Last weekend my husband and I took a drive out to Schwenksville, PA, to Ott’s Exotic Plants. We were looking for some flowers to plant, yes, and also for a low-key outing. We found both at this place.
Ott’s is a landmark of 60 years or so. At that time, this location was way far away out in the country, and yet they attracted business from all over because of their plant selection. I have seen the store many times. Bbefore we were married my husband lived a few miles from here, and also, it is right across the street from the Perkiomen Trail and near a major intersection.
But guess what, I have never stopped here to look around. So this is my first visit, probably 35 years+ after first setting eyes on it.
And, before I go any further, I must mention the Mum Mountain. According to this story from 2015 by a local TV station, the soil left from grading the parking lot formed a mound, and it became a tradition to plant it solid with chrysanthemums. As you may expect, it drew onlookers and is a local landmark.
You can read the story I mentioned or search the internet under the term Ott’s mum mountain and click into the Images section to see many years’ worth of mum mountain scenery. I am not sure they did it in fall 2020 or if they plan to continue the tradition going forward. The company doesn’t have a website and info is hard to get. Anyway, if you look to the left of this fairy-tale cottage entrance to the store, you see the edge of the “mountain”. Right now it has the carcasses of dead mum plants neatly arrayed in rows, from whenever the display was last done.
It’s not mum season. It is spring! And we are looking for color and brightness and new plant life. Let’s check out the place.
As you come in from the parking lot, you notice the domed greenhouse to the right. It’s an environment made just for people to wander into – nothing is for sale. My understanding is the building dates from the 1960’s.
Inside is a pond with fish, plants, and there is a walkway you can follow up and over the archway into the “selling” greenhouse.
As we stood looking at the fish, we noticed a cat come from above, work its way around the pond (ignoring the fish) and finally, lie on the railing, all the while paying us no attention.
Well, what do you know. And guess what, this is not the only cat we saw on the premises. Every single one of them was intent on its own business and ignoring the many customers.
Now I will show you the greenhouse.
Yes, it is enormous, and packed full of a variety of plants, flowers, small trees, herbs, cacti…you name it, I think you will find it here. We even saw a grapefruit tree high above us with a nice crop of fruit.
We had a wonderful time wandering the aisles, and we certainly found some flowers to take home. I don’t have words for how beautiful it was, so I will just show you the photos.
We paid for our plants and headed for the car through the outdoor display of pansies. I love pansies, but they are early spring flowers and I had not gotten here at the right time (to my way of thinking) to purchase them for home. Sure don’t mind looking at them, though.
What a rejuvenating experience this visit was. I will certainly return.
Today I visited our tree plot at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust. Here’s what happened.
If you are coming in new to this story, my husband and I have taken on a plot at PERT, volunteering to care for small trees as the preserve seeks to restore the land to a forested state. It’s a long term project and we are a tiny part of it, looking after an area known as the West Powerline Corridor. Search under the term Reforesters in this blog if you’d like more info – otherwise, I ‘ll get going on this chapter of the saga.
Today was the first time I have worked on the plot alone. My plan was to count our trees for the monthly roundup and to start on some clearing of invasives, since we have done the primary task of getting our small trees cleared of vines and encroaching growth.
I arrived about 7:15 AM and went out to the plot. It was a lovely warm morning. Here is a picture looking down the power line trail with our plot on the left.
My first task was a tree count. I think we have 25 trees of varying sizes plus two dead ones. I cannot tell if I have gotten all the protected trees counted correctly – there might be something still lost in the some undergrowth, or I could have skipped or double-counted. Things are still pretty confusing right now. But I think I am in the right range.
All my trees look fine. They are getting leaves and they are free of vines and encroachments.
I did see one tree I need to report to Maria Paula, who heads the Reforester effort. This tree is getting too big for its protective sheath (meant to keep deer from rubbing the trunk). I think there is away to mark it on the app with GPS but that is a lesson for another day. Right now my idea is, go to the third electrical pole and look to your right just a bit, you’ll see the tree.
Next, I chose an area with several trees and enlarged the clear area around it. During this time I lost my pruners (they dropped from my pack) but I found them. Good. Today, I used the loppers much more than the pruners. That’s why the pruners could go missing and I didn’t notice at first.
Here’s what the area looked like and I show you a succession of photos as I cleared some of it.
In another area I created a path to a group of trees from the trail, so that we would not have to take a roundabout way through the back of the plot to get to it.
But much of the plot still looks like this:
I will be busy for a long time, won’t I? Well, after about an hour and a half I was tired so I decided to go to the relatively clear area at the top of the hill and start some clearing work. Right now the invasives have not obliterated the landscape but are scattered around working on their stealthy takeover plans. I figured this area would be a nice easy way to wrap up the morning and make a dent in an area that could be planted with trees much sooner than the thickets down the slope.
It looked something like this when I got started. I didn’t do a lot of work but it was something. The second photo shows one of my discard piles I have set beside the trail with some cleared area next to it.
Well, that is it for today. I do see a difference in the plot already – it is easier to move around it now. This project is one that rewards patience and perserverence. These are qualities that I think the trees themselves exemplify.
I really enjoy this work and I feel happy to be outside and under the big sky filled with leafy treetops.
Well, the title of the post tells you the topic. Now, let fill in some background and then…I’ll give you a tour.
The pandemic has jolted me into action. What do I mean? Well, before March 2020 many patterns in my life were ending and I had not had much success in picking up the threads and beginning new ones. Flip the calendar pages to April 2021 and without going into the tiresome details of all the thinking and reflecting I have done in light of the severe shaking the past year’s events have given to my emotions and worldview, what has come out of it is this:
Stop wasting time. Get busy and get moving.
Maybe I have oversimplified it a bit but believe me, you’re happier with the short version of the plan rather than a line item discussion. Suffice it to say, my idea is, if I can get out there and do it, and I want to, well, then get moving. We don’t know how the future will shake out. Maybe things will get a lot worse, maybe they will be fantastic. I will do my best to enjoy the right now.
Luckily, I like doing all kinds of things. I’m especially interested in the everyday details of … almost anything. It’s just a matter of focusing my attention and looking around. Something will come to mind. It always does.
For this Saturday, April 24, the idea ocurred to me – let’s see what’s happening at the Delaware Art Museum. I’ve had the thought in the back of my mind for a while, prompted by a couple of other trips to the area in recent months.
So we hopped in the car and zipped down to Wilmington, DE.
Beautiful day. Here is the front of the museum, the central portion. It has a wing to the left I didn’t show –
and a studio school to the right and…
a pleasant sculpture garden (you could walk around it for free, if you just wanted a nice stroll)…
and there is also a labyrinth. More about that later.
Before I go on, here is my history with this museum. Back in my art career, in the late 1990’s, the museum sponsored a wonderful outdoor art fair on its front lawn (the other side of the building than I have shown you). The museum was much smaller then – they’ve done a lot of additions since then.
I loved doing this show. We participated for several years and stopped only when the show was discontinued when they began construction of the new wings.
Now I’ve got to admit something. In all those years the only time I stepped into the museum was to visit the bathroom and pick up lunch in the cafe. Well…I was working, and I couldn’t take time out from the booth to take even a peek inside. So…this was my first official visit to the museum.
All right. Our first stop on this tour was the Collecting and Curating Exhibit. As the photo shows, it is a selection of new items arranged in themes. I loved this exhibit – the juxtaposition of objects and hanging art from different times but having a common thread – what a great idea. We really enjoyed comparing and examining the items in each section for their thematic connections and that in turn focused our attention so that we enjoyed each object rather than skipping along, as I tend to do in collections when the items are similar and I get tired.
I forgot to take photos of any items, except for this one pair of hand-embroidered shoes (from the late 1800’s, I believe.) My goodness, what intricate needlework, and what pointy toes!
We next visited the American Contemporary collection. In three large spaces we were taken through realism into abstraction. Realism first. We spent time look at the Edward Hopper painting with its intriguing characterization. And then –
My husband and I were both really taken with this painting, called “The Bouquet”, by Hughie Lee-Smith, 1949. There is a story (or more than one) to this painting and it drew me in, my imagination working…
The next two spaces progressed into more abstract works. Take a look:
Next, we went downstairs and took a quick look at a section devoted to John Sloan. The painter’s second wife, Helen Farr Sloan, was a major benefactor of the museum and her donations of her husband’s art and papers make this museum very important in the study of his work. She was an artist herself. I plan to look up her work. I was not much interested in that of John Sloan, I confess.
Finally, we looked through the Pre-Raphaelite collection, which came to the museum through the donations of a wealthy benefactor, Samuel Bancroft.
I have little interest in this style. It seems to me that most of the paintings are of women who have a lot of hair and are feeling droopy and depressed or else in such a daydream that you want to snap your fingers in their faces and get them moving again. So I focused on the extraneous details in this area, I admit it.
I was taken by the colorful walls in the exhibit (to fit the aesthetic of the artists’ movement, which included William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rosetti.)
I was also very interested in these two chairs. Look how low they are to the ground. Now, they are not on display – they are meant to be a rest stop for patrons with tired feet. Oh my. I just loved them.
I did see these clay objects that made me smile. A lot.
All right. One more thing to show you. On our way out, we walked over to the labyrinth. You may remember that I love labyrinths. If I visit a place with one I want to walk it. This labyrinth was very special. Look.
It’s located in a former reservoir. Here it is, with my husband walking the path.
When we arrived, there was a woman meditating in the center. She was happy to talk about the structure and it was clear she came here often. Then a young couple came in. Together we all walked the labyrinth. I have never done one with other people in it. It was a cheerful experience.
And…the woman told us to listen as we neared the center of the pabyrinth. Because of the circular walls, voices carry and echo. You might feel that a person across the circle is speaking just behind your shoulder, it sounds that close. What a nice effect.
Well, that is the end of our trip. We ate a picnic lunch near the car and got on our way home. What a nice day.
You may remember my husband and I are participating as volunteers in this program at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust in Huntingdon Valley, PA . Here’s my intital post on the subject from a couple of weeks ago that describes what we’re up to. I’ll pick up where I left off back then.
I had hoped to get to the plot before now, but I had a week recovering from a minor but painful eye issue and then it rained. And rained. And rained. And then I had my second vaccine shot and…well, you see how time gets away from you.
It’s my intention to be here every week on my own and maybe a weekend day with my husband. Crossing fingers that better weather and health cooperate, because my trees need me!
So we arrived about 8:15 AM, carrying our pruners, loppers, wire cutters, marking tape, and water. I’ll describe my outfit – I don’t have a photo, maybe later…
sweatpants tucked into white socks
long sleeve shirt tucked into pants
head covering that covered my hair and entire head so that I looked bald or else like an elf
accessories – work gloves and goggles and a belt pack for my tools
You have to be covered up for this kind of work. Ticks are everywhere (I picked off three in the car ride home). And the wineberry and wild roses are angry little plants if you rub them the wrong way, as you always do…
Let’s take a look. Things have gotten greener inthe past two weeks and our plot is the synonym for the word thicket. Here is a view from the trail – our plot is to the left. Not so bad, you say? Well, up here at the beginning, you are right. It’s not too bad.
Here are some interior views. You might be changing your mind, right? It’s a thicket. Plain and simple. Somehow having a name for the phenomenon makes it easier to work in it. Odd.
But remember, our primary task is to locate the planted trees, check their conditions, and clear them of invasive growth. We also need to clear the area around them a little if necessary – removing overhanging branches of bushes and so on. But cleraing the plot in general will be something we do when we are sure we have the trees settled (I am thinking I will start on an area maybe this week).
We were not able to find all our trees in our earlier session, so today we wanted to make sure we covered the whole area and located them.
After fiddling around with and finally beginning to understand the app that shows us (via GPS) the limits of our plot, we thrashed around and did some two hours of work. I believe we have found all the trees. I need to count them (next time) but out of say maybe 25 or 30, only two were stone-cold dead. I think that is good.
And…the morning was beautiful. The birds were singing and the sun shining away in such a blue sky. As I worked, I reminded myself to look up:
…and to look down.
There is so much beauty here in every square yard of the plot, I think.
By the end of our session we had freed up all the trees we could find (I will not say there are no more of them hidden in the undergrowth). I have learned that honeysuckle is a vine I like, but I do not like it for the trees. Right now it is the biggest threat to them; its fibrous stem grows fast and strong and it doesn’t take long to start to strangle a tree. I unwound several trees from their imprisonment, the vine gone but its marks still on the trunk.
I also realized that I need to leave my phone ringer turned on in case it escapes its zippered pocket in my belt pack and gets lost. I am so glad I thought of this before it actually happened.
Last hint: I may look kooky out there with my goggles but in this kind of environment, the thorny bushes are at eye level and could cause a bad injury as I crash through the undergrowth. I had a couple of scratches on my face but nothing serious. Thank you, goggles.
All right. I’ll leave you with a view of our plot from the bottom of the hill. Look to the right. Is that a bug-eyed woman cursing out some thorny roses that you hear???
Yesterday my husband and I made a day trip to the New Jersey shore, Ocean City, for those who might want to know. It’s a short drive, less than two hours, and it was nice sunny day, not too chilly, so why not?
Visiting the ocean again was on my list of things I wanted to do when I could get back out again, a list I made last summer in this artwork:
If you look you can see that on one hand I wrote “visit the ocean one more time”.
A year ago, we had just barely gotten started on this pandemic and we had no idea where thing were going. I found creating this picture and list helped me envision a good future. Anyway, here we are a year later. This planet is still turning and it is spring again. I resolved to take a little step into the future.
So, off we went to Ocean City, NJ. As a bit of background, this stretch of south Jersey shore is a popular resort and vacation spot for the greater Philadelphia area, the Delaware Valley, and beyond. Fifty years ago this string of towns on barrier islands of the Atlantic held small cottages and some hotels. People went to their family homes or visited the same beach each year, often renting the same location.
Now the islands are crowded with multi-million dollar properties crammed on every inch that can be built upon. Depending on which island you visit, it may be still pretty much owner occupied or it may be a predominantly rental area. Here in Ocean City, it seems to me that most of the structures are for rent and are multifamily (or very large – I saw one house that boasted of its 16 beds). In the season, there is a lot of turnover week to week.
In other words, this shore area is a vacation industry and you bet it gets crazy crowded in the summer.
I’ve made a couple of vacations down the shore over the years, to this actual town in fact, but not being from the area I don’t have the inborn tradition of coming here year after year. I’m not much of a fan of the experience in the summer, as I don’t enjoy the large number of people around, and I would not be interested at all this pandemic summer coming up. But…
April is the off-season, and the ocean was there, and it was a beautiful day. Just right for us.
We arrived about 10 AM, parked a block from the beach, walked along the boardwalk for a while and then got out on to the sand. Let me just show you:
Here is our first view of the ocean from the beginning of the boardwalk:
The beach is blissfully peaceful. Wide open and empty. Look north:
Look in front of you at that beautiful ocean.
All right. We set off at mile marker 0 on the boardwalk. Out here it’s all residential, no shops.
We walked for a while and then we went down to the beach. I took off my shoes. I do love the feel of sand under my feet. I went right into the water (ankle-deep was enough). My goodness, that water was just FREEZING cold! Numb toes right away. But once I stepped out on to the sand, they warmed up fine. The solution? Run in and out of the water all morning!
I looked for shells, but true to form, this shoreline doesn’t seem to ever get very nice shells. They are always all broken, in my experience. So what? I picked up pieces that I thought had nice colors or shapes.
The sea was calm and the waves very gentle.
We walked all the way down to the business section of town, near the part of the boardwalk where there are some shops, arcades, and the amusement park rides. It’s easy to know where you are on the beach because you come up to this privately owned fishing pier.
We left the beach and went back to the boardwalk.
From this point we turned around and walked back to the car, having done a round trip of about 4 miles or so.
My husband did not take off his shoes to go into the water:
But, as I told you, I did! I’d say I walked a mile in the surf and enjoyed every second of it. Here’s the proof – I am standing in the area of the pier on the beach.
I thought I’d try an action shot of me in the water. When I turned to pose, I took my eye off the water and a wave came up and smacked me from behind. Now I have wet pants! A reminder, never turn your back on the ocean…
But it didn’t matter, I was dry by the time we got back to the car. What a fantastic day! I will try to come back again. Maybe in the fall?
I live across the street from our local high school. The softball and field hockey/lacrosse fields stretch along the whole block with the school behind them. Over the years I have spent a lot of time spectating at the games played there, long after the time I knew any of the players from when my son was going to school.
As you can imagine this activity has been disrupted by the pandemic. This year, the school district is trying to get every team some participation time, some small kind of a season. Field hockey, which is normally a fall sport, is currently ocurring. The season is short but at least there is a chance for these girls to play.
Yesterday was Senior Day, traditionally the last home game for graduating players. There is a ceremony before the game when the players are introduced. There are decorations and commemorations, nothing over the top, but it is a special day for the players. Take a look.
Balloons are tied to the fence. As a note, this is a view looking back in the direction of my house which is down the street. Today I was hanging on the fence streetside, close to a goal. I wanted to stay away from the team benches further up. I was wearing my mask and so was every other person attending the game, including the players.
They displayed the posters the underclassmen made for each senior on the fence:
And here are some game shots. You can see it was a lovely warm afternoon, very different from the usual fall scene that surrounds field hockey games in past times.
Our team is wearing the white home uniforms. I don’t know much about the game but I enjoy watching it. I was glad to have this opportunity again.
I’ll have to keep an eye on what comes next. I am thinking maybe very soon I will see lacrosse players out here practicing, for their turn for a 2021 season.
Yesterday my husband and I went to our plot at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust where we are participating as volunteers in the Reforesters program. It was our first session to put in some actual work. Our plan was to survey our section, which is called West Power Line Corridor. We wanted to get an idea of what trees were in place and needed care as well as try to figure out a plan for eradification of the invasive species that are taking over the area.
We arrived about 1:30 in the afternoon. It was sunny and comfortable for long-sleeve long pants wear (which we will need to do at all times of the year in some fashion to protect against ticks and poison ivy).
Our location is a long skinny strip of land alongside the Power Line trail. It is very close to the parking lot and the office building, less than five minutes’ walk. Which is nice when we are carrying our tools. And, even better, it’s near the bathroom. Just saying.
All right. You want to see pictures of the location. Here are photos I took.
Here is the trail with the line of poles stretching down the hill. Our area is to the left and goes down the hill.
At the beginning of the plot, at the top of the hill, it’s fairly open, not too overwhelmed with vegetation.
Here is a view from the bottom of the hill, looking back up. You can see that there is more vegetation inthis section and it is denser here. It’s composed of wild roses (with vicious thorns) and wineberry (easy to pull up but also with prickly stems).
We were able to visit much of the site and locate trees. All of them needed clearing, with some honeysuckle already growing up the sides of their cages into their branches; some obviously hadn’t been cared for in some time. I found one tree almost smothered by roses and vines, and it had also grown in and out of its cage. I will bring wire snippers next time and cut the strands so that it won’t be in this position any longer.
Here are a couple of shots that give an idea of the scale. And, the second photo shows the previous tree in its location (in the middle of the picture) – this is after I cleared around it it a little.
We worked for about an hour and a half. We still need to go further into the thicket and look for more trees; I will do that on my next visit as I hope to be able to come over here this next week. I’ll be on my own as my husband will be working.
We marked each tree cage we found with a bit of twill tape. It is very easy to miss a tree in the welter of vegetation and I hope the tape will alert me, until I get a better handle on where things are. So far I have seen only 2 trees that we think are dead…but, maybe not, it’s still hard to tell with some of them.
This weekend my husband and I visited the Hope and Healing exhibit at the Allentown Art Museum.
The exhibit features artwork by high school and college students with the theme of providing hope and healing through art to those who are ill or injured or facing health issues. After the exhibit the artwork is offered free to any health office, hospital, or other healing site, so that the images may comfort and calm those people who are in need of it at difficult times in their lives.
The exhibit is an annual event of Healing Through the Arts, an organization founded by Heather Rodale after her encounter with cancer. Here is the exhibit’s explanatory statement:
This exhibit is very meaningful to me. If you have followed this blog for some time, you may remember that back in 2013-2014, I had a series of health problems, surgeries, and difficulties that honestly almost sank my ship. With the help of doctors, therapists, and most importantly, friends and family, I recovered, but it was a very long journey.
I first visited this event in 2014 and it made a deep impression on me. I was probably at my lowest point around that time and the messages of the art’s hopeful images and the written artist statements came back to me in later weeks as I struggled to manage each day.
I visited again in 2016, when things were better, and I wrote a post about the experience. As I read back over it I am reminded of those dark days of my life and the hopeful thread that this exhibit has represented for me over all the years. Even being able to go to the exhibit in 2016 was an act of recovery for me, something I very much appreciated.
Now here we are in 2021 and the entire world is in need of hope and healing. When I saw the notice for the exhibit I made it a priority to attend.
Here are views of all the art:
And now I will show you some that struck me. Let me say up front that each artwork in the show is heartfelt and outreaching. Each artist put obvious care and thought into the work, and all the images speak to the viewer. The artists also presented a short statement about their pieces, and I was struck by the emotion and the personal nature of the inspiration that went into these pieces. I would welcome the sight of any of these images as I waited for a medical procedure or in a doctor’s office visit.
Cats always make me feel better. Here are a couple that caught my eye.
I think I missed getting a closeup of this artist’s statement for this next one but it involved the calming effects of wrapping the twigs and sticks with the yarn, which were then arranged in this composition. I am planning to try this myself because of that I saw and read here. It struck me as a meditation and art, all at once.
I read a lot. I have done so all my life. This next artist captured what for me is the magic of reading – you truly can be lost in a book, or travel, or be enlightened, and all of it takes you away from the cares you may have, including those associated with illness. As they say, priceless.
in this colorful piece, I did feel happier looking at the colors and designs, and I think the artist’s goal was met!
The colors and the intricate shapes of this next piece were to me, very calming, as my eye followed not only the overall look of the image but also traced through the spirals of the quilled paper. I would like to try this myself as once again I would imagine it to be a meditative calming process.
This piece was my Viewer’s Choice. From across the room the image pulled me over to look at it – something about it really spoke to me. When I read the artist’s statement, I wished I could tell her in person that her painting has a great message and it visually called on me, loud and clear, to look at it with enjoyment and to reflect on what it was telling me. I am so hopeful that in this year we can all maybe remember more of this emotion.
Butterflies express hope and transformation. I especially liked the one that was just emerging into the world. A small start of a new life, a small beginning that will grow. And I like it that the person is paying attention to this little event. As the artist says, appreciate the simple things in life.
I’m ending with another cat. I was very struck with the softness of this image in contrast to the inspiration of the ceramic figurine. And I really liked the idea of the stillness of the cat providing a way to still the spirit in the middle of a chaotic situation. I had never thought of things in that way and I feel it will stick with me.
Well, that’s just a sample of what I saw. I am very grateful to the Healing Through the Arts organization for this event. It was more than just looking at art, for me. I came away with a sense of rebalancing myself in this very confusing world we are in right now. Thank you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.