Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

A Weekend with the DuPonts

I just returned from spending a delightful long weekend with friends outside of Philadelphia visiting two du Pont estates, Winterthur and Longwood Gardens. I had visited both places thirty years ago, but enjoyed returning at a different time of the year because the grounds and gardens change seasonally.

Winterthur was the boyhood home of Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969.)  As an adult, Henry began to collect American decorative arts including architectural moldings and panelling, and to display them, he had some of the rooms in his mansion redone to display his collection. As his passion increased, additions were built on to the original portion of the house until now it is a museum with 175 period rooms with 90,000 objects that date between 1640 and 1860.

Untitled-1a

We toured about 10 of the rooms, some were rooms that Henry and his family lived in and others that were purely showrooms. There were some rooms that Henry imported in their entirety from other historic homes including wall paper and floor boards.

Untitled-3

Untitled-4

IMG_7760

Henry, his wife, and two daughters loved to entertain and used both their home as well as the grounds for their parties.

Untitled-2

IMG_7765

IMG_7766

IMG_7770

The landscaping on the 60 acre estate is naturalistic with lots of specimen trees and shrubs arranged as glens, meadows, and wooded areas.  Winterthur is very well known for its fabulous display of azaleas, but we were a bit too early to see it.  Just a few were beginning to bloom. We did enjoy both pink and white  dogwood and cherry trees.

IMG_7773

IMG_7780

Longwood Gardens and house was the home of Pierre S. du Pont (1870 – 1954) whose passion was horticulture. During his life time, he created spectacular gardens of all sorts, a huge conservatory, and behind the scenes growing areas where plants were grown for display and research. The estate consists of 1000 acres of gardens and today has a budget of $50 million and a staff of 1,300 employees, students, and volunteers.  The house is very modest and is used as a small museum today.  The gardens, on the other hand, are spectacular!

We visited the conservatory first where there are 4600 plants in room after room, many with their own climate control. Most of the plants are changed throughout the year so they are viewed at the height of their blooming period.

IMG_7793

IMG_7816

IMG_7827

IMG_7819

IMG_7821

IMG_7817

 

IMG_7834

IMG_7815

IMG_7813

IMG_7829

IMG_7824

 

IMG_7800

We took a tour of the greenhouses which revealed how extensive the work is behind the scenes and how much research is done to improve plant stock.  We also learned that a major concern is to prevent diseases and insects from entering the gardens.  To this end, the new plants are all propagated in the greenhouses.  And they make their own garden soil in the room pictured below.

IMG_7801

Now the staff is growing and preparing mums and poinsettias for fall and winter displays.

IMG_7805

Here is a yellow Cllivia that was developed at Longwood.

IMG_7833

IMG_7807

All of the watering both in the greenhouses and in the conservatory is done by hand.  The hoses have valves that operate various water sources.

IMG_7803

In the conservatory, the hoses are in the floor and the controls for the water options use special keys.

IMG_7795

All of the maintenance in the conservatory and gardens is done at night – we saw no grounds crews at all.  And, all of the plants were in prime condition – no fading blooms or brown leaves at all!

Below is a wall garden with thousands of plants.  The corridor leads to the restrooms and in 2015 they were designated as the best public restrooms in the US.

IMG_7799

The highlight of the outside gardens were the tulips which were in full display!  The photos look like they are right out of a bulb catalogue!

IMG_7842

IMG_7838

IMG_7852

IMG_7854

We finished our visit with the Italian garden that has a fountain feature.

IMG_7862

Longwood is a place to return to many times because the gardens and displays change all the time.  For instance, there are extensive waterlily pools that don’t open until May.  There is also a mature topiary garden, a rose garden, wisteria and peony gardens, meadows, and more.  They are currently remodeling the main fountains that are programed for a light, sound, and dancing water display.  For more information, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longwood_Gardens.

While we were in mushroom territory, we visited a mushroom display room to see how they are commercially grown.

IMG_7787

And for lunch I had a delicious porcini crepe!

IMG_7848

Our final stop was a visit to the Brandywine River Museum to view paintings by the Wyeths and other painters in the American realist tradition.

w.jpg

In two weeks I am going to Sicily and expect to have lots to post then. Ciao for now.