Category Archives: art

The Arts are fine, the Grammar not so much.

Ben and I escaped our house on Saturday for the few hours between blizzards to go to the MFA, and it was lovely. We saw the “D is for Design” exhibit, Klimt’s Adam and Eve (on loan), Japanese paper toys, cool glass sculptures in the contemporary art area, “Nature, Sculpture, Abstraction, and Clay,” and “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” Each of these exhibits was on the small side, just one room each (and the Klimt was just one painting, though it was surrounded by Oskar Kokoschka’s Two Lovers and a few Egon Schiele paintings and drawings).

In the “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” room, however, I encountered a problem (click to enlarge the photo below).

two literallys

literally the tip of the iceberg”

The word “literally” was used twice in five sentences. I’ll give them the second one; I’ve never been to the Scharfs’ home, and it may well be that there are fascinating things to look at “quite literally everywhere,” even the bathroom. (Incidentally, I once saw a Klimt print hanging sideways in someone’s bathroom. Not that the Scharfs’ would ever do such a thing, though it would be fascinating if they did.) But that first “literally”? No. The part of the collection in that room in the MFA was not “literally” the tip of the iceberg, or it would have been the tip of an iceberg. And, fortunately, it just wasn’t that cold in there. (I couldn’t even make a good Titanic joke, because the model ships were safely two rooms away.)

I know that language is not static; it changes over time. I know that in at least one case (the word “cleave”) a word may mean one thing (“to adhere closely; to remain faithful”) and its opposite (“to split or divide; to cut off; sever”). I know that language changes and evolves because of the way people use it, whether or not that usage is accepted as correct at the time (usually it’s not). But there are plenty of good alternatives for what people mean when they misuse the word “literally”: try “figuratively,” or “metaphorically,” or “as it were,” or just use a metaphor or a simile or an analogy or a stronger adjective or adverb to make your point.

Or put a damn iceberg in the room, if that’s literally what you mean.

But. On the plus side, this exhibit had a model of the Ford Fairlane, the car that Henry DeTamble’s parents drive in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and it does indeed have magnificent fins:

Ford Fairlane

And we got out of our house for a few hours, and ate a delicious lunch at the cafe, and tried out these green chenille beanbag chairs, which are even comfier than they look:

bean bag chair

All in all it was quite a good outing. It was nice to see some color, and it was even nice to get out of pajamas and into real clothes (well, jeans), and I expect we’ll go back again in the spring when the Da Vinci exhibit goes up. If spring ever comes.

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Our Trip to Portland, Part 2

After our ill-fated first attempt, we did actually make it to Portland the last weekend in August. Here’s the story in pictures and captions.

Brunch at The Front Room, with a view of industrial-sized kitchen equipment.

Brunch at The Front Room, with a view of industrial-sized kitchen equipment.

A tasting at the Maine Mead Works meadery.

A tasting at the Maine Mead Works meadery.

Spot the grammatical error on the Freedom Trail plaque!

Spot the grammatical error on the Freedom Trail plaque!

A church parking lot with a sense of humor.

A church parking lot with a sense of humor.

The garden behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

The garden behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

Taking a break in the garden.

Taking a break in the garden.

There were some real gems in the Maine Historical Society gift shop.

There were some real gems in the Maine Historical Society gift shop.

A visit to the excellent Portland Museum of Art, including a great Richard Estes exhibit.

A visit to the excellent Portland Museum of Art, including a great Richard Estes exhibit.

This one speaks for itself.

This one speaks for itself.

A visit to the Maine Potters Market.

A visit to the Maine Potters Market.

The Bar of Chocolate, where we ate a delicious slice of cake and overheard the best conversation of the day.

The Bar of Chocolate, where we ate a delicious slice of cake and overheard the best conversation of the day.

Pizza at Otto for dinner.

Pizza at Otto for dinner.

I wonder how much the state of Maine spends on lobster stencils.

I wonder how much the state of Maine spends on lobster stencils.

 

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Watercolors and Quilts at the Boston MFA

I had never been a member of any museum until this year, but I did a small amount of math and figured that it would be worth it to become a member of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts if I visited the museum at least three times a year. I’ve already been twice and it’s only April, so I’m glad I joined, though I could do with less junk mail.

In January I saw the John Singer Sargent Watercolors exhibit just before it closed, and it was absolutely fantastic. I was familiar with his oil paintings of course but had no idea he’d painted so many watercolors as well (or painted so much, period. The man was a workhorse). A few of my favorite paintings from the exhibit are included in the preview slideshowVenice: Under the Rialto Bridge, Mountain Fire, and Pomegranates. I also learned in the exhibit that Sargent invented the word Intertwingles (n.) for the interchangeable, entwined forms of the female subjects of his paintings (usually his sister and niece).

This month, my mom and I went to the “Quilts and Color” exhibit. Though I plan to go back and see the Impressionism exhibit that we didn’t have time for, the quilts were really cool. It raised my feminist hackles a bit to see the names of the (male) collectors prominently, while many of the names of the (female) quilters had been lost or forgotten, but their quilts were definitely neat to look at. Here are a few I especially liked, from the more traditional to the Escher-esque:

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These photos don’t show the incredible detail of the quilts, the tiny pieces and intricate stitches; they must have taken ages to make. Then again, you couldn’t just go buy blankets at Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and you couldn’t waste time on TV or the Internet because they hadn’t been invented yet. Instead, they did something useful and beautiful.

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I wonder if the quilter gave herself headaches making this one.

Magic Eye before Magic Eye was a thing.

Magic Eye before Magic Eye was a thing.

 

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I forget the name for this type of quilt (above), but it’s the kind that’s economical because it uses all the scraps it creates. And the blue is called “Lancaster blue.”

Double Wedding Ring Quilt, c. 1940

Double Wedding Ring Quilt, c. 1940

For all the beautifully curated exhibits, the impressive permanent collection, and the excellent events (Neil Gaiman!), the thing that delights me most at the MFA is this:

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Chihuly’s “Lime Green Icicle Tower” (is that its official name? That’s what it’s called in the press release [PDF]) is 42 feet high and weighs 10,000 pounds. Originally installed for the exhibit “Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass,” and designed especially for the space, it was acquired by the museum thanks to patron contributions. And yes, that’s a lot of money to spend on art when not everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water, but…

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…it’s pretty gorgeous.

 

 

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On Letter-Writing

ToTheLetterRecently, I read Simon Garfield’s book To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing. It was more of a history than a “celebration” (though the author was definitely in favor of letter writing), but it was an enjoyable history, and, like many good books, led me to discover all kinds of other things. One of those was Lewis Carroll’s (yes, that Lewis Carroll, of Alice fame) “Eight or Nine Wise Words On Letter-Writing,” published in 1890 and therefore available through Gutenberg

Between To the Letter and “Eight or Nine Wise Words,” I decided that one of my resolutions this year would be to write pen-and-paper letters to people. Because we had a lot of snow days recently, and therefore a lot of free time indoors, I went a step further: I downloaded Carroll’s pamphlet, re-formatted it, printed it out, and bound it, with some blank pages in the back for a modified version of his “Letter-Register.” (I know, I know: normal people, stuck inside for days, would just watch TV. I did some of that too.)

My version is a lot bigger that the original, with fewer pages; his little pamphlet accompanied a stamp case for carrying around all the different denominations of stamps (this was long before “Forever stamps” were invented). Some pages are sewn in, and some are tipped in with polyvinyl acetate (PVA, a kind of plastic glue).

front cover

front cover

The Guternberg file included some of the original images. Use of the images and text is completely legal (“This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.net”).

Inside, first page

Inside, first page

Inside, first page, tipped in

Inside, first page, tipped in

Inside, back cover

Inside, back cover

Back cover

Back cover

It’s really amazing how much of Carroll’s advice holds up for modern letter-writers. Among these bits of wisdom (for those not inclined to read the whole thing): if you’re replying to a letter, have that letter in front of you; start by addressing and stamping the envelope; always date your letters “in full” with the month, day, and year; carry letters in your hand when going to mail them (or you’ll forget); write legibly; if you are enclosing something, put it in the envelope when you mention it (because you won’t remember by the end of the letter); and use a sign-off at least as friendly – if not friendlier – than your correspondent’s.

There’s a lot of other good advice too, and it’s all full of Carroll’s cleverness and sense of humor. Garfield’s book has a sense of humor too (he makes fun of stamp collectors – although, as someone who’s writing a book about letters, and who has previously written about typefaces and maps, I feel he’s on rather thin ice here). So yes, it’s 2014, and we have e-mail and text messaging and Twitter and Tumblr – but we also still have real letters. Write one, and give someone else the pleasure of receiving mail that isn’t a bill or a catalog.

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Craft Boston

A few weekends ago I went with some friends to Craft Boston, “a show of contemporary Art, Craft & Design presented by the Society of Arts and Crafts” down at the Seaport World Trade Center. It reminded me a little bit of the holiday fair in Union Square in New York, except it was (1) indoors, (2) much quieter, (3) higher quality things, and (4)  much more expensive.

So we window-shopped, or whatever the equivalent is where there aren’t any windows. A few of my favorite things:

From Purple Sage Pottery, a mug in a beautiful deep blue glaze:

W139mugseafoamG3PlumPurpleGlaze

From Liz Proffetty Ceramics, more mugs (and other pieces) with glazes reminiscent of landscapes. I had to go back and have a last lingering look at these before we left; I think they were my favorite pieces we saw all day, and the only thing that kept me from buying even just one mug is how many mugs we already have in the house. (They’re a good thing to collect…up to a point.) Beautiful, though:

6_wine_cupsmug_Liz_Proffetty

From Stephanie Young at Calmwater Designs, these glowing lamps:

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From Michael Michaud Designs, delicate jewelry fashioned to resemble berries, flowers, and leaves. The dogwood, cherry blossom, and pussy willow designs are beautiful, but what first caught my eye were these raspberry earrings:

Raspberry-Earrings

I also took a card from Liz Norkus Design, but couldn’t find on her site the piece I thought I saw in her booth: a necklace that looked like it was made from joined twigs sprouting tiny pearl buds. However, on the Craft Boston site, there are photos of a few of her pieces, and these earrings are closest to the necklace I saw:

lnorkus4

I saw similar designs by Elise Moran:

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The Steampunk Industrial booth was fun to explore – it can perhaps best be described as rusty, whimsical, glowing, and giving off something of a mad genius/time travel vibe:

box2

We were also all very taken with the creations from ArtHead Studio, from the “JunkYard Dogs” made of scrap metal to the “reTweets” to “The Odd World of the Littles,” which reminded me a little bit of Joseph Cornell, if he had been a bit more humorous.

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All in all, it was a really nice afternoon out. I rarely go into Boston even though it’s so close, and it was nice to see physical, tactile art in so many forms: wood, fabric, glass, metal, and more.

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Handmade journal

Over a year after attending a bookmaking workshop, I finally finished making a journal.

journal

I had to cut and fold the pages to size (this was the most time-consuming part), and sew them together with a chain-stitch. The board covers I bought pre-cut, and covered them with blue paper. I didn’t have a board spine, so I used a piece of cardstock between the covers and the pages.

journal-open

Voila! I haven’t begun using it yet, but I’m nearly done with my current journal, so I will soon.

Cross-posted.

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Ice Cream Surprise, or Surprised Ice Cream?

AUGHHHH!

AUGHHHHH!

Together now: AUGHHHHH!

That is all.

 

 

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