My eyes opened wide with amazement last weekend, when my docent friend provided another special tour at the San Diego Museum of Art. This time we had a good look at a surprising exhibition of early American quilts from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
These quilts, which date mostly from the 19th century, created in many instances by lone Amish and Mennonite quiltmakers, are so dazzling with brilliant colors and inventive, abstract designs that they seem thoroughly modern, like hung works of art by the greatest 20th century Abstract Expressionists.
I know relatively little about quiltmaking. All I know is that when I gazed at these vibrant works of art, I felt that I was peering into the inner life of a spiritual people, where joy, memories and dreams are represented with magically combined bits of color. These delights for the eye were created to be a warming family treasure, meant to last for generations.
In this blog post you can see just a few photos of the nearly 50 quilts on display. The craftmanship is intricate. I can’t imagine the many hours of persistent dedication, patience and love a quiltmaker required to create just one of these examples. They lived in a very different time and place. In their world living was more simple, and beauty was quietly formed from single threads.
All of these old quilts were discovered over several decades by collectors Gerald Roy and Paul Pilgrim, who also played an important role in the creation of the The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Many of these quilts were collected solely for their aesthetic appeal. Paul Pilgrim, now deceased, was also an innovative quiltmaker.
Head to Balboa Park to visit the San Diego Museum of Art and you’ll be astounded by many of these quilts. If you do plan to visit, do so by September 5, 2016, when this very unique exhibition comes to an end.
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Wow! I enjoyed another awesome visit to the San Diego Museum of Art last weekend, courtesy of my docent friend Catherine! She provided a spellbinding tour of several exhibits! The one I liked most–possibly because I love animals and because the artist has a San Diego connection–concerned the bronze sculptures of Arthur Putnam.
The exhibition, titled Ferocious Bronze, features artwork so utterly amazing that Arthur Putnam has been called the American Rodin. He was such a gifted sculptor that his pieces have sometimes been mistaken for those of Frederic Remington. Most of his bronzes depict animals in the wild: hunting, in mortal combat, at play or at rest.
Arthur Putnam lived from 1873–1930 and was considered one of the greatest sculptors of his era. At the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco he won a coveted Gold Medal. During his lifetime his work was exhibited in major cities, including New York, Chicago, Paris and Rome. Many of his monumental public sculptures still stand in San Francisco, Monterey and San Diego.
Check out these photos! They provide a small taste of what you’ll experience should you visit Ferocious Bronze. You can get an idea of Putnam’s tremendous artistry. The superb realism is partly due to the fact that he personally loved the outdoors, and spent many days observing animals in the wild and at zoos. A mostly self-taught artist, Putnam even worked for a brief time at a slaughterhouse. (Yuck!)
Did I mention Arthur Putnam’s unique San Diego connection? His very first commission was from newspaper magnate E. W. Scripps, which he received at the Scripps Ranch located in Miramar. In addition, two of Putnam’s monumental works stand today near the spot where San Diego was founded–the very place where European civilization took root in California.
(I’ve included my own photos of the two splendid sculptures that now grace San Diego’s Presidio Hill. I wrote a blog several years ago that concerned a fun walk past these sculptures.)
Ferocious Bronze, curated by Dr. James Grebl, showcases 28 of Putnam’s amazing animal pieces. They were selected from the over 100 pieces that the San Diego Museum of Art has in their collection. This special exhibit was inspired by another Balboa Park institution: the world famous San Diego Zoo! They are now celebrating their centennial year!
If you happen to be in San Diego, and if you love fine art or have a special place in your heart for wild animals, I recommend that you head over to see Ferocious Bronze at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park! This very cool exhibition runs through October 11, 2016.
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During the past week, a number of sculptures in the San Diego Museum of Art’s collection have been carefully moved into the Plaza de Panama, a large outdoor gathering place in Balboa Park. For the next two years, anyone in San Diego will be able to freely enjoy the sculptures, and see them in changing light, beneath different skies. Moving such large pieces has taken a lot of work, but I noticed today that the installation, titled Art of the Open Air, is approaching completion.
Included in the unique outdoor exhibition are works by world-famous artists Joan Miró, Auguste Rodin and Tony Rosenthal. I wasn’t able to approach the artwork too closely–right now, while the sculptures are being readied, they’re still roped off. The same goes for a new piece in the museum’s May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden, which I also photographed from a bit of a distance. I put some identifying information in the photo captions.
Art of the Open Air is set to run from February 11, 2016 through February 13, 2018. I can already see that Balboa Park is going to be more lively and interesting than ever!
Today I walked through Balboa Park’s beautiful May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden. The grassy space, which is free to the public, contains several pieces of artwork belonging to the San Diego Museum of Art’s collection.
The garden’s most recognized sculpture is probably Reclining Figure: Arch Leg, which was created in 1969 by renowned British Modernist artist Henry Moore.
As I walked around the curvaceous sculpture, it occurred to me that different interesting photos could be taken depending on the angle and perceived distance. So I engaged in a bit of experimentation!
(Fear not! I didn’t touch the sculpture or step on the flowers! But I did lean over like crazy–and minutely cropped some images– to get the “close-up” images.)
Do you love beautiful music? Do you appreciate fine art?
Answer yes to both questions, and you have two compelling reasons to visit an exhibition “now playing” at the San Diego Museum of Art!
The Art of Music explores the intersection of art and music throughout world history, from ancient times to the present. Visitors to the San Diego Museum of Art will experience a large variety of paintings, posters, sculptures and film, depicting musicians, dancers and various aspects of life that are splashed with the colors of music. Visitors will also enjoy seeing many extraordinarily beautiful musical instruments, historical objects related to music, and encounter surprising sounds at every turn.
My museum docent friend Catherine recently provided another great tour! There was so much to absorb, so many cool sights and sounds, that I hardly know how to translate my feelings into words. I could’ve spent many hours just lingering. The experience was almost like standing on stage during a symphony orchestra’s performance, and turning slowly around with eyes and ears wide open.
I was absolutely floored by the impressive sweep of this exhibit, and the number of pieces by important artists. I noted works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Salvador Dalí, William Hogarth, Toulouse-Lautrec, Jasper Johns and John Baldessari, a highly regarded artist who grew up in National City in San Diego’s South Bay.
The very first piece visitors encounter is Baldessari’s Beethoven’s Trumpet (with Ear) Opus #127, a fun sculpture which perfectly captures the essence of what is to come. Press your own ear against the ear trumpet and you’ll hear musical notes penned centuries ago by Beethoven, as if they’re emerging from the famous composer’s brain!
In other rooms, visitors can listen to a statuette of a satyr playing the pipes of Pan, a qin from China dating from the 19th century, or an absolutely gorgeous 18th century harpsichord that was converted to a piano.
One amazing room in the exhibit contains the Microtonal Wall, created by Tristan Perich in 2011. A large section of wall contains 1,500 small speakers, which are tuned individually to create a complex and interesting continuum of pitch. The interactive experience was so fascinating, I ended up walking with my ear close to the wall bobbing up and down like a mesmerized chicken!
Another dazzling room is filled to the brim with psychedelic concert posters from the 1960s! Aficionados of this type of artwork will find themselves in heaven!
The Art of Music features so much cool stuff, and such variety, I couldn’t possibly describe it all here. You really have to go see for yourself. I’m no expert when it comes to either art or music, but I found myself completely enthralled!
Here are a few samples of what you’ll experience…
The Art of Music lives in San Diego!
Go check it out! The Art of Music, at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, runs through February 7, 2016.
An extraordinary exhibit recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. It’s called Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008. Last Saturday, I enjoyed a very special tour, courtesy of my docent friend Catherine!
The exhibit features a collection of more than a hundred objects that depict 150 years of Coney Island’s amusement parks, boardwalk, beach and people. It includes paintings, photographs, videos, carnival posters, sideshow banners, carved wooden carousel horses, and a wide range of colorful, unique artifacts.
From its early days as a peaceful beach getaway for wealthy New Yorkers, to the rise and fall of amusement parks, years of decay, political wrangling, then modern renewal, Coney Island has been interpreted by artists through the years in a variety of surprising ways. Some artists portray an innocent playland for common people. Others, something more complex, and less innocent.
Most of the exhibit’s artwork centers on Coney Island’s legendary amusement parks. Many images resemble exuberant scenes from a carnival or circus. They’re full of energy, laughter, humanity, wonder–but often base, superficial, disturbing, despairing. Many painting are dark, almost gaudy with a crowded press of people seeking pleasure. A symbol adopted by Coney Island–the unnatural, exaggerated grin of Tillie–seems to be a taunting reminder that the purchased thrills are artificial. The grin is strangely maniacal and mindless, one part Joker, one part Cheshire Cat.
Fantastic imagery abounds in the exhibit, which is sure to delight many kids. They’ll see huge cyclops heads, videos of romping midgets, a banner promising a sideshow freak with inhuman tentacles. The adults will see images of lust, insatiability, scattered litter, dripping blood.
I suppose we humans like to be both excited and terrified.
One Impressionist painting by the important American artist William Merritt Chase shows a landscape of sunlight and natural, unspoiled beauty; the egg tempera painted canvases of Reginald Marsh are dark, crammed with unabated appetite, bold kinetic energy and human expression; photographs by Arthur Fellig (Weegee) show people crowded onto the beach like fleshy, happy sardines.
Personally, as I took my amazing tour, I saw life’s wonderful jumble and a sample of our world’s endless variety. All the emotions, the complexity–but mostly I recognized the sunlit memories of ordinary good-natured neighbors heading to the beach and boardwalk, and some exciting, brief amusements, on a sunny weekend day.
This isn’t a typical art museum exhibit. It’s more like taking an instant journey to a place you already know. A Coney Island in your mind. And your vivid experiences in the San Diego Museum of Art will make the journey seem very real.
Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008, has come to San Diego from the Wadsworth Athenium Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. This special exhibition continues through October 13, 2015.
Here are just a few things that you’ll see…
The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is simply jammed with fantastic, provocative Coney Island art. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So go see it!
Improvements were recently unveiled in the heart of Balboa Park, San Diego’s crown jewel and cultural center. The historic Plaza de Panama is now a gathering place containing many tables with colorful chairs and umbrellas, planters brimming with green, and art-splashed benches. A once semi-barren public square has become a truly comfortable gathering place for both locals and visitors to America’s Finest City!
In June 2013, the first wave of improvements set in motion by Mayor Filner removed unsightly parking from the Plaza de Panama. Some tables and chairs were added, but a large area between the beautiful fountain and the San Diego Museum of Art remained empty. Three weeks ago, under Mayor Faulconer, additional amenities appeared. Personally, I love the scattered reds and blues of the umbrellas, a color scheme which I find very tasteful. Plaza de Panama is now a suitably dynamic and welcoming outdoor public space.
A few days ago I got some pics!
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