The other day my husband and I were driving around and we ended up in Collegeville, home of Ursinus College. You may remember a visit we made to the Berman Art Museum, which is located on campus, earlier in the summer.
While we were there we noticed this large smokestack with what looked like writing all over it, but we didn’t have time to eaxmine it. On this day, though, we did. Here is what we saw.
It’s the creation of Katie Merz, serving as artist in residence at the college in 2020, and the work was done in fall 2020 to commemorate the class of 2020, whose year was cut off so abruptly by the pandemic. I won’t go into the process: the museum has a very complete site on the work, its meaning, and how it was done, plus info on the artist. Look here.
I’ll just show you the photos I took, instead. You can enjoy the graphic look of the chimney and then you can delve into examining the symbols and deciphering their meanings. It’s something to see, all right.
A nice summer day on June 27, and what to do with ourselves? My husband and I spent part of it on the campus of Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA, about 30 minutes from our house. We visited the Berman Museum of Art and toured the campus to look at the sculpture collection that fills the grounds.
This small liberal arts college has a big art presence due to its benefactors, Philip and Muriel Berman, who donated art and facilitated the founding of the museum in the 1980’s. If you want to know more, look here. I’ll keep moving on to our actual visit today.
We walked across the quiet campus (I can recommend it for a nice peaceful experience), looking at some of the sculptures. Sculpture was an important art form to the Bermans and evidence of this is all over the campus. There is a map and guide to the sculptures alone and a tour of the grounds to look at them is worth a trip in itself.
On our way we stopped at the labyrinth and did a walk.
This labyrinth featured a pattern I had not encountered before. Additionally, the lines of demarcation were not high contrast with the body colors. It was therefore necessary to pay close attention to the experience in order to follow the pattern. I liked how that worked out in practice, and I also enjoyed looking at the pattern the spirals made as a whole.
We arrived at the museum.
I had to wait outside for a few minutes while my husband went back to the car for his mask (turned out he didn’t need it) and noticed this face looking up at me:
Was it meant to be a work of art, underfoot? I don’t know. A companion a few feet away had no such personality:
I choose to believe that however it came to be, the little face was meant to be noticed, and I am glad I did.
Once inside we chatted with two students who were manning the information booth and learned about the exhibits currently running. I will show you my favorite one.
It’s called MAPPING CLIMATE CHANGE: The Knitting Map and The Tempestry Project. It’s a two-part experience, but both sections involve the use of knitting/fabric/tapestry to map out a visual picture of time and the environment. Here are the materials used.
In the first section, The Tempestry Project, knitting is used to depict, through colors, the changes in temperature/weather over periods of time. Each knitted strip represents a different time frame. Some strips covered decades and some one year. Others showed the changes over a large geographic land mass, the US, and then moving down to our state, Pennsylvania.
I found this concept fascinating and I began to wonder about doing something along these lines myself. Not just weather/climate change, but also, how this concept could make a visual diary of all kinds of subjects that evolve over time. Hmmm…
In the next gallery, the exhibit continued with The Knitting Map, a project done in Cork, Ireland, about 15 years ago. In this enormous textile, the variables are the weather and also the time of day. Weather conditions and the level of activity in the city were broken down into knitting stitches and colors, so that a rainy cool day at rush hour was depicted by a certain combination vs. a hot sunny day at the quiet time of dawn would be another combination. About 2500 knitters participated to make this fabric.
It’s truly monumental, isn’t it?
Taken together, the two rooms gave me a new way to envision the passage of time and how things change, and it is a way that I myself could take and apply to something in my own life or experience. I found the idea very exciting. I also took in the message about the environment in a way that I had not before, as a continuum that unrolls as time goes on. A lot to see and think about here today.
For information about the exhibit from the museum’s website, look here.
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.
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.
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!
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.