Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Another lease on life

Into my mailbox a few weeks ago came an enquiry from our landlord.... did we wish to extend our lease another year? The new start date will be August 1st, which happens to be my 60th birthday.

There's not much mileage conversationally in angst-ing over aging, I find. It's irrelevant to the young and gets no sympathy from people further down the path. But I can write it in my own blog for Pete's sake can't I?!  I'm approaching this milestone with a mixture of shock (looking in the mirror) and awe (not having expected to get this far, coming from a very dodgy gene pool) and the predictable resolve to live a healthier life, be a nicer person etc etc while covertly reaching for a wine glass. Nothing new here.

So YES, we do want to extend our lease thank you, and I took a walk around in the sunshine to think about things and be grateful for the approach of both another decade and another year here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dear diary

To anyone who can identify with an up and down life, it should come as no surprise that my last, somewhat euphoric post was promptly followed by a 6 month slump. In the interests of adhering to the premise of my blog.....  memory joggers with a view to my future befuddled self.... I've decided I ought to do a quick round up of some highs and lows and hit reset.

Where was I? In the sun drinking coffee outside the Flatiron building without a care in the world?

Yes!  But behind the scenes, very sadly and for different reasons, neither Frankie nor Smokie came too.

What else? Well I had to leave almost straight away to go to a 5 day art workshop in Northern California where I met my lovely Facebook friend from Ireland, Pauline Agnew, for the first time. She was one of the teachers. I think it was an excellent workshop, in fact I know it was. However, for me it was way too much of a stretch on top of the move to NY, cat deaths and a whistle stop tour of friends and family in England. I had no A game left to bring. It was a bit demoralizing really because I felt completely displaced and couldn't concentrate on painting at all .... up a mountain suddenly with a bunch of strangers 3,000 miles from home, sleeping in a very rustic "cottage" in the grounds of a convent.  No car, no tv, no internet and no way of getting to a coffee shop. Boy, did I feel stranded! I berated myself soundly for being shallow etc while surviving by playing a lot of Candy Crush. Thank goodness for my iPhone and Pauline's thoughtful addition of wine to the materials list!

The retreat Center in N California, manned by nuns 

My temporary home

Painting demo by Melinda Cootsana

David flew out to join me afterwards for a much needed little vacation, never been so glad to see him. We stayed in Monterey in a room with a balcony hovering over the bay, went to sleep and woke each day to the lovely sound of sea lions honking, and discovered how absolutely beautiful Carmel beach is...... paradise!!! So that all ended happily.

Breakfast each morning, too hot to sit outside!

Home again, quick breath and then straight off to another art workshop, this time in a rather gritty area of Brooklyn, with the very wonderful Flora Bowley who teaches "Intuitive Painting". We have a few of her paintings and I was looking forward to meeting her. This time my daughter went with me which was a much better idea. Once again,  no A game to bring artistically, but it didn't matter as much this time as it was one of those "there's no right or wrong" approaches. Plus she starts each session with a peaceful meditation and reflective time,  just what my addled brain needed.

Flora at work, she completes a painting demo during every workshop

"Honoring the Paintings" ceremony at the end

2 of Flora Bowley's paintings brightening the house in N Virginia

On the homefront, it was quite an ongoing challenge filling an apartment with a load of stuff and making it feel like a personal space. It all took time to arrive and assemble itself into a friendly formation. We slept on a mattress on the floor for 2 months like the good old student days until the bed frame was delivered.
I didn't notice until we moved here how many people out on the streets of New York are struggling back to their apartments weighed down with heavy household items that would normally be tossed casually into the back of a car. You can have things delivered or take a cab but it does't always feel worth it.... you buy a mop for $15 from Home Depot for instance, are you going to pay another $15 to get it home? Of course not! There's usually a point, around half way, when I vow never, ever, to do this to myself again. David's worse than me, he's determined to get things back under his own steam even if he dies in the attempt....

Setting up home in NY from scratch.....

......David reluctantly admitting defeat and taking a break from lugging that heavy mirror up 5th Ave. We don't need a cab, we're British and made of sterner stuff....  

After one too many trips up and down I95 bringing car loads of this and that, it finally feels as if we've arrived. Oh yes..... and we got another cat!

Jimbo ponders his move from the shelter in rural Virginia to a Manhattan apartment.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Flatiron in my back yard

For a long time now I've been plotting and scheming a move to NYC and here we are.... doing it. David shifted his work base from the northern VA suburbs of Washington DC to the Manhattan office and we rented an apartment in the Flatiron district. As easy as that?! Well no, actually behind the scenes  it's a logistical nightmare, fraught with angst, second guessing and profound exhaustion. But on the whole it's exactly what I interesting diversion from the "aging in place" scenario (aging somewhere completely different) and a 5 year fling before retirement. So when I'm pounding the concrete walking 5 blocks and back in the searing heat just to buy a light bulb from Home Depot, thinking "who's big idea was THIS?" I have only myself to blame.

We chose the Flatiron district for several reasons, it's busy and touristy but it's within walking distance (for hikers such as ourselves) of the office and all our favorite downtown haunts. There's good food and coffee on hand. Plus you can see sky, there's a lovely little city park with music and art events happening and of course there's that omnipresent, iconic Flatiron building overseeing it all.

Here she is in the early morning before the crowds converge. Isn't she beautiful? I have always been vaguely interested in this building but now I have a distinct feeling of falling in love. So elegant and skinny, such stunning architecture just outside my front door. This is where I drink my morning coffee from now on, in the company of a typical city mix of the prosperous and the homeless, the energized and the jaded.

 Madison Square Park 

 Falun Gong, apparently.

I'm always impressed by the dedication required to lug a piano to a park.  

We've gone from this.....

to this.....

Home Sweet Home! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle

Ever since we first saw his enormous fantastical chandeliers at the Corcoran in DC I've been a big fan of Dale Chihuly's glasswork. My old post on our Studio 155 exhibition at the Delaware Art Museum last year shows the beautiful amorphous Chihuly glass shapes displayed against the hallway windows there. I'm longing to visit his main working studio in Tacoma,Washington, but it's 3,000 miles away on the west coast, as far away from Virginia as England!
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I did get to Seattle for a few days, which is just north of Tacoma. I was accompanying Chloe to her annual Art Therapy Assoc convention and one of the big attractions for me, other than some quality mother/daughter bonding time, was the new Chihuly gallery on the campus of the 1962 World's Fair. It turned out we arrived a day early for Chloe's sessions (that's my girl!) so we had a whole day free to enjoy ourselves.

The gallery is laid out in separate, themed rooms. Many of the exhibits, such as this one, are in the dark and on a mirrored surface so the reflection is highlighted along with the glass. I should also say they are enormous, this was several feet high and stretched far to the right and the left. It reminds me of flamingoes.

This is a detail of a HUGE one, reminiscent of the chandeliers. 


This is a ceiling in a walkway between 2 rooms. Everyone was craning their heads up, trying hard to take a photo that would begin to do it justice.

Details from ceiling......

                                                                Absolutely gorgeous!

                     This whole room was taken up by a gondola of glass on a mirrored floor.

                          These photos are of a massive glass forest you could walk right round.

                              Some of Chihuly's energetic drawings and paintings are also on display.

By this time it was such a visual overload experience, even the neon exit sign looked pretty special!                                          

In the gift shop the umbrellas had been hung from above to echo the ceiling height exhibits. I quite wish I'd bought one now. 

The gallery is called Garden and Glass. The sheer scale of this magnificent room! It's a transition to the outdoor garden exhibits. The weather is rather like Britain..... grey skies and drizzle. 

Outside that same room you can see how the landscaping is carefully color co-ordinated with the glass, so the exhibits are quite camouflaged. The photo above shows how the orange of the glass flowers in the transition room behind is echoed by the beautiful foliage. You almost don't notice the massive amethyst tower and the orbs that look like boulders.

The shapes and colors are so organic, sometimes you have to look carefully to see the glass.

My lovely daughter! We're in beautiful Seattle and the weather is good enough to eat outdoors. What could be nicer?

Friday, July 5, 2013

No disappointment

This year's July 4th firework display at Wintergreen Resort, VA was like no other I've seen. It had rained on and off all day despite a better forecast, and we wondered whether it would be canceled. Hard to do last minute though as there were bands booked to play, craft stalls, food vendors etc already set up and it's always a very well attended event. So they obviously decided the show must go on.

By 9.30 pm the clouds were low over the ski slope and there must have been a lot of moisture in the air. The fireworks produced their own smoke which got trapped in the atmosphere and the effect was as if they were going off behind a gauze curtain, even the bangs seemed muffled. I thought it was quite a beautiful effect, albeit low key compared to the normal colorful show. The crowd usually "ooooh"s and "aaaaah"s and the occasional child usually has a crying fit, but there was none of that this time, the atmosphere was very subdued.

                                                    The metal pole is a snowmaker.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chaos, Couture and Impressionism

A visit to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in NY is akin to going to Ikea for me in some ways. Granted, the items on view are beyond comparison, but the effect both have on me is very similar.... 1/ I wanted to be there,  2/ I'm completely overwhelmed, 3/ I can't easily identify the way out of the maze. Instant panicky fatigue sets in.

Last week I had my most positive experience so far at the Met. All the familiar anxiety symptoms were present but it was well worth suffering for. In a very under marketed (in my opinion) way there was a superb juxtaposition of 2 exhibitions, the first one being Chaos to Couture, a fashion exhibit which brilliantly showed how the punk street fashion of the '70s ended up influencing the major fashion houses like Givenchy, Prada etc. Beautiful clothing, room after room of it, ...... the things that you and I were wearing back then, or at least observing, and examples of the way it has since been adopted and re-marketed as high fashion. It was FABULOUS, if you like that sort of thing. A magnificent shrine to the evolution of the People's politically and socially stimulated creativity, factoring in our lack of money which made the black plastic garbage bags, the safety pins and torn, embellished t shirts so attractive as a fashion statement,  to the glamorous high end fashion industry's cashing in on it over the subsequent decades.
Why don't I have photos? Because sadly the Met won't allow it and I don't have an iphone to be discreetly rebellious with.

Walking 40 blocks up 5th Avenue the next day it occurred to me to test the theory by looking in all the designer windows. Not a punk inspired garment in sight, not one! I got very excited when Bergdorf Goodman had some definitely '70s derivative stuff in it, but sadly it transpired that they were a sponsor of the exhibition so that didn't count. I do buy into the premise though, the exhibits definitely bear that out. I don't believe that New Yorkers have ever worn that stuff to the extent that Londoners did, and still do.

Window gazing in the sunshine

Didn't I used to know you?

The next door exhibit was entitled Impressionism:  Fashion to Modernity.
I was very enthusiastic to see it, mainly because I really appreciated the implied link between the two and also, though on one hand I feel like I've seen too much Impressionism to be very impressed anymore, respect is definitely due.

Apparently it occurred to the Impressionists to paint people in the garments they were wearing at the time, pictures of stylish men and women reflecting the spirit of the age.  This caused a considerable outrage in the Art community. Their pictures were banned from major exhibitions and ridiculed for lack of classicism.  Who would think it would be so controversial?
Each room of the exhibition was devoted to a theme.... black dresses, white dresses, daydresses, accessories, menswear, umbrellas, corsets....  There were actual garments, as depicted in the paintings, preserved behind glass. It was by far the most endearing glimpse into the lives of the Impressionists I have ever had. They revealed themselves as not only brave, ground breaking artists, but real men and women leading real lives who posed their long suffering family members again and again in different outfits in order to complete a painting and bucked convention as surely as the punks of the 1970s.

My favorite painting in the exhibition, from the Musee D'Orsay, Paris,.... just stunning, the composition and the beautiful light....  In The Conservatory (Madame Bartholome) painted by her husband, an artist I didn't know at all, circa 1881. She died a few years later but he still had her lovely outfit and here it is today in New York.