor as I wandered through the forest of machines trying to find my way from the front lobby to the elevator to my room.

I decided that the correlation between smokers and gamblers is that they are risk takers!

I was attracted to some of the designs of the slots, my favorite ones where the wheels.

I only took in one show because there was nothing else that interested me for the cost of the tickets. (I’ve already attended two Cirque de Soleil performances in Orlando.) What did get my attention was a Bee Gees tribute performance, one of my favorite rock groups.  As a matter of fact, just a couple of months ago, I attended a performance in Woonsocket, RI, of another Bee Gees tribute group. The group in Las Vegas features themselves as the Australian Bee Gees and their performance in mimicking the sound, appearance, and attitude of the original members of the group was spot on. They would have made Barry, Robin and Maurice proud!

 

I spent an afternoon checking out an Arts District in downtown Las Vegas.  I was disappointed that I did not find much in the way of studios or galleries, but I did encounter quite a few murals.

I also visited the Fremont Street Experience, a four block long pedestrian mall and tourist attraction in downtown Las Vegas. The area is covered with a 90 foot high barrel vault that contains 12 million LED bulbs that provide for a continuous display of moving and flashing signage and designs. Looking straight up at the flashing lights can make one dizzy!

At the ground level are shops full of souvenirs and rhinestone embellished clothing, eateries, casinos, and entertainment establishments.  On the street are street performers, vendors, hawkers, and panhandlers. A zip line runs under the canopy along its length for the adventurous!

I was there in late afternoon and  got the sense that the place comes alive at night. During the day, there was not much going on other than people taking it all in.

While in Las Vegas I encountered impersonators looking for tourists to take their pictures for a “tip.”  That is why I photographed this Elvis from the back.

These young women wanted $10 each after to took a snap.  They were lucky to get $3.00 each!

That covers my few days in Las Vegas.  I enjoyed discovering the visual appearance and cultural vibe of the place. I’m glad I went, but I have no desire to return. Been there, done that! Next?

I will post about my side trip to the Hoover Dam in my next post.