June 26, 2011

Yardwork Weekend

After an entire week of being sick (strep throat on top of a sinus infection), I decided to take advantage of the nice weather that was being forecast for the weekend and get out of the house for a little bit of fresh air. I started my Saturday morning off with a trip to Sweetbriar Nature Center. I always love to walk through their nature preserve. All woodlands and wildlife. It is a place that I come to often in the warm weather months. 

However, for this visit, my eye was most attracted to the maze of gardens that are planted next to the main building. I strolled on green paths lined on both sides with herb gardens adorned with birdhouses and sundials, through vine-covered trellises, passing gazebos set amid patches of wildflowers, stopping every now and then to sit on one of the park benches that they have set up in shaded spots. These gardens are immaculate and it felt so good to be around them. I spend another half hour in the preserve and that was all I needed. I was inspired!

I went back home and started inspecting my own yard for areas that need improvement. One of the ugliest spots has long been the space along the side of the house where I keep the garbage cans--always overgrown with weeds and a troika of horrible bushes that have been in there for decades. I decided immediately that tackling the garbage area would be my weekend project and I grabbed my gloves and tools. It took me the rest of Saturday to remove the three shrubs, as their stumps were deeply rooted and put up a terrible fight. On Sunday, I got out early and gathered up a bunch of loose bricks that I had piled beside the shed in the back yard. I spent the day in the sun, laying a sort of brick patio for the garbage cans between the sidewalk and the foundation of the house. I think it came out good. Perhaps it is not as straight and level as the work of a professional mason, however, my work fixed the problem and I feel really good about having done something constructive with my hands. The side of my house is now nice and clean.

After my yard project was all wrapped up, I took my first ride of the season to Sunken Meadow Beach. It felt wonderful to sink my toes into the hot sand again and to hear the familiar sound of the waves caressing the shoreline. I ran directly to the water and jumped in. It was cold and shocking at first, but soon became refreshing and comfortable. For the rest of the afternoon, I lingered in the surf, allowing the salt air to relax my mind and muscles. This was a great weekend. Life is good...

"He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way."

~Psalm 25:9


June 23, 2011

Nassau County Museum of Art

One place that I like to visit often during the course of a year is the Nassau County Museum of Art. The exhibits change every few months and I like to keep up with their newest event. It is usually something that interests me.

Now, before I get into the exhibitions, let me first off tell you about the grounds. The museum is made up of a couple of buildings surrounded by a nature preserve of dense woods that is crisscrossed by hiking trails and dotted with sculptures, ponds, and lovely gardens. During my last visit, I had brought with me a tuna sandwich and some fruit and I seized the opportunity to sit on one of the acorn-littered lawns to have a little picnic. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the cool breeze made me feel as though the statues all around me were whispering their artistic secrets just to me. After I finished eating, I reclined with my hands folded behind me head and soaked in the afternoon air. Everything that I saw - every puff of cloud and blade of grass - was inspiring. Fantastic experience!

Anyway, the most recent exhibit that I attended in the main gallery was called “Milton Avery and the End of Modernism.” The thing that strikes me most pleasantly about Mr. Avery is his whimsical nature and his intuitive use of color. His work is witty, simple, and innocent, though not as much in subject matter as in form. It is through his inclusion of large patches of color and squiggling lines that Milton Avery betrays his jovial sense of humor. This exhibit was one of my favorites.

Tree Fantasy, 1950

Mandolin and Melon, 1946-53

Strip Tease, 1939

Three Vases, 1955

Oyster Catcher, 1944

WAtkins 9-2236, 1945

Cello Player in Blue, 1944

Waterfall, 1954

Another exhibit that I attended not long ago was called "Miro/Dubuffet/Basquiat." I had waited for months for this one; Joan Miro is one of my all-time favorite artists. As I strolled through the museum corridors, I became absorbed by the works of these three artists. I admit that I had heard very little of Jean-Michel Basquiat and his work at first struck me as being odd, though I soon was able to see the deep beauty in the graffiti-like images. This was an amazing exhibition.

"Bold exciting art is seen in our new exhibition, "Miro/Dubuffet/Basquiat." These three artists lived and worked in very different times and settings. Their work is highly individual, but each strongly reflects primitive and prehistoric markings. Shown together for the first time, Joan Miro, Jean Dubuffet, and Jean-Michel Basquiat shared a confrontational antagonism to the traditional and academic. Their art is raw, bold, and forthright, characterized by primal symbols in personalized types of graffiti that exist in a timeless space in the work of these artists, signs and color erupt in a free association of structure and rhythm; the mysterious act of painting is shown as wild and free, yet also very exacting."

I could pontificate at great lengths about the artwork, but I think I'd rather just let the images speak for themselves...

Joan Miro – Etoile filantes de Tete, 1935

Joan Miro – Personnage, 1934

Joan Miro – Barcelone, 1973

Joan Miro – Half Brunette, Half Red Headed Girl
Slipping on the Blood of Frozen Hyacinths
on a Blazing Football Field, 1939

Joan Miro – Personnage au nez rouge, 1955

Jean Dubuffet – Mnemotechnique III, 1977

Jean Dubuffet – Site aleatoire avec trios personnages, 1982

Jean Dubuffet – Le Grande Port du Barbe, 1959

Jean Dubuffet – Hourloupe-La Chaise, 1964

Jean-Michel Basquiat – Thirty-Sixth Figure, 1983

Jean-Michel Basquiat – Third Street, 1984

Jean-Michel Basquiat – Number 4, 1981

Another well-spent afternoon at the Nassau Museum of Art came when I went to see an exhibition called "The Subject is Women." This showcase was dedicated to women of the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism eras as both subjects and artists. It included works by renowned masters such as Degas, Pissaro, and Renoir, as well as pieces by some lesser-known artists. A few of my favorites:

Camille Pissarro - Le marche de Gisors rue Cappeville, 1885

Carlos Luna - El Engano, 1996

Gerard Ellis - My Father’s Aunt, 2009

Edgar Degas - Danseuse a l’eventail, 1900

Edouard Vuillard - Madame Fontaine and her Daughter (The Piano Lesson), ND

Georges Rouault - Au Salon de la Peinture, 1906

Vik Muniz - Medusa Marinara, 1998

On the opposite side of the parking lot from the main art gallery is the Tee Ridder Miniatures Museum. This building houses a wonderful assortment of all things tiny, the prize of the collection being the “Million Dollar Dollhouse.” More of a doll-castle than a house, the intricate detail of each room is astonishing. Looking at the photographs, it is almost impossible to tell that these items are only miniatures, scaled down to the ratio of 1 inch being equal to 1 foot. I was amazed at the amount of time and care that must have gone into creating such a miniature masterpiece and I found myself doing quadruple takes.

“One of the most valuable dollhouses in the world (Valued at $1.1 million), this 600 pound structure was hand built and took over 10 years to complete. It was built by a woman named Elaine Diehl, and avid miniaturist. It contains thousands of hand made miniature pieces that include original oil paintings, hand woven rugs, marble bathrooms, and real golden studded furniture; it contains over 29 highly adorned rooms, 10 vestibules and hallways, and an electric elevator…”

Many life-sized kudos to Mrs. Diehl for this beautiful work of art!

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith
as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain,
'Move from here to there' and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you."

~Matthew 17:20