Tag Archives: art

Home at Last

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Friday night Hubby and I returned from a two-week vacation to London and Paris.  We saw EVERYTHING.  (Seriously, everything.)  We walked ten miles each day, plus rode the Tube (in London) and the Metro (in Paris) many miles to get to where we wanted to be. Mostly we saw tons of art, but also magnificent historical architecture and beautiful gardens. We stayed at really cool hotels (CitizenM Tower of London and Residence Foch) and consumed lots of fish and chips and hamburgers (the meat there is sooooo delicious compared to the ground beef you can buy in the States) and British craft beers.  Hubby and did not get in even one fight, which I consider pretty amazing. Things got dicey on our last day in England, when Hubby insisted on reading EVERY didactic at the Greenwich Museum, and I was so done that I considered pulling the fire alarm and then at dinner pretended I had poisoned him (“are you dizzy?  blurred vision? throat tightening?  No?  Hmmmmm). But overall, it felt like a second honeymoon, since we’ve never gone away for more than five days without the kids before.  We celebrated our 29th anniversary on the hotel balcony with a spectacular view of the Tower of London and felt pretty damned fortunate.

The best thing about a fabulous vacation:  Coming home.  Our youngest son, William, did an excellent job of holding down the fort while we were gone—feeding and caring for our five pets and keeping the house clean is not an easy job.  His best girl, Katherine, helped out, too.  I left William a credit card and I’m sure I’ll cry when that next bill arrives and I see how much money “we” spent at Dutch Bros Coffee while we were away. Apparently we also paid him in beer since our keg of expensive IPA was empty.  (College kids—what are you going to do??)

Today getting groceries I was so happy to have eye contact with people again. My experience was that in London and in Paris, there is absolutely no eye contact with strangers, unless you are a waiter serving dinner or hotel staff helping you as their guest. I did not like being invisible.  I like to smile at people and have offhand chit chat.  I can count on one hand the people who talked to us:

  1.  The French woman at the coin laundromat who spoke no English but was able to guide us through the very unfamiliar laundry system.  I gave her my most sincere smile, accompanied by a “merci beaucoup” and felt so grateful.  Hubby and I were already feeling irritated at not being able to find the darn place having walked a mile in all directions in a fancy neighborhood, each of us carrying black hefty bags of dirty laundry!
  2. The “skin heads” on the Tube elevator in London who alerted me that the doors would be opening in the opposite direction from where I was standing.  We’d traveled so much that day and I was daydreaming, not noticing that the 20 other people on this large elevator were facing the opposite direction.  I said, “Thank you! I probably would have figured it out eventually!  I’d think, where did all the people go?  Why am I all alone?”  They proceeded to do a bit which included the guy saying, “Dear Diary, Month 15 and I’m still in the Tube elevator.  It’s not all bad.  It’s warm in winter and cool in summer.  People leave bags of chips. I’m happy here.”
  3. The woman whose feet my suitcase fell on in the Tube.  She glared at me so hard I thought I might burst into flames.  Seriously?  I was carrying a huge paper sack which held three Starbuck’s London coffee cups and three London Toblerones that were gifts for the kids.  It was unwieldy and when I shifted, my bag fell over.  The part that landed on her feet was not heavy and I apologized sincerely, but she was just mad and mean and well, I’m sorry that when you ride the Tube you are so grumpy.  I love riding the Tube.  I love watching the comings and goings, and the families and the groups of friends and the handsome young men in their skinny suits headed to and from work  (I especially love that).
  4. The young man on the Tube escalator that kept me from falling backwards when  my huge, embarrassing, American suitcase started to fall off the step behind me.  I started wobbling and made a sound like “ooooohhhhh,”and he heaved my case up to the step and gently kept me from falling.  Oy vey, so embarrassing!  If you’ve never been on a Tube escalator, I can tell you it’s very stressful.  They are inclined at an extreme angle and go up four floors!  As a person who is afraid of heights, I can say going up is easier but going down I look at my feet and breathe slowly in and out so as not to scream out, “We’re all going to die!!!!”  Which would be really embarrassing.
  5. The business woman at the St. Pancras train station in London who so nicely gave me directions to where to catch our Eurostar (Chunnel) train.  This station is HUGE and is the only international station in London.  It’s super cool . . . if you’re not in a hurry to catch a train.  I mistook her for a station information attendant because she was in a suit and was standing next to the Information sign (most stations have these with staff positioned there to answer questions). She did not laugh at me and was very sweet.  Hubby, on the other hand, mocked me endlessly, so much so that anytime we were lost after that, I asked him, “Shall I go ask a stranger how to get there?”  If you don’t get lost while on your Europe vacations, then you’re just not doing it right.  We spent two hours one night looking for a restaurant called Hot Box that some website had recommended.  It was not a “good lost” since it was in a business area with huge sky scrapers.  We finally found the place.  HA.  Long picnic tables in a dark room with expensive hamburgers.

One reason I’m glad I was completely invisible in Europe:  I was the only person wearing leggings.  Here in Tempe that’s the norm!  Next blog will be European fashion tips!  Stay tuned!

Cheers,

Mary

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Wednesday Wrap Up

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It’s Spring Break. To have a week off when the weather is so lovely is a true gift. I’ve been torn between Being a Slug . . . and Getting Things Done. The Devil on my shoulder has won for most of the week, and not only have I coffeed, lunched, and happy houred most days this week, I’ve also binge-watched Friday Night Lights.   I’m chagrined to admit this will be the THIRD time through FNL, and I can happily report that the Dillon Panthers are (again) having a great season, and what’s going to happen with the love triangle between Jason, Lyla, and Tim?  I’ve been watching it via laptop while sitting on our back patio, where the Lady Banks roses are in full bloom, along with the orange trees, and where I can watch Ruby and Cosmo nap in the tall grass.

Between socializing and watching Netflix, I’ve been sorting through the stacks of paperwork and we are almost ready to take our tax stuff to our accountant.  When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to be an adult, but seriously, there are so many times that I shake my head and think that being a grown up can be really tedious (especially at tax time).  I recently saw a meme which read, “I miss being a kid.  My only responsibilities were running around and laughing a lot.  And someone else was in charge of my hair.”  Exactly.

Another thing I was able to tick off my list was taking Ruby the Wonder Spaniel to the vet.    I love our vet and usually don’t mind this errand, however, today when Ruby and I went out to get in the car, I saw I’d been mistakenly left with the Miata. Gadzoots! I’d let Hubby take the Prius! Poor Ruby got so car sick in our little go-cart of a vehicle and was acking and coughing and almost barfed in my purse.  At the vet, she was still so green that she nipped at the vet which is so unlike her. Afterwards in the parking lot, I helped her gently into the passenger seat (making sure her beautiful plumy tail was not caught in the door), but by the time I got around to my side, she had situated herself into the driver’s seat. I led her out and back around, and we did this THREE TIMES before she decided to stay in her own seat. I was laughing hysterically.  On the drive home, Ruby tried her best to help me with the stick shift and in one dangerous moment, moved the emergency brake.

Earlier in the week, I ventured over to TJ Maxx in search of new skirts and sandals. Bupkiss, nada, zilch! I hate my clothes. I’ve said this in the past, but seriously, my clothes are terrible. It’s mostly because I’m still not sure how to dress my robust figure which no longer can be compared to any movie star body, excepting maybe Winnie the Pooh’s. (I gained 20 pounds a few years ago and can’t figure out the clothes.)  I know I should go to the mall, but the prices are terrifying and the stores are unfamiliar. Forever 21? The clothes are so poorly made and are not flattering to anyone with a “full figure.” Where is Forever 51 when you need it? Chico’s is only relevant if you are planning a trip to Palm Springs or going on a geriatric cruise (which I am not). You’d think a store called Fossil would have stuff for old broads, but alas, it’s all overpriced and geared toward the Young and Beautiful. I was hoping H&M stood for Hefty & Mature, but again, nope.

I know these are all First World Problems and really, I’m having a great week off. I’m soooo happy to have quality time with my pets. It’s been amazing to dawdle in my jammies each morning. I’ve been cooking like a fiend (Mixed Berry Pie and Quiche Lorraine for “Pi Day,” Hog Heaven Chili, and Applesauce Muffins.)  It’s fed my soul to catch up with most of my oldest-bestest friends all week. And I’m looking forward to attending an art show opening at The Hive Gallery in Phoenix on Friday night where a friend is showing a piece. When you attend a dance recital, you take flowers. What do you take to a friend in an art show?  Crayons?  An Etch-a-Sketch?

Cheers,
Mary

Why I Tour Art

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This morning I woke up with a smile on my face, happy to be giving a 10am art tour for First Graders. They were a lively, smart, and interested bunch. Fifteen students and three chaperones is a big group, but I managed. The kids amazed me with their insights. While looking at Theodore Waddell’s Horse #13 which is a very large painting depicting an abstracted blue and purple horse, the children made excellent observations. “Why would the artist paint the horse in these colors?” I asked. One boy says excitedly, “He was using his imagination!” And another, “Maybe he wishes horses were blue?” And another, “Maybe it was a horse at night time.” Wow. These were SIX YEAR OLDS! A little girl with pigtails patiently waited with her raised hand as the others blurted out ideas. I finally called on her. In a tiny voice, she showed me how the burnished gold frame at the bottom of the large painting shimmered, looking to her like “the pony is standing in a lake.” Again . . . wow. Those kids knocked my socks off with their insight and exuberance.

These things happen time and time again. All us docents have stories about children discovering things in art pieces we’ve never noticed before. And then there’s the times when you get a group that you’re certain must’ve been dropped on their heads as babies, like the group of Fourth Graders I toured in the Andy Warhol exhibit last month. I showed them four lithographs of Queen Elizabeth II of England and asked who the famous person was. “George Washington!” one exclaimed, so certain he’d landed on the correct answer. “Nooooo,” I said in a teasing voice. “Don’t you recognize the Queen of England?” They frowned, looked at each other, then shouted out, “No! It’s George Washington!” I shook my head and rolled my eyes. I looked around for hidden cameras, or perhaps a small crew from Punk’d. Nothing. Next I took them into the black light room where Warhol’s The Last Supper is displayed. “Jesus! That’s Jesus!” they yelled happily. One comments, “I love Jesus!” All of them sighed in agreement. I’m not sure I taught them anything that day, but they did have fun, and that’s what really matters.

When I tour adults, it’s a much more serious time spent with the art. Looking at beautiful sculptures and paintings with other human beings lifts my soul.  And even though I’m drawn to the “old stuff” in the North Wing of our museum,  I usually choose the modern and contemporary for my adult tours. I want to teach them how to look at it with nonjudgmental eyes. I want someone to mutter, “I could make that myself!” (and often some grumpy old guy does) and be given the opportunity to explain why it’s art. As our former Curator of Contemporary art, the fabulous Sara Cochran, used to tell us (and I’m paraphrasing), “Don’t immediately dismiss an artwork. Take the time to understand what the artist’s intention is, what the artist is trying to say or evoke, and then, after taking an informed look, if you still don’t like it, that’s okay.” Explaining the concept of the conceptual piece by Sol LeWitt, Sphere Lit From Above is always am amazing experience. It’s pencil squiggles on a white wall. That’s all it is . . . or is it? Grumpy Old Man always frowns at it, but after my five-minute explanation, he’s usually convinced that it’s at least a little bit “cool.”

Part of my job as docent is exposing people to new ideas and perspectives in a non-threatening way. My excitement about the art is contagious (you who have met me know I’m quite animated when I speak). Guiding the skeptical Grumpy Old Man to an artist’s intention by using simple questions is such a thrill and gets my endorphins firing better than any workout. (I’m not really sure endorphins “fire,” but you get my drift.) Being a part of the art community, even in such a small way, has enriched my life.

One last story: Leading an adult tour earlier this year, we stopped at a pile of green, cellophane-wrapped candies on the floor. I saw my group looking around for the “real” art. I explained it as it had been first explained to me. “The artist thinks museums are too stuffy. Don’t touch, stand back, guards everywhere. So with this art work, he invites us to touch the art and actually make it a part of us.” I paused and said, “I wondered more about this piece and found this: The pile of candy that’s put out everyday represents the weight of the artist’s partner before he was diagnosed with an AIDS-related illness in 1991. The artist stipulated that the pile should be continuously replenished, thus metaphorically granting perpetual life. I’m going to have a candy—would anyone else like one?” There’s silence as everyone chooses a piece of candy, followed by the crackle of the wrappers. Then I lighten the mood by saying, “I tried to tour this last week, and there weren’t any candies! Apparently ants had invaded gotten into them, and they had to be thrown away!” Everyone laughs, and the tour concludes.

The Phoenix Art Museum is FREE to EVERYONE on every Wednesday from 3-9pm. I invite you to go down and discover the magic for yourself.

Cheers,
Mary

Grandma’s Magic Beans

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Dear Mother Nature: Please take away these gray skies. I live in Arizona for a reason. I like the sunshine. All these rainy days are making me blue. I’m listless, and have lost my mojo.

With the rain comes the cold weather, so here I am back wearing a sweater and my fuzzy slippers, shivering in my house. I don’t know why our house is so cold, but probably because half our windows are the old single-paned variety. This morning I thought of the perfect way to warm up: Grandma Summer’s bag of beans! No, they are NOT magic beans (though that would be WAY more fun!), but are pinto beans sewn into a cloth bag. You pop the bag into the microwave for a minute, and then drape it around your neck. Voila! Your shivers are gone, and you are warmed up in a jiffy. The only drawback is the strange odor, which is a combination of beans and Malt-O-Meal. And this afternoon, also slightly like Chicken Pepperoni, since I warmed that up for my lunch in the microwave.

I had good intentions of Getting My Life in Order today, but as I said, this yucky drippy soggy cold miserable day has thrown me for a loop. I’d planned on sorting through the taxes (a HUGE file), and then studying for my art tour tomorrow. I’ve been assigned “American B” for part of my tour, which is a very small gallery with mostly portraits from 1880-1920. There’s the mermaid with a sea dragon, but the last time I toured it, the children would not stop giggling and whispering; I love the piece so much, I’d totally forgotten the mermaid is NAKED! Then there’s the Antonio Rizzi called Study in White and I think if you look at this photo of it, you’ll see why I have renamed it Cramps.  I was joking one day with some docent friends, and now everyone calls it that. I’m pretty sure she’s taken a handful of Motrin, and under the blanket she’s got a copy of Glamour and a chocolate bar. This is not art that appeals to children. I have my work cut out for me.

So instead of doing anything I’m supposed to do, I watched two episodes of Downton Abbey, then I baked peanut butter cookies, and now I’m wasting my time blathering on to you! Ruby was happy for the peanut butter cookies, since that meant an empty plastic jar for her to clean for me. It’s one of her favorite things. The cookies turned out really well. Grandma’s Magic Beans warmed me on the outside, and the peanut butter cookies warmed me from the inside. William ate four when he got home from school! This is the recipe I used: Peanut Butter Cookies. I used it word-for-word, and would highly recommend it.

Cheers,
Mary

The Raft

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It’s already been the weirdest week ever, and it’s only Thursday.

I quit my job a month ago, and I find that with no schedule at all, I’m getting nothing done. I’m furious with myself for not using my free time more wisely. I’m not appreciating free time like I do when I have a job. When you work (especially full time) is there anything better than that feeling of elation when you walk out of the office on Friday night? I don’t regret quitting that awful job, but I still miss my Monday mornings at Pier One doing markdowns or opening boxes of pretty things nobody really needs. During these mindless tasks, I’d do fantastic brainstorming and come home with a whole list of great ideas and feel excited for the rest of my day. I was making good progress on my ebook about the beach.

This week I hit a lull. I watched two entire seasons of Gilmore Girls. TWO SEASONS!!!!! That’s insane! I am insane. I haven’t had this much time on my hands since I was on bedrest when expecting Patrick. Pregnancy made my heart murmur cranky so I basically sat on the couch watching soaps and eating pudding for four months. I hated it. I’m no good at downtime.

This week I berated myself. “You are a waste of skin!” I yelled at Me. I made myself atone for my lack of persistence with my projects by doing Dreaded Tasks like ironing Hubby’s shirts and vacuuming the house and scooping the cat boxes and picking weeds. I still could not get myself to get to work.

I am completely aware of the fact that these are First World White Woman Problems. Someone should just slap me and say, “Get a hold of yourself, woman!” Someone should definitely block my Netflix access. I am in dire need of a Netflix intervention. I also need someone to hide the potato chips. And someone to make me work on my writing projects. Is there such a thing as a live-in life coach? I think maybe that’s what I need.

When not watching Netflix, I find myself plotting ways to get back to the beach sooner than our planned date in late April. That’s more than two months from now! It’s not like I’m needed here. William is most happy when left to his own devices, and Hubby works 24/7. I was happy at the beach. Life was simple. Eat breakfast, take a walk, say good morning to the dolphins, pour another cup of coffee, and settle down to my laptop on the patio. Look up every once in awhile to count pelicans flying by and admire the puffy clouds and jumping fish. Salute the gorgeous setting sun with a cold one in your hand, then go to town for dinner. Say goodnight to the sparkling array of stars, then go to bed early so you can get up and do it all over again. I am absolutely pining for the beach.

THANK GOD I still have my docent “job.” I spent all afternoon Tuesday sweating over Wednesday’s tour in a new gallery. I typically have student groups of 7 or 8. Imagine the challenge of corralling and trying to teach a group of 18 fifth graders, and their two chaperones! While the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit is fabulous for adults, I believe it’s over the heads of students. They were not interested in the pages of the Leicester Codex, but loved the movie by Bill Viola called The Raft. (You can see it here but it’s much more moving to see it at the museum because the sound is very loud and the screen is very large: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypdZ_7xw79Y), and they loved the Monets, Courbets, and the Foster. I hope you’ll make time to zip down to the museum and catch this exhibit before it leaves in April.

I have to sign off now. Gilmore Girls is waiting.

Cheers,
Mary