Art of the Natural World


Art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risk.  This world of the imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense.  It is our function as artists to make the spectator see our way, not his way.

Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman

Some of you may not be aware that three of the top liberal arts colleges in the U.S. are in Maine.  Bates is in Lewiston, Bowdoin is in Brunswick and Colby is in Waterville.  All are known not only for academics but for having outstanding art collections and exhibitions.

 IMG_2378 (1)On a quiet day, we ventured over to Lewiston to take a look at the Bates Museum of Art.  Wouldn’t you know it was closed for a new installation but hearing that we had come over from Rockport the director allowed us in.

IMG_2393 (1)Staff was putting the finishing touches on Anthropocenic.  Now that is a mouthful and what it means is art about the natural world in the human era.  The accompanying brochure describes the show as an exhibition of 17 artists and collaboratives from Maine, the US and abroad who make art about nature, the natural world and out effect on and interrelation with it in the 21st century.

IMG_2386 (1)As always with art, it is interesting to see how artists interpret a theme.  I was intrigued by the collaborations of Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber.  First, they built a model of their subject and then photographed it.  There are many humorous details in their work.

Isabella Kirkland’s stunning prints are produced from her much larger paintings done in the tradition of still life and incorporating natural elements.

IMG_2385 (1)Throughout the main floor was abundant stimulation with materials cleverly used to make a statement.

IMG_2382 (1)Venturing down to the second floor, we were surprised to see a familiar name.  The hubby and I took a street photography workshop in Paris from Peter Turnley last month and he made no mention of an exhibit at Bates.

IMG_2383 (1)Peter’s photos capture the essence of humanity no matter where they are taken.  The more I see of his work the easier it is to understand why he is tops in his field.

Thanks to the director of the Bates Museum for letting us have a preview of a beautiful and interesting exhibit.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Art, History, India

Jodphur Revisited

By the time we got to Jodphur during my fall trip to India, I wasn’t feeling too well, and the only thing I wanted to do was go to bed.  That meant I missed most of what the Blue City had to offer.  Little did I know that I would get a second chance to experience its wonders at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

IMG_1020Peacock in the Desert is an exhibit representing centuries of royal treasures never seen before outside palace walls.  What they represent is the history of the Rathores who are still Jodphur’s royal family.  This incredible exhibit reminded me of so many things I learned and loved during my travels in Rajasthan. 

IMG_1023The lavish life of the maharajas made such an impression.  Whether they were transported by elaborately adorned elephants,

IMG_1045born in splendid palanquins

IMG_1077or driven in a Rolls Royce theirs appeared to be a pampered lifestyle.

IMG_1037 (2)Royal wealth and power were often depicted in art.  A maharaja was regarded in so many ways: a warrior and diplomat, a connoisseur of the arts and material pleasures.

The material pleasures were many be they weapons or beautifully cast pieces of gold and silver.

IMG_1050On the trip, I was very curious about the role of women so it was interesting to study the exhibit in this context.  In the royal environment, women appeared to have a good life.  They often maintained personal shrines, such as this one dedicated to Krishna, where daily worship rituals were conducted.

IMG_1053Royal women had baradaris, a pavilion that could be taken apart and transported from place to place for festivals, game playing or formal state occasions.  It struck me as fun to have a traveling entertainment center!

Then as now, women seem to be drawn to sparkle and adorned themselves with bangles and colorful and bejeweled clothing.

IMG_1056What they received for their dowries wasn’t bad either!

IMG_1061Throughout the exhibit were wonderful paintings that brought back memories of the intricate and detailed pieces that were observed throughout Rajasthan.  

IMG_1072So small are some of the images that one has to look closely in order not to miss them as in this hunting scene.

IMG_1042I loved this piece not only for its detail and color but for the peacock in the clouds which seemed an early reference to flight.

IMG_1038For the boys in the family, I bought turbans so I was quite drawn to this colorful wall of turbans which taught something new.  A turban represents pride and valor. Though made from similar materials, each unique style identifies community.

IMG_1075There was so much to see in Peacock in the Desert, perhaps more than I would have had opportunity to view in Jodphur so spending several hours roaming the space at the museum was a wonderful experience.  When I saw the model of the palace where the royal family lives today, I was somewhat blown away wondering how if would be possible to care for so many rooms.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Art, Travel

Roma: A Quick Stop

These days when we travel a long distance we give ourselves a day or two to recuperate and adjust to the time change. This trip involved flying into Rome, a great place to get your feet on the ground.

This being a short visit, we didn’t want to spend hours waiting in line for some of the major attractions, so we opted to visit Galleria Borghese where we’d never been. The gallery is located in the villa begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V. The cardinal used it as a country villa at the edge of Rome.

Borghese was an early patron of Bernini, and the sculptures in his collection are amazing.

From every angle there is such detail.

Up close the expressions tell a story of their own as seen here between Daphne and Apollo.

Just as there is great strength represented in Bernini’s creations,

there is grace and beauty.

While it was difficult to pick a favorite from such magnificent creations, David preparing to slay Goliath may have been it. Again, a story is depicted so powerfully.

In addition to sculpture, there is a great collection of paintings with works by such names as Carvaggio, Raphael and Titian.

As much as I liked the paintings, what fascinated me were the ceilings in every room.

It wasn’t just that the work was beautiful, it was that it was so three dimensional as to make some of the work seem more sculpted than painted.

Finished marveling at the work inside Galleria Borghese, we began walking back to our hotel with a slight detour to the Spanish Steps. There you can always count on merging with masses of humanity which reminds you of all the people who visit Rome to experience the wonder it has to offer. If one has to make a quick stop, this is a wonderful place to do it.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Art, literature

Taking a Second Look

I have just finished reading Dan Brown’s most recent book, Origin, which had many references to  Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. These gave me reason to review photos I had taken of both.

As I looked at them, they gave credence to Gaudi’s words:

Nothing is invented, for it’s written in nature first. Originality consists of returning to the origin.

At Casa Mila, the influence of nature is obvious beginning with the facade which reminded of something growing from the earth.

Inside graceful nautilus shapes are among those reminiscent of the sea.On the rooftop are amazing organic structures with flowers and layers resembling the earth’s strata.

Sagrada Familia continues to illustrate Gaudi’s fascination with nature and his interpretations go beyond traditional which for me is his genius.


Inside are soaring treelike columns.

Their branches spread across the ceiling giving one the illusion of being in a forest.

One could go on and on about the natural elements at Sagrada Familia, but as I looked at my photos I was stuck by contrasting religious images.

Ones depicting the birth story are delicate and detailed.


In sharp contrast are the dramatic interpretations of the crucifixion.

Not only are they crudely done, there is such incredible sadness in them.

Without question, Gaudi was an architect of tremendous talent who was not afraid to think outside the boundaries.  While other of his work is complete, Sagrada Familia has been a work in progress for 140 years.


Thanks to private donations someday, perhaps by 2040, it will look like this.

As in his other books, Dan Brown’s Origin raises some interesting questions, but what I most appreciated was being influenced to take a second look at Gaudi’s designs and again being awed by his originality.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Art, Fashion

Fashion as Art

Often we limit our definition of art to paintings and sculpture, but it is so much more, and it is wonderful to be exposed to it in an unexpected way.

In a stunning exhibition of Oscar de la Renta’s designs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, clothing is art influenced by nature, art history, diverse cultures and the women for whom de la Renta designed.

IMG_0014It was easy to see the influences in his work.  What he saw in Spain colored the way he saw clothes throughout his career.

IMG_0018He was drawn to the bright colors of Spanish art and the decorative elements of bullfighting attire.

IMG_0030When I spotted this coat, there was no question that the inspiration was Russian.  At one time I had a coat reminiscent of this design.  It was red with black embroidery and fur trimmed collar, cuffs and hem.  Oh, how I loved that coat and held on to it for years after it no longer fit!

IMG_0033Who knew that de la Renta was an avid gardener and that this interest would find way into many of his designs?

A quote read, “A garden is probably the most spiritual and pure of joys.  It’s a communion with nature and beauty in the most simple and fundamental form.”

IMG_0032Those words made it easy to appreciate his use of natural elements to create breathtaking designs.

IMG_0023As beautiful and romantic as de la Renta’s designs are, I could not imagine myself in most of them, that is until I got to these, reflecting an Eastern influence.  I am a gal who loves flowing, unstructured clothing that leaves me feeling free.  Any one of these would suit me, but I’m especially drawn to the white and the whimsey of the black.

IMG_0041I loved the attention to detail, the sensitivity to fabric, the use of embellishment in de la Renta’s work, but the real take away from this exhibit is how varied art is.  One just has to find his/her own way of expressing it.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind


Art, musings

Toilet Paper And a Silk Sleep Hat

Created by Crystal Cawley of Portland, Maine

Before I could say a word, the hubby said, “Remind you of Grandma?”

“Yes,” I answered softly as memories of my mother came flooding in.

For as long as I can remember, Mother wrapped her hair in toilet paper and covered it with a silk sleep hat every night.  From week to week when she had it washed and set again not a hair moved.  If she could feel the wind blow through her hair she’d fuss that it was making her hair a mess.  Still, not a hair moved, and I don’t remember ever touching her hair as that was an unspoken no.

As time passed and I first married and then had children, this ritual continued and it became a family joke, not because we disapproved but because we found it humorous that Mother’s concern was always about her hair.   It was as if it defined who she was, and maybe it did.

So for years the ritual continued.  Then came the time when I would stop in to visit her after she’d had dinner.  Sometimes she’d be in her gown playing solitaire or what she thought to be solitaire, but more often than not she’d already be in bed asleep despite the early hour.  What was missing was the sleep hat.

For some reason I found that very upsetting.  Her hair fixation was a part of life and seeing it become unkempt caused me to feel a little ungrounded.  I began going over a little earlier to wrap her hair and cover it with the sleep hat.  She’d question why and I’d answer lamely that it was to keep her hair from getting messed up.  She’d respond that it would be OK in the morning after she brushed it.  That didn’t happen.

It was something so simple but so significant that let me know that things were changing at a faster pace than I was prepared for.  I had accepted the diagnosis of dementia, but as long as things continued in a somewhat normal fashion I had no idea what that really meant.  Knowledge came quickly, and as any of you who have dealt with dementia know, the  deteriorating process is emotionally painful.  In her lucid moments, Mother said often, “Sometimes I think I’m losing my mind.”  She was, but right until the end I had her hair done and in the few hours that it stayed nice, I could pretend that things were as they always had been.

Today is Mother’s birthday, and I hope she doesn’t mind that I have shared this little story.  Her years of protecting her hair with toilet paper and a silk sleep hat are an endearing memory.  Who knows, one of these days I may take up the habit!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Art, textiles

Beauty of Ikat

Are you familiar with ikat textiles made from threads that are dyed section by section?  No doubt you have seen the fabric used in decorative items and clothing, but have you ever thought about how the designs are created?

When done by hand, the threads are stretched on a frame and the pattern is marked off. Each section of the design is then bound off and dyed separately until all areas of the thread are covered.

Ikat textiles are popular these days, but they are not new.

Historically, they have been symbols of status and wealth much like tapestries were in earlier times.

They were offered to rulers, loyal friends and people of importance as part of a centuries old tradition of gift giving.

Some of the gifts were used to establish and cement political alliances.

Today, in some countries, ikat garments are part of the culture.

As a weaver, I am fascinated by the artistry of the fabric,

often woven with silk threads as fine as a strand of hair.  Knowing that I will never be able to duplicate such beautiful creations only enhances my appreciation.

Strand of Silk - Journey Map - Ikat - Producer Communities - padmashali

How grateful I am that the tradition of making ikat textiles by hand is being maintained in places like India, Southeast Asia, Japan and Latin America.  I was very happy to be able to photo these wonderful examples of ikat creations at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind