Sunday, February 3, 2019

Bright spring flowers and warm Chicago galleries

The polar vortex may have chased me out of my birthday trip to Chicago last weekend and forced me to miss a week of blogging, but I’m back on track and creating spring flowers to remind me of what’s ahead. The compositions reflect what I learned about each flower in my garden.  Two weeks ago I was working on Black-eyed Susans, which is part of my six-tile commissioned piece.  

In our garden, the Rudbeckia are very aggressive and spread as a dense carpet, meaning we had to weed them to keep them in check.  That’s why I made them so plentiful on the tile.  To make the petals I stiffed and molded the petal shapes out of felt to get the apparent pleating.  The brown centers are needle felted cones that capture the right shape and color.  I’ll do three image views so you can sense the depth.

This past week I focused on the last of the three flower tiles that features Shasta daisies.  The story behind the art is that years ago, when we spent much more time in the garden, Jim carefully prepared a garden bed and planted daisy seeds.  He nursed them along and we had one bumper year before the patch faltered. 
Every year, though, a few persistent volunteers will appear.  They just feel dainty and traditional and each one is special to us.  This will be the tile with the fewest flower heads on it, but plenty of buds because they need to persist. 

In between tile making came a wonderful weekend adventure in Chicago.  Jim had to visit for a recruiting weekend, and I tagged along.  I decided to make it an art weekend, so when we arrived on a snowy Saturday afternoon we drove straight to the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I enjoyed the exhibits, but we both agreed that the shaggy rug pieces of Jessica Campbell were the most provocative.  They were colorful and the designs were not complex, but you had to look closely and take them in.  They were at once enchanting and comforting but disturbing.  
After checking into the hotel and being upgraded to a forty-first level corner room with a spectacular view, we ventured out to a wonderful dinner to celebrate my birthday at Eddie V’s.  The cold and snow outside did not deter us from having wonderful time, and our waiter Vladimir was entertaining and helpful in finding a perfect entry, and treated me to champagne and a delightful dessert flambe.  
On Sunday morning Jim had his event, but I braved the extremely cold weather and took a taxi to the Art Institute of Chicago where I spent the whole day.  The space is so huge that I had to plan my visit strategically, beginning with the contemporary art I have engaged intellectually and finishing with the impressionists I grew up with and love.   

I found my new favorite contemporary artist, Tomma Abts, whose exhibit features a series portrait sized abstract works.  They are striking in their simplicity, and yet the dimensionality is extraordinary--they just seem to peel off the page.  
In the contemporary wing I encountered a piece by Jackson Pollock.  It was the first piece of his that I had encountered up close and live, and I was amazed by how dimensional the piece was. Because I don’t have a formal art education, I set a goal to teach myself about modern artists and their styles.  Walking straight up to an artwork and recognizing the artist by their style is extremely satisfying, especially because I have studied their techniques for creating the pieces and learning what drove them to create in their distinctive approach.  
My last chapter was my comfort wing, where I found the impressionists I’ve studied since high school.  I think of them as old friends.  I have fond memories of seeing Monet's lily pads and haystacks in Europe when I was still in college, and seeing several more examples made me smile, especially as I appreciated how amazing and extensive the collection is in Chicago. 

I was just about to leave when I saw the sign for the Chagall’s windows.  Even though my brain felt full I had to take those in.  I’d seen pictures, but to be able to experience each individual glass panel and each subsections was inspiring.  I could almost feel his hand scratching details into the glass and painting.  
I quickly scampered back to the hotel, collected Jim and drove like the wind back home to avoid the gathering snowstorm that blasted Chicago. 

It's been a wonderful month having Tommie at home.  He’s been doing his Oberlin winter term working in Carl Bauer’s lab doing research and really enjoying it.  The other day I saw his lab notebook on the kitchen table and peeked in.  It’s just warmed my heart to see him laying out PCR protocols!  Gave me the warm and fuzzies because it’s what my life used to be.  He’s heading back today, but will continue his research this summer. 

My big news on the art front is that I was accepted into theCherry Creek Art Festival in Denver, CO (wooohooo!!), so I’m plotting my travels westward already.  I’m super excited because it is the number one rated art fair in the country and this marks the first time I’ve gotten in.  Now just have to weave like crazy to build up my stock!  And yes, there were two pies, one for each week, and they were fabulous.  Jim is on a citrus pie kick, and he experimented with a creamy grapefruit pie first.  That was nice, with a very delicate flavor.  I preferred the lemon version that came next, with lemon zest included, which was in-your-face sour and flavorful.  He’s the best!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

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