Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Hieronymus Bosch retrospective

January 30, 2016
Statue of Hieronymus Bosch in Den Bosch

Statue of Hieronymus Bosch in Den Bosch

One of our favorite places to take visitors is the charming Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, locally known as the much-easier-to-pronounce Den Bosch. This year is HUGE for Den Bosch, as it celebrates the virtual return of its native son, famed medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, who died 500 years ago. Though the city isn’t fortunate enough to own any of the artist’s paintings, this year it will present the largest retrospective of Bosch’s work ever, with all the pieces on loan from several leading museums. “Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of a Genius,” displaying 20 paintings and 19 drawings, runs from Feb. 13 to May 8 at Het Noordbrabants Museum. In addition, seven other museums in the province of North Brabant will present complementary shows. Timed tickets are already on sale, and the museum has expanded its opening hours.

Saint John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch

Saint John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch

But, wait, there’s more. In its elegant baroque center and along its small canal system, Den Bosch is pulling out all stops for visitors, with special events throughout the year, including nightly light shows on the market square, projected 3-D images of diabolical Bosch characters, themed tours of the canals, and rare climbs outside Saint John’s Cathedral, which is covered with fantastical gargoyles and sculptures. I hope to do one of those climbs myself, as soon as they’re available. Can’t wait!

Dine amid Dutch design at Kazerne in Eindhoven

August 27, 2015

Doesn’t everyone have a go-to restaurant for taking out-of-town guests? Well, I have a few, but my favorite is Kazerne, in the center of Eindhoven, near our home in the Netherlands. The owners made something very special out of nothing and it perfectly showcases the city’s attributes: technology (especially with light), art, and design. And, even better, the food is great too! I was so grateful to be able to spread the word about Kazerne in the New York Times this year! Here’s what I wrote:

Restaurant Kazerne amid Dutch design

Restaurant Kazerne amid Dutch design

On paper, the plan for Kazerne must have sounded pie-in-the-sky: renovate a beat-up, cavernous building in the center of Eindhoven, a southern Dutch city in the midst of a reawakening. Transform it into a restaurant-slash-showcase for design and technology. Throw in meeting spaces, a design shop and lodging.

To the delight of locals, that dream, concocted by a Dutch couple, was realized late last year when Kazerne opened its doors in an industrial space. Improbably, the 8,000-square-foot main room, in dark hues illuminated by moody lighting, manages to convey both cool and cozy, aided by a smallish dining area in the center. (The remaining element, seven guest rooms, is planned for 2016.)

Designer Annemoon Geurts [photo Mike Roelofs]

Designer Annemoon Geurts [photo Mike Roelofs]

The idealists behind Kazerne are the designer Annemoon Geurts and her partner Koen Rijnbeek. Like many of the designers whose work Ms. Geurts spotlights, she graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven. The idea emerged from a pop-up restaurant they ran during Dutch Design Week.

”We wouldn’t have started Kazerne if it was just a place to eat,” said Ms. Geurts, who runs the business through two nonprofits. ”It’s really our mission to bring the added value of the creative industries to people, to add a layer to the experience.”

Layers is more like it. The art enveloping Kazerne’s diners ranges from kinetic sculpture to mesmerizing lighting in exhibits rotating every few months.

Part of a recent exhibit at Kazerne

Part of a recent exhibit at Kazerne

With such emphasis on design, I feared that the food would be an afterthought. Not so. The Mediterranean-influenced menu from Roger van de Loo, the chef, changes weekly (atypical in these parts), offering four starters and main dishes. During a recent visit, we began with a crisp cold octopus, eggplant and tomato salad and a hefty portion of beef pastrami with a zesty tomato chutney. Enticed by aromas from a neighboring table, I ordered the eggplant Parmesan, which was flavorful and not too cheesy, while my partner dug into a healthy portion of spicy chopped lamb, accompanied by basil mashed potatoes and crunchy asparagus.

Before leaving, we peeked into a back room to admire a flowing, glowing sculpture of LED-powered dandelions by Studio Drift, artwork Ms. Geurts describes as ”the DNA of Eindhoven — technical and emotional, and together they make a beautiful thing.”

Kazerne, Paradijslaan 2-8; 31 40-30-41-388; kazerne.com. An average meal for two, without drinks or tip, is about $80.

Den Bosch is a secret Dutch treat

February 6, 2015

Lina and I spent last Saturday researching and photographing a story about ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Say whuh? I know, the name is so crazy that even the Dutch use the colloquial Den Bosch. Phew. Den Bosch is one of those off-the-beaten- path towns popular with Dutch day-trippers and virtually unknown by the average tourist. In short, our kind of place! An amazing bonus: it was sunny! Cold, yes, but the rare blue skies made up for it.

Eetbar Dit in Den Bosch

Eetbar Dit in Den Bosch

Den Bosch is only half an hour north of us, so will be one of our go-to spots for houseguests. I’d visited before, but it had been a decade. Its medieval town center remains a beauty, but a recent bonus is that hip and trendy food and shopping spots have opened, most notably Eetbar Dit, Mariapaviljoen (a medically themed hoot), Nom Nom wine bar, some cool vintage shops and a bunch of funky “concept stores” on Verwersstraat and Vughterstraat streets. (I hate the term “concept store,” but the Dutch use it often. Basically it’s a “lifestyle store” and usually cutting-edge contemporary.)

The Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

The Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

The other exciting Den Bosch additions are the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, in praise of Den Bosch’s famous native son, whose 500th “death-day” they’re honoring in big ways all of 2016; and the new contemporary art museum, The Stedelijk, not associated with the one of the same name in Amsterdam. It focuses on jewelry and glass and has an outstanding gift shop, down to its walls and displays of wavy wood.

That’s enough for now — the details are going in my article, for an American Auto Club travel magazine. But for you, dear blog reader, a short list of things you gotta do there:

The famous Bossche Bol

The famous Bossche Bol

Treat yourself to a famed ”Bossche Bol,” a puff pastry filled with fresh whipped cream and dipped in dark chocolate.

Take a canal tour (March to October). The canals here are special because they’re below the buildings and you’ll ride through tunnels, some with artful arches.

Visit the Stedelijk and the adjacent Noordbrabants Museum, and also the Bosch center. Make sure you’re at the latter on the hour to see the astronomical clock in action.

St. John's cathedral

St. John’s cathedral

Visit the city’s pride and joy, St. John’s Cathedral, one of the best known churches in the Netherlands. It was built between 1380 and 1530 and shows off 600 statues inside and out. Just gorgeous. If you’re up for climbing 218 steps, take a tour of the bell tower for a stellar view of the city.

Along with those helpful hints, do the usual: Shop. Bop. Eat. Drink. Eet smakelijk en proost!

Paperhand puts ‘Invisible Earth’ on the map

August 14, 2013

Darwin narrates evolution

Darwin narrates evolution

The current production of the amazing Paperhand Puppet Intervention is one of our favorites among the nine and counting we’ve seen. “Invisible Earth” features a Charles Darwin character fast-forwarding through evolution with a message of peace, love, and stewardship — the usual lofty Paperhand themes. As always, Paperhand’s visuals amaze both children and adults. This year’s include dancing amoebas, barnyard animals, funky monkeys, a huge elegiac mask with outstretched arms, and a humanoid assembled with Japanese lanterns. Several times throughout the 90-minute show, cast members glided the stage waving huge strips of fluttering fabric hanging from bamboo poles, sometimes sending the caressing cloth out over the audience. Truly poetry in motion. Another highlight this year: gorgeous, searing music composed by Ari Picker (Lost in the Trees) and, as always, performed live by the Paperhand Band. Below are a few of our favorite images. But please, go see for yourself! Paperhand will be at its annual summer home, the historic outdoor Forest Theatre on the UNC Chapel Hill campus, through Sept. 8, and then at the NC Museum of Art amphitheater Sept. 13-15.

Stiltwalkers portray jelly fish

This year’s creations include jellyfish on stilts

Pigs walk through the audience to join the animal orchestra

Pigs walk through the audience to join the animal orchestra

The animal orchestra in action

The animal orchestra in action

Scene of the Visions of Earth

Giant masks are a Paperhand signature

The Great Unfolding

Outstretched arms signal a lantern surprise (top secret!)

NC’s national treasure: artist Beverly McIver

March 30, 2012

Beverly McIver; photo credit: (c) Beverly McIver

It’s Beverly McIver season! If you don’t know this amazing artist, you must check her out. She’s an NC native, a Durham, NC, resident, and a national treasure, recently named “Top Ten in Painting” in “Art in America.”

I’ve admired her work for many years, even when she left us to teach and paint in Arizona a few years ago. So happy to have her back! Her oil paintings scream color – in two ways. McIver (pronounced Mc-EEver) splashes bold colors on her canvas and she deals with racism head on.

McIver during painting demonstration in her Golden Belt studio

Our first brush with her, so to speak, came late last year at Golden Belt, where she keeps a studio (she’s an art professor at North Carolina Central University). During a Third Friday, the monthly open-studio event, McIver gave a painting demonstration. We the audience were wowed. Imagine watching an artist you admire show what she does and how she does it,  step by step.

A couple weeks later, Lina and I went to the retrospective on her at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. “Reflections: Portraits by Beverly McIver,” up through June 24, covers her last decade. The paintings commemorate McIver’s life and the lives of those closest to her – her late mother, who died in 2004, and her sister, Renee, who is mentally disabled. The sisters also are the subjects of the HBO documentary “Raising Renee,” which recently came out on DVD. McIver is brutally honest about the challenges of being a caregiver.

Portrait with red hair;(c) Beverly McIver

Then last weekend we strolled over to Craven Allen Gallery in Durham to see her “Small Works” show, up until May 5. What’s particularly neat about this one is it includes some mixed media works and monoprints, as well as McIver’s signature oils on canvas. Some of the mixed-media pieces and prints were priced at less than $1,000, though the oils ranged from $6,000 to $15,000. A bit out of our budget, but remarkable work! We are so, so fortunate to have this major talent in our own back yard. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Mid-century modern in Sarasota, Fla.

February 12, 2012

Umbrella House (1953)

Modern-day Sarasota is known for its thriving arts scene and contemporary homes and offices, but what many people don’t know is that sprinkled among the new buildings are world famous examples of another modern movement, which I wrote about last month for a Florida website after Lina and I visited there in December. The Sarasota School of Architecture came of age in the early 1940s and continued through the mid 1960s, and many examples remain.

“Unlike many historical buildings, their beauty isn’t encompassed in rich ornamental details, but in integrating post-war design with how to live in the tropics,” said Lorrie Muldowney, Sarasota County’s historic preservation specialist.

Making these older homes even more relevant today are the properties they share with current “green” or sustainable design — natural air flow, passive design, connecting the inside to the outside, and native-plant landscaping.

Joe Barth Insurance Office (1957)

Leading the Sarasota School were architects and designers Philip Hiss, Paul Rudolph and his one-time partner Ralph Twitchell, Victor Lundy, and Jack West. Hiss first developed the neighborhood of Lido Shores (just off busy St. Armands Circle), which still contains the highest concentration of Sarasota School homes.

To start your study in Sarasota School architecture, here are some of the most interesting and accessible stops from the guidebook “Tour Sarasota Architecture,” available free of charge at the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Umbrella House (1953), 1300 Westway Drive

This Lido Shores home designed by Paul Rudolph is arguably Sarasota’s most notable. In 2005, it was purchased and restored by museum exhibit designers Vincent and Julie Ciulla. The simple, stately cube home is shaded with a trellis-like “umbrella” installed by the couple after the original one was destroyed in a storm. “It gets all of its fame from the outside, but the inside is really the beauty of it,” said Vincent Ciulla, who offers tours for a fee. “It’s a bunch of planes and surfaces and lots of movement in the space. Rudolph played with the space in a very beautiful, balanced way.”

Hiss Studio (1953), 1310 Westway Drive

Next door to the Umbrella House is Hiss’s original studio, a glass rectangle raised on steel columns that was one of the first air-conditioned spaces in Sarasota. While you’re in Lido Shores, use the “Tour Sarasota Architecture” guide to walk or drive by more than a dozen other Sarasota School homes.

Sarasota City Hall (1966), 1565 1st St.

Situated downtown on a lush lawn, the white, low building is filled with angles and planes. Architect Jack West allowed for natural light, but added overhangs to keep out the direct sun.

Joe Barth Insurance Office (1957), 25 S. Osprey Ave.

Many businesses have come and gone in this angular structure featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and steel columns, designed by Victor Lundy. Its current occupant, Genevieve Tomlinson, owner of Zen Body-Zen Health and Asian Tea Bar, says customers appreciate the integration of exterior and interior. “It’s like being outside when you’re inside.”

St. Paul Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall (1959) and Sanctuary (1968), 2256 Bahia Vista St.

St. Paul Lutheran Church Sanctuary (1968)

Parish administrator Arleen Austin is accustomed to receiving visitors. “We get tourists from all over the world familiar with Victory Lundy and wanting to see his architecture.” Admirers are drawn to the simple, soaring lines of both buildings and to the altar wall, dramatically lit by window slits along the tall sloping roof.

Sarasota High School Addition (1960), 1000 School Ave.

Sarasota High School Addition (1960)

Architect Paul Rudolph designed many public buildings. Sarasota and the former Riverview high schools were among the best known. After much outcry, Riverview, beset with maintenance issues, was demolished in 2009. Meanwhile, the addition Rudolph designed here is not only intact but getting a needed renovation in 2012, said administrative assistant Lyn Campbell. The minimalist all-white structure includes large openings for ventilation, raised floor levels, and shaded areas on the stairs.

South Gate Community Center (1956), 3145 Southgate Circle

Walk to the back to this serenely sited neighborhood center to see Victor Lundy’s large, sleek glass room with newly restored terrazzo floors, used as a social hall. “This is a well loved building,” said manager Dan Beswick. Next on his wish list is to remove the acoustical tile ceiling and restore the original pine. The center, set on five acres along Phillippi Creek, is also a perfect picnic spot.

With your tour complete, you may be in the mood for some mid-century modern merchandise. If so, Jack Vinales Antiques, 500 S. Pineapple Ave., is the place to shop. Vinales, in business since 1992, stocks furniture, dinnerware, jewelry, and art from the 1930s through the 1960s, with a specialty in mid-century furnishings and lighting.

If your interests extend to bigger-ticket items, such as a mid-century home, Sarasota realtor Martie Lieberman of  Modern Sarasota specializes in them and lives in one herself. Lieberman is a founder of the Sarasota Architecture Foundation, which occasionally hosts Sarasota School lectures and building tours.

Cool, cold and colder in warm Chicago

January 31, 2012

Diane (saved by Amy's down coat) and Chicago Greeter Larry Ambrose in front of 'The Bean' in Millennium Park

Update: Globe story is here.

My friend Amy, whose downtown Chicago high-rise we were fortunate enough to stay in a couple weeks ago, keeps apologizing for the frigid weekend we encountered. I told her we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We needed bragging rights! It had been unseasonably warm there, until we arrived, when it snowed and the days dipped into the 20s and the nights, oh, who wants to think about it. Two things saved us. Amy and her partner, Deanna, keep their heat higher than we keep ours (yay!) and Amy loaned me her shin-length North Face down coat. Yes, yes, oh yes.

The `Crown Fountain,' a video sculpture and fountain by conceptual artist Jaume Plensa in Millennium Park

So, yes, we had a blast –of arctic air, but of fun too. Amy had given us with a travel-writer-worthy list of things to do, plus I had a few story assignments. Saturday we met our “greeter,” for my Boston Globe story about the very cool Chicago Greeters program. Greeters are locals who give free tours of their city. We picked “public art” from a smorgasbord of options. Our guy Larry took us to the beyond-thrilling Millennium Park, and then through a greatest-hits list of sculptures by Picasso, Dubuffet, Chagall, Miro, and Calder.

Farm manager Dave Snyder grows vegetables on the organic roof-top of Uncommon Ground

That afternoon Lina and I hopped on the Red Line to Edgewater, where we visited Uncommon Ground, “the greenest restaurant in the country” (according to the Green Restaurant Association) for a little Ode piece I was writing. I’m very skeptical of green claims and usually that proves founded, but not so in this case. From the organic roof-top farm to the tables made from local fallen trees, and many things in between, this was the real deal.

We took Amy’s suggestion (and discount) and headed across the street that night to the venerable Gene Siskel Film Center to see “Newlyweds” starring and directed by Edward Burns. Oh, yeah, and it was followed by a Q&A with Ed himself. Total thrill!

Sunday we got lost in the Art Institute of Chicago for hours and hours. In one room we soaked up more masterpieces than many people see in a lifetime. The new (2009) Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano, is a soaring three-story beauty chocked with modern, contemporary, and cutting edge show-stoppers.

Sunset over Chicago as seen from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center

What could top that? Literally, sunset from the 94th floor of the Hancock Tower Observatory. (We went to the Willis Tower/Sears Tower the next day. Much longer lines, but it was worth it to stand on the transparent Skydeck Ledge 103 floors above ground.) On the way to meet Dutch friends of Lina’s living nearby, we stopped at American Girl Place for an overdose of pink before returning to adult fun — outstanding brew and food at Revolution Brewing in Logan Square.

Diane ventures out on the Sky Ledge at 1,353 feet in the air

On our final day, our hosts returned from Florida (oh, did I not mention we had the run of their splashy condo for the weekend?) and Amy and I caught up on some 15 years! Since college, she’s become a city mouse, while I’ve turned into a small-town girl who appreciates the big city from time to time. Thanks for the Midwestern hospitality, Amy and Deanna! We shall return!

At MFA in Boston, old, new, and still friendly

January 9, 2012

The original grand entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts remains the same

When I lived in the Boston area, from 1989 to 2003, I visited the Museum of Fine Arts often and knew the layout and collections pretty well. Returning to the MFA recently was like visiting an old friend who had struck it rich but was as likeable as before. From November 2010 to September 2011, the museum grew by about 200,000 square feet, first with the Art of the Americas wing and then with the smaller but also wonderful Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. Everything was familiar, but different.

Glass tower anchors the courtyard

Most visually new and exciting is the Shapiro Family Courtyard, a huge gathering space with café and the 42-foot “Lime Green Icicle Tower” by glass artist Dale Chihuly. The museum appealed to the public last year to help purchase the yummy cylinder of glass for $1 million. They came through, and we’re all benefiting. (I love this time-lapse video of the tower going up.)

Before I go further, let’s discuss the rules, summed up succinctly below in the neon installation “Please” by Danish-born artist Jeppe Hein. Delightful, playful, informative. Love it!

You'll want to follow Jeppe Hein's rules

In the Art of the Americas wing, I gave up trying to find my place and just enjoyed the 53 (!) galleries, including nine period rooms that are like little extra museums. The more than 5,000 works shown more than double objects previously displayed. About 500 are new, 175 are loans and the rest had been stashed in the basement.

The European art was moved around enough that it took me forever to find my favorite Van Gogh, “Lullaby,” a painting of Madame Roulin, the postman’s wife. But where I was when I found it I had no idea. Clearly I’d need to spend many more afternoons here.

In the contemporary wing, which tripled the space of the previous area and shows 250 works in seven new galleries, I was thrilled to find my favorite Kiki Smith, “Lilith,” hanging from the wall as always, along with many more purchases and loans. The last rooms we entered held a special show, 30 of Ellsworth Kelly’s wood sculptures, spanning his career. (It’s up through March 4.) Unlike his colorful paintings, these are natural wood tones, sparse and elegant.

Alas, time has run out for 'The Clock'

Before we left, we watched 30 minutes of  “The Clock,” a 24-hour video by Christian Marclay that apparently is no longer at the MFA. (FIND IT AND SEE IT!) The compilation of thousands of movie and TV clips of clocks and watches tells the current time at any given moment and is synchronized with real time. While there’s no plot, we were hard pressed to leave our seat, waiting to see how, for instance, 1:42 p.m. will be depicted. While we were constantly reminded of the time, it still got away from us.

DeCordova Sculpture Park a beauty outside and in

December 8, 2011

Ozymandias by Douglas Kornfeld

I hadn’t been to the DeCordova for almost a decade, and couldn’t wait to see its expansion both inside and out during a trip to Boston last month.  Formally the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, it’s adjacent to a large pond in the lovely, historic town of Lincoln, northwest of Boston. Somehow, even though the DeCordova is listed in various guides, it remains a best-kept secret. Below were some of our favorite sculptures, but you must also go inside to see current contemporary exhibits, check out the cafe, and do not miss the gift shop, one of the best places to buy craft in the Boston area. If you’re feeling ambitious (we didn’t have time), take a walk along the Sandy Pond Trail, which circumvents the pond. It’s a great place for lady slipper viewing in the spring. Whatever you do when you get there, just get there!

Diane (right) and friend Vicki have a heart to heart in front of Two Big Black Hearts by Jim Dine

One piece from Armour Boys by Laura Ford

Eve Celebrant by Marianna Pineda

Testing a World View (Again) (left) by Tory Fair, Humming by Jaume Plensa

Paperhand Puppet wows again

August 14, 2011

The Sun Goddess is one of our favorites.

Last night’s showing of “The Serpent’s Egg” was our seventh time seeing Paperhand Puppet Intervention, and it was my favorite show since our first, in 2006. (So sad that we lived here in Durham, NC, for two years before we discovered one of the country’s most amazing big-puppet performances!). Paperhand is a summer highlight, and we love the stage at Forest Theatre on the UNC campus. This year the visuals (more photos below!) were mind-blowingly stupendous in every act, and I appreciated that the “teaching and preaching” — all good stuff — came at the end instead of throughout. The music was particular stellar this year, as was the female vocalist, Claudia Lopez. Here are a few scenes:

Poignant and hilarious was "We Are All Just Babies," no matter our age.

Paperhand always turns a little dark, as in this macabre death dance.

These creatures are athletic and technically challenging. The "riders" are on stilts and their horses/birds (?) buck and stomp. Amazing.

Eleven puppeteers operated the serpent, which has a ferocious roar.

Paperhand cofounder Donovan Zimmerman steers the serpent toward the outreached hands of mesmerized children. Magical and moving.