Category Archives: Art

Irises

Last year at Schreiner’s Iris Garden, Salem, Oregon

This is the first year we have had irises in our garden. After visiting Schreiner’s Iris Gardens last year, we chose and ordered some special irises from their online catalogue and planted them in the fall. They have been blooming in the last two weeks, and have been spectacularly beautiful! It’s been so fun to walk outside in the early morning and find another burst of blooms!

 

Of course, having irises blooming in the yard made me think of Vincent Van Gogh and his famous paintings of irises. I have the book, Vincent’s Gardens, by Ralph Skea, on my garden bookshelf so I pulled it down to reread and find information about those paintings. I love Vincent’s artwork, and I love reading about gardens that influenced famous painters, so this was a perfect book to revisit. And I was particularly interested in the story of his most famous painting of irises, which was painted in May of 1889, shortly after he was hospitalized for a psychotic breakdown. According to the author, Mr. Skea:

Vincent suffered four major mental crises in Arles, and became fearful that these psychotic attacks would recur with ever increasing severity. On 8 May 1889 he was admitted as a voluntary patient to the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, 24 kilometers (15 miles) north-east of Arles. Because of his fragile mental state, he was not allowed to leave the walled grounds of the asylum for the first month of his one-year stay. The often deserted garden, with its pine trees, lilac, roses, irises and overgrown lawns, offered him a calm enclosed place where he could paint and draw directly from nature.

The beauty of our irises brought us much joy this month, so I can easily imagine that the irises at the asylum in Arles would have been a calming beauty for a mentally struggling artist.

Summer at Fairacre

Chalgrove, England: watercolor by Ian Ramsay

The author, Dora Saint, whose pseudonym is Miss Read, wrote two delightful series about life in an English Village as described through the eyes of the village school teacher. The first series is the Fairacre series, the second is the Thrush Green series. As a personal project, I have slowly been reading my way through the Fairacre series, and enjoying each volume and growing to love the myriad of characters that live in the village. I’m looking forward to moving on to Thrush Green soon!

Summer at Fairacre starts with the first day of spring and ends at the beginning of autumn. It is an ode to the loveliness of the village during the warmth and beauty throughout the summer months. First, there’s the anticipation of the warmer months and the freedom that arrives with them. Then, there’s the changing of the season, the storms, the gardens, the birds, the quiet moments of just sitting and enjoying the warmth of the sun. And interwoven with all of this was the school, the children, and the schoolmistress, with all the complications and joys of daily life.

The golden weather continued. For week after week the sun had gilded all with glory, and it came as quite a shock to realise that July was upon us, and still the sun shone. Soon it would be end of term, with all that that involved for a schoolmistress…

The only major drama in this story concerns the cantankerous Mrs. Pringle, the school cleaner. She’s so difficult to get along with, but keeps the school sparkling clean. Unfortunately, she gets offended easily, and this time decides to quit her job, out of spite, it seems.  But more unfortunately, finding a permanent replacement for her proves to be almost impossible.

We all know that summer goes by too quickly, and that was the feeling in Summer at Fairacre. While living their everyday lives, the people of Fairacre celebrated the season and appreciated each other, even when that was difficult to do.

It grieved me to think of the waning of this most glorious of all summers, its joys and its splendours. Well, we had celebrated it, every one of us, and must face the inevitable, I supposed.

This was a gentle and humorous read. If you need a break from the stress and hustle of the holiday season, and perhaps are missing the warmth of summer, I recommend this book and series as a healing antidote.

A Completed Challenge: The Classics Club, Round One

On March 7, 2017, I joined The Classics Club and made a commitment to read 50 books in 5 years. I just posted my 50th review and completed this challenge!

I loved the reading I did for this challenge, and because I enjoyed it so much, and because there are endless classics to read, I’ll be signing up in the next few days for another 50 books in 5 years!  Watch for my post: Classics Club-Round 2!

You can click here to see my Classics Club-Round 1, with the list of the books I read and the links to my reviews.

Woohoo!!   And now… back to my reading!

“Figure in Backlight”, by Pietro Scoppetta, Italian 1863-1920

Listening While Walking

My sister-in-law told me last week that instead of listening to her audiobooks when she and my brother go for their daily five-mile walks in the foothills of the mountains, she now listens to music. She says that when she started doing that, instead of being engrossed in story, she became much more aware of the beauty around her, and it expands the joy of her walking tremendously.

Our conversation came to mind when I listened to an Audible Original book written and read by Yo-Yo Ma, called Beginner’s Mind. It is a lovely thing to listen to, part memoir, part music, and part exploration of what “beginnings” mean.

from Audible:

Beginner’s Mind continues Ma’s passionate exploration of culture’s role in helping us to imagine and build a better future, asking each of us “to strip away preconceptions and reclaim a beginner’s mind…one open to new questions, new connections, new explorations, and unexpected answers.” As Ma tracks his own profound journey through “four stories of beginnings,” listeners gain insight into his past and discover how the cultural visionary continues to find hope in the endless possibility of human curiosity, creativity, and collaboration.

So this book really is the perfect combination for those of us who love to walk and listen at the same time. Its combination of story, music, and thought-provoking ideas is wonderful.

Georgia O’Keeffe in Hawaii

Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i , was an exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden of her work created during nine weeks spent in Hawai’i in 1939.  This accompanying book, edited by Joanna L. Groarke and Theresa Papanikolas, was a very interesting chronicle of O’Keeffe’s time spent there. She was hired by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole Food Company) to visit the territory and create a series of paintings that could be used in print advertisements. During the nine weeks she spent in the islands, she created numerous paintings that were very much in her style, took many snapshots, and wrote wonderful descriptions of her experiences in letters sent home to her husband, Alfred Steiglitz.

 

Also included in this book are interesting background essays about the culture and ecology of Hawaii, and of how the territory of Hawaii was perceived in the 1930s as a tropical paradise, an “alluring fantasy.” It was all very interesting to read, as a view of Hawaii through the talent of an artist I love and through stories about what life was like at that time on the islands.

 

I read this book for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” my effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Hawaii.

Kadir Nelson: Harlem on my Mind

Kadir Nelson is an artist/illustrator whose work I just love. I became aware of him first as an illustrator of some children’s books I’ve been reading. Then I discovered that his work is also featured frequently on the cover of the New Yorker magazine. His painting “Harlem on My Mind” is a wonderful expression of his tremendous talent. His statement on the painting is below.

“The New Yorker cover painting Harlem on My Mind celebrates the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the civil rights movement, and Harlem’s rich history in the visual, literary and performing arts. I created a stylistic montage of images as an homage to great Harlem renaissance painters Aaron Douglas, William H. Johnson, Norman Lewis, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Horace Pippin, Henry Tanner, Archibald Motley and Palmer Hayden; performers the Nicholas Brothers; writers James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston; and activist Malcolm Shabazz.”

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

One of the positive things about our extended time of quarantine for the Covid-19 virus, is that there have been so many excellent online events and experiences to lift our spirits and remind us of the beautiful and special things in life. I found one of those online events and enjoyed an amazing performance serial of the classic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I read it once long ago (in high school), and probably wouldn’t have read it again until I found this link.  It’s a MUST experience, because each section is read by a different performing artist, and the artwork that accompanies it is phenomenal. It’s a completely immersive art experience, and is incredibly powerful. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the experience!

After The Original Drawing By Gustave Dore