See the Andrew Wyeth Exhibit at SAM!

Experiencing the Andrew Wyeth in Retrospect exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum is a day well spent, especially on a rainy Seattle Sunday.  Room after room filled with amazing art.  Damn.  I’m in such awe of this artistic talent.

When my antique phone couldn’t download the app for the SAM audio tour, I forked over $4 to rent the old school technology wand to listen to the audio tour.  How embarrassing!

Quite the scoundrel, Wyeth painted up until his death at age 91, sneaking away starting at age 53 to secretly paint a neighbor’s caregiver, Helga, in the nude during a 15 year period without telling his wife.  Oops.  Of course, this was after he had started doing other nudes in a dramatic pivot to erotic art and his wife, Betsy, had told him, “If you do this again, don’t tell me.”  So, he didn’t share and painted nude Helga privately while also cranking out landscapes that he DID show his wife.  Hmmm….

 

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Wyeth’s muse, Helga

 

I appreciate the audio tour interpretation of the paintings because I gaze upon them and think simplistically, “pretty picture” when I should be seeing all kinds of imagery and subtexts telling me about the meaning of life.  Nope.  Not unless I’m told by the kindly intelligent audio guide do I see the “death as a subtext” message and “sex as a rebirth” theme.  I’m an idiot but I do enjoy viewing art as did the huge crowd packing the museum today.

One masterpiece did speak to me, after the audio guide explained that “Snow Hill” was a memorial piece created in 1989 and dedicated to his models, both living and dead, symbolizing renewal and reevaluation of life’s purpose.  The models dancing around the May Pole was quite evocative.  Well done, Wyeth.

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Snow Hill symbolizing renewal

Wyeth painted in tempura and watercolor and pencil sketches.  The attention to detail was incredible especially the blades of grass in the landscapes.  His dad was a famous illustrator who taught him starting at 15 years old.  Wyeth sold out his first NYC show at the ripe old age of 22 and continued to paint until he died in 2018.  He is known for his realism.

 

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it…I always want to see the third dimension of something…I want to come alive with the object.”              -Andrew Wyeth

The exhibit will be at the SAM until January 15, 2018.  In addition to the paintings and sketches, the SAM has done a nice job incorporating videos about Wyeth’s life and an interactive area with touch screen devices where you can create your own art.  I highly recommend it.  Enjoy!

Turning my back on politics for a day!

When the craziness of the political landscape is driving me to drink and getting me down (and how could it not?), then I turn to art and music to lift my spirits.  Okay, whiskey and wine work too but art and music are better for my soul AND my health. So, off to the museum we went for a day away from the madness of politics.

After waking up just in time to witness a tweet storm of epic proportions in real time on Saturday morning when “he who must not be named” thought it would be a good idea to take on esteemed Congressman John Lewis, I felt a need to disconnect from the nightmare that is about to begin.  So, taking advantage of a sunny, not-so-freezing day in Seattle, we set out to experience the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Set in a gorgeous location in Volunteer Park near Capital Hill, we were blown away by the stunning collection in the 1933 Art Deco building.  Originally the site of the SAM, it now houses classic Asian art pieces and special exhibits like the contemporary Japanese artist Tabaimo Homage with thought-provoking video installations.  One made me think WTF but the piece set in a women’s bathroom was interesting and the crows were subtly freakish.  Art!

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The more classic art pieces featured such intricate details that you could look at just one piece all day to appreciate the artistry to make it.  Carvings, pottery, tapestries, etc. from ancient times to contemporary pieces are just for viewing but the cement replicas of Ming Dynasty camel statues that grace the entrance are meant to be climbed on by the kids and serve as a backdrop for fun photo ops.  We didn’t take the tours offered but there were two  on Sunday at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. which would probably be very informative.

While you are there, cross the street and check out the water tower observation deck.  Challenged by Thom, I chugged up the 107 stairs to enjoy the 360 degree view of Seattle.  Gorgeous!

We are SAM members but if you aren’t, the museum is open free on the first Thursday and Saturday of each month.  Tear yourself away from social media, turn your back on politics at least for a day and take advantage of the museum and the park-both gems in Seattle!

YSL Perfection at SAM

It was a dark and stormy afternoon with sheets of torrential rain coming down. In other words, a typical Seattle day-perfect for a stroll through the fantastic fashion exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum featuring Yves Saint Laurent in all his glory.  YSL truly experienced an amazing journey from teen fashion prodigy to world famous designer and this exhibit running through 1/8/17 invites you into his world of fashion through a behind-the-scenes look at the designer’s life.

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The exhibit is so much more than the 100+ gorgeous outfits that YSL created.  You can see his early sketches and paper dolls that he created as a teen fashion prodigy, the swatches and drawings that he used to create his collection, personal photos and much more.

YSL was born to create unique and original works of art that spanned a long and turbulent career.  Like most artists, YSL fought childhood bullying first and then, later in adulthood, depression and addictions while somehow creating masterpieces that you can now view at the Seattle Art Museum.  I loved seeing not only the final product but the genius behind the creations.

 

Hidden Gem-Chester Beatty Library in Dublin

Having decided to skip the long line to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College, instead we opted to enjoy a much less known gem in Dublin, the Chester Beatty library.  Next to Dublin Castle, this library/museum houses an extraordinary, vast collection of ancient manuscripts and texts.  Taking advantage of a video loop showing the history of Chester Beatty, we learned that the wealthy American mining magnate, who bequeathed his collection to Ireland when he died in 1968, left them treasures that you can see for free with no waiting in line. 

We wandered and gawked at all types of artifacts that date back to 2700 BC to present day from various religions:  Judaism, Christianity, Islam Buddhism and Hinduism.  There are beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, European medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and more.  The Christianity room featured third century Greek letters.  Really rare stuff on display to enjoy.  There is also a gallery devoted to the Art of the Book with books from all over the ancient world showing fancy leather bound engraved editions to simple volumes.  I have many fond memories as a child visiting the Noblesville Public Library in the old downtown brick building every Saturday to load up on books I could devour.  Now, I am blessed to experience this magnificent collection after also going to the NYC Library and the Morgan Library and viewing their Guttenberg bibles.  This all in one week of vacation.  This has been a dream come true for me. 

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Knighted for his contribution of strategic raw materials to the Allies during World War II, Sir Chester Beatty was a traveler and experienced adventurer, travelling the world to collect rare items.  So glad he decided to donate them so we can enjoy them today.  There is even a roof top serenity garden where you can enjoy the view of nearby Dublin castle or just sit on a bench and reflect on all the ancient texts you have just viewed.  Truly one of the best museum experiences I have had around the world.

Wandering St. Pat’s Cathedral in Dublin

We walked by a Catholic Church almost immediately as we turned down a lane off Grafton Street exploring Dublin on our first day.  We have since visited so many churches across Ireland that I can’t keep them straight but they are all historic and beautiful.  With the history of Ireland so closely tied to the Catholic and Protestant churches, it is no wonder they dominate the landscape.  Well, not as much as the pubs dominate but still, there are a LOT of churches here. 

The church we spent the most time in was St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  It is really a museum now mostly with some services but beautifully preserved with groupings of historically significant relics to read about and enjoy.  We found a video loop playing the in back corner and sat through a nice overview of the history before we explored, giving good context to what we were going to see which dates mostly back to the 14th century but a religious building stood on this site a thousand years before that. It is the largest church in Ireland and also houses the largest ringing peal bells in Ireland as well, whatever those are.  Bet they are loud.

One story we learned from the video was that during a feud in 1492 there came a point where the warring families were deadlocked so the two leaders agreed, as a gesture of good faith, to extend their hands through a slot in a massive door to shake and call a truce.  This “Door of Reconciliation” now hangs in the church and thus the Irish expression, “to chance your arm” meaning to take the initiative.  Here’s betting that if Hillary extended her arm through a door, Trump would cut it off and call her a loser for wanting to negotiate. 

Along with the velvet covered pew benches that are preserved and roped off in the sanctuary, there are stand-alone chairs for people to sit in and worship with embroidered kneeling cushions that some little old ladies probably created for use by worshippers. Charming AND useful.

Though you do have to pay 6 euros to enjoy St. Patrick’s, it was money well spent given not only the beauty but the historical experience of it all.  Amen.

 

Two Gutenbergs in One Day

The theme for Friday’s Manhattan adventure was a deep dive into literature so it was only fitting that we got to see two Gutenberg Bibles in one day-first at the NYC Public Library and then in the evening at the Morgan Library.  Just blocks apart, these masterpieces are two of only 49 left of their kind, the first major book printed around 1450 using mass-produced movable type.  A beautiful and historic book to behold and the Morgan Library has 3 copies that they rotate to preserve.  wp_20160916_20_03_13_richThey’ve done a good job because it is in great repair for being so old and enduring many adventures among owners in the past before being acquired in 1815 for the Morgan Library.moran-2

Taking advantage of the free Friday deal to visit the Morgan, we sought out Rembrandt’s first masterpiece, Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, which is considered to be his first mature work.  Perhaps we are a little jaded from seeing so many Rembrandts on our Amsterdam tour but still it was impressive, along with other pieces of his work on display.  moran-1

More interesting to me though was the Charlotte Bronte exhibit that showcased all her talents from drawing to writing.  She and her sisters started early in life by creating tiny books telling stories to each other.  Charlotte was a strong liberated woman for her day (with a teeny tiny 18 inch waist-dress pic) and wanted only to write and not be a teacher or governess as the culture would dictate her to be in the early 1800’s.  She declared herself “a free human being with an independent will”.  Unfortunately, it’s still hard to make a living being a writer even in this day and age.  I respect her fortitude to follow her passion and share her talents with the world.

After soaking up the opulent Morgan Library with it’s iron staircases leading to even more books on the upper floors interspersed with tapestries and paintings and, of course, an elegant ceiling, we enjoyed a jazz trio treating the crowd to a spirited jam session.  Resting before the walk home, Thom and I smiled and agreed it was another perfect day in NYC.

 

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic at SAM

On a beautiful sunny Seattle day, we were lucky enough to use our SAM membership to check out the new exhibit:  Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic.  WOW.  DAMN.  If you are lucky enough to live in Seattle, go check it out.  I am totally impressed with this artist’s vast talent.  Not only can he paint scenes that you can’t help but stare at in awe and examine up close to ponder how he can paint so realistically but his sculpture and stained glass pieces of art are equally fantastic.WP_20160220_11_02_54_Pro

Unfortunately, we missed Kehinde in person at the opening event but we did watch the documentary on his “An Economy of Grace” paintings last night after seeing his work.  The story as told on this PBS video really brings to life the paintings on display and I would suggest you take the time to view it either before or after you visit the SAM.  Kehinde works in both New York and Beijing.  In the documentary, we loved seeing how his artists help with the background work in his Beijing warehouse, the trip that the art took to get from China to the first showing in NYC and how he recruits his street models.  You don’t realize how much work goes into prepping the space to showcase the art–the right wall color, the right frame, etc.  WOW.

So why is his art so different?  Kehinde picks people off the street to be his models, focusing on street culture, black masculinity and hip hop as portraits of these individuals set in historically famous poses of European works.  The contrast between the Nike-wearing regular people in their lavish portrait settings is striking and stays with you long after you leave the gallery.  WP_20160220_11_08_52_Pro

A self-identified gay man, Kehinde grew up in LA and began painting at an early age.  As the SAM gallery guide explains, “He challenges long-held assumptions by opening new doors of perception, offering unprecedented interpretations and reimaging the black figure as subject, object and agent.”  As I watched part of his documentary in the gallery, the large audience included a diverse crowd, including children learning about this interesting exhibition.  Well done, Kehinde and SAM for a breathtaking experience.  We plan on going back again to savor the creativity before this unique show moves on to the next lucky museum.   WP_20160220_11_08_30_Pro