Saturday, June 22, 2013

Happy Olympic Day 2013

June 23 marks the worldwide celebration of Olympic Day.

What is Olympic Day? Here's what the International Olympic Committee has to say about it for 2013:

On 23 June, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Movement are celebrating [the] 65th Olympic Day! The IOC celebrated its first World Olympic Day on 23 June 1948 with nine National Olympic Committees hosting ceremonies in their respective countries. Today, Olympic Day has evolved to become a key date in the Olympic Movement’s calendar and has gained momentum worldwide with last year, almost 4 million participants from around the world and over 150 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) taking part.

The official page for Olympic Day also provides an interactive map of the NOCs taking park, and a cool video featuring Kobe Bryant encouraging participation. Here in the United States, there's a Team USA directory of participating communities -- it's not too late to participate like 2010 Vancouver Olympian/Sochi 2014 Olympic hopeful Julia Clukey and participants did at the camp she created in Maine.

I plan to participate by taking a brisk walk from Midtown Atlanta to downtown's Centennial Olympic Park, home of the statue honoring modern Olympic founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Hope you will also make it an Olympic Day.

Olympic Day logo image via this link; Olympic Day photos via IOC Facebook page; Centennial Olympic Park photo via The Eternal Optimist blog by Sara Bondioli

Delights Der Dutch Details

I've got a new summer girlfriend in Atlanta. You need to meet her!

She's Dutch. She's famous. She's likes to wear pearls and she's got a smile that stops people in their tracks.

This week at my freelance P.R. job, the High Museum of Art welcomed the long-awaited arrival of "Girl With A Pearl Earring." The world-famous canvas by Johannes Vermeer got its official Atlanta unveiling on Monday, joining 34 other Dutch masterworks on view through Sept. 29.

Wednesday's media preview and advance work got some nice play with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Public Broadcasting, Atlanta Magazine, Fox 5 Good Day Atlanta, Creative Loafing and the Associated Press.

The exhibition marks the first Southeast U.S. visit of the "Dutch Mona Lisa," and I have to say that gazing upon the canvas in person reminded me of crossing paths with Madonna, Lady Gaga, Cher, Annie Lennox and other famous and beautiful women backstage or from the photo pit at Philips Arena. Like shaking hands with Hillary Clinton a few years back, walking up to the "Girl With A Pearl Earring" for the first time provided those "meeting a celebrity" ganzen staten (Dutch goose bumps).

For this blogger, art exhibitions must deliver on several fronts to earn "outstanding" status. In addition to the inclusion of "important" works, a heavy dose of learning and "elements of interest" are key. I loved walking through "Girl With A Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis" for it entices the visitor to get up in the face of most of the works and really study the fine details.

A cousin of mine who experienced the exhibition in San Francisco a few weeks ago remarked that she loved how small and detailed many of the canvases are -- I concur, and I also delighted in the Dutch details many times.

The exhibition includes works grouped by landscapes/seascapes, still lifes, genre and history paintings and portraits.

While viewing the first few frames, visitors should be sure to closely study the snow-tipped leaves in "Winter Landscape" by Jacob van Ruisdael, and make time for his larger work "View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds" for the glorious countryside it portrays, filled with churches, windmills and fields under a cloudy summer sky (the title refers to the olde school methods of making linen -- ranked with beer as Haarlem's top exports -- and the fabric bleaching process that covered acres of farmland).

I also enjoyed an early peek at Mauritshuis -- the museum from which the exhibition is on loan during a two-year remodeling project -- shown in "A Hunting Party near the Hofvijver in The Hague, Seen from the Plaats" (later in the exhibition, a floor-to-ceiling photograph of modern day Mauritshuis quickly moved a trip to The Netherlands up on my world travel wish list).

The still lifes showcase Dutch flowers, food and property enjoyed by the wealthy elite, while the genre paintings bring to life a day in the middle class Holland.

The largest canvas by artist Jan Steen titled "As the Old Sing, So Twitter the Young" (see image at base of this post) includes a family party scene not too shy for its commentary on liberal lifestyles (smokes and drinks for all ages!) and the consequences for future generations, while a tiny canvas by the same artist, "The Oyster Eater," made me hungry (check out the fine porcelain detail -- how did the painter do that?). Studying the latter canvas was like standing before the tiny oil canvases by Salvador DalĂ­ that were in the same High galleries not long ago. Wonderful surprises in the tiniest details.

While Tweeting about the Twitter-titled Steen, one may also wish to IM RE: "The Goldfinch" by Carel Fabritius (saved by conservation works, according to the exhibition catalog), the skull in "Vanitas Still Life" by Pieter Claesz, or "Still Life with Five Apricots" that look so real its as though peach fuzz grew on the canvas.

Other favorites include "Woman Writing a Letter" with a young lady donning an earring like the exhibition's namesake, and her neighbor "The Violin Player" with a life-sized female giggling through her wardrobe malfunction circa 1636. Tobacco and alcohol return in "A Man Smoking and a Woman Drinking in a Courtyard" and there's a Muppet-like quality to each of the peasant faces in "The Violinist."

The big guns come out with four magnificent Rembrandt van Rijn masterpieces, including "Susanna" and "Simeon's Song of Praise" flanked by portraits and tronies or facial paintings that capture people of era but not necessarily a specific person. Which brings us to the "Mona Lisa of the North" by Vermeer, who is not a specific person as portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in the film based on a fictional bestseller by the same name.

The "Girl With A Pearl Earring" gets to hang out in her own private green room just like the other lady rock stars mentioned in this post, with her gaze following your movements across the room like the eyes of the president's statue inside the Lincoln Memorial rotunda.

I highly recommend a visit to experience "Girl With A Pearl Earring" during her once in a lifetime stop at Atlanta, or during her final worldwide tour dates with The Frick Collection in New York and at a museum in Balogna, Italy, before her homecoming in The Hague. And though I don't often do this, I also recommend the audio tour and exhibition catalog which elaborate on many more details of the Dutch masterworks.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver except for "The Girl With The Pearl Earring" image from this link

Friday, June 21, 2013

Too Many Days Since A Night of O'K

About a month ago, I blew out 40 birthday candles.

Actually, this did not happen as my girlfriend's and family members' promises of a candle-topped cake remain only half-baked.

Though 40 and cakeless, last month I DID enjoy a Friday evening visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, where everything was O'K. What a treat as the icing to a five-day vacation including New Mexico destinations in and around Albuquerque, Shiprock, Four Corners, Farmington, Taos and the state capitol.

The road trip holiday also included a day at Colorado's Mesa Verde and an evening in Durango.

Until May 17, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum was on my "to visit" list since its opening in the latter 1990s. A warm Friday afternoon (May 17) proved good timing to arrive at the museum door on opening day for the summer exhibition "Georgia O'Keeffe In New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land" on view through September 11.

The exhibition featured many familiar favorites and an array of surprises worth a special trip.

In the first gallery, fellow O'Keeffe fans and I gathered 'round the landscape canvas currently in circulation as a recent U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamp. We also sampled some early works from the Wisconsin native, including a Manhattan cityscape and some abstract creations (the documentary films playing in the adjacent theatre -- worth a look-see -- explained the varied reasons O'Keeffe's early works differed from her more famous flowers, landscapes and nature-rich works).

One detailed vertical canvas showcased paint resembling black velvet, drawing out a sand-polished animal skull crowned with a large flower blossom -- too cool!

It was fun to see a private collection portrait of a nun-like female figure (I think this canvas is in rotation at the Milwaukee Art Museum, in O'Keeffe's home state).

New-to-my-eyes: Trees and vistas as seen from the artist's home studio at Abiquiu; dreamy nighttime images from O'Keeffe's camping trips in the highlands far west of Santa Fe; religious icons including Kachinas (fabulous!), church steeples, a sunlight cross in a large Easter-themed painting; rooster portraits (i.e. The China Cock) and the rushing mountain waters of Chama River, Ghost Ranch cast in sky blue.

In the museum shop and on the walls of the exhibition, I took time (with the help of the friendly staff) to locate more details about O'Keeffe's 1935 canvas titled Yellow Cactus, which hangs about midway through the exhibition but visible down the length of a main museum corridor.

With their team, the co-curators of the exhibition, Carolyn Kastner and Barbara Buhler Lynes, chose to hang Yellow Cactus in one direction (vertically, as I recall), while several published catalogs of O'Keeffe's work present Yellow Cactus horizontally. This led to the biggest lesson of the evening (something I just never noticed in 23 years as an O'K fan): O'Keeffe did not sign her works; therefore, many of them (the florals in particular) may be presented in any direction. While typing this blog tonight, I wonder still whether the museum team went back and re-hung the painting as a result of my gift shop sleuthing.

The visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum delivered all I hoped the experience would include and more. Beautiful works, a mix of popular and rarely viewed paintings, detailed history lessons and reminders of longtime favorites. Future plans definitely include return visits, and a trek to the artist's Ghost Ranch home and studio, for which tours are available.

Get yourself to New Mexico and see this outstanding summer exhibition!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver; image of Yellow Cactus via; postage stamp image via U.S. Postal Service. Special thanks to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum for providing complimentary ticket to the exhibition.



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