Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Happy Fri- DAY-O! Winning Ways With Bananas..or something to that effect.   Leave a comment

I like old cookbooks.

I like them for the unmistakable soft focus illustrations that appear in many of the pre-World War Two volumes, and the often kitschily garish color photographs that show up in many 50’s and 60’s tomes. I also like them for the sometimes outlandish….err…creative…dishes they promote.  Especially if they are written to promote a certain product.

It just so happens that I own a very small booklet that was published in 1929 written for the homemaker to extend her creativity with bananas.    Hey! Culinary creativity, you wiseacres!  (As my dad would have said)

Our mainstream love affair with the banana seems to have occurred sometime around the late 1870’s when its availability became more widespread. By the early part of the 20th century, bananas were a big business.  As sometimes happens with some big businesses, there were also, at times, questionable episodes associated with the business of producing bananas.  I suspect that the average American homemaker would have not been aware of such things…especially back in the 1920’s.  Bananas were a popular commodity, and the occasional shortages in availability may have led to this song, written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn, and released in 1923

At any rate, this particular little booklet was urging the queen of the kitchen to utilize the banana in all manner of possible ways, and reminding her that since they are covered by their peel….“Bananas come to you in Nature’s sealed packages”….and are therefore pure and sterile.  Whether these recipes caught on, I certainly don’t know…some of them look downright strange and unappetizing.  But then again, that’s part of their charm for me!  So bad, they’re good….and good for a laugh and a smile on this Friday.   Take a look….

Whether the point was flavor or just being creative, I don’t know.  First impressions would lean heavily on the side of creativity being the predominant goal here.  But what do I know!  Maybe it’s a good way to get little Billy to eat his potassium, B6 and Vitamin C…..make it look like a carnival of delights!

This one, I think I will rather not comment on, except to say that it might be well received at a ladies’ luncheon!

This one I might actually try….at least it has possibilities.

But I doubt this one will make it to my table….however “enticing”  the illustration….

Believe me, there are more.  But I will leave them for another discussion later.  No doubt these need time to sink in. Time to digest.

And because it’s Friday…………I must leave you with this.

I present to you….

The Breakdancing Bananas.

Enjoy your DAY-O!

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).

To Motherhood   Leave a comment

One of the most vivid images I encountered at the Art Institute of Chicago museum actually fits quite well with today being Mother’s Day.

Perhaps you are well acquainted with the work of artist Mary Cassatt, and if not, she is definitely worth some investigation.  Having been born in 1844 into a fairly prosperous Pittsburgh family, it was certainly not her parents’ intent for her to make a career as an artist.  As you might imagine, in those times it was not quite considered a proper path for a young lady….or rather it was considered a more unusual path.  However, Mary was a very determined and independent soul and pursued her art and art training without much moral support from her family in the early part of her career.  She moved to Paris, where she felt most at home and where she could study the great pieces in the museums. She suffered the usual problems faced by many of the accomplished women artists of her time: difficulty in obtaining inclusion into the male dominated, but all important world of the Salon exhibits…and a general view at the time that womens’ artwork rarely equaled that of  their male counterparts.  Obtaining quality art training for women was also a thorny path at times.  Still she did not give up, but kept working. With her unusual talent, she did manage later on to gain entrance into the Salons,  and a friendship and working relationship (but not a romantic one by all indications )with Edgar Degas proved to be a catalyst for further career development and acclaim.  She traveled in and exhibited with the Independent circle of what we now call the Impressionists, and counted Monet, Berthe Morisot and others as her friends. Still, she stayed true to her own artistic vision and style.

Mary”s best known works are executed in oils, pastels, or through printmaking techniques. A major body of work, and perhaps her most famous, consists of portraying the world of women and children and the tender relationships between the two.  The piece of work that commanded my attention at the Art Institute of Chicago is one that is often reproduced, but like all the really great pieces of artwork, is really unreproducible.  I was struck by that obvious fact as I stood transfixed.  The piece truly seemed alive.  Although I did my best to photograph it, just like in all the textbook depictions, it defies being captured on film.  One just cannot capture the life of the paint itself and the three-dimensionality of the image. I have seen other Cassatts in other museums, but this one is a masterpiece…in composition, color and technique.  Here is my meager attempt to show you what it looks like….

Entitled “The Bath”, it was painted in 1892, executed in oil.

Below is a detail of the upper torsos of mother and child.  As I said, the palpable tenderness between woman and child, as well as the vivacity of the brushwork just cannot truly be captured.

A further detail of brushwork in the linens….

I hope at some point you will have the opportunity to see this work in person. It certainly captivated me!

Another group of feminine images I found during my museum visit, were the Figures From the Scarf Dance, done in what I would assume to be porcelain in Sevres, France. Although I only photographed two of them, as I remember there were at least two more.  Each of them stood approximately 14 to 16 inches in height and each had exquisite detail.  They date from 1901-1902, and were of course behind glass!  Very beautiful.  So much motion and grace in the figure below…

A closer look…

The second figure…..

And a closer look…..so much attention to detail, magnificent craftsmanship.

Whether these figures are soft-paste or hard-paste porcelain, I do not know.  Hard-paste perhaps, because of the date.  But I do know that Sevres porcelain was a favorite of the French King Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour!

And now….

A final look at a tender image of mother and child from long ago….a daguerreotype from about 1850, from the George Eastman House Collection.

Here’s to remembering all mothers…..past and present.

Have a great day.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night..and some quick musings on Chicago   Leave a comment

Well!  I’m back from Chicago and sorting through 300 odd photos.  The Matisse exhibit was outstanding and chronicled a very prolific period of his career, showcasing everything from drawings, monotypes, oils and sculpture executed between the years  of 1913-1917.

Unfortunately, although the museum allows photographs in all other areas of the facility, it did not allow cameras to be used in the Matisse exhibit, so I will have to try to find some of the images for you from other sources.  But as I said, I took many other photos of various works in the museum and also some of the interesting things I saw around town.  Chicago is a wonderful city with eye candy at every turn….all you have to do is look for it.  With it being May, there was a profusion of tulips in all sorts of plantings throughout the downtown area…

And then of course, there’s the wonderful architecture!

But for tonight I must make this short.  It is a very dark and stormy night with severe weather moving through Northeast Ohio.  Our tornado sirens have sounded twice already and you can be sure we made a quick retreat to the basement.  More high winds are predicted later as well, so I will sign off and continue my Chicago story tomorrow or the next day.

I hope all of you have a safe and pleasant evening.

An Artist of Note: Duane Keiser   Leave a comment

I have followed the work of contemporary artist Duane Keiser for a while now, and if you are unfamiliar with his name, it will certainly be worth your while to become acquainted with his Painting a Day series which he started back in 2004 and which has caught on to become a movement encompassing artists of all genres and levels of talent.  The idea is to start and complete one painting per 24 hour period, every day for as long as possible.  Duane’s work for this series is small format, which makes sense given the time constraints, and he has found success marketing these small gems on the Internet.  Even in these current economic times he has done well, due to the fine caliber of his work and his innovative marketing technique through eBay and his YouTube videos, which showcase his painting technique in a time-lapse format. An example is shown below …from Duane’s YouTube site

Duane has a similar sensibility to my own in that he tends to paint the small often overlooked objects and vignettes of everyday life. He is quite adept at portraying light and its tendencies in all situations.  I’m inspired by his talent, choice of subject matter, and his work ethic.  I am seriously thinking of making the commitment to the Painting A Day idea.  It’s good for improving technique and it’s good for the mind and soul.

I hope you take the time to explore his site and his various blogs.  Like me, you may become a devotee.