The news today of the fire and destruction of Notre Dame in Paris made my heart sink. What a terrible loss. Many, many millions of people feel a connection to the 8 centuries old gothic cathedral. As I post this, Notre Dame is still burning, its roof and spire have fallen. I can’t imagine much more of a charred shell will remain. I pray that noone was injured or killed.
I was 16 on my first visit. I was immediately awed by the beautiful arches, stained glass windows, towers, transept, arches, and side chapels. I have enjoyed more visits since then, every time I passed through Paris. These pictures were from my last visit, 4 years ago…
How does one connect with a place? It must be the intertwining of a place’s beauty, its history, and cultural significance with one’s own imprinted memories. I’ve only visited as a tourist; lit a candle, sat in the pews, listened to mass being said, walked all around it, toured the towers. I cannot imagine what Parisians who have lived with it every day of their lives must be feeling today.
One of my favorite novels, Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, tells the fictional life story of Tom Builder, a man who built cathedrals in England & France in the 12th century, as Romanesque architecture evolved into Gothic. Notre Dame was a masterpiece. Its flying butressess allowing the ribs, pillars, arches and roof to be taller, and more open inside, leaving room for its legendary stained glass windows. I don’t know how or if it will be possible to restore or repair it. But, it will never be the same. Something has truly been lost for the ages.
I’m always looking for opportunities to visit our local museums. I heard about a new exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center on design and the Arts & Craft movement. So we took a trip to the University of Texas campus to see it today.
It’s a small museum but I enjoyed browsing the show.
We walked around campus a bit and grabbed lunch afterward.
I’ve been home for two weeks, catching up on the homefront. Noreen and David visited for a week, and we got out for a sail on Lake Travis with them. I’m enjoying watching the last few weeks of Winter happen in the Hill Country. This is the tail end of last night’s sunset, through the trees in my back yard.
Austinites have several nice museums to visit. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is one, and it is loaded with a number of permanent and rotating exhibits about all things Texas. On the first Sunday of each month, admission is free, or to be more accurate, HEB picks up the tab (another reason HEB is the best grocery store, hands down, ever).
I like to visit a couple of times a year to see the new exhibits. In particular today we went to see the Becoming Texas exhibit, and to see the new permanent exhibit for the 17th century recovered French ship that wrecked off of the Gulf Coast of Texas in 1686, La Belle.
The 54′ La Belle, or at least the portions of the timbers that remain of it, on display at the museum. This ship crossed the Atlantic, brought munitions, provisions and trade goods to the New World, and then sank off the Texas Gulf Coast. If you live in or near Austin, you should check out the museum. Ideally on a free First Sunday.
Afterwards we visited Zilker Brewing; we’re slowly working our way across all the breweries in Austin. One must have goals.
TripAdvisor just announced their list of top museums in the world, ranked by their travelers. At #1 is my favorite, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. I’ve visited Paris on four different trips, and hope to make it a few more before I’m through. And when I do, I will walk through the entire d’Orsay again. It’s beautiful – a restored train station, the Gare d’Orsay, that was built for the 1900 World’s Fair. It opened as the Musee d’Orsay in 1986. Its exhibits are diverse and gorgeous.
Here is a pic from my last visit, it looks just like any other taken of its expansive great hall, around and through which its galleries are placed.
And another pic of the old clock, with a bit of my own artistic treatment (using the Brushstroke app).
Recently, Apple has been running a commercial with someone singing in the background as the camera flashes clips of people using a Mac. I immediately recognized it as a song I first heard over 10 years ago when it was featured as KUT Song of the Day. The Austin radio station has since changed to KUTX but their Song of the Day feature is still a terrific place to hear new music.
The song is Story of an Artist, by Daniel Johnston. Daniel is a visual artist, songwriter, and musician who moved to Austin in the 1980s. He’s had a lifelong struggle with mental illness, but has found success and is fondly regarded here. He is the artist who, in 1992, painted the frog, Jeremiah the Innocent, in the iconic Hi, How are You mural in Austin on 21st street at Guadalupe.
The version of the song I heard on KUT was a recorded-live-in-studio-1A cover of Daniel’s song, performed by M Ward in September 2006. I liked it the first time I heard it. But it is a sad song, in my opinion, of an artist shunned by society for being different. And after having learned more about Daniel Johnston, I think it is autobiographical. A 2005 documentary about him called The Devil and Daniel Johnston reveals more about the man and his struggles.
The version of the song in the Apple commercial is performed by Johnston himself, originally recorded in 1982; just him, a cassette recorder, and a piano. In the commercial, the lyrics are chopped up and rearranged, so it comes off as a funky upbeat tune; you don’t get the whole vibe of the original song. Here’s a link to his entire original recording, if you want to give it a listen.
I think the M Ward version I first heard on KUT Song of the Day is beautiful….but when I heard it, I didn’t know the background story of the artist. Now I do.
I saw a white ceramic boot at a thrift store last week. It gave me a flash of inspiration; a vision of what it could be. It would become a colorful planter. Yes. That’s it. I brought it home.
First, I drilled a drain hole in the bottom. Slowly and carefully with my Dremel tool.
Then I popped over to Michael’s craft supply store for paint. I have a lot of acrylic paints, but I wasn’t sure what kind would work on already glazed ceramic. After shopping a bit I found one that sounded like it might.
Craftsmart multi-surface paint pots; you let dry for 72 hours and then bake in the oven.
I also grabbed a pen to help outline the design. I thought it would be easier than using a paint brush.
I chose a clear acrylic glaze spray-on finish to seal it from the elements.
I used rubbing alcohol to clean the surface first. I sketched a design on paper to plan it out. Next I drew it on the boot. Pencil worked great on the shiny finish. Then I let loose with color. I was trying to mimic Mexican glazed pottery designs, though not with real kiln-fired glazes. I was extra-pleased that it didn’t crack in the oven. After it cooled I sprayed on the glaze. Voila!
We popped over to free Thursday at the Blanton museum today. Ellsworth Kelly is an American artist who designed “Austin,” a stand alone art gallery, and artwork in its own right, for the Blanton art museum. He died a few years ago, but his building was recently finished. We visited the museum today to see this exhibit, and the other rotating collections on display.
Afterwards we celebrated National Margarita Day at Chuy’s. Cheers!
We watched the Seahawks game at a bar downtown today. Our Hawks won! On the way home we stopped in at Mozart’s coffee house to check out their Christmas light display. I’ve never been. But it definitely is a thing to see this holiday season. 🙂
Today Monte and I took a trip downtown to see the recently installed visiting art exhibit Forever Bicycles, by Ai Weiwei. It is sponsored by The Contemporary Austin and the Waller Creek Conservancy. Their material doesn’t cite an end date for the exhibit – it just says “ongoing.” But get yourself down there to see it. It is located at the “Waller Creek Delta,” which happens to be about where Trinity St runs into Lady Bird Lake. The Waller Creek Boathouse and its cafe are nearby, so you can catch a bite as well. And it is located right along the hike and bike trail.
I found the exhibit of hundreds of stainless steel bicycles to be teeming with motion, from every angle. Very cool indeed.
I made it to Laguna Gloria today. It’s remarkable that it is only my first visit, after living here over 20 years. It is the home of The Contemporary Austin, an art consortium. The grounds are beautiful, full of trees, and trails that will take you down by the (glorious) lagoon, as well as Lake Austin. A sculpture garden is spread throughout the grounds and trails. It made for a lovely afternoon of hiking, birding and art appreciation.