Monday, September 15, 2014

A Visit to the Denver Art Museum; Pop Art and Quilts

After a week of rainy days and the first snowfall of the season -- unusually early, everyone assured us -- we enjoyed a weekend full of bright sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80's.  

After the snow cleared out on Friday morning a friend drove me to Denver to introduce me to some of its attractions.  We first went to lower downtown, a neighborhood known as LoDo, the earliest settled part of Denver.  Although it was once the major business district, over time it deteriorated and by the 1980's had become a very undesirable part of the city.  That changed when the city voted in a revitalization plan to save the remaining buildings and to encourage businesses such as the Wynkoop Brewery, Denver's first microbrewery.  The completion of Coors Field to house the newly acquired Rockies baseball team in 1995 lured even more people to the neighborhood and it is now a lively and hip area, full of restaurants and shops.

First we went into Union Station, the early train station which has been restored and repurposed as an upscale eating facility.

Don't you love the windows? 

Then we had lunch at the Wynkoop Brewery, where I had the best salmon club sandwich ever.  Afterwards we were off to the main event, a visit to the Denver Public Art Museum to see its current exhibitions.

Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective was a real eye opener.  I didn't know anything about this artist but enjoyed his vibrant colors, the oversize scale of many of his works,  and his use of collage.  Being a retrospective, the exhibit allowed the viewer to see pieces made throughout Wesselmann's  career and study the progression of his work over time.   He worked in various series, each growing out of the other.  For example, this kind of painting ....

... over time turned into this kind of 3-D laser cut, hand painted metal sculpture...

...which turned into this type of stylized abstract "drawing" out of metal.

Wesselmann worked in series, something serious quilt artists are always encouraged to do, and when I saw the progression of art that occurred in the series that Wesselmann worked on, I understood how important series work can be for an artist's growth.  A good description of the Wesselmann's work can be found here.

Also on view at the art museum was an exhibit of 20th century Japanese woodcuts which was quite beautiful. You can see a few of them here.

I hadn't planned to spend much time looking at First Glance--Second Look; Quilts from the Denver Art Museum since I'm not a huge fan of traditional quilts, which were the focus.  But as we approached the exhibit I was immediately drawn into it by the graphic and colorful quality of the quilts selected for display.  For example, look at this one:

At first glance I thought it used repetitive blocks, but then realized that each house is different in either coloring or design, and that one of the pine trees is different from the others.  That randomness coupled with the bold striped sashing and borders made the quilt seem modern to me, but it dates from the late 1800's.

Here's another one, this time featuring large swaths of fabric that look pieced or appliqued.  This focus on the fabric as opposed to technique or quilting, seems quite modern to me, but, again, this dates from the 1820's.  

Besides enjoying the quilts I also enjoyed how they were presented.  They were hung beautifully, with many suspended from the ceiling so both sides could be seen, and lots of breathing space between them.  The curators cleverly organized them into nine categories:  Little Houses (house blocks); Bands & Borders; Princess Feather (variations on a feather pattern); Sunshine and Shadow (log cabin blocks); Seeing Stars; Ordered Chaos (crazy quilts); Material Matters (focus on the fabric); Excellent Excess (quilts using an abundance of something, such as Yoyos); and Second Life (quilts reusing surprising material, such as clothing labels).   Seeing like quilts together and being able to compare them made the exhibit more interesting to me then seeing the quilts presented by date, or makers, or locale of the maker. 

The Denver Art Museum's commitment to quilts was evident not only from this exhibit but from the conservation room, which was viewable by the public and featured large tables for laying out quilts, special vacuum machines for gently removing surface dirt, and supplies for safely wrapping and storing ones not on display.  It was pretty impressive. 

But the most fun thing to see was the Thread Room, a large and comfortable space with many small displays about the various ways that thread has been used over different times and cultures.   A nice description of the room can be found at the designer's web site.  Here's a photo from that site.

Here's a closeup photo I took of one of the little displays.  I've never seen stitchery and the objects used to create it so lovingly exhibited and the displays were both interesting and a lot of fun to examine. 

To end this short summation of my introduction to the fabulous Denver Art Museum, here's a small jewel from the Thread Room.  The fabric was hand painted and then stitched to create a fanciful and lovely scene.  I just love this!

Friday, September 12, 2014

First Snow

Yesterday there was rain.

This morning there is snow. 

Not much, but enough to count as the first snow of the season.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


It's rainy and chilly today with a high in the low 50's.  Tomorrow's forecast is for snow in the morning followed by rain with a high of 45.   You would think that an early winter was bearing down on us but, no, a beautiful sunny weekend is forecast with temps in the high 70's.  Boulder weather is certainly interesting! Still, the arrival of colder weather, even briefly, signals the coming of the fall season.

This poster has appeared in our neighborhood.  I think it's pretty alarmist:  "Anything weighing less than 100 pounds may be at risk."   Really?  A small child?  But still,  it's a bit scary when you have a cat that insists on going outside.  

Here's the intrepid one, hanging out on the garden gate.  

The good news is that he has been coming home each night.  He loves the fleece throw that we have added to our bed as the nights have chilled down, kneading it with his paws for several minutes before cuddling down into it.  

He looks very sweet, doesn't he?  Don't be deceived.  The last two days he has caught and eaten several mice, leaving the uneaten parts for us to find on the front walkway.  Fetcher looks like a nice kitty but he is actually a skilled killer.  I hope I can remember that if he is ever taken by an even bigger skilled killer like a mountain lion.

This sign was also in our neighborhood the other day.  Yes, there was a real bus you could enter to get an acupuncture treatment.  Yes, I passed on the opportunity.

Monday, September 8, 2014

"BookBooks" and Other Thoughts

Have you seen the ad for the new Ikea catalog promoting its wonderful features as a "BookBook"?  In addition to just being amusing, I liked it since it captured some of my recent thoughts about print and digital magazines and books.   Click here to take a look.

I find that I'm buying more books and magazines in print form nowadays, rather than having everything in digital form.  There is something quite relaxing about using a printed magazine that I don't find replicated in using a digital copy.  And while I still love using my Kindle at night for bedtime reading and appreciate the convenience of always having a book with me via the Kindle app on my iPhone, nowadays when I acquire a book, I find myself taking the time to decide which form I want to acquire it in-- printed, digital, or audio-- and making a conscious decision based on how I think I will use the particular book.  

This is a photo of Paul in the salon right before he had the tips of his hair dyed teal on Friday.  Try hard and you may be able to imagine the top two inches of his "fauxhawk" a bright blueish green color.  You'll have to use your imagination because he won't let me take a picture, not because he doesn't like his hair.  He loves his new hair color.  He's just in a phase where he likes to say "no" when he can get away with it.  I love this phase will pass quickly!

Ben and I went on a great little hike yesterday, a two mile out and back up behind Boulder Canyon following a creek which led down to a pretty stretch of a reservoir.   The return trip was a gentle but relentless uphill hike which we powered through nicely.   I think all this walking I've been doing is making me a stronger hiker.   Ben has been building up his already impressive hiking skills by hiking up Flagstaff most days and volunteering on a trail building team once a week.  Go Ben!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why We Moved to Boulder

Despite the fact that it reached 94 degrees yesterday I walked about six miles around the neighborhood.  First I went over to the University and back to attend a class (I'm taking World Art 100 as a "Senior Auditor"), and then to and from Boulder High for Paul's "Back to School Night."  That's a lot of walking in the hot bright sun, but it was mostly a pleasure since there is so much to see along the way.   

The Colorado University campus here in Boulder is quite beautiful and it's fun to walk around with all the young kids and remember my undergraduate days at the University of Maryland while dodging skateboarders and bicyclists.   On the way home from class I walked behind someone smoking pot on the street, a first for me.  He had a skateboard and a helmet and was holding a joint which he puffed on every now and again.  I continued to walk behind him, observing with some fascination, until I realized that I was breathing in the smoke and decided I'd better take another route home!  

On the way down to the high school Ben and I stopped in at a shipping store to mail something off and then stopped for a snack at a place that sold Thai "street food."   After two impressive hours at Paul's new school we walked home, stopping along the way to eat a late dinner at a local cafe.   I just love having stores and restaurants so convenient to our house. 

One of my favorite places to walk right now is at University and 7th Street where you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the Dance of the Sunflowers.   

The double lot there is planted with an abundance of sunflowers, making it a magical place to be.

Not to be outdone, the house across the street has a smaller, but still amazing display of sunflowers as well.  It's as though the two sides of the street are vying to see who can grow the biggest and most colorful beds of sunflowers.  It's quite wonderful!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Farewell to Summer Boots

We've had a fun Labor Day weekend.  On Friday we went to dinner downtown with friends, on Saturday we had neighbors over to our house for dinner (the family with the kids Paul is walking with to school), and on Sunday we went to a friend's house to celebrate a birthday dinner.  All so much fun!

We thought we would have a quiet night at home tonight, but at 5:30 the woman across the street, who we had met once before, walked over and invited us to come to her house for drinks.  It turned out to be a very pleasant visit.  She was very interesting, had an amazing home, and a lively and cute wire haired Dachsund dog named Emily.  Emily immediately got Paul throwing her green chew bone to her and for the next hour or so they played together, with Paul throwing the toy over and over as she raced after it and jumped to catch it.  The two of them became quite good buddies while the adults visited over good wine and tasty snacks.

So much socializing and eating and drinking was offset by a long walk yesterday and a challenging hike today up on the Green Mountain West Ridge Trail behind Flagstaff Mountain.  The views up there were fabulous.

The last quarter mile was a steep uphill climb to the summit, which was tough on my poor torn hip muscle and knees but, as usual, the view from the top made it all worth while.

With Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer.  After today I won't feel justified in exclaiming "Summer Boots!" whenever I spy a Boulder woman wearing boots.   When I first spotted this fashion trend, I was quite surprised as I had never seen people wearing boots on a hot summer day.  And I have to say the amazement hasn't worn off.  Here are a few examples.

Now that it is moving into fall and we are reaching for our jackets in the mornings and evenings, I guess we are out of Summer Boots and into just plain boots.   Goodbye summer!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Around Here

Around here....

.....I found my Canon S120, which has been missing since my trip to Maryland in early August!  I didn't lose it; yeah for me!  It was hiding down in the bottom of my big black tote bag, which I had already checked a couple of times.  Gives you an idea of how small the S120 is or how distracted I can be sometimes.  

Looking through the photos on it, I was happy to find this photo of Jean and Janice on the patio of the Lobster House in Cape May.  Not a great photo but a great reminder of that fun night when we wandered all over looking for a restaurant without a huge line, only to end up late in the evening right back where we started, at the Lobster House.   It was only a half hour to closing and most everyone had cleared out, allowing us to enjoy a quiet and uncrowded, if late, dinner. 

 And this photo of Paul and his friends Bryan and Robbie.  Always so good to see them together and a reminder of how much fun Paul had with them and Alex and Tommy.

...We're on the second day of having a crew of guys in the house adding both vents and insulation to the attics.  Our house will be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer once this work is done but honestly, I'm a bit sick of having workmen in the house!  Apart from the lack of privacy someone has to be home to supervise things, which isn't much fun.   I used my time on duty yesterday to make a design wall for my studio following this plan.  Basically you take a big sheet of Styrofoam insulation board and cover it with quilt batting, giving you a movable wall that is stiff enough to rest nicely against your wall without attaching it.  I'm satisfied with how it turned out and happy to have a way to put up my in-progress work.  

....We have a new addition to the kitchen, a sturdy cart to hold the espresso machine.  It had been taking up the whole counter next to the sink, and its good to have that counter space free. Since so much is going on by the big window now, I took out the shelving that used to be in the window.

Here's the old shelves; better now, yes?

...The first full week of school has finished up and Paul is still getting himself off in the mornings happily and coming home with lots to tell us.  The big news is that he is switching instruments in band, from flute to baritone saxophone.  I think it's funny that he started with one of the smallest instruments and now is playing one of the biggest.   Paul is quite excited about the change and also about the prospect of a band trip to Disney World in the spring.  I'm just happy that Paul is off to a happy start at school this year.  

...I'm off to the eye doctor for a checkup this morning.  Plan to get a pair of prescription sun glasses to better handle the bright, bright sun we have out here.  Yesterday the sun continued to shine brightly even while it was raining!