Amazing modern masterpieces visit San Diego.

Visitors near beautiful entrance to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Visitors near entrance to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

Yesterday morning was super special. I was able to experience dozens of amazing fine art masterpieces firsthand!

My friend Catherine Jones, a docent at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, very graciously provided me and a friend with a special tour. We were given an in-depth look at the landmark Gauguin to Warhol exhibit, being shown for a limited time in San Diego.

Follow me into the world-class San Diego Museum of Art, and we’ll check out a few of these stunning paintings together!

Masterpieces that define modern art by Van Gogh, Matisse, Kahlo, Pollock, and more...
Masterpieces that define modern art by Van Gogh, Matisse, Kahlo, Pollock, and more…
Step through this door to see an amazing exhibit of mind-blowing art!
Step through this door to see an amazing exhibit of mind-blowing art!

Gauguin to Warhol: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is an exhibit containing dozens of true masterpieces from many of the world’s most famous modern painters. Artists with important pieces on display include Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Georgia O’Keeffe, Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock and Roy Lichtenstein .

The exhibit is a whirlwind journey through time, progressing from Impressionism in the late 18th Century to Post-impressionism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and finally Pop Art in the 1960s. One can follow the emergence and evolution of major art movements over eight decades–and observe how visual abstraction, experimentation and provocative simplicity took a greater and greater hold on the imaginations of many great artists.

These fantastic paintings all come from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. San Diego is the exclusive West Coast stop for this traveling exhibition.

(The following descriptions and reactions were formed in my own muddled human brain, and notes were taken only sporadically. I’m not even close to being an art expert, so take everything I say with a very large grain of salt!)

Paul Gauguin. Spirit of the Dead Watching,1892, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Paul Gauguin. Spirit of the Dead Watching,1892, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

A few steps after we admire a fine example of classic Impressionism, the 1890 Peasants in the Fields by Camille Pissarro, we are stopped in our tracks by a stunning masterpiece by Paul Gauguin. It’s the instantly recognizable Spirit of the Dead Watching, painted in 1892.

Spirit of the Dead Watching was created during Gauguin’s residence in Tahiti. It depicts his young wife Tehura, awakened by a frightening dream. A nightmarish figure with a mask-like face sits at the foot of her bed, seemingly a dark omen.

The bright, gauzy, fine daubs of paint of the earlier Impressionist movement seem to have given way to broad, unabashed swaths of rich color. The elements in this Post-Impressionist image appear two-dimensional; objects depicted seem to have become bold, emotionally colored symbols, rather than more-realistic objects given depth using traditional perspective.

The Spirit of the Dead Watching is both uniquely beautiful and disturbing, not unlike a few of the canvases to come on our tour.

Pablo Picasso, La Toileete, 1906, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Pablo Picasso, La Toileete, 1906, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Another few steps and we are looking at Pablo Picasso’s La Toilette, painted in 1906 just before his well-known innovations with Cubism.

The two women depicted are different views by Picasso of the same model. The painting seems to be mostly about lustrous, subtle color and soft, slightly angular shapes. It struck me that fusing the two figures, with their simple faces and forms, would result in a sort of Cubist composite creation. Perhaps we see the gears slowly turning in Picasso’s creative mind.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Old Mill, 1888, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Vincent Van Gogh, The Old Mill, 1888, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

The masterpiece that I enjoyed most–because it’s just so indescribably magical–is Van Gogh’s The Old Mill, from 1888, another fine example of Post-Impressionism. Thick smears of paint and bold brush strokes of light give the painting strange depth and glowing solidity, in spite of its greatly simplified, almost crude representation of a country scene. I felt like I had entered a magical landscape, located somewhere between a gleaming dream and a warm, everyday experience. To me, it’s a piece of art that would never grow old.

Salvador Dalí, The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image, 1938, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Salvador Dalí, The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image, 1938, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Here we see the emergence of Surrealism. And this masterpiece is by the ever popular Salvador Dalí!

The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image, 1938, is one of Dalí’s most iconic works. It’s mysterious, strange and stimulates thought. What do the various elements in the design represent? Is that a bowl of mashed potatoes with gravy on a table with a napkin, or is that a lake nestled between mountains? The onlooker isn’t quite sure if the painting is primarily fun or symbolic, or a depiction of the unconscious, or sublime reality. Abstraction has surely taken hold of the artist’s vision, as the scene is a complete departure from ordinary experience.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait With Monkey, 1938, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait With Monkey, 1938, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s impressive Self-Portrait With Monkey, painted in 1938, is said to be Surrealist. To me it appears more like a beautifully colorful Post-Impressionist Gauguin. According to Wikipedia: “Frida rejected the “surrealist” label; she believed that her work reflected more of her reality than her dream.”

Gazing at this one portrait, I understand her assertion. Apart from one canvas in the exhibit, a depiction of fleshy, bloody butchered meat, this painting seems more solidly lifelike and ripe with organic truth than any other work that I recall seeing.

Henri Matisse, La Musique, 1939, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Henri Matisse, La Musique, 1939, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

I also love this one! La Musique, by Henri Matisse in 1939, is the sort of joyful, broadening, invigorating style of art that I personally like. Catherine pointed out that the lady on the left is very prim and composed, but the wild lady on the right is the type you’d want to date! Exactly right! The hands and feet are wonderfully twisted and elongated as if they’re swimming within splashes of swirling color and music!

Jackson Pollock, Convergence, 1952, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Jackson Pollock, Convergence, 1952, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Jackson Pollock today is recognized as a master of Abstract Expressionism. His unique drip paintings are unmistakeable. And his Convergence from 1952 nearly covers an entire museum wall!

Okay, perhaps I’m an ignoramus and a dullard. To me this style of painting seems a bit random, cynical, and a thumb in the eye of earlier, more skillful artistic styles. Several of the canvases in this portion of gallery struck me in a similar way.  The absurdly huge creations of these famous Abstract Expressionists seem more than experimental–they seem despondent, angry, nihilistic and disillusioned–perhaps a reaction to the massive chaos and inhumanity of two world wars in the early 20th Century. But I do appreciate Pollock’s artful balance, his dynamic strands of color, and the peculiar, imposing beauty that has resulted!

Francis Bacon, Man With Dog, 1954, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Francis Bacon, Man With Dog, 1954, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Here’s one painting that is absolutely disturbing. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a short horror story by Poe, or above the mantle in a cobwebby haunted house! As if penetrating the dark recesses of the human subconscious, Francis Bacon’s unsettling Man With Dog, 1954, seems to portray the bottom of a shadowy figure being resisted by a featureless, spectral hound attracted to a sewer grate. This painting definitely succeeds in bringing out a strong feeling of unfocused loathing. If the aim of art is to stir the emotions, this piece is triumphant!

Willem de Kooning, Gotham News, 1955, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Willem de Kooning, Gotham News, 1955, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

A manic jumble of impulsive, uncertain emotions in two dimensions seems to compose Willem de Kooning’s Abstract Expressionist Gotham News, completed in 1955. Flesh tones and slightly organic shapes are intermixed with the angled, heavy lines of a large city’s architecture, looking to my eye like stained glass put into a blender. Energy and spasmodic randomness seem to convey no clear artistic notion, nor rouse any one particular emotion. It’s just a big mixture of complex energy!  Perhaps that was the artist’s intent!

Andy Warhol, 100 Cans, 1962, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Andy Warhol, 100 Cans, 1962, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

An Andy Warhol response to modernism, his iconic 100 Cans was painted in 1962. Since then, the Pop Art image of multiple Campbell’s Soup cans has spread and mutated throughout the popular culture.

Is this painting a celebration of unrepentant commercialism, or a resigned condemnation? Is he asking the fundamental question: What is art? Or is it just his affirmation that an increasingly technological and global culture has changed life forever, and that art has become something of a commodity? I’ve heard arguments on every side.

The original painting is hanging on a wall at the San Diego Museum of Art! See it for yourself and decide!

The amazing Gauguin to Warhol exhibit runs in San Diego through January 27, 2015.
The amazing Gauguin to Warhol exhibit runs in San Diego through January 27, 2015.

This truly special, eye-opening exhibit, Gauguin to Warhol, can be enjoyed at the San Diego Museum of Art through January 27, 2015.

It might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really appreciate these many great masterpieces. If you can, go see it!

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Colorful mosaic sculptures near Mingei Museum.

Nikigator is a fun mosaic sculpture in front of the Mingei Museum.
Nikigator is a fun mosaic sculpture in front of the Mingei Museum.

It seems everybody loves these two colorful sculptures located near the entrance of Balboa Park’s Mingei Museum. They were created by world-famous Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, whose fanciful works can be seen in a few different San Diego locations. Earlier this year I posted some pics of her Coming Together sculpture near the San Diego Convention Center.

These imaginative mosaic sculptures are made primarily of tile, glass and stones. The alligator-like Nikigator is an absolute favorite of kids, who ride the whimsical creature as if it were alive. The second artwork contains ancient symbolism and is titled Poet and Muse. A female muse emerges from the shoulders of a male poet as his poetry takes flight.

The nearby Mingei Museum contains a fascinating collection of international folk art, crafts and design. The museum was founded by American artist Martha Longenecker, who was a close friend of Niki.

Kids play on crazy creature created by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
Kids play on creature sculpture  by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
Someone photographs Le Poète et sa Muse--Poet and Muse.
Someone photographs Le Poète et sa Muse–Poet and Muse.
Famed sculptor was friend of Balboa Park's Mingei Museum.
Famed sculptor was benefactor of Balboa Park’s Mingei Museum.

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San Salvador galleon replica nears completion!

Seaworthy replica of galleon San Salvador built by San Diego Maritime Museum.
Seaworthy replica of galleon San Salvador built by San Diego Maritime Museum.

On my way to the Cabrillo Festival yesterday, I swung by Spanish Landing across from the airport to check out the San Salvador. As you might recall from my blog post from early last December, the San Salvador is a replica of the galleon sailed by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. The San Diego Maritime Museum is building it.

I was surprised to see the cool ship is nearly completed! Check out some pics I took over the surrounding fence! I spoke to a young volunteer who was working near the ship, and she told me the San Salvador is expected to launch in early 2015. The galleon will be sailing up the coast of California, recreating the historic trip by the famous explorer. And a documentary will be filmed during the voyage!

The peculiar-looking vessel will be able to navigate the open ocean, she assured me, and is ready to go today, but the folks building her are doing as much additional detail work as they can while the ship remains on dry land.

Bow modeled after historic ship sailed by explorer Cabrillo in 1542.
Bow modeled after historic galleon sailed by explorer Cabrillo in 1542.
Stern of the wooden galleon that will sail on the Pacific in early 2015.
Stern of the wooden galleon that will sail on the Pacific Ocean in early 2015.
View of the San Salvador and a huge mast from Harbor Drive sidewalk.
View of the San Salvador and a huge mast from Harbor Drive sidewalk.
People on the upper deck of the almost finished galleon.
People on the upper deck of the almost finished galleon.

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American heroes honored at Veterans Museum.

On steps of Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park.
On steps of the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park.

Today a special event was held at Balboa Park’s Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. The Spirit of 1945 National Day of Remembrance honored American veterans who defended freedom around the globe during World War II.

The Spirit of ’45 is an annual event held throughout the United States in many cities. It marks the anniversary of V-J Day, the day the Japanese finally surrendered and World War II ended. The special event has become increasingly important, as thousands of heroes from The Greatest Generation now pass away every year.

Many San Diego dignitaries attended today’s ceremony, including an ex-mayor, city council member, district attorney, police chief, plus some very high-ranking military officers. But in my mind, the day was all about ordinary Americans who personally sacrificed to do an extremely difficult and very important thing.

Several of these heroes recalled in short speeches what it was like to hear the news that the war had ended. You could hear the emotion in their voices, almost 70 years later.

After the ceremony, veterans told their personal stories inside the museum, so that memories will continue of those times and their deeds.

Spirit of 1945 National Day of Remembrance was held near museum.
Spirit of 1945 National Day of Remembrance was held near the museum.
Memorial for combat wounded veterans is one of nearby monuments.
Memorial for combat wounded veterans is one of the nearby monuments.
Color guard poses for me while they wait for event to officially begin.
Color guard poses for me while they wait for the event to officially begin.
World War II veteran helped into museum side door.
World War II veteran helped by serviceman into museum side door.
Tents line walkway where Spirit of 1945 event took place today.
Tents line walkway where Spirit of 1945 event took place today.
Girl Scouts help to check in the honored veterans.
Girl Scouts help to check in the honored veterans.
Over a hundred vets were in attendance, remembering the war's end.
Over a hundred vets were in attendance, remembering the war’s end.
Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial had a display.
Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial had a display.
Filipino-American Military Officers Association Tent.
Filipino-American Military Officers Association tent.
Clowns and face painters were there to entertain kids.
Clowns and face painters were there to entertain families with kids.
Duty Honor Country is at the center of a small circular plaza.
Duty Honor Country written at the center of a small circular plaza.
And so are some dancers enjoying the nearby band playing swing music!
Dancers enjoy the nearby band playing swing music!
Now it seems everybody's dancing!
Now it seems everybody’s dancing!
Here are the musicians. Big band music was playing from the 1940s era.
Here are the musicians. Big band music was playing from the 1940s era.
B-24 Liberator bomber from World War II rises above a nearby fountain.
B-24 Liberator bomber from World War II rises above a nearby fountain.
Now I'm standing in back area where chairs were under shady trees.
Now I’m standing in back area where chairs were under shady trees.
Nearby, guys in vintage military uniforms look at some historical images.
Nearby, guys in vintage military uniforms look at some historical images.
Kids check out a tent and various items carried by soldiers decades ago.
Kids check out a tent and various items carried by soldiers decades ago.
Many were wearing clothing and uniforms common during World War II.
Many were wearing clothing and uniforms common during World War II.
Display on grass shows maps and articles from a battlefield.
Display on grass shows maps and articles from a battlefield.
Scattered items inside a command tent include old magazines.
Scattered items inside a command tent include old magazines.
One got a flavor of the experiences of the Greatest Generation.
One got a flavor of the difficult experiences of the Greatest Generation.
Here comes color guard, prior to National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance.
Here comes color guard, prior to National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance.
Veteran talks about Victory in the Pacific and how overjoyed the troops were.
Veteran talks about Victory in the Pacific and how overjoyed the troops were.
A generation of veterans listens as speakers honor their sacrifices for freedom.
A generation of veterans listens as speakers honor their sacrifices for freedom.
Veterans salute a general who spoke about his pride for those who served.
Veterans salute a general who spoke about his pride for those who served.
A bust to be set near B-24 Liberator is unveiled by the artist and others.
A bust to be set near the B-24 Liberator sculpture is unveiled by local artist Richard Becker. To the far right stands retired Brigadier General Robert L Cardenas, USAF.
Bust of a brave World War II aviator.
Bust of Brigadier General Robert L Cardenas , an accomplished World War II aviator. The sculpture was created by renowned San Diego artist Richard Becker.
Everyone listens to happy memories of V-J Day on August 14, 1945.
Everyone listens to happy memories of V-J Day on August 14, 1945.
Crowd was twice the size that had been expected.
Crowd was twice the size that had been expected.
The ceremony ends and I take a pic over beautiful flowers.
The ceremony ends and I take a pic over beautiful flowers.
Sailors help the aging American heroes back to their cars.
Sailors ready to help aging American heroes back to their cars.

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Historic adobe house in San Diego’s Old Town.

Approaching La Casa de Machado y Stewart Museum in Old Town.
Approaching the La Casa de Machado y Stewart Museum in Old Town.

It seems most of the tourists who visit Old Town San Diego State Historic Park enjoy the large central grassy plaza and the many interesting buildings immediately around its perimeter. Few, however, go slightly off the beaten track to investigate the several restored old structures that are scattered a few easy steps farther away.

In addition to a very cool one room schoolhouse dating from 1865 (which I remember visiting during a field trip as a child), there is a restored adobe house called Casa de Machado y Stewart which stands as an open museum to any passersby who are curious.

The Casa de Machado y Stewart dates from 1835. It was built by José Manuel Machado, a Spanish (then later Mexican) officer who served at the nearby presidio. Jack Stewart, an American shipmate of famous author Richard Henry Dana Jr., and a pilot on San Diego Bay, married Machado’s youngest daughter Rosa in 1845 and the two moved into the house. Over their many years of residence they made many improvements, including a clay tile roof and wood-paned windows. What today seems a very simple and almost primitive existence was back in those days living in the lap of luxury.

In 1932, the house became an official California Historic Landmark.

Restored 1835 adobe house in San Diego's Old Town State Historic Park.
Restored 1835 adobe house in San Diego’s Old Town State Historic Park.
Sign details history of La Casa de Machado y Stewart.
Sign details history of La Casa de Machado y Stewart.
House was built by a soldier from nearby presidio.
House was built by a soldier from nearby presidio.
A spinning wheel in one of the simple rooms suggests what life was like.
A spinning wheel in one of the simple rooms suggests what life was like.
A modest dining area as it appeared long ago.
A modest dining area as it appeared long ago.

UPDATE!

I visited La Casa de Machado y Stewart again in August, 2018, and noticed the exterior had been painted white. When I looked through the front door into the main living room, I observed that new furnishings and artifacts have been added, and others moved about.

I also peered through a window into what appears to be a bedroom.

Here are photos…

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Truth rendered with small touches of light.

Sorolla and America special exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art.
Sorolla and America special exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art.

Light is the physical means by which my eyes see. But I often don’t see true light.

Light is a mixture of myriad colors. But I often don’t see those many colors.

Yesterday I was struck by a few small touches of rare light. My eyes widened with astonishment during a few joyful, delicious moments of revelation.

I was very fortunate and privileged to be a given a special tour of the amazing Sorolla exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Catherine Jones, a docent at the museum, provided an excellent introduction to the light-dabbed paintings of a very important artist that the world has often overlooked.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was a Spanish post-Impressionist painter who won several major art awards and popular fame while he lived, but who soon became forgotten with the advent of the modern abstract movement in the early twentieth century. His stylistically varied and often unusually angled images contain applications of light like I’ve never before seen. Bits of reflection and exquisite luster, and sheens of revealed color, pulled me into a world where the true essence of a subject seems to shine out like magic, but in a very natural way.

I could have gazed at his emotionally stirring, always fascinating paintings for the entire day!

María at La Granja, courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
María at La Granja, courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.

The above painting, María at La Granja, was painted by Sorolla in 1907. In it you can see Sorolla’s famous application of light. The piece was donated to the San Diego Museum of Art in 1925 by Archer Huntington, philanthropist and founder of The Hispanic Society of America. The very first work of art to enter the collection, today María at La Granja is probably the most recognized image in the entire museum.

Joaquin Sorolla Portrait of President Taft, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Joaquin Sorolla’s Portrait of President Taft, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joaquin Sorolla’s Portrait of President Taft was commissioned by the president in 1909. It is one of many canvases in a special exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art assembled from museums throughout the world. Most of Sorolla’s important works are present, including Another Marguerite (1892), which was awarded a gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid and first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition, and Sad Inheritance (1899), which was awarded the Grand Prix and a medal of honor at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and the medal of honor at the National Exhibition in Madrid in 1901.

The two paintings that I’ve posted here hardly do justice to the full range of Sorolla’s splendor. His sun-splashed scenes of beach life in Valencia, his diverse and stunning portraits, his detailed scenes of life in Spain, all the essence and astonishing light that he captured, must be experienced firsthand to be most fully appreciated.

These works by Sorolla are on display for a limited time at the San Diego Museum of Art. If you can, you really should go see them! The special exhibition ends August 26, 2014.

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Beautiful garden of Balboa Park’s Marston House.

Flowers and bench by historic Marston House.
Flowers and bench by historic Marston House.

The historic Marston House is nestled among some trees in the seldom-visited northwest corner of Balboa Park. The house museum and its beautiful gardens are truly one of San Diego’s hidden gems.

I strolled about the grounds recently and took a few photos. Roaming about the gardens is free; to take a guided tour of the house’s interior one must pay a small entrance fee.

The house, in the Arts and Crafts architectural style, was built in 1905 by George W. Marston, a wealthy philanthropist who owned a prominent department store. He was also founder of the San Diego Historical Society, and was instrumental in preserving the site of the original San Diego Presidio.

The Marston House was designed by the internationally famous architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill. Its five acres of lawns and formal gardens have become a very popular wedding location.

Marston House Museum and Gardens in a corner of Balboa Park.
Marston House Museum and Gardens in a corner of Balboa Park.
Arts and Crafts style house was built in 1905.
Arts and Crafts style house was built in 1905.
This beautiful garden is a popular wedding location.
This beautiful garden is a popular wedding location.
Looking from hedge pathway toward Marston House.
Looking from hedge pathway toward Marston House.
Small fountain at end of garden.
Small fountain at end of garden.
Outdoor archway and oven are part of the delightful scenery.
Outdoor archway and oven are part of the delightful scenery.
A pic of the lath greenhouse interior.
A pic of the lath greenhouse interior.
The Marston House is a San Diego hidden gem.
The Marston House is a San Diego hidden gem.

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Working high in the rigging of Star of India.

Clinging to the end of Star of India's bowsprit.
Clinging to the end of Star of India’s bowsprit.

Dedicated members of San Diego’s Maritime Museum were hard at work yesterday, working in the Star of India’s rigging like busy spiders on a web.

The rigging of the historic three-masted bark is undergoing an overhaul, a project that is expected to take a full year. That’s according to the person selling tickets. The large yards of the foremast have already been removed and are lying on the sidewalk awaiting inspection and a new coat of paint. I was told the ship’s trees (platforms on the masts) are infested with termites. They’ll have to be repaired. To maintain the 150 year old Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship in the world, requires a lot of work!

People tangled in picturesque ship's rigging.
People tangled in picturesque ship’s rigging.
Like highwire artists on the slender ropes.
Like highwire artists on the slender ropes.
Looks like a lot of hard work.
Looks like a lot of hard work.
Yards from foremast wait on sidewalk to be painted.
Yards from foremast wait on sidewalk to be painted.
Maritime Museum members at work on Star of India.
Maritime Museum members at work on Star of India.
High up in the blue San Diego sky.
High up in the blue San Diego sky.

I got a quick photo of a San Diego Maritime Museum volunteer working on the yards on an early July morning!

Volunteer works on Star of India's yards.
Volunteer works on Star of India’s yards.

Here come several more pics taken in October. The top third of the foremast has been removed!

Top portion of foremast has been removed in October of 2014.
Top portion of Star of India foremast has been removed in October of 2014.
San Diego Maritime Museum volunteers work high up on the historic Star of India.
Maritime Museum of San Diego workers high up on the foremast of the historic Star of India.
On the shrouds, in a tangle of ropes between masts.
On a shroud, in a tangle of ropes and cables between masts.

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Big indoor mural at San Diego Museum of Art.

In Search of Earthly Delights mural at San Diego Museum of Art.
In Search of Earthly Delights mural at San Diego Museum of Art.

If you’re walking around Balboa Park and feeling adventurous, you can sneak into a portion of the San Diego Museum of Art and enjoy a stunning indoor mural. Just enter the unlocked door near the Sculpture Garden’s outdoor cafe! Like the sculpture garden, this area of the museum is free to the public!

The 70 foot mural is named En Busca de las Delicias de la Tierra/In Search of Earthly Delights. Created by Writerz Blok, an innovative graffiti mural organization, it was painted by young artists Sake, Daze, Izze and Krown. Pieces from the museum’s collection of Mexican modern art were used for reference and inspiration.

San Diego Museum of Art visitor walks past large indoor mural.
San Diego Museum of Art visitor walks past large indoor mural.
San Diego organization Writerz Blok helped to create this mural.
San Diego organization Writerz Blok helped to create this amazing mural.

San Diego’s Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Sculpture and cannon at entrance to Mormon Battalion Historic Site.
Sculpture and cannon at entrance to the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Just east of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park one can find the Mormon Battalion Historic Site, an attraction created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The location itself seems a bit arbitrary, as the Mormon Battalion manned Fort Stockton up on the hill by the old, abandoned Presidio when they arrived in San Diego in 1847.

Young lady missionaries guide visitors through a series of rooms and outdoor areas which are designed to tell a sympathetic version of the Mormon Battalion’s difficult 2000 mile march from Iowa. The ulterior motive is to promote their beliefs, and there are frequent religious references, but there is no hard sell and the tour guides are warm and friendly. One can absorb a little bit of history while experiencing a good-humored, Disney-like presentation.

Missionary lady comes outside to welcome a new visitor.
A friendly missionary lady comes outside to welcome a new visitor.
Girl in pioneer dress begins tour with talking, moving portraits.
Girl in a pioneer dress begins the tour with talking, moving portraits.

Much of the tour is spent watching professionally produced dramatic videos. Several real historical artifacts can be found near the tour’s end.

Taking pictures of visitors with a large old camera.
Taking pictures of visitors with a large antique camera.
Girls pose for a picture in front of a western scene.
Girls pose for a picture in front of a western scene.

A lot of families and kids were smiling and enjoying the tour. Many appeared to be members of the LDS Church.

Visitors near end of tour pan for iron pyrite--fool's gold.
Young visitors near end of the tour pan for glittery iron pyrite.
Covered wagon in front of Mormon Battalion Historic Site.
Covered wagon in front of the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.