Archive for May 2010

May We All Remember   1 comment

In honor of my father and all who have fought for that priceless gift of freedom.

May we never take it for granted or forget that so many have suffered and died to preserve the liberties we are blessed with today.

Please take time out on this day, and every day, to remember those whose sacrifices have given us so much.

Happy Memorial Day

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Posted May 31, 2010 by freshairfour in liberty

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Incredible Craftsmanship in Glass, Silver and Wood   1 comment

Truly fine craftsmanship has the power to intrigue and inspire. It represents the best efforts of a gifted individual to reach heights of beauty and mystery that go well beyond the ordinary. I was fortunate enough to see so many such examples as I walked the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago, some of which appear in my previous posts.  As a continuation, today I’ll present to you some of the inspiring pieces executed in glass, silver and wood.  The wonderful thing about these pieces is the realization that one can look at them time and time again, yet see something new in them each time.  As in the last post, I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

As we  enter the gallery our attention is attracted to this lovely Tiffany lamp, glowing in the dimmed light.

A closeup of the dragonfly pattern…

Nestled along a wall is a full-length window of stained glass, also by Tiffany.  It is approximately 9 feet in height…absolutely beautiful.

Detail of the lily portion of the window…a camera cannot fully do it justice.

Detail of the upper half of the window….

Around another corner is a grouping of spectacular sterling silver, from the studios of Tiffany and Co.

Placed along the walls of the gallery are many fine examples of 18th and 19th craftsmanship in wood from various cabinetmakers of the time.

And one more…

I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of what I experienced.  I for one am truly thankful that these beautiful pieces of fine artistry have been preserved and protected for our delight and the delight of future generations.  A museum such as this is one of our most important public assets because it showcases the best of human achievement and provides inspiration to those coming up through the ranks.  I know it inspires me every time I visit.

Enjoy your day!

Real Eye Candy….Beautiful Jewelry at the Art Institute   Leave a comment

Thought I’d share some of the eye candy, in the form of jewelry, I had the good fortune to experience on my recent trip to Chicago’s wonderful Art Institute of Chicago Museum a few weeks ago.  Each piece is exquisite in its own right.  Each was behind glass of course, but I think you can still get the essence of the beauty of the craftsmanship, design and materials. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The first item is ancient, from Egypt….a necklace incorporating rock crystal, gold, glass beads, shell, and mosaic glass.

Next is a Hellenistic age bracelet from Syria…..2nd century BC, utilizing gold, semi-precious stones and glass.

A finely crafted necklace of gold, garnet and emerald…Roman, 3rd century AD.

Cameo portraits of Tiberius….Roman, AD 14-37

Next, I wandered into the gallery of Spanish Renaissance  jewelry.  Below is a small gold crown made for a statue in the early 17th century.  Enameled gold, emeralds, diamonds and aquamarine gems adorn the intricate crown.

All manner of fabulous gold and gem creations awaited me….

A cross…its backside just as beautiful as the front.  Here is the front.

And here is the back.

More fantastic pieces…

One more piece from the Renaissance gallery, not jewelry, but also very beautiful.

And finally, a wonderful grouping from the American Decorative gallery…This necklace and earring set were made by the well known Chicago firm the Kalo Shop, circa 1905-14

It would certainly be hard to pick a favorite, wouldn’t it?

I am inspired by each and every one.

Next post, I’ll show you some of the beautiful Tiffany glass and silver that I encountered.

Enjoy your day.

Rain…and More Rain.   Leave a comment

Well, I awoke this morning to yet another day of the wet stuff.  I guess it’s to be expected, and I guess it will keep the water table in good shape as far as the well is concerned, but as soon as I see a chipmunk paddling by on a leaf canoe I’m going to start complaining.  And I’m a  bit tired of sitting inside gazing out at the stream of raindrops tap-tap-tapping on the front walk.

Even walking down to the mailbox is a soggy affair.

And traffic and rain….well,…  you know those fancy schmancy windshield wipers the guy at the garage talked you into last time?  Can you say “short lived”?  That’s right neighbor!

But there’s always one way to liven up a dreary day.

Of course!

Invite some swanky friends over, break out the Hires,  throw on some records and…

Party!

“Hires to You”

Put some fun in your day no matter what the weather!

Images courtesy of my beloved 1960 Saturday Evening Post, and a little book I picked up at the flea market, God’s World and Johnny (Westminster Press, Illustrations Mary Royt).

Just a Few Woodland Smalls   Leave a comment

Today was just one of those lazy Sunday afternoons.  You know…..the kind of day where you don’t want to do what you’re supposed to do…you just want to do what you want to do.  Some would call it lack of motivation.  I call it the way a Sunday should be spent!

A light breeze and the rustle of the young leaf canopy above beckoned me to get outdoors to see what was happening in the flower beds and along the edge of the woods.  First, I checked on a couple of the shady flower beds that lie at the base of some of the larger trees in the yard.  Formerly, about a month ago, they were playing host to a menagerie of daffodils….now a prolific crop of Lily of the Valley, Trillium and a few white violets are happily taking the place of the spent daffodil stalks.

Lily of the Valley was one of my mother’s favorite flowers and whenever I see these, I think of her and how she watched for these to come up each year.

Delicate white bells hide behind curtains of lush green foliage.

And of course the scent is enchanting!

Next up, was a grouping of wild May Apples along the edge of the property.  Their large umbrella shaped leaves protect a flower about 2 inches in diameter.

Later in the month, the flower will produce a round yellow fruit, hence the “apple” part of its name.  But for now, we see only the flower.

One woodland flower that has fascinated me since childhood is the Jack-in-the-Pulpit. I’m sure I caused the demise of more than a few of these on my childhood walks in the woods, merely due to the number of times I lifted the pulpit’s “flap” in order to inspect Jack!  But they are an eternally interesting plant, and one that I see less seldom these days. Perhaps their natural habitat has been reduced.  I’m glad they still seem to be happy on my property.

Did you know that there are both male and female Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants?  Yes indeed!  And did you know that the “Jack” and his “pulpit” is not actually the flower?  The actual flower is hidden inside the base of the pulpit, and is extremely small…small enough that you would need a hand lens in order to view it well.

Here’s a view of the pulpit from above.  This would have been w-a-a-ay too much temptation for me when I was a child!  Today, however, I just photographed it, and Jack was safe!

And guess who I found living among another bed of Lily of the Valley plants!

To round out my tour, was what I think is a form of Spring Beauty, another wildflower.

And last, but not least, a sweet wild white violet, beloved by both my mother and her mother.  Small and low-growing, they are easy to miss if you are not looking.

But they are definitely worth looking for.  In the language of flowers, a white violet is associated with candor and innocence, but also with the desire to take a chance on happiness.

Taking a chance on happiness….I like that!

We all need to be reminded to do that every so often.  Don’t we?

Of course if you are Tabby, our beloved but slightly spoiled 16 year old Himalayan cat, all this talk about walking in the woods leaves her rather nonplussed.  She takes her chances on happiness from the comfort of a soft pillow.

She hopes you are enjoying your day as much as she is enjoying hers!

A Chance Meeting with a Treasure…Chicago’s Former Public Library   Leave a comment

Sometimes you just luck out.  Sometimes the Force is with you and the universe aligns along with the path your footsteps are treading at that moment. Such was the case on the last afternoon of my visit to the Windy City, when I “stepped out” on Mr. FreshAir for a quick date with my camera and the spectacular architecture of the city.  Architectural elements hold such an attraction for me, I don’t know why exactly, but they do.  And I tend to get caught up in the looking and examining, which makes me a rather poor partner for a general stroll around the block….while everyone else is 50 paces around the next corner, there I am stopping to check out the intricacies of a delicate wrought iron gate or a particularly lovely carved acanthus leaf on a pilaster.  I suspect I’m somewhat of a pain to the normal walking partner.  But  my camera never complains….which is why he always gets to accompany me on these sorts of forays.  Besides, Mr. FreshAir had already done his share of saving my life several times over the past two days when he correctly assumed that I was looking up at an archway or perhaps a gargoyle, and  grabbed my arm to help project me through traffic before the lights changed.

So off I went, with Mr. FreshAir’s blessing, and with only about an hour to do my deeds before we had to grab some early dinner and then head over to the train to the airport.  My target this time was the Chicago Tribune Building, which I had scoped out on a walk (not my kind of walk, but everyone else’s kind of walk) the previous night when we trekked the mile and a half from our hotel down to Watertower Center.  As I made my way down Michigan Avenue, I spied a multitude of interesting candidates for future photo opportunities and of course I had a to record at least one or two of the beautiful blossoms I found along the way…

Well, OK…yeah, one more!

As I continued along my way, I stopped at an intersection to get my bearings and also to wait for the little white pedestrian guy on the crosswalk sign to light up, thereby signalling safety in crossing….as long as one is actually looking at said crosswalk sign of course. As for me, my attention was grabbed by the building across the street. Perhaps you can see why…

I crossed the street and immediately began to investigate.

A kind woman who was sitting on the steps saw my obvious delight and urged me to go inside, assuring me I would not be accosted by the law.  So I did. I think at that point it would have been worth a brush with the law in order to satisfy my curiosity about what was inside, but then again, I’m no fool.  Here’s what I saw upon making my entrance

Spectacular marble and mosaic work at every turn.  Through research, I have found that this is Carrera marble and the mosaics were executed by Tiffany studios.

Detail of mosaic work on the stairs.  Mother-of-pearl, colored stones, gold leaf and Favrile glass  (“Favrile glass is distinguished by brilliant or deeply toned colors, usually iridescent like the wings of certain American butterflies, the necks of pigeons and peacocks, the wing covers of various beetles.”) are some of the elements used in the mosaics.

I continued up the elaborate staircase to the second floor.  I was in la-la land with all of the decorative detail on the coffered ceilings and the shimmer of the sunlight as it hit the glass and shell in the mosaic work.

Imagine!  This was once the Chicago Public Library!

And then, at the top of the stairs I saw this…..

A chamber orchestra warming up under the largest Tiffany Glass dome I had ever seen, and later found out it is the largest Tiffany dome in the world. I certainly felt as if I were in a sacred area.

When the music of Mozart’s Symphony No. 26 (Eb major) began to lilt throughout the building I thought I was indeed in heaven.  It turns out that I had just happened in when the Chicago Chamber Orchestra was presenting a free concert, part of their Mostly Mozart in May series.  Oh how I wish Mr. FreshAir had been with me to hear it. He loves classical music.

I stayed to listen for as long as time would permit.

Originally built in 1897, can you believe that this magnificent building was almost demolished in the name of progress?  Yes, in the 1970’s when we lost so many architectural gems to the wrecking ball, this too came very close but was saved at the last moment.  With a new library building built elsewhere and dedicated in 1991, the old public library no longer held books but continued in its service to the public by becoming a showcase for the arts.  This concert was just one of the many free cultural activities that take place in this wonderful treasure of a building….now known as the Chicago Cultural Center.

I quietly took a few more shots as I parted ways with this gem….

The new …shot from within the old.

Sunlight streaming through the arch..

The fine detail on a bronze wall sconce. The sconces and chandeliers were made by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company of New York..

The play of sunlight on the stair landing..

I silently slipped out of the building and hightailed it back to the hotel to tell Mr. FreshAir what I had seen.  The Chicago Tribune building would have to wait until next time.

I hope you will have a chance meeting with something that inspires you this week!

Kids About to Cause a Problem..   Leave a comment

OK, I’m about to digress from art history for the moment and tell you that I absolutely love vintage advertising. I love it for its overly dramatic nature in many cases and I love it for the humor it brings (even though I’m sure back in the day, the ads were meant to be fairly serious).  They never fail to bring a smile to my face, and for those reasons I find the old ads delightful.   And on a Monday, everyone needs at least one humorous interlude….so I present these…from my own well-loved 1963 Better Homes and Gardens magazines….

“Ummmm….Houston, we have a problem……ladies….you’d better turn around and stop yakking about the wonders of cooking with electricity.  Little Debbie is back there getting ready to create an electrifyingly chocolate accident of her own!  Abort conversation!  Abort conversation!”   But, oblivious to the warning, Mrs. Theodore Croner (of Millbrook New York!) and Mrs. Robert Bleyer drone on and on….

And below,  Big Brother laughs evilly to himself as he can hardly wait to see the look on Mom and Dad’s faces when they discover that their annual family portrait (with refrigerator of course) as well as their new carpeting has been ruined by the drip, drip, drip of Little Sister’s clandestine red Popsicle….

May you start your week off with a smile…..or two!