All cultured out.

I left the house yesterday morning in a snow storm that had my car sliding about, and arrived home with the window rolled down and slight sweat on my brow.

Such is life in the Northeast.

Despite the bipolar weather, my day yesterday was simply uplifting. I love immersing myself in new ideas and places, gathering inspiration through what I see and hear, and I did just that by yet another trip to the Springfield Museums.

Before getting to the main chunk of my day, I stopped by the North Hadley Sugar Shack because it’s Maple Weekend here in the Pioneer Valley! Well, I should say it’s throughout the state, as sugar houses are opening the doors for tours and restaurants are peppering maple-centric dishes into menus. It’s the beginning of the maple syrup season and also the first sign that the spring thaw is about to give way to the agricultural life picking up again.

While North Hadley does a wonderful breakfast every weekend, I went just to shop around the market and came out with all locally made product: chocolate milk that tasted like ice cream, maple donuts that melted in my mouth and rich, amber maple syrup, the flavor of which was deep, the consistency thick, without being too heavy; the perfect pancake topper.

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The main reason I ventured to the museums was to see “Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos inside that particular part of the museum but I did take a ton otherwise. Also, that exhibit sparked my interest in doing origami at home – but I’ll get into that in another post.

So, prepare yourself for photos – if you love art or just learning new things, you may want to stick around.

I want to start with my favorite part of the day, which is when I ventured from one museum over to Springfield  Central Library. As I was exiting the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum, I stopped to ask the man at the desk if I was covering all the ground I could; last time we were there a building was shut, so I wasn’t sure if it was open yet or not. He told me I was doing just fine and I thanked him, saying I was pretty much new here and didn’t know much about the Quadrangle. I left to head into the library and thought nothing of it.

It was nice to be back in a huge library. Have you ever seen anything more welcoming than this?
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As I was leaving the upstairs to find the fiction section, I noticed the same security guard from the previous museum milling about. He saw me, had an “a-ha” moment and held his finger up in a gesture for me to wait just one second. He quick-stepped to a corner where there was a stack of pamphlets about the library.

“Here you are,” he said as he handed me one. “And come here, I want to show you something.”

He brought me into an entrance-way into the library, clearly excited to be able to show someone something new. “Look up.”

I did, and my breath was taken away. There, lining the top edge of the walls, were gorgeous carvings of a Roman persuasion.

“That’s very unusual for a library,” he told me. “It’s an incredibly expensive thing to put in a building like this.”

He told me the library was 102 years old, and was then called away by someone else seeking help. I thanked him, warmed by the kindness and eagerness of a stranger to help someone new.

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I used to think that looking at paintings was boring, until I realized that some truly evoke feelings. As you already know, this guy is my favorite.

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I decided to take some time in Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts and really look at things, especially because of my new found promise to my friend Shannon that we’d spend at least an hour a week together writing; I needed some serious inspiration.

I found it in spades.

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Bridge to Sunderland, by John Roy (Acrylic and oil on canvas, 1996)

This picture explores how people see and understand color. From afar, it looks like a bridge and the surrounding landscape. But, up close…

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You can see that it’s been created using red, blue and green dots.

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Edith Cavell, by George Bellows (Oil on canvas, 1918)

This particular painting really haunted me. (You’re going to find that most of the art work I favor caused such a feeling in me; almost that of being unsettled. Maybe I’m a little strange?)

This painting is a reaction to the German atrocities in Belgium during World War I. Cavell was head nurse of the Berkendael Institute in Brussels, which later became the Red Cross. She was arrested by German soldiers in 1915 for harboring French, Belgium and British soliders and helping them escape to the Netherlands.  She was tried, found guilty, and executed by firing squad. This painting depicts her the moment before her execution, standing in white, a symbol of innocence. Below her are two German soldiers – her executioners.

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Grainstack, by Claude Monet (Oil on canvas, 1893)

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The Madman-Kidnapper, by Theodore Gericault (Oil on canvas, 1822-23)

I looked at this and thought, “There looks like there’s something seriously wrong with this guy.” Turns out there really was. This painting is part of a series of ten paintings (only five remain, this is one of them) that depicts the mentally ill. Gericault partnered with Dr. Etienne-Jean Georget, a pioneer in psychiatric medicine, to produce the series. This was the first of its kind to depict the mentally ill in a humane way.

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Widow Seated with Her Dogs, attributed to Frans Luyck (Oil on canvas, 1640)

Maybe it’s the mass amount of black in this photo but, my god, this picture stopped me in my tracks. Look at her face! She’s a widow, yes, but she looks more stern and angry than anything.

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Christ in Limbo, by a follower of Hieronymous Bosch (Oil on panel, about 1550)

Horrifying. Makes me think of Dante’s Inferno.  Bosch was known for his depictions of Hell and is recognized for his work “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Clearly, this artist drew tons of terrifying inspiration from the right panel of that.

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Saint Jerome, by Lazzaro di Jacopo Bastiani (Oil on panel, about 1490-1500)

Saint Jerome is considered the most learned of the Fathers of the Western Church. He lived as a hermit for four years, praying and fasting, when a vision of Christ compelled him to travel to Chaleis in the Syrian desert. He is pictured with a lion, an animal that supposedly stayed with him after he removed a thorn from its paw.

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View of Niagra Falls in Moonlight, by Herman Herzog (Oil on canvas, 1872)

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Fire! Fire! Fire!, by Salvador Dali (Hand-colored lithograph, 1989)

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Rita, by Bill Vuksanovich (1938)

I didn’t include what this is made of up there because I want you to be just as shocked as I was. This is clearly a black and white photograph, right? I mean, hell, maybe it could be a painting.

No. This is pencil. On paper.

 

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Skyscraper Vanity Table with Mirror (About 1930, lacquered wood with metal mirror)

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Burial Suit, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E. – 220 C.E., jade and copper thread)

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And, of course, I couldn’t leave without making new friends.

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