Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hidden Treasures, Artistic Inspiration

A visit to a somewhat obscure museum and some other sightseeing have given me so much food for thought, as well as great lesson motivations.  The museum was The Nicholas Roerich Museum; the beautiful paintings above and below are by Roerich.
My husband and I recently spent a few days playing tourist in NYC, and decided to forego the big art museums that we've been to so many times (the Met, MoMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim) and instead explored a lovely little museum, discovered a magnificent cathedral, did some sightseeing of the city from the Top of the Rock, and communed with butterflies at the Museum of Natural History.

But first lets go back to the Nicholas Roerich Museum, and the inspiring paintings of Roerich (Russian; 1874-1947).  I thought his rich landscapes could be terrific motivations for multiple lessons.  For example, when teaching perspective - foreground, mid-ground, background.  (By the way, Roerich spent part of his life residing in the Himalayas, which is why so many of these majestic mountains appear in his work.)
Perhaps the paintings could be used for teaching about color harmony and how certain color relationships can be affective in landscape painting.  Many of Roerich's landscapes were monochromatic, or mostly monochromatic with a focal point of a contrasting or complimentary color.  Other landscapes were more of an analogous color combo, and others  used limited color palettes.
Along with the color and perspective, there's also a lovely peace and spirituality throughout his work.  Subtle imagery appears from various religions appear in many paintings, and Roerich was responsible for the creation of the Roerich Pact, which has for its object "the protection of historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational, and cultural institutions both in time of peace and in time of war, and provides for the use of a distinctive flag to identify the monuments and institutions coming within the protection of the treaty."  The flag was designed by Roerich, and you can see the design below, and in the painting below it.
 Wouldn't it be nice to design a lesson that represents peace and the protection and preservation of cultural heritages worldwide?  I think, at a time when many of our cultural institutions are being threatened (public radio and TV, and the National Endowment for the Arts, for example), remembering that our nation has signed a pact to agree to protect these institutions is a worthwhile topic to learn about. 
But anyhow, let me just say this - if you ever are in NYC and have a couple of hours to spare, make a visit to this hidden gem of a museum.  And when you are done, walk just a few short blocks and visit The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.  I'll be honest; I'm Jewish and am not easily moved by chruches and cathedrals.  But this one....  it's soaring architecture is stunning and worth your time.  Here's a couple of views of the cathedral that do not do it justice (it is one of the largest cathedrals in the world but I didn't have a wide angle lens...).  Here's also a nearby statue that I fell in love with.  I couldn't get closer to it because of the weather, but hopefully this will give you enough of a sense of this cool statue.

Now back to the butterflies....  This was my second visit to the Butterfly Conservatory at the Museum of Natural History.  It appears butteflies like me.  Last time (three years ago), one landed on my hair like a hair ornament and wouldn't leave.   This year, one landed on my backpack purse, another on my forehead, and a giant one on my cheek!  How lucky am I??  By the way, if you want to have a butterfly experience and you will be in NYC, the Conservatory will be at the museum for another couple of months.
 Below is the butterfly that was on my cheek, and the beautiful blue butterfly underneath is the SAME butterfly, with its wings open!!  That's not my shoulder; it's just a random guy who was visiting the exhibit, who was lucky enough to host the butterfly sitting still, on full display with his wings open. 
 And a few other butterfly beauties...
Think of all the possible lesson motivation - repeating patterns, color, camouflage (like the "false eye" on the butterfly on my cheek).  And how about creating something with a pattern that looks dull on one side, and then opens to reveal a rich color like that gorgeous cobalt blue?
And while I'm at it, I have a pet peeve about the way butterflies are often drawn in kids' art.  Let's show kids photos of butterflies that clearly indicate where their wings are hooked to their body?  First of all, butterflies have two pairs of wings.  The wings are attached to the thorax, which is the body segment between the head and the abdomen (which is the longer end part of the butterfly).  Butterfly wings are ONLY attached to the central segment, the thorax!!

It was an inspirational trip to NYC.  Between this trip, and my time there for the NAEA convention, I've had a lot of touristy NYC time, including two museums that do not allow photographs.  I highly recommend them both: the Neue Gallery in NYC is filled with incredible Klimt paintings, and the work of other expressionists.  And the Frick Collection is filled with masterful paintings by European masters.  Also on display was an exhibition of magnificent work by Turner.  Photography was allowed only in a garden courtyard, which was where I took this photo below.  They never said we couldn't photograph the windows, and I'll be honest; I only took this photo after I saw someone else doing the same thing.  And then I felt guilty and put my camera away.
I love knowing I can have inspiring travels without having to fly across an ocean!  
Thank you, NYC!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

More from Mass MoCA!

 Hello!  Splat!  Here I am, above, in front of one of the many Sol LeWitt wall drawings and paintings on display long-term in the museum.  Let me share a bit of what else is currently on exhibition.
Above, a sculpture outside of Mass MoCA, is an actual bolder split in  half.  There's also, right outside the entrance, an overhead group of upside down trees, but that's another story all together.  They are real trees, suspended in the air, growing upside down.  Currently they are bare, but I was hypothesizing that in autumn, when their leaves change, they should "fall" upward into the sky!  Both of these are, I believe, very long-term (or permanent) installations at the museum.

We spent some time in the part of the museum called Kidspace, and I thought it was amazing!  It's set up with creative spaces for kids to use, but it is also adult-friendly.  I'm glad we didn't skip it!  Federico Uribe re-purposed interesting materials for his sculptures that currently populate Kidspace, to give the viewer a lot of provocative food for thought - bullets were used to create various animals such as a lion, and the bunny sitting on the donkey above.  Leather sneakers, made from animal hides, were used to create new animals, army helmets became turtle shells, and so on.  Above is a donkey made out of leather valises!!  Don't you love his zipper eye (below)?
And here's a closeup of a gator made from sneakers...
I love this sheep (or is it a lamb?) made from tons of white scissors.  In the pic on the right, the pig is made from measuring tape, and I believe the man is a conglomeration of various pencils. 
Aren't these wasps made from sneakers just fabulous?

There was a multi-room exhibit called "Explode Every Day - An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder", with work from various artists, each more boggling than the next.  These next three photos are blown glass pieces, by Chris Taylor.  I am NOT KIDDING.  These are blown glass.  The guard allowed us to touch them for proof!  Amazing!!
The guard actually told us where to find this blown glass piece below.  He said "Look for what looks like a pile of garbage on the floor in a back corner."  I had no idea glass to could look like this!  Even from inches away, there's no way you'd know it is glass.
I loved this painting, below, by Sharon Ellis, one of several on display in the gallery. 
The most provocative part of the exhibit was a room that looked like the lab of a mad scientist.  The work is called "Field Station" and is by Charles Lindsay.  There were things spinning and blinking and making noises and two giant tube thingies that were randomly, it seemed, broadcasting whale songs.  Below is a view into one of the tubes, one of the randomly spinning blinking whirring thingies, and.... something else.  I don't know what. 
Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibit were works by brothers Ryan and Trevor Oakes, particularly intricate drawings on curved surfaces. 
Below is one of the brothers working on the piece pictured above, of the Chicago "bean" sculpture, officially named the Cloud Gate. 
 This matchstick structure below is also by Ryan and Trevor Oakes. 

Also in the exhibition, this room below, filled with bottles and vases, with fossilized rocks and shells on top, I think.  I didn't understand the point, but I loved these bottles (they reminded me of great blue herons), and I also loved the light quality in the room.  They were wired up in some way to... oh, I don't know.  I couldn't figure it all out.  I admit it.  Some of them had humidifiers.  I'm stumped.

 There was a timeline of the universe, starting with the Big Bang, and ending in the future, with the demise of our planet.  Here's a couple of blips from the timeline, from the short period of time humans are on earth.
 
Below, a couple more pics from Kidspace.  This lion is made from bullets and shell casings, and the hair on the  heads in the  CD pond are keyboards. 

The pics below were shot in the Sol LeWitt exhibit.  I've seen this work before, but it is always fun to walk through it.  And, as I said before, the museum has incredible light quality .  
 I took this picture just before I dropped and broke my little camera, while trying to put it back in its case.  It was a handy-dandy little Sony camera, and I'm getting a used replacement from eBay.  I hope it works...

If you've never had an opportunity to go to Mass MoCA, the museum is a really cool space, with buildings linked by tunnels and such, resulting in interesting spaces like the one below.  One of the tunnels has interesting sounds coming from the walls, making it an immersive experience.  

I tried to close the post with a little video weirdness from one of those tube things that I told you about before, but it wasn't working.  I'll try to put it back soon, so come check back.  In the meantime, call me befuddled.......