Valentine’s Day at the Allentown Art Museum

Valentine’s Day, and what do you do? Well, if you are my husband and me, you go to the Tour Of Love at the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA.

You may remember a couple of weeks ago we visited the museum to see the recently restored and reattributed Rembrandt painting, but today we were going to focus on the theme of Valentine’s Day with an art scavenger hunt along the lines of the Mystery at the Museum we attended here back in October.

In that event the artwork came alive via a character or theme in each artwork who stepped out on to the museum floor in human form. Today, the artworks spoke for themselves through their depictions of love. Let’s get going and I’ll show you what we saw.

We arrived in Allentown on a cold day. There is still a lot of snow on the ground. I’ve shown you a view of the arts park across the street. Not a place anyone is going right now!

We entered and checked in for our timed ticket. Museum volunteers were there to greet us, and we learned we had won a prize in the raffle. We received our prize bag but I decided not to open it until after we had done our tour, so we checked it, and we picked up info that would help us on the Love Tour. Excuse the crumpled look of this paper! I did refer to it often and it suffered a bit.

Between this info sheet, a map, and an activity sheet, we had what we needed to find the artworks. Even more helpful, they were marked with a heart on the wall next to them. I’ll show you what we found and what we thought.

Untitled (Man and Heart), by Keith Haring

I’m not a big fan of Keith Haring but I always like seeing this sculpture. It reminds me that sometimes love is heavy lifting, but keep a good attitude and you will find a way. Or, that love can fall on you and you can catch it, just be ready. Or, bend your knees, flex, and toss your heart into the world to add your little bit of love to it. There are a lot of meanings to this image and that is why it is always illuminating to see it – I think it changes each time with every new outlook I can find in it.

Right next to it was this picture below, Chicken Coop, by Greg Weaver. It wasn’t part of the love tour but both my husband and I were really struck by it. I’m not that interested in chickens, or farms, or sometimes even scenery, but this scene is lively and fresh and really drew me in. I love the interplay of the colors. And look at the thickly-applied paint. You know, I might not have noticed it in such detail if we had not stopped for the adjacent piece. Maybe a little bit of love spilling over?

Next up, Pilgrim’s Grace, by Henry Mosler. This picture illustrates the love within a family. I do believe there are a lot of emotions among the various members of this family, and some of them look even a bit despairing, but they are here together and that is something, isn’t it? I will admit I was most taken with the cat sitting over there on the stairs. That detail tied it to today for me – a cat could be found looking just like that in any home from today, and it reminded me that people feel and think much now as they did then, no matter what the clothing or setting changes.

These next portraits depict a married couple, a very well-off pair. It’s easy to get caught up in the clothing and accessories again here – I think these outfits are ridiculous and the ruffs in particular make my neck itch to look at them – but…the people are individuals with strong personalities that shine through, past the fashion distractions. The portraits make me wonder what their voices sounded like, or if they laughed at jokes with a giggle or a belly laugh, or if they liked to travel or were happier at home. That is the magic of portraits. A little window to a past person, long gone, maybe, but here and alive in front of me.

Strick Wedding Portraits, by Paulus Moreelse

I showed you this picture in my previous post – it’s Mother and Child by Thomas Hendricksz Keyser. The title tells you all you need to know – this image depicts the love between the two. I like this picture very much. The pose is one that has been repeated in innumerable baby/mother portraits, isn’t it? And it makes the scene feel fresh and familiar.

I do think the baby’s outfit is wildly impractical, but then, this is a special occasion, isn’t it? I also like the details of the baby’s cradle and the wicker basket.

I’ve walked by the next picture in the past, giving it a quick glance, but today, I focused on it, and it came to life for me. It’s called Mary and the Studio, by Sidney Edward Dickinson, and it depicts young love – the protagonists being the artist depicting himself here, and the sitter, Mary, first his subject and muse, and then later the woman he would marry. What a romantic story.

I also noticed the portrait of the older couple in the back. I thought of how that couple was once a pair of young people in love, too. My husband then read the information card on the wall and told me the older couple were the parents of the artist. So there are two generations of love here, or so I choose to believe. I know I will be visiting this painting again, now that I have an insight into it beyond its deatiled depiction of an artist’s studio of the 1920’s.

These two paintings are a diptych by Kay WalkingStick, called Blame it on the Mountains III. I can’t say the image appeals to me at all, but I was interested in its story – it commemorates love that was later broken, showing a location where the artist shared a romantic getaway in a relationship that later failed.

What I found most interesting is that this artist often pairs paintings that show different viewpoints or aspects treating the same memory, feeling, incident, or idea. I found that concept interesting and it gave me something to think over for later.

The last work on the art tour was this one, Dona Negra, by Rigo Peralta. It depicts his beloved grandmother, illustrating the love of family and friends. This painting is very detailed – my photo does not do it justice – and you feel this lady’s big personality and presence from across the room. I would have liked to meet her.

We finished up the day by visiting the Rembrandt portrait again and then we went upstairs to see again the New Century, New Woman exhibit of dresses from the era 1890-1920. I love this exhibit and we spent quite a bit of time examining the dresses. Again, I am amazed at the workmanship and style this clothing has. (If you want to see photos, look here at the post from my previous visit – please. You will really enjoy these dresses!).

On our way out, we talked with Museum staff and then I opened my raffle prize. I was thrilled. This glass heart paperweight! I love this iridescent green color. I’ve brought it home and set it on my desk; I am looking at it right now.

That wraps up our visit. I am appreciative of all the work the Museum puts into these events. I enjoy them, I learn, and I relax and escape into many different worlds in just one afternoon’s time. Thank you, Allentown Art Museum! We will be back soon.

Visit the Museum See Rembrandt, Dresses, and Pottery, and Enjoy Yourself.

The title of this post sums up a trip my husband and I made to the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA, on January 30.

But… how about some details?

First off, Rembrandt. Long story short, the Museum was presented with a painting some decades ago that was originally thought to be done by Rembrandt, then not, and now…with new research and conservation techniques, it turns out it really is! For the whole story from the museum’s site, look here, and for my version, I’ll tell you right now.

I’m not a fan of Rembrandt’s work, really, but this painting is very important to the museum and the reattribution of it to the painter was thrilling. So I wanted to find out more. It’s a picture of a young lady:

The exhibit is set among other paintings of its period, but with a full explanation of the research that was done to verify the painter’s identity. I show you the center panel of a large horseshoe-shaped display – and I was interested to see that they had a guard on the painting, standing just as close as this the whole time. Well, it’s not surprising, is it? This painting is a celebrity.

We were able to get quite close to the image and examine it. For some reason, I was most taken by the rendition of the jewelry the woman wore, and her clothing details. Up close, they look like abstract color – step back, beautiful sparkling lively gems and metals. It was like magic to see this happen.

We also looked around the rest of the works in the room. Some are familiar friends (St. Margaret, who we met when we came to the Museum’s scavenger hunt a while back). Others I had not noticed before – such as this picture of a mother and baby. I thought, what if my little granddaughter had to wear outfits like that? She would not be very comfortable, plus, think about how hard it would be to get something like this clean. Because you know babies do not worry about the effects of their actions on their clothes!

*******

We next visited an exhibit I was particularly interested in – New Century, New Woman, which viewed women’s fashions in the context of women’s changing roles in society in the period 1900-1920 or so. Now, for me personally, fashionable I’m not, and I wear a version of the same thing day after day. Dpending on the time of my life, this has consisted of little girl pouffy dresses, schoolgirl knee socks, teenager 1970’s pants, and then at work, suits and dresses and pumps – and for the last 25 years, jeans or shorts, t shirt or turtlenecks, and all in the same colors of black, gray, white, and blue.

But I LOVE looking at fashion. And as aside, this museum has a focus on textiles – fiber objects comprise a big collection and the museum presents many exhibits of various aspects of this field. You see some beautiful works that other museums don’t seem to show as often or as well.

So, fabric! Historic clothing! This exhibit was made for me! Let me show you some photos.

One thing that struck me was how tiny the dresses, and by extension their wearers, were. It’s hard to tell from these photos, but these women were short, 5 feet tall being average, I think. I can’t express how diminutive the waists and how narrow the width of the shoulders were. The shoes I saw were for tiny skinny feet. The long sleeves of the dresses would have been more like 3/4 length on me. It gave me a new perspective on the photos I see of women from this time – likely I would have towered over them at 5’6″.

I also was entranced by the details of the dresses and the amount of hand-sewing needed to make these beautiful embellishments. Because none of these clothes were sewed with a computerized programmed pattern embroidery machine or serger, were they? No, they were not. Each dress had several people directly creating it with their hands and needles.

I hope to go back to the museum and look this exhibit over again.

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The last stop in today’s tour was a ceramics exhibit, the work of Toshiko Takaezu. Her work exhibited here, and much of her career work, focused on non-functional closed forms – she made vessels entirely enclosed except for a small hole so that air could escape during firing.

She was interested in, among other things, the idea of the mystery of an interior that you could never see – you can only judge the vessel by its exterior. I found it an interesting idea. Think about it. There is a whole inner world to these vessels that you know is there, just on the other side of those clay walls, but you cannot get to it. All you have is what you see on the outside.

Some of these vessels were small – you could hold them. In fact, she sometimes fired them with clay balls inside so that they would rattle. While we were there the display intermittently played the sounds of several of her works being shaken. It was soothing, strangely enough, to listen to them.

And then, as you can see from the photo, some of these creations are huge – as tall as I am. That takes a lot of skill to construct and to fire such work. I am respectful of that effort and I marvel at the results.

*******

On our way out, I bought a couple of postcards of local sights in the gift shop. We emerged into a cold but sunny day. Here is a look at the Arts Park across the street. Events are often held here and even in pandemic times, there have been arts walks through the cultural district here.

So there is our trip to the Allentown Art Museum. I recommend a visit to the museum if you are in Allentown – you will enjoy it, and you will learn something new each time.

Trailside Lost and Found

People drop all kinds of things along the trail. I think it happens most often when someone reaches into a pocket or a pack and the item either doesn’t make it in entirely, or else is pulled out by mistake. In either case, it falls to the ground and is left behind.

Then…the nice thing to do, for anyone who comes upon an item lying on the trail, is to set it where it can be seen. The owner may come searching for it.

The only exception to this rule of thumb is car keys. Then what you do is retrieve them and then hang them on a trail info kiosk, preferably at the nearest parking lot. That way they are up off the ground and in a place where it’s easy to check, because on most trails around here, there are only a couple of parking lots and chances are the nearest one is where the person started from.

All right. Trail etiquette aside, most of the dropped items aren’t worth a lot. The owner probably isn’t going to care too much if they are found or not. Still, it’s nice to make the effort.

Here are a couple of lost item experiences I have had in the last week or so. Note: many more things are lost in winter. Because we have so many more items on our bodies to keep us warm!

Here’s a frosty hat set on a fencepost. I saw it early in the morning of January 11.

Here’s a little collection near the train crash site (from 1921 when this was an active line) that I saw early on January 15. I added the blue glove, found a little ways up the trail.

The two pairs of glasses were already there.

I love the way the lenses reflect the morning scene.

In Which I Go Out of Town to Meet Someone

On January 2, my husband and I took a very fast trip out of town – something we have not done since March, 2020. We went to Towson, Maryland, about 2 hours south, and arrived at this location: Hampton, a national historic site, right off 695 and a mile or two out of the center of Towson.

The National Park Service has a really nice website for this location so I won’t go into much detail. But it’s a massive home set on large grounds with a 200-year history or so of being owned by the same family. There are nice gardens:

and various outbuildings to see. They even had an orangerie (I didn’t take a picture) in which they could grow oranges in winter. This was quite a place, and there is a lot of history to it, even though the owners were not well-known – just very well off. I think rather it’s the architecture of the house they left behind, and the portrait of life here – including all the people and their work – the landowners, the servants, the slaves, and others – that makes this site interesting. You could get a lot of info about society during those times in this one place, I think.

But, I have to be honest. I didn’t really care that much. I took these photos as we were waiting to meet, for the very first time, our little granddaughter Leona, who was born last summer. We have not been able to see her in person and today was the day when that changed.

We chose this location because, though the house and buildings are closed, the grounds were open. Our son, daughter-in-law, and baby were coming up from DC to meet us here, and it was easy to find and had lots of space for us to be outside.

We were there for about an hour, and luckily the weather cooperated. What a thrill for us it was to see Leona.

I will break my rule about not putting her picture on my blog (I think it is for her parents to decide her social media presence) but this one time is going to be the exception. Here we are with her. We had been wearing our masks all the time, but for the photo we stood at a distance and took them off. Here we are:

Here is another one where I have settled down a bit more for the photo. Isn’t the baby supposed to be the one doing all that arm-waving and carrying-on? No, it looks like she is maintaining her dignity.

Art Drop-off 1/7/21

Here we are again at the Pennypack Trail, this time near the Moredon Road crossing.

I left the array of tiles on the info kiosk there.

With this drop-off I’ve given out all of the approximately 200 tiles I made back in the summer, I guess it was, of 2020.

Art Drop Off 1/6/21

Another day at the Pennypack Trail, and more tiles were left on a big rock alongside the trail.

Gosh, there isn’t much more to say about it. So instead just take a look!

Art Drop-Off 1-5-21

A new year but we are up to our old habits. Art drop off at the Pennypack Trail

I left some on a bench next to the creek. A train happened to be passing at the nearby grade crossing.

Art Drop-Off 12-30-20

On this day my husband and I took a walk through two adjoining preserved open space tracts not too far from home – the Armentrout and Camp Hill Tracts. These two areas form a long thin shape running along Morris Road in Blue Bell, PA, and are set among some other large acreages in private hands.

My husband has been here, but this was my first visit. I’ve driven by it many times, but never stopped to see what it was like. Well, today was the day!

We entered through a neighborhood and parked the car, which is where this view is from below. If you didn’t know the preserve was here, you’d just continue on around the neighborhood streets and pass it right by.

The Armentrout Preserve was farmed in the past and the vegetation is low and bushy, as you would think. In winter it is easy to see through the brush, but in summer it is very tight and tunnel like in much of it.

Today was a very dim day with pallid sunlight – fitting for this time of year with its low sun.

Eventually you cross a road and move into the Camp Hill section. This area has always been woods and is more hilly. In summer, it is thick with vegetation and trees. But look, right now you can see Morris Road right over there at the top of the photo:

There are a couple of big loops that cover this section. You can navigate easily by way of the blazes painted on trees, or the signposts where intersections occur. The trails are color-coded and they also have laminated maps of the area to guide you tacked to signposts.

And when I say they, I mean the Wissahickon Trails organization, who manages this area of the Wissahickon Creek watershed and the associated lands that go with it. Shout out to them for their work.

Here are some photos from the Camp Hills section. I’ve marked one of the blazes with an arrow so you can see how easily they are visible (which is not always the case with a lot of blazed trails).

We left some tiles in a couple of locations here:

and here:

Our path took us to the border of the preserve, and we saw these horses in the next field over.

We crossed back into the Armentrout section and finished up the loop there, ending up at a small picnic area next to the parking lot. I had a few tiles left so I left them on the table.

I would certainly return to this location. It has a variety of terrains and that keeps it interesting, even though the overall acreage is not that big. It was also very quiet and unpopulated – we passed only one person in the time we spent there. It would interesting in all seasons. I’m glad I finally had a chance to check it out.

Magical Art Drop-off 12-28-20

This morning my husband and I took a walk along the Zacharias Creek Trail, located in the Collegeville/Skippack area. We’ve been here before as part of the Montgomery County trail challenge:

That was back in the summer. Now it’s winter and things look a little different:

This trail is a straightforward little journey – you start off at Heebner Park, a large township park with ballfields, tot lot, and its own paved trail, and you follow along the creek for a couple of miles on a crushed stone path, mostly traveling through the creek’s flood plain.

We enjoyed being outside – it was a sunny day and not too chilly.

At the end of the walk I had planned to set down some tiles on a picnic table or a bench in the Heebner Park section. But my husband spotted this:

What does it say?

I’ll read it for you. It says, “This world is magical”.

We felt it to be so, if this world contains people who leave messages like this around for others to read and to feel refreshed by.

I decided to participate, and I scattered tiles among the letters. I hope the creators of this message do not mind. I wish I had a way to say thank you, and what a lift it gave us to see this message spoken in this manner!

Art Drop-Off 12-24-20

This day found us on another morning walk at Norristown Farm Park. We had an errand in the vicinity and decided to take a 4 mile loop around the park, starting and ending at the Dairy Barn. Here are the tiles we left:

and in their context:

at the Dairy Barn, which is right across the trail from this little picnic table kiosk. It seemed like a nice place to leave them. The park was getting busy as we were heading out – it’s a mild day and the snow is melting. People want to take a walk before the rain starts this afternoon.

And that’s where we are today!

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