Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas in the Washington, D.C. Latvian Lutheran Church

Christmas 2015 was a bit unusual for me, as I was still in Washington on Christmas Eve; other years I had always flown to the Midwest before that, seeing as we traditionally celebrate the holiday on Christmas Eve itself. Last year, however, various reasons caused me to buy a flight to Michigan only for Christmas Day, but that meant I was able to attend the Christmas Eve service in Washington's Latvian congregation. It was an absolutely beautiful service, with a gorgeous vocal solo by a singer who used to sing with the Latvian National Opera choir, and with the congregation's hymns accompanied by both the organ in the balcony and the grand piano at the front of the sanctuary.

As we sang the last song, Silent Night, the sanctuary's lights were turned off until only candles and the Christmas tree remained illuminated.
May you and yours have a peaceful and beautiful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

As I often like to point out, the Washington area has a plethora of fantastic sights to see. In the 17 years I have lived in the region, I am still visiting great places for the first time! For example, earlier this summer a friend and I took time to explore the Basilica of the National Shrine. Another beautiful spot in Northeast Washington is the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a small national park which is so unusual that it is featured on the postal stamps which were released in June to celebrate the National Park Service's 100th anniversary. Two of my friends had lived near the gardens for several years, but even they had not managed to check out this hidden gem, so the three of us headed there on a very warm and sunny weekend morning. Wow -- we were all disappointed we'd not made it there earlier! So beautiful!

Other than many ponds with beautiful blossoms, the gardens also have a great boardwalk out into a marsh and a trail to the Anacostia River.
Us tall folk had to be extra cautious here!
From April 1 throught October 31, the gardens are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I recommend going first thing in the morning when the gardens are in bloom, as there is little protection from the hot Washington sun, and lots of competition from ideal photographs from other photographers and visitors.
The gardens are also open the rest of the year from 8:00am to 4:00pm. There is no entrance fee, which is always a bonus! When you arrive, be sure to check on the climate change observation post near the entrance. Take photos from each of the prescribed positions, and submit them to help scientists track changes in our climate!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Crystal Bridges, Part II

This post continue my lengthy and drawn-out story-telling and many photos about a summer Arkansas adventure, which was first introduced in this post, and further explained in this post.

While neither L nor I knew what to expect from Crystal Bridges, it's safe to say that we were both pleasantly surprised. The museum was well worth the trip, and kept pleasing us at every turn -- even the salted caramel iced latte that I ordered from its coffee bar was a winner. (Seriously, can anyone tell me where I could find such a drink in the DC area?)

There was so much wonderful art to be seen, and I took about a trillion photos, more of which I share with you here. Paintings in particular are difficult to photograph, so these are not truly accurate representations of the colors and textures we saw.
"Hall of the Mountain King" (Marsden Hartley, ca. 1908-1909)
"It's Very Queer, Isn't It?" (James Henry Beard, 1885)
"Interior/Before The Picture" (William Rimmer, 1872)
As a complement to the colors of the fabrics in the above painting, I present for your viewing enjoyment two snapshots of Gabriel Dawe's work "Plexus No. 27." I was excited to spot this piece, as I had loved his gorgeous "Plexus A1 " at the Renwick Gallery late last year (about which I wrote in this post). Now I can confidently say that Dawe is my favorite living artist -- these works are just amazing.

To get very "meta" about all of this art, I will throw in a photo of another work on display at Crystal Bridges -- a work whose colors and linear shapes echos those in Dawe's piece.
"Innate Thought" (Julian Stanczak, 1965)
Two of my favorite pieces in the entire collection were both very bright and colorful.
"Au Cafe (Synchromy)" (Stanton MacDonald-Wright, 1918)
Detail of "Red Flower" (Joseph Stella, 1929)
The building itself was worth photographing!
More to follow! It may be 2017 by the time I wrap up telling you about this trip, but better late than never, right?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Crystal Bridges

To continue my travelogue about friend L's and my trip to Arkansas (which began in this post)...

Given the short duration of our trip, we had a great deal we wanted to pack into a couple of days. The next morning the museum (aka Crystral Bridges Museum of American Art) opened at 10am, and we arrived at 10.15am.
At least one friend had jokingly asked me whether the museum would have greeters as Walmart stores do, and - unsurprisingly - it sure did. The greeter directed us to the admission desk (although there is no admission fee), where we were provided with one brochure that covers the indoor collection, and one that covers the outdoor trails and collection. We asked to make a reservation to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright house, and the earliest time we were offered was 3.15pm -- we looked at one another, shrugged -- yes, after all we traveled hundreds of miles, and then were all set.

Before setting off on our explorations of the collection, we made our way to the basement to use the ladies' room. A space outside the restrooms contained a couch -- and an art film, which we watched, then returned upstairs begin our independent tours. 
Film: "Rainbow Narcosis" (Jonathan Monaghan, 2012)
Walking and each looking at our own pace, we spent a good two hours exploring the permanent collection, which was impressive in its breadth and diversity. In this post and the next, I have included many photos of works which I liked or was somehow touched by or interested in.
"The Ramsay-Polk Family, Maryland" (James Peale Sr., ca. 1793)
The animal on the table is a flying squirrel!
Part of series "Gems of Brazil" by Martin Johnson Heade
"Landscape" (Robert Seldon Duncanson, 1865)
The painting above was very pretty, but did not photograph well, yet I am including it here due to the interesting life story of its artist. As explained by the informative sign next to the work in the museum, "born to Scottish-Canadian father and African-American mother Duncanson established his career in Cincinnati, but left for Canada during the Civil War, searching for a place where racism would not affect his profession as a painter. When Duncanson arrived in Montreal, he was warmly received, and he exhibited his works there to great acclaim." What a shame that talented people are driven from their homelands due to society's narrow mindedness.
"World's Columbian Exposition" (Theodore Robinson, 1864)
One of my favorites! "Under the Willows" (John Singer Sargent, 1887)
"School Rules" (William Holbrook Beard, 1887)
"The Lantern Bearers" (Maxfield Parrish, 1908)
"Raspberries in a Wooded Landscape" (William Mason Brown, ca. 1865-1875)

More to follow!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Basilica of the National Shrine

I interrupt our regularly scheduled programming (the plan *was* to write more about Arkansas) for an outing to the largest Catholic church in the Americas! Believe it or not, this cathedral - called Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception - is located right here in Washington, D.C. The church's foundation stone was laid in 1920, but the shrine was dedicated only in 1959. It has been visited by a number of Popes, most recently Pope Francis in 2015. Instead of boring you with more history or details, let's get right to the photos, as Catholics know how to do churches! I've not taken the time to do much (if any) editing of the photos, but you will be able to see why a friend and I spent a good while wandering around the building's many chapels and oratories.
St Frances Xavier Cabrini - Patroness of  Immigrants
Some great disco glamour!
Christopher Columbus

Mass was being celebrated during our visit, which is why I have no photos of the church's main area.
Words above the door: "Be of Good Heart."