Posts tagged ‘art’

9 for ’09

I didn’t manage 9 categories, but here are my top 9′s in 6 (9 upside-down) categories for 2009:

Memorable Meals

Eli’s first meat, a meatball at the Pasta Pomodoro in San Rafael, of all places: “Mama, I know it’s meat, and I want it.”
Jewish Quarter falafel with Lilya
Tony’s 40th birthday party at Beretta – burrata on pizza, mmmm…
Dinner with Libby and her family at Jamie’s Italian in Oxford
One lukewarm bottle of water at Legoland in England (where it does get hot but they still don’t have ice): the difference between surviving the day and passing out from heat stroke
Picnics by the pool
Cocktails & dessert at Aziza, any Monday night we had babysitting
Birthday parties for stuffies, with bowls of unsalted peanuts and eucalyptus leaves, hosted by Eli
Dinner and Christmas carol mash-up/singalong, with my parents, led by the boys

Best books

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
My Life in France by Julia Child
The King (poems) by Rebecca Wolff
Boy Alone: A Brother’s Memoir by Karl Taro Greenfield
This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Lit by Mary Karr

Movies

Where the Wild Things Are – a terrific adaptation
Ponyo – Eli’s first movie theater movie since he graduated from the sling
Fantastic Mr. Fox – our first movie outing as a family
The Class (Entre Les Murs) – best new teaching movie
Who Does She Think She Is? – my favorite documentary of the year
Inglourious Basterds – actors, director, everyone at the top of their game
The Hurt Locker – the best war movie
(500) Days of Summer – best dance sequence of the year (and probably decade)
Sweet Land – my favorite love story of the year

2009 Memories and milestones

Eli and Mariah asleep, leaning their heads on each other, in the back of the car on the drive home from Pt. Reyes
Ben learning to ride his bike without training wheels
AWP in Chicago, meeting so many literary mamas, spending 4 days without the boys
Tony’s and my night away at Indian Springs Resort
Wine and snacks with Rob, Lilya, Liz and Ross while our boys played soccer in the courtyard of our Paris rental with one of the boys who lived in the building
An amazingly relaxing two night Big Basin camp-out (8 adults and 7 boys)
Eli learning to read
Ben playing soccer at school recess
Mama, PhD readings at Duke and the University of Richmond

Art

Tate Modern + London Transit Museum
Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire in the Presidio
Giverny
Musee de l’orangerie
Amish Abstrations quilt show at the De Young
Eli counting down to his weekly preschool art days
Seeing Maya Lin and Andy Goldsworthy installations at Storm King Art Center
Bidding on one of Tony’s dad‘s paintings in an online auction – and winning!
Ben learning how to weave

Quotes:

Eli: “I just want one more hug of you.”
Ben: “How is it that I am I?”
Eli: “I want some food.” Tony: “I’m making dinner.” Eli: “I want something more fastly.”
Ben imitating Yogi Bear: “Hey, Boo Boo!”
Eli rejecting a band-aid for his sore throat, “And anyway, the inside of my throat isn’t stickable!”
Ben: “I’m going to try something new!”
Eli: “Mama? Since you are two years older than Tony, why don’t you know more about LEGO?”
Ben to Eli, referring to us, “Ask one of the grown-ups.”
Eli to me: ” I love you cozier than my bed, curlier than your hair, and gooder than my oatmeal.”

May your 2010 be gooder than oatmeal, too.

Mama at the Movies: Rivers and Tides

I have unabashedly, and with great success, manufactured an interest in the artist Andy Goldsworthy’s sculpture in my children this summer; soon I’ll post pictures of our trips to see Spire, Stone River, and Storm King Wall. But in the meantime, here’s my latest Literary Mama column about watching the film about Goldsworthy’s work, Rivers and Tides:

My family has spent a lot of time in museums lately; both boys love to draw and paint, so we often take them to see works by other artists. We don’t stay long, but we’ll look closely at a painting or two, talk about what materials the artist used, wonder whether the painting was made outside or in a studio. I lift Eli up so he can see better, and we stop in the gift shop for a postcard of our favorite. But San Francisco is the home of a different kind of artwork, too: sculptures by a Scottish artist named Andy Goldsworthy that offer a quite different experience. The boys have reached their arms around his tall redwood Spire, climbed up and over Stone River, walked like tight rope walkers, arms outstretched for balance, along the path of Drawn Stone. We’ve sat in the dirt beneath Spire with a gathered pile of sticks and built our own miniature version; we did the same with pebbles at Stone River. These pieces are alive and accessible to them in a way a painting can never be; and for a pair of energetic kids, they’re just fun.

And so it occurred to me to show my kids the beautiful documentary about Andy Goldsworthy’s work, Rivers and Tides.

You can read the full column at Literary Mama; I’d love to hear your comments.

image credit

The Last Day of Paris

I get Ben to choke down some Tylenol — he’s feverish and sore-throated, but he doesn’t want to rest in the apartment any more than I do. We forge ahead to L’Orangerie to visit Monet’s enormous water lily paintings, hung in their own two oval rooms. Oval skylights, covered with a linen shade to diffuse the sun, light the room; the effect is watery and beautiful.

Walking through the Tuileries gardens after we leave the museum makes La Villette make more sense — the huge scale, the geometry — La Villette’s designers were clearly referencing this space. Even though La Villette has grass, the Tuileries’ stone buildings and dusty pebbled paths feel warmer and more accomodating than all of La Villette’s concrete and sharp edges. I may not like it any better now, but I’m happy to understand it better.


the boys with Henry Moore


a view of tall things

There’s a carousel, so we buy the boys a ride, and then as we continue down the path we notice — hurray! — a small pond with a man renting sailboats. It’s wonderful serendipity to make up for the lack of sailboats at the Jardin du Luxembourg earlier in the week. Plus, these boats are gorgeous, true works of art with hand-quilted sails, all different colors and textures of fabric. We rent boats for each of the boys, and then the man drops a third in to the water — “Just for fun” he comments — and then a fourth, and then he gives us a third stick to push them all around.

Then, another lucky break: an easy time at the Louvre. We sail right in via the Porte de Lions entrance, walk down the long (long) hallway to the Mona Lisa, pay our respects and leave. Eli has no particular interest in the museum, but he’s delighted to do a naked baby scavenger hunt: naked babies with wings! naked babies with arrows! He’s never seen so many cherubs in his life.

And then our happy luck runs out. We’re close to Angelina’s, famous for its hot chocolate, and decide to get the kids a treat. Except we’re not really close enough (they’re exhausted by the time we walk there); it’s too hot for hot chocolate; we really just need lunch. There’s nothing on the menu the boys want, and I don’t want to risk spending 20 euros on a meal they won’t eat, anyway. We should really just cut our losses and leave, but we’ve come all this way… So, we order ice creams for the kids and a salad and omelette for Tony and me to share. The food takes ages to come and we’ve left the boys’ coloring materials at home so they’re cranky and bored. We couldn’t be luckier, sitting in a beautiful cafe, surrounded by gorgeous food, but nobody’s happy. We eat quickly and head back to the apartment.

While the boys get their downtime, I get one last outing, visiting a friend who lives in the Belleville neighborhood. We walk in a park that reminds me of San Francisco’s Buena Vista park — a beautiful, overgrown hill rising out of a transitional, arty neighborhood.

It’s good to see another side of Paris — less touristy, less polished. Last year we stayed in Paris’ Union Square, this year we’re in Paris’ Noe Valley; maybe another time we’ll stay here.

Mama at the Movies: Who Does She Think She Is?

My late father-in-law was an artist. After attending art school on the G. I. Bill, he and his wife moved to Italy for two years so that he could paint and study. When the couple returned to California, his career blossomed with several shows a year, including a solo exhibition at San Francisco’s M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. But then his public career quieted, his output slowed; he shifted to smaller, more saleable projects like jewelry and jigsaw puzzles. I never understood this sharp turn in a successful career – had there been a devastating review? – until my first child was born and it occurred to me one day to map Jim’s career against his children’s birthdates. And there it was: sons born in 1967 and 1969; a rush of shows in 1969 and then fewer and fewer until just two in 1972, one in ’76, and then nothing for twenty years. It wasn’t the critics, I realized, but the kids.

…..

I hadn’t really thought about the constraints of space and materials that visual artists work with until I watched Pamela Tanner Boll’s moving new documentary Who Does She Think She Is? (2008), which introduces us to several mother-artists and asks why, when making art and raising children are both crucial for our culture, it is so hard to do both. The film wants us to know about these mothers making art, and it puts their stories in the larger context of all women artists. Like all women, women artists find their work less well-known and less well-compensated than the work of their male contemporaries. Like all mothers, mother artists endure isolation from their peers, sleep deprivation, and myriad claims on their time which make it difficult to continue their careers. But they do.

Read more at Literary Mama!

How To Make a Museum Docent Happy

Ben’s 1st grade curriculum includes a terrific focus on the visual arts. It starts in the classroom, where the students’ tables are named for artists (Picasso, Monet, Seurat, etc), and carries on in the weekly 90-minute art studio sessions, where the boys started with full-size self-portraits and have now moved on to still lifes in the style of Matisse. Ben’s always loved to draw, and he’s got art in his genes, so we figured he would eat this all up, but he’s even more excited about art right now than Tony or I could have imagined. He’s bringing home artists’ biographies (there’s a great series published by the Children’s Press of Chicago if you’re looking to encourage your budding artist), he’s drawing elaborate pictures of his future studio, and he’s asked that we put the Metropolitan Museum of Art on our site-seeing list so that when we go to New York City next week, he can visit the Monets.

So when he had a day off from school yesterday, I decided to take him on a scavenger hunt, looking for paintings by Monet, Picasso and Matisse in museums around the city. Since we’d be spending a fair amount of time on the street car, too, I tossed in a couple extra-museum items, like election signs, Halloween decorations and the like. But it was the paintings that really got him going.

First stop, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art:

Enter museum pulled by eager 6 year old tugging on your arm. Get out museum floor plan and hand it to him. Watch as he scans map and then announces, “Matisse. . . 2nd floor! Let’s go!” Watch docent beam.

At the Palace of the Legion of Honor:

Enter museum pulled by eager 6 year old tugging on your arm. Get out museum floor plan and hand it to him. Watch as he scans map and then announces, “Monet… Gallery 19! C’mon!” Docent beams, asks “How old is he?” and nods at the answer; “That’s how old I was,” she says.

And there at the Legion of Honor, inspired by the sight of students with their paints and brushes, copying some of the pieces on display, Ben got out his paper and pencils and got to work:


Turns out, what makes a museum docent happy makes a mama pretty happy, too.

If you happen to be in Santa Clara…

Go check out the exhibit at the de Saisset Museum, Eye on the Sixties. Tony and I went to the opening Friday night, and rather than having to hunt for his dad’s sculpture, as we thought we might, were happy to meet up with it right in the front lobby, glowing in the light.

We’d never seen this one in person, and it was fun to see it in context with some other beautiful and unfamiliar acrylic and resin pieces, as well as some more famous pieces, like Claes Oldenburg’s creepy moving Ice Bag, and some great paintings and drawings as well. We introduced ourselves to a couple of Tony’s dad’s old friends, including Bruce Beasley (who pointed out how ill-suited most museums are to exhibiting sculpture: not much natural light, no cranes to lift heavy pieces…) and we chatted with the Andersons, who are quite charming and unassuming guardians of a multi-million dollar collection. But my favorite quote of the night was from Ronald Davis (that’s his piece, Spoke, at the top of the de Saisset Web site) who chimes in on the whole tangled question of abstract art vs. realism quite simply:

“The painting’s just gotta look better than the wallpaper.”

Indeed.

image copyright The Estate of James Grant.