Category Archives: #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: Falling Leaves, by Olga Wisinger-Florian

Falling Leaves, by Olga Wisinger-Florian, circa 1899, depicts a woman and her dog enjoying a quiet walk in the serenity of an autumn day. Using light and shadow, the artist employs an impressionistic style to convey the forest. Nothing is drawn with precision, yet everything is shown in its entirety. The feeling of this pieces is a little dreamlike–she carries an umbrella, so she’s prepared for rain. She is dressed all in black except for her yellow hat. Leaves in all the many shades of green, gold, and red cling to their trees; the damp, aging rails of the wooden fence offers a flimsy barrier to the carriages and motor vehicles that may travel the roadside. Leaves cover the dirt road, and more are falling down, and the dog trots happily along beside her mistress—the story is there for us to see.

About the Artist:

According to Wikipedia, Olga Wisinger-Florian’s early paintings can be assigned to what is known as Austrian Mood Impressionism. In her landscape paintings she adopted Schindler’s sublime approach to nature. The motifs she employed, such as views of tree-lined avenues, gardens and fields, were strongly reminiscent of her teacher’s work. After breaking with Schindler in 1884, however, the artist went her own way. Her conception of landscapes became more realistic. Her late work is notable for a lurid palette, with discernible overtones of Expressionism. With landscape and flower pictures that were already Expressionist in palette by the 1890s, she was years ahead of her time.

Credits and Attributions:

Falling Leaves, by Olga Wisinger-Florian, ca 1899 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Olga Wisinger-Florian,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed October 11, 2018).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Olga Wisinger-Florian – Falling Leaves.JPG,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, (accessed October 11, 2018).



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#FineArtFriday: “Tomorrow is Another Day”:  Mark Bradford, American Artist at the 2017 Biennale

Today’s guest post concludes my two part series on two exhibits of the 2017 Biennale in Venice: the Glasstress exhibit, and the Mark Bradford Exhibit. Today’s post is by Dr. Colleen Getz, and digs deep into the mysteries of American artist Mark Bradford’s creative genius. Enjoy!

“Tomorrow is Another Day”:  Mark Bradford, American Artist at the 2017 Biennale

By Colleen Getz

The works of Mark Bradford, Los Angeles-based African-American artist command the American Pavilion at the 2017 Biennale in Venice.  All but one of the works were created for the Biennale.  When Bradford spoke at the opening of the exhibit, his remarks focused on his role as an artist and citizen.  Thus, it is not only appropriate, but rather essential that any review of his Biennale installation focus first on Bradford’s view of himself and his role in the world.

Bradford spoke compellingly about his interest in politics, social policies and community.  “Being an artist doesn’t mean I lost my passport to my citizenship.  We need to expand the definition of artist,” he stated.  For Bradford art and social engagement are parts of a whole, and both begin with community.

In Los Angeles he founded Art + Practice an organization that supports children in foster care (children who are in government care) and provides the local community opportunities to experience contemporary art.  Similarly, in Venice he founded Process Collecttivo, which works in partnership with a local organization that works with prisoners to support their transition back into society by developing skills that will allow them to be self-sufficient.  Both are long-term projects, in keeping with Bradford’s commitment to economic sustainability, to give people a solid foundation in life.  He declared he is “obsessed by sustainability.”  He gets involved, he explained, by talking to people outside of the art world, by listening to what they need and determining what he can do to help them sustain themselves.

So it is no surprise that the physical material and content of his work come from his engagement with the world.  He says he pulls information—the people, the stories—as well as the physical material he uses from the world into his studio.  There he adds his perspective to it all—the urgency he finds, the hope he feels.  The resulting work is a project created not just of material taken from the outside world, nor something created in a hermetically-sealed art studio.  Rather it is something in between, artistic creations he calls a little bit elegant and a little rough.  He declares he’s a “big process person, a big ‘I don’t know’ person.”  He feels most comfortable when people tell him they’re trying to figure something out, working through something.  Similarly, he doesn’t mind letting people into his thinking process.  He doesn’t need to be “Instagram perfect.”  He believes perfection can alienate.

And, alienation is clearly an anathema to Bradford.  His life and art together—are determinedly an ongoing masterwork against alienation and marginalization.  He said firmly while he may have problems with aspects of the world, he has never had a problem being in the world.  His response to contemporary events is to engage and encourage others to engage as well.  Similarly, he asserted that he has no problem being black, but does have a problem with being reduced to what some people mean by that.  He proclaimed what’s exciting about the situation in the United States now is “we’re having conversations about what it is to be North American that are not just about race.  We’re beginning to have conversations about nationhood that are about more than black and white.”   He is encouraged that a lot more young people are getting involved in the political machinery of the country.  He declares it “super healthy” that his nieces and nephews want to discuss how the U.S. Congress operates.  He says recent events in American politics are like “when the ground moves and certain gases escape.”  As a result, people are becoming interested in the North American political structure.  “I see possibility in that, I’m always looking for possibility, no matter what happens.  Whatever I get thrown I can work with it.  For me it’s always about navigation, not crying about roadblocks, it’s always about trying to find a way to navigate.  Navigate and negotiate.”

When asked how to bring marginalized voices into the national discussion Bradford said you can’t disappear because you’re nervous and scared, and referencing his Biennale exhibition avows, “though my exhibition begins with a collapse and a push to the center, we have to push back into it even if it’s a bit problematic; we can’t allow ourselves to accept marginalization, that’s something we can never allow.  Progressives belong at the table.  My whole life people told me, Mark you know you don’t belong at that table and I said, yeah, I do.   We have to demand that we push into the center as close as we can get and I’m going to do this as an artist.  The center needs to see me more than I need to see them.  People In the center don’t know what an artist looks like any more.  They have some romantic notion of what we do, but they don’t see what we do.”

So what has Mark Bradford done in his Biennale exhibit?  He has created a journey through works that that both encapsulate the artist’s personal vision and provides the opportunity for viewers to find their own vision within.

The first notable aspect of the exhibition is its title, which is the closing line of Gone with the Wind, both book and movie.  It is Scarlett O’Hara’s declaration of hope and faith in her power to move forward and shape her future in the face of great loss.  Given the racism in Margaret Mitchell’s work, it is not an obvious choice for an exhibition by an African-American artist.  When asked, Bradford said that he had chosen it two years before, with an entirely different theme for the Biennale in mind.  But, although his ideas for the exhibition changed, he found the words still relevant, given what is currently occurring in the United States.   So these few words both encapsulate both Bradford’s attitude towards American life and guide visual and philosophical journey on which Bradford takes the viewer.

The visual experience begins with the interplay between his works and the architecture of the American pavilion itself.  It is an example, in miniature, of a classic American government building, found not just throughout Washington D.C., but in cities and towns across America.  The structure, with its columned façade and central rotunda is the physical embodiment of “the center” of power and authority in American society to which Bradford referred in his remarks.  You enter it, and the exhibition, from the left wing and immediately are confronted by that power and authority in the shape of a massive bulb of paper that hangs from the ceiling, filling the room and forcing you to edge your way around it.   As Bradford described it, this tumorous mass represents a kind of collapse of the structure of “the center”.   With its scabby surface of rough spots of black, orange, red and white (layers of paper that have been blasted with a pressure hose) it intimidates and marginalizes the viewer.  There is no way to view it comfortably.  And to get past it, we have to use Bradford’s approach to life, we have to navigate and negotiate our way around it to the next room.

There we find in the center of the room a tall sculpture of twisted ropes of black paper partially bleached yellow.  The viewer does not need to be told that the artist named it “Medusa.”  It’s powerful, seething mass, is both complemented and counterbalanced by the works that surround it on the walls.  In these pieces Bradford has returned to a form he explored earlier in his artistic career.  Endpapers—used in styling women’s hair, and here dyed shimmering shades of purplish-black, create compositions of subtle color gradations that invite the eye to explore their nuances.  The use of endpapers is inspired by Bradford’s early life.  His mother is a hairdresser and owned a beauty salon in which he worked for years.  When asked why he had returned to this medium, he replied simply that he “hadn’t finished with it, there were still some paintings I wanted to do”.  He added that he had stopped doing them because he felt they had led people to reduce his life down to a rap video—a “black hairdresser from south central Los Angeles.”   But, “black people’s stories are as diverse and messy as everybody else’s. I just want diversity.”

And diversity is what he has created in this room.  In substance it is an homage to the black women, including his mother, of whose inspiring, supporting role in his life he speaks frequently.  In style it exemplifies “elegant and rough” in Bradford’s work and demonstrates how they can work together to convey a coherent and compelling vision.

What then to make of the next installation in the pavilion?  One steps from the expanse of this room into the confines of the small space under the rotunda at the center of the pavilion and is immediately overwhelmed by an encrustation of the same black and bleached paper as the Medusa sculpture, which coats the dome and pours down the sides of the room.  He explained how it came about—originally he had planned an entirely different work for this space but decided shortly before the start of the Biennale that it “wasn’t working” for him.  He terms the work in the rotunda “a lot of process”, and thus a prime example of how Bradford does not mind letting people into his creative process.

It is physically intimidating and visually striking, but what does it mean?  The artist himself called the rotunda “monstrous but beautiful.”  In his remarks Bradford said he is more comfortable when people tell him that they are trying to figure something out, or are working through something.  The rotunda certainly provides them with such an opportunity.  The work lends itself to several interpretations, all in keeping with Bradford’s keen sense of himself as an American citizen.  First, there is the obvious inference to American history and slavery, since the rotunda as an architectural form in America is often associated with Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson developed a love of Palladian architecture while serving as a diplomat in France, and designed a rotunda for both his home, Monticello, and the main building of the University of Virginia, whose original campus he designed.  It is easy to interpret the dark mass covering the rotunda as a metaphor for the monstrous enslavement of Africans whose labor sustained Jefferson’s elegant intellectual life.  The contrast between the smooth neo-classical form and Bradford’s seething work addresses an ongoing question in American history:  how to understand the contradiction within the man who could write the Declaration of Independence yet enslave others his entire life?   One can take even a broader view of the contrast of form and surface in the rotunda.  Since the rotunda is at the center of a building that is the physical embodiment of the centers of social and political power in the United States, the viewer can also see Bradford the citizen at work here.  He has demonstrated how the realities of American life have encrusted the elegant, beautiful and inspiring ideals on which the country was founded.  But, because the encrustation appears dynamic, he also has demonstrated that there exists opportunity for movement and change.

That change is manifest in the following room.  Here form and color of the compositions become lighter, and dynamic in a way that lifts the spirit and brightly engages the eye.  Bradford has dyed, bleached and molded the paper with his hands to create complex compositions of diverse surfaces, shapes and colors.  Red is startlingly present in some, suggesting violence and drama.  Examine the compositions up close and the multiplicity of round shapes suggests the molecules that make up life; step back and the compositions taken as whole suggest an ever-expanding, ever-progressing universe.  Above all, they engage in a way that is entirely in keeping with Bradford’s approach to current American life—the ability to see possibility and opportunity, to navigate and negotiate our way forward.

We then arrive at the final work in Bradford’s exhibition.  The only one which was not created for the Biennale.  It is a 2005 film of a young, strong African-American man striding down a city street, seen only from the back, walking away from the camera.  It is not a staged walk, it is real—the man used to walk by Bradford’s studio every day—intriguing the artist so much that he asked to film him.  And one can see why.  He symbolizes the apotheosis of the ideal of citizenship Bradford spoke about.  He does not need to navigate or negotiate his way.   He has made his place at the table, he is seen; he belongs. He walks forward with assurance.  The viewer sees him, confident in his place in the world, striding into his future.  And thus, the ultimate message of Bradford as American artist and contemporary American citizen is conveyed—that always, “Tomorrow is Another Day.”

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About the author, Dr. Colleen Getz

Dr. Colleen Getz studied art history at Smith College.  She has published op-eds in the New York Times and Wall St. Journal as the official speechwriter for a senior government official and in the Washington Times under her own name.  She has previously served as an editorial consultant to the art journal gallery.spb; this is her first article for it, which will be published in its online version later this year.

Credits and Attributions:

“Tomorrow is Another Day”: Mark Bradford, American Artist at the 2017 Biennale, by Colleen Getz, ©2018 Colleen Getz, All Rights Reserved. Printed by Permission.

All images used in this article are ©2018 by Colleen Getz, and are intended solely to illustrate this post. Used by permission.

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#FineArtFriday: The Biennale of Art in Venice: jewels in an elaborate setting, by Rhonda Truesdale

The following post was written by my sister-in-law, Rhonda Truesdale. She is a world traveler, art lover, and an all-round amazing woman. This past summer we toured many art and glass museums in Cannon Beach, Oregon, and she confessed she had written an article on the Biennale of Art in Venice which she attended in 2017. I convinced her to send me her article for my Fine Art Friday series, and she was kind enough to do so. She also sent many pictures, which I have included here. Seeing the Glasstress Exhibition through her eyes has been a wonderful experience. Enjoy!

The Biennale of Art in Venice: jewels in an elaborate setting

By Rhonda Truesdale

May 2017

I was fortunate enough to preview the Biennale of Art in Venice this year. I specifically covered the Glasstress exhibit. Communing with the city, my colleagues, other reporters and artists gave me a taste for the rest of the exhibits, and I hope to see more when the Biennale of Art returns in two years.

The Venetian setting for the Biennale of Art lends an extra dimension to the art. While each piece of art is an intended focus, the surroundings can’t be ignored. The juxtaposition was at times jarring: the old with the new; the flashy with the staid; the timeless with the fleeting; or the unquestionably lovely with the bizarrely intriguing. It also creates facets in the jewels. The combination of colors and styles enhances the art in sometimes unexpected ways. Would the jewels be as stunning in a different setting? For me, they are forever tied, inextricably linked.

The main event that I covered was the Glasstress exhibit displayed in the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti. The Palazzo is the 19th century home of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti. This Venetian Gothic work of architectural art has soaring painted ceilings, beautifully sculpted plaster, stunning chandeliers, elaborate columns and breathtaking panels of wood and marble. In contrast, another display in Glasstress is in a glass foundry on Murano, which is dark, smoky and utilitarian.

The Biennale introduced Glasstress in 2009, in which Adriano Berengo melded contemporary art with glass. Over the years, it has expanded its cadre of artists from painters and sculptors to include architects, designers, fashion designers and musicians, including Pharrell Williams. Most of the contributors aren’t glass artists, as Glasstress focuses on the concepts and artistic collaboration more than on the medium. Glasstress is a collateral event at the Biennale of Art, traveling around the world when not in Venice. Host cities include Stockholm, Beirut, London, New York, and, most recently, Boca Raton, Florida.

These unusual collaborations have resulted in a singularly unique set of artistic creations. Reflecting the medium, they are shiny, bright and either transparent or reflective. Depicted thematic creations evoke emotions across the spectrum from exquisite to repulsive, including a fair amount of bemusement. As introduced by Philippe de Montebello, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at the opening of their show, “For hundreds of years, glass has been viewed as by some as simply a decorative or functional medium. Glasstress New York on view at the Museum of Arts and Design, shatters those notions. Here you will see dynamic new glass works from both established and emerging artists, architects and designers from around the world.”

The next few pages highlight examples of the art in the Palazzo.

The influence of fashion design is unmistakable in the glass dresses.

The glass picture boxes are fascinating in their detail and engineering, as they are each composed of many layers of glass, each of which is a standalone picture that contributes to the whole landscape.

The beauty of the room and the chandelier complement the artist’s work.


From eels, to a woman in a mirror only visible from the side, a fallen bird and a jumble of intertwined images in a hanging sculpture, each piece is unique. Separated body parts add a gruesome touch, and what appears to be solid glass turns out to be individual filaments on closer inspection.

Collaborators in the Palazzo Glasstress exhibit include Tony Cragg, Erwin Wurm, Thomas Shuette, Monica Bonvicini, Jan Fabre, Shirazeh Houshiary, Vik Muniz, Ai Weiwei, Paul McCarthy, Abdulnasser Gharem, Laure Provost, Ugo Rondinone, Sarah Sze, and many other new and established artists.

After touring the Palazzo, visitors were invited to the Berengo Exhibition Space on Murano for a separate, related Glasstress exhibit. Above is a view of the Palazzo and a boat preparing to transport visitors to the exhibit. Here again, the overall experience of boating to Murano and entering a glass factory enhances the enjoyment of the displayed art.

The Murano glass factory exhibit, titled “The Unplayed Notes Factory”, is a solo exhibition by Loris Greaud and curated by Nicolas Bourriaud as a special project of Glasstress 2017. The factory has been closed for 60 years, and is brought back to life in this exhibit. According to the Glasstress brochure, “the former glass furnace will be secretly revived and will play host to a whole new trade: an unofficial production line which is thought to conceal the mysterious vitrification of ‘hourglass’ sand, with an almost alchemical ambition to crystallize time…”

The interior of the factory is dark and smoky, punctuated by bright lights from high windows and the fire in the furnaces. The play of the lights, glass bubbles, smoke and furnace is mesmerizing. Each bubble encloses a light, and the bubbles intermittently light up in sections or across the entire sculpture. In a happy circumstance, a dinner hosted in the factory the previous night left large silver tables set up the length of the room. The line of tables mirrored the glass bubbles, fires and sunlight from the windows for even more dramatic photographs.

Here are images from the Murano glass factory exhibit.

The glass “notes” are created, and …

… hung from the ceiling.

The notes twinkle in front of the smoky furnaces, and …

… are mirrored in the tables.


So, in the final estimation, is it the jewel or the setting that makes the piece? For the Biennale of Art in Venice, it has to be both. While the glass artistry is spectacular, Venice’s history, architecture and unique feel makes this exhibit a special experience.

Thank you, Rhonda, for your wonderful photos and vivid impressions of this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity to see such an exhibition of glass art.

Next Friday, Rhonda’s colleague and fellow traveler, Colleen Getz, has agreed to give us her impressions of “Tomorrow is another Day,” an exhibit by Mark Bradford, an American artist, that was featured at the 2017 Biennale in Venice.

Rhonda Truesdale, in her own words:

I began supporting online writing as a director for the non-profit organization ChixLIT, which published an ezine for and by girls. The organization and ezines were founded in 2010 by my good friend, Maria Laso Elders, who also wrote a children’s novel, “Otherwise Known as Possum”, which was published February 28, 2017. I created the ChixLit and ChixLittle magazine websites at and and helped with content and site maintenance until 2013, when the site was redesigned. Following Maria’s death in 2015, the ezines were moved to

So what makes me an art blogger? I love art, travel, and writing; however, my writing is more typically in the realm of technical and sales articles for information technology. I joined the art blog world when I was invited to attend the press preview event in Venice for the 2017 Biennale of Art in May 2017 and wrote a guest article for gallery.spb. The gallery.spb is a contemporary arts journal based in St. Petersburg, Russia, which has been published for over 10 years and is transitioning online. This invitation gave me the opportunity to combine my 3 passions, and the resulting article describing the Glasstress exhibit at Biennale in Venice is scheduled to appear in the online version of gallery.spb.

Credits and Attributions:

The Biennale of Art in Venice: jewels in an elaborate setting, by Rhonda Truesdale © 2018 Rhonda Truesdale, All Rights Reserved. Printed by Permission

All images used in this article are ©2018 by Rhonda Truesdale, and are intended solely to illustrate this post. Used by permission.

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#FineArtFriday: The Fall of Phaeton, Peter Paul Rubens

The story: The Fall of Phaeton is a history painting, recounting the myth of Phaeton. A teenage boy seeks assurance from his mother that his father is the sun god, Helios. She tells him the truth, and advises him to turn to his father for confirmation.

Helios promises to grant him whatever he wants, and despite his father’s reservations, the boy insists on being allowed to drive the sun chariot for a day.

Unfortunately, he is unable to control the horses. The earth freezes when the horses climb too high, and then is scorched when they come too near.

To prevent further havoc, Zeus strikes the chariot down with a thunderbolt. Phaeton falls to earth and is killed.

The painting itself is bold and heroic–the entire story is laid out for the viewer to see. Painted in 1604, the Fall of Phaeton demonstrates the style and power that would characterize Rubens’ later work. Nothing is subtle about this composition–this is in-your-face fantasy with a heavy dose of “don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

I have also thought of it as a warning to parents of teenage drivers, lol!

Quote from Wikipedia: The Fall of Phaeton is a painting by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens, featuring the ancient Greek myth of Phaeton (Phaethon), a recurring theme in visual arts. Rubens chose to depict the myth at the height of its action, with the thunderbolts hurled by Zeus to the right. The thunderbolts provide the light contrast to facilitate the display of horror on the faces of Phaeton, the horses and other figures while preserving the darkness of the event. The butterfly winged female figures represent the hours and seasons, who react in terror as the night and day cycle becomes disrupted. The great astrological circle that arches the heavens is also disrupted. The assemblage of bodies form a diagonal oval in the center, separating dark and light sides of the canvas. The bodies are arranged so as to assist the viewer’s travel continually around that oval.

About the Artist:

Quote from Wikipedia: Sir Peter Paul Rubens  28 June 1577 – 30 May 1640) was a Flemish artist. He is considered the most influential artist of Flemish Baroque tradition. Rubens’ highly charged compositions reference erudite aspects of classical and Christian history. His unique and immensely popular Baroque style emphasized movement, color, and sensuality, which followed the immediate, dramatic artistic style promoted in the Counter-Reformation. Rubens specialized in making altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects.

In addition to running a large studio in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe, Rubens was a classically educated humanist scholar and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV of Spain  and Charles I of England. Rubens was a prolific artist. The catalogue of his works by Michael Jaffé lists 1,403 pieces, excluding numerous copies made in his workshop.

Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File: Peter Paul Rubens – The Fall of Phaeton (National Gallery of Art).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository (accessed September 7, 2018).

Wikipedia contributors, “Peter Paul Rubens,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed September 7, 2018).


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#FineArtFriday: The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer #laborday

In America, the first Monday in September is Labor Day, the last long weekend of summer. The weather is still warm, and many people will be enjoying the last big holiday of the summer, barbecuing or camping out. Many will be traveling long distances and staying in hotels.

Because Labor Day is a national holiday, many workers will have Monday off. But those who work in the hospitality industry and in food service will be working overtime, making the holiday good for everyone else. People in the retail industry will also be working long hours, as the last big sales before Halloween will be in effect.

Over the course of my life, I have worked in a wide variety of jobs, most of them paying a low wage. By the mid-nineties, things were easier. As a bookkeeper/office manager I made $7.50 an hour (two dollars over minimum at the time) but I worked less than 30 hours a week with no benefits whatsoever. On weekends and holidays, I worked as a hotel housekeeper in a union shop, making $8.50 (three dollars over minimum), working about 20 hours a week. That gave me enough income from the two jobs to live on and provide for my children.

While I was raising my children, no matter what job I had during the week, I kept my weekend job at the hotel, because when other jobs went away, I always had that one to fall back on.

Only hotel housekeepers with the highest seniority will work a forty hour week. The rest average twenty to thirty hours a week because people travel on weekends more than they do during the week, and certain times of the year are less traveled than others. We maids and laundry workers would have had nothing more than minimum wage without the union. Because of the union, we who did the dirty work earned a little more than those who worked at non-union hotels, and we had a few benefits such as health insurance and a 401k to set aside a little money for our retirement.

Not every union is good, and not every union is reasonable. But I have gratitude that my family and I were protected by a good, reasonable labor organization during those years that were such a struggle for me. Every worker deserves that his/her employer treats them with respect and a fair wage in return for their labor.

As we entered the new millennium, the entry-level job market had improved, and I joined the ranks of Corporate America. Working in the data entry pool for several large corporations over the next few years, I earned enough to give up my part-time job as a hotel maid.

I now have the luxury to live my dream, writing the books that I always wanted to write when I didn’t have the time. And while the world is a different place in many ways than it was in the 1980s, someone still must do the dirty jobs, the work that no one else wants. These people are heroes.

I have nothing but respect for those people who work long hard hours in all areas of the service industry, struggling to support their families. Look around you and see the people who make your life easier just by being there every day doing their job.

Every one of them is a person just like you, a living, caring human being with hopes, ambitions, triumphs, and tragedies. Every one of them has a story and a reason to be where they are, doing the task they have been given. Most love what they do and do the best job that they can.

Take the time to say a little “thank you” to all those women and men who take your unintentional abuse when you are stressed out and “don’t have time to wait,” or are upset by things you have no control over and need to vent at someone who can’t or won’t fight back. Give a little thanks to those who do the dirty work and enable you to live a little easier.

About Johannes Vermeer, the Master of Light (from Wikipedia)

Johannes Vermeer (October 1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.

Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.

Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. “Almost all his paintings are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women.”

He was recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, but his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death. He was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken‘s major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists), and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries. In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him, although only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him today. Since that time, Vermeer’s reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

About the featured painting, The Milkmaid, also from Wikipedia:

Despite its traditional title, the picture clearly shows a kitchen or housemaid, a low-ranking indoor servant, rather than a milkmaid who actually milks the cow, in a plain room carefully pouring milk into a squat earthenware container (now commonly known as a “Dutch oven”) on a table. Also on the table are various types of bread. She is a young, sturdily built woman wearing a crisp linen cap, a blue apron and work sleeves pushed up from thick forearms. A foot warmer is on the floor behind her, near Delft wall tiles depicting Cupid (to the viewer’s left) and a figure with a pole (to the right). Intense light streams from the window on the left side of the canvas.

The painting is strikingly illusionistic, conveying not just details but a sense of the weight of the woman and the table. “The light, though bright, doesn’t wash out the rough texture of the bread crusts or flatten the volumes of the maid’s thick waist and rounded shoulders”, wrote Karen Rosenberg, an art critic for The New York Times. Yet with half of the woman’s face in shadow, it is “impossible to tell whether her downcast eyes and pursed lips express wistfulness or concentration,” she wrote.

“It’s a little bit of a Mona Lisa effect” in modern viewers’ reactions to the painting, according to Walter Liedtke, curator of the department of European paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and organizer of two Vermeer exhibits. “There’s a bit of mystery about her for modern audiences. She is going about her daily task, faintly smiling. And our reaction is ‘What is she thinking?'”

Credits and Attributions:

The Milkmaid, by Johannes (Jan) Vermeer ca. 1658 [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia contributors, “The Milkmaid (Vermeer),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 31, 2018).

Wikipedia contributors, “Johannes Vermeer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 31, 2018).


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#FineArtFriday: Two Photographs, Two Years Apart

As I mentioned in my last post, The Summer Retreat, I am enjoying the last days of summer in Cannon Beach, Oregon. We will go back north to our home tomorrow. This has been a strange year, with unusual heat and a thick, smoky haze that marred the first three days.

This is the view of Tillamook Head as seen from Ecola Creek on August 13, 2016. That was a year of fabulous sunsets, deep blue skies and perfect kite flying winds.

This following image is the shot I took of  sunset three days ago on the same beach, with a more southern angle–the sea stacks are to the right, just out of the frame. At the time the photo was taken, the sun was still an hour above the horizon, and it should have been full daylight instead of twilight.

The brown haze is so thick, it looks as as if the image is grainy and overexposed, but as you can see by the red sun, it is just smoke obscuring the view of the ocean, hiding the rocks, and nearly hiding the sun. That was a difficult day for those of us with asthma, as the sun was obscured for most of the day, despite the intense humidity and 90 degree heat. The surf looks unreal, as if it were a badly composed painting.

Today the brown haze cleared and the temperatures dropped to the normal high 60’s to mid 70’s–which is perfectly comfortable. Not breathing the smoke from the West Coast Wildfires is a relief, although I suspect we will return to that misery once we return to our own inland valley.

Nevertheless, it will be good to be home. We love this place and this beach and return every year. And every sojourn here is  so different, so unique, always with something new to enjoy. Even when, as it was this year, it is a strange, nearly post apocalyptic year.

Credits and Attributions:

Images and text © 2018 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

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#FineArtFriday: Rembrandt as Shepherd with Staff and Flute, by Govert Flink 1636

About the artist: Born at Kleve, capital of the Duchy of Cleves, which was occupied at the time by the United Provinces, Govert Flinck was apprenticed by his father to a silk merchant, but in 1627 he was sent to Leeuwarden, where he boarded in the house of Lambert Jacobszoon. Jaobszoon was a Mennonite (one of the historic peace churches known for their commitment to pacifism). While Jacobszoon is better known as a preacher, he was a talented painter and an excellent teacher.

While studying there, Flinck met some of Jacobszoon’s neighbors, relatives of Saskia van Uylenburgh, who had married Rembrandt in 1634. That same year he began studying with Rembrandt.

Flinck is acknowledged as one of Rembrandt’s best pupils.

I really enjoy this romantic painting of Rembrandt dressed as a shepherd, holding a flute, and thinking about…what? Rembrandt’s contemplative expression seems peaceful.  The details are wonderful – from the finely worked trim on his garments down to the jewel dangling from his right ear, a gem that softly glows. The grains of the wood in both the flute and staff are subtle and real. The light falls perfectly – Flinck captured the personality of the master as a handsome young man during the happiest time of his life, and it seems as if Rembrandt himself enjoyed posing for it.

For more than a decade, Flinck’s work echoed that of Rembrandt, clearly influenced by the master’s style in the work which he executed between 1636 and 1648. As time passed, he began to desire to be a history painter, a genre in painting that  is defined by its subject matter rather than artistic style, and turned to the work of Peter Paul Rubens. In later years, Flinck had great commercial success, receiving many commissions for official and diplomatic paintings.

Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt als herder met staf en fluit Rijksmuseum SK-A-3451.jpeg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, (accessed August 16, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Perseid Meteor Shower; Aug.11, 2015, by Brad Sutton

This weekend, August 11th through the 13th, 2018, is the annual show of lights known as the Perseid Meteor Shower. My husband and I will watch them as we always do. Sometimes I fall asleep before they appear, but I always try to be awake for them. After midnight is the best time.

The National Park Service photographer, Brad Sutton, caught this dreamscape perfectly. The Joshua trees are black against the  sky and he managed an exposure that was perfect: the meteor was captured yet the brilliance of the stars and the color of the night wasn’t washed out.

That, my friends, is no easy trick. I know a little about photography, having worked as a darkroom tech during the 1980s. Processing and printing is a digital no-brainer now, but in those days it was a worthy career. During my time in that line of work, I was privileged to handle the work of many fine professional nature photographers, and have retained my appreciation for the art-form.

About the scene portrayed in this image:

From Wikipedia, the Fount of All Knowledge: The Perseids are prolific meteor showers associated with the comet Swift–Tuttle. The Perseids are so called because the point from which they appear to hail (called the radiant) lies in the constellation Perseus.

The other thing of beauty in this wonderful image is the setting, Joshua Tree National Park. It is an alien landscape to my northern eyes. The silhouettes of the Yucca against the clear, star-strewn sky calls to me in some lonely way.

Someday, I will travel to the American Southwest and see this place, and more. Perhaps I will see the Perseids from there. As all new experiences do, the feelings and emotions these places and events inspire will find their way into my work. I have been so privileged to see and touch the alien beauty that is our Planet Earth.

Also, from the Fount of Knowledge: Straddling the border between San Bernardino County and Riverside County, the park includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation: the higher Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert. The Little San Bernardino Mountains traverse the southwest edge of the park.

Looking further into Wikipedia:

In a 2001 paper published in the journal Ecosystems, Joshua trees are one of the species predicted to have their range reduced and shifted by climate change. There is concern that they will be eliminated from Joshua Tree National Park, with ecological research suggesting a high probability that their populations will be reduced by 90% of their current range by the end of the 21st century, thus fundamentally transforming the ecosystem of the park. There is also concern about the ability of the species to migrate to favorable climates due to the extinction of the giant Shasta ground sloth (Nothrotheriops shastensis) 13,000 years ago; ground sloth dung has been found to contain Joshua tree leaves, fruits, and seeds, suggesting that the sloths might have been key to the tree’s dispersal.

Credits and Attributions:

Perseid Meteor Shower; 8-11-15 by Brad Sutton for the National Park Service. Taken in Joshua Tree National Park. © CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Perseids,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 9, 2018).

Wikipedia contributors, “Joshua Tree National Park,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 9, 2018).

Wikipedia contributors, “Yucca brevifolia,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 9, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Don Quixote in the Library, by Adolf Schrödter

An area of art I haven’t discussed, but which has often been a primary reason why I buy books, is the illustrations. The artwork that went into many books in the 19th and early 20th centuries was sometimes exquisite. Yet, these illustrators remained unknown for the most part and unsung. Today’s image is from Wikimedia Commons and is by a German artist, Adolf Schrödter.

Little is known about Schrödter other than he was born on June 28, 1805, and died Dec. 9, 1875, and was a genre painter of the Düsseldorf school of painting. According to Wikipedia, the Fount of All Knowledge:

The Düsseldorf School had a significant influence on the Hudson River School in the United States, and many prominent Americans trained at the Düsseldorf Academy and show the influence of the Düsseldorf School, including George Caleb BinghamDavid Edward CroninEastman JohnsonWorthington WhittredgeRichard Caton WoodvilleWilliam Stanley HaseltineJames McDougal HartHelen Searle, and William Morris Hunt, as well as German émigré Emanuel LeutzeAlbert Bierstadt applied but was not accepted. His American friend Worthington Whittredge became his teacher while attending Düsseldorf.

However, some of Schrödter’s art survives in the form of illustrations and a few prints have been sold at auctions.

In today’s image what impresses me is the level of detail. Here we see Alonso Quixano reading, lounging in a room that is clearly a book lover’s sanctuary. He is a descendant of the family of “Gutierre Quijada” by direct lineage and is proud to be part of a long and noble tradition of knights. In the first part of the book, Alonso, later Don Quixote de la Mancha, is a dreamer, preferring to imagine himself as a superhero, living out a knightly story.

Books are strewn everywhere, beautiful, heavy leather-bound tomes. Schrödter shows him in a relaxed pose, deep into a book. The light of the room comes from a large window. He is a very human, ordinary middle-aged man, relaxing in the most cherished place in his universe: his library.

Alonso Quixano, the protagonist of the novel (though he is not named until much later in the book), is a retired country gentleman nearing fifty years of age, living in La Mancha with his niece and housekeeper. Although he is mostly a rational man, his excessive reading of books of chivalry has produced a skewed view of reality and what we might consider dementia. In keeping with the theories of the time, not sleeping adequately—because he was reading—has caused his brain to dry.

I love that notion.

As a result, Alonso is easily given to anger and believes every word of these fictional books of chivalry to be true. Don Quixote’s niece commits, what is to me, the most heinous crime–she and the Parrish curate burn his library, and lie to him, telling him it was the work of an evil magician.

He descends completely into his fantasy world and decides to become a knight-errant in search of adventure. Schrödter has captured the essence of the making of Don Quixote in this painting—the man who loves books is in his element, the one place where he fits. When that is taken from him, the story begins.

Credits and Attributions:

Don Quixote in the Library, by Adolf Schrödter, 1834 PD|100, via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia contributors, “Düsseldorf school of painting,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 3, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Imogen, by Herbert Gustave Schmalz

Herbert Gustave Schmalz (1856–1935) was an English painter who named himself Herbert Gustave Carmichael in 1918. He is counted among the Pre-Raphaelites , and Imogen, which was painted in  1888 is a classic example of the hyper-romanticized Pre-Raphaelite style.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood produced some spectacularly beautiful work, as well as some rather awkwardly posed, overly sentimental pieces. Schmalz was famous for his romantic pictures depicting medieval scenes, Arthurian scenes, and vignettes from Shakespeare’s work.

Schmalz turned his brush to portraiture in his later work, as that was where the money was.

From Wikipedia:

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (later known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman HuntJohn Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three founders were joined by William Michael RossettiJames CollinsonFrederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form the seven-member “brotherhood”. Their principles were shared by other artists, including Ford Madox BrownArthur Hughes and Marie Spartali Stillman.

A later, medievalising strain inspired by Rossetti included Edward Burne-Jones and extended into the twentieth century with artists such as John William Waterhouse.

The group’s intention was to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. Its members believed the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite”. In particular, the group objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts, whom they called “Sir Sloshua”. To the Pre-Raphaelites, according to William Michael Rossetti, “sloshy” meant “anything lax or scamped in the process of painting … and hence … any thing or person of a commonplace or conventional kind”.[1] The brotherhood sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art. The group associated their work with John Ruskin,[2] an English critic whose influences were driven by his religious background.

The group continued to accept the concepts of history painting and mimesis, imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art. The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their form of art, and published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas. The group’s debates were recorded in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal.

Credits and Attributions

Wikipedia contributors, “Herbert Gustave Schmalz,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed July 27, 2018).

Wikipedia contributors, “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed July 27, 2018).


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