Monday, August 4, 2014

An Art Day in Cambridge, MA: Modernist Architecture at Harvard and MIT

I’m back, y’all. It’s been 3 months, and I’ve found my groove to balance blogging and being a mommy. Oh and I start back at work today, too.

This month’s ArtSmart (I hope you followed the other participants while I was on hiatus) is about an art day in a location of our choosing. Since I’ve been in a travel break, and a lot of people focus on Boston proper when they visit the city, I decided to highlight a concentration of Modernist architecture basically at my door. Harvard and MIT had $$$$ to pay top architects as they expanded their campuses in the middle of the 20th century. In Cambridge, you’ll find Le Courbusier, Walter Gropius, and Eero Saarinen among others.

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard

24 Quincy St.

The Carpenter Center is the only Le Corbusier building in North America. It’s easy to spot surrounded by more traditional buildings. This 1963 building was built to house the visual arts department and to provide a flexible space for studios. It also has 2 galleries open to the public.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Harkness Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Harkness Commons and Harvard Law School Dorms

Jarvis St. and Massachusetts Ave.

Walter Gropius was in charge of The Architects Collaborative in the late 1940s, and the Harvard Graduate Center was one of the first Modernist commissions by a leading university. Gropius had been hired by Harvard to teach at the Graduate School of Design in the 1930s, and his TAC was like a second Bauhaus for him. Each project was a collaboration among the group of architects. This is my second favorite building in Cambridge after Gehry’s Stata Center at MIT. I love that you can really see Gropius’s style in this complex. You can see his home in Lincoln, MA as well.

Kresge Auditorium via Wikimedia Commons

Kresge Auditorium via Wikimedia Commons

MIT Chapel via Wikimedia Commons

MIT Chapel via Wikimedia Commons

Kresge Auditorium and MIT Chapel

48 Massachussetts Ave.

Over at MIT, you can find two buildings by Eero Saarinen. They are so fantastically Mid-Century Modern. The auditorium looks like the roof is floating on glass, but it really is supported at just 3 points where the concrete reaches the ground. The MIT Chapel has a metal screen inside designed by Harry Bertoia.

So if it’s a beautiful day on your next trip to Boston, head over to Cambridge and scope out some Modernist gems. It’s a welcome break from all the colonial style buildings you see in the area, and it’s a little offbeat instead of drinking at the pubs in Good Will Hunting and The Social Network.


What is ArtSmart?  A couple fellow travel bloggers with an interest in art and I decided to do a roundtable series focused on making our readers “art smart”, e.g. understanding why certain works of art are famous and worth the visit while traveling.  At the end of this post are links to the other ArtSmart posts by participating bloggers.  Interested in joining the Roundtable?  Check out our Facebook page or email me.

This Month’s Fellow ArtSmart Roundtable Articles:

Alexandra of Arttrav: An art day in Maremma at Daniel Spoerri’s garden

Pal and Lydian of ArtWeekenders: An Art Day at the Kroller-Muller Museum

Christina of Daydream Tourist: Masterpieces for Free: An Art Day in Washington DC

Ashley of No Onions Extra Pickles: An Art Day in Doha, Qatar

Jenna of This Is My Happiness: An Art Day in Napa Valley

Murissa of Wanderfull Traveler: An Art Day in Paris: My Own Accidental Walking Tour


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Baby Art Nerd Has Arrived!


So you may have noticed that I didn’t post at all in May and that I’ve skipped the last 2 ArtSmart Roundtables. That’s because Baby Art Nerd arrived in early May, just over a week early which I wasn’t expecting since everyone told me you’re late with your first.

In fact, I was getting ready to go shopping for last minute baby stuff and make a few more freezer treats when my water broke (something else that actually doesn’t happen all that often). I had the “birth plan” of go to hospital, have baby, but I had hoped to avoid a lot of interventions and the epidural if it was possible. It wasn’t. I had to be induced, then I had back labor, then Baby Art Nerd was face up so he got stuck, so I ultimately had a c-section after a rather short (for a first timer) labor of 12-13 hours with 4 hours of pushing.


Ultimately, Baby Art Nerd arrived safe and sound, and we’ve both recovered nicely since his birth almost a month ago. I’ve decided to keep him anonymous and faceless on the site and most social media (except for real Facebook friends). I don’t want him to have a huge internet trail of photos before he even knows what that means.

Duck 1994 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 via Tate

Duck 1994 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 via Tate

He has lived up to his nickname already. In the hospital, we showed him the abstract photography on the walls of the corridors while I got some exercise to help heal. There was also an Uzbek tapestry that he liked to look at. And now that we’re home, I’ve been showing him black and white art cards from Art for Baby. His favorite is Patrick Caulfield’s Ducks.

Posting will be sporadic for the next few months. It’s hard to take photos while out and about and wrangling a carrier and diaper bag, and I’m usually trying to catch up on laundry or dishes while he’s napping. Maybe when he’s older, I’ll post more often, but he’s my priority at the moment (and I’m working from home a few hours during my leave, too).


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Quilts and Color in Boston


The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston recently opened an exhibit featuring a large quilt collection. Rather than going with the usual narrative of folk art or decorative art, they grouped quilts by color theory. Which was absolutely fascinating to me as modern color theory came after most of these quilts were made. It just goes to show how certain aspects of art seem to be innate.






I also really appreciated the way the exhibit was laid out. The walls were either dark and rich to allow the quilts to pop or a neutral color to let you see the theory for that grouping. Each section had an explanation of a particular theory with a corresponding work of art (mostly on paper but some paintings). It was a fantastic way to blend what’s often seen as a craft with modern art.






My favorite piece highlights the theory of gradation. The quilt is from the late 19th century, made in Massachusetts, and composed of cotton, silk, and silk velvet. Looking at it, you’d think it was from CB2 or some other modern boutique. But nope, it’s from 1879. The contrast of the dark diamonds with the gradations of blues and oranges is just beautiful!

This exhibit was one of the 5 I wanted to catch this year in January’s ArtSmart. I also swung by the Boston Loves Impressionism and Think Pink exhibits, but this one was absolutely spectacular. I’m glad I made the effort to waddle around for a few hours on a day off.

Quilts and Color
The Pilgrim/Roy Collection
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
April 6 – July 27, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

ArtSmart Roundtable: The Overlooked Reliquary

It’s time for ArtSmart, and this will probably be my last one for the next few months with the impending arrival of Baby Art Nerd. We delayed the April posting to accommodate another art-centric post by friends of the late Hasan Niyazi. You can find those posts here.

This month, we’re revisiting the theme of sculpture. I’ve covered a broad range in this topic from fun modern pieces to triumphal Roman arches. Usually, you think of a piece of stone or bronze as a larger-than-life object for sculpture or perhaps you think of busts of noteworthy people. But what about reliquaries? They’re sort of in between as a functional object and a piece of usually delicate metalwork. I’m going to focus on two kinds: portrait-style reliquaries and church-shaped pieces.

What is a reliquary? For this discussion, focusing on medieval European reliquaries, it’s an object used to house the relics (often bones, teeth, clothing, or hair) of a saint. Churches were often consecrated once a relic (generally of the patron saint the church is named after) was installed. Many powerful cathedrals and monasteries used their relics as medieval tourism to gain revenue from visiting pilgrims. Especially if their relic was purported to deliver miracles. So if you had a money-making, miracle-creating relic, you needed a fancy vessel to display it.

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Reliquary of Ste. Foy dating from the late 10th to early 11th centuries. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The abbey church of Sainte Foy in Conques, France has an excellent example of a portrait-style reliquary. The church is on the way to the Camino de Santiago, and Sainte Foy’s miracle claim to fame was freeing prisoners who prayed for her intercession. The relics were actually stolen from Agen by monks which shows just how important relics were in medieval society. The reliquary is Ste. Foy seated in a chair. The head is actually a different gold from the body, and there is a receptacle in the back holding her skull encased in silver. Some art historians have theorized that the head was the original reliquary that was later added to a body. The crown that she’s wearing denotes that she was a martyr. The body itself is gilded yew wood and the ornamentation has been added to over the centuries. The oldest parts of the reliquary date from the late 10th to early 11th centuries (though the face dates from the 4th century as a late Roman bust), and it measures almost 3 feet tall. You can find the reliquary in the treasury at the church of Ste. Foy in Conques.

The Reliquary Head of St Eustace in the British Museum. Made from silver-gilt, sycamore, amethyst, carnelian, rock crystal, chalcedony, pearl, Roman glass. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Reliquary Head of St Eustace in the British Museum. Made from silver-gilt, sycamore, amethyst, carnelian, rock crystal, chalcedony, pearl, Roman glass. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The reliquary of St. Eustace is a bust-style featuring just his head and neck resting on a stand. It was made in the 13th century in Basel, Switzerland so this has a late Romanesque look rather than the early Romanesque look of Ste. Foy. It measures about 14 inches tall so it’s much smaller than Ste. Foy. The base is sycamore covered in silver gilt and gems. The inside contains skull fragments, which were assumed to be pieces of St. Eustace’s skull though he was martyred in late 1st/early 2nd century. It’s not clear where the relics came from, but the reliquary stayed in Basel until it was purchased by the British Museum in 1850. It still belongs to the museum today.

Reliquary of St. Taurin. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Reliquary of St. Taurin. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The reliquary of St. Taurinus is an example of a church-shaped piece. The life of St. Taurinus is a bit hazy, but he’s generally associated with the 4th or 5th centuries. He is said to have raised several people from the dead in Normandy during his lifetime. An abbey was established in his name in the town of Évreux in Normandy in the 6th century. The reliquary dates from the mid-13th century, and it takes the style of a Gothic church. The reliquary is silver covered in gold leaf and gilded copper with enamel and jewels. It’s over three feet long and over three feet tall, and it weighs and weighs over 150 pounds. You can find it in a side chapel at the abbey church of St. Taurin in Évreux today.

Next time you’re in a museum or church, don’t miss the gilded reliquaries on display. They’re often incredibly detailed pieces of metalwork, and each one tells the story of the saint or church it is associated with. They may not command the room like a giant classical nude or an Egyptian temple guardian guard or a brightly colored Lichtenstein, but they are unique, ornate vessels with stories that you usually don’t hear about.

What is ArtSmart?  A couple fellow travel bloggers with an interest in art and I decided to do a roundtable series focused on making our readers “art smart”, e.g. understanding why certain works of art are famous and worth the visit while traveling.  At the end of this post are links to the other ArtSmart posts by participating bloggers.  Interested in joining the Roundtable?  Check out our Facebook page or email me.

This Month’s Fellow ArtSmart Roundtable Articles:

Alexandra of Arttrav: 8 exquisite sculptures at the Archaeological Museum in Florence

Pal and Lydian of ArtWeekenders: Botero’s Voluminous Sculptures Around the World

Lesley of Culturetripper: Francis Bacon & Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty, AGO, Toronto

Christina of Daydream Tourist: Man and Myth: Statues of Abraham Lincoln

Ashley of No Onions Extra Pickles: Rodin’s Thinker

Jenna of This Is My Happiness: A Sense of Place through Sculpture 

Murissa of Wanderfull Traveler: The History & Highlights of Peggy Guggenheim’s Sculpture Garden, Venice

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How I Hope Traveling Will Make Me a Better Parent

So yeah, that whole having a baby thing is 6ish weeks away. Which is why I’ve been a little quiet here; nesting has totally taken over. You know that feeling of last minute panic when you pack your bags hours before a trip? That’s kind of what I’m feeling, but I’m compelled to clean ALL THE THINGS in addition to washing/folding/organizing baby clothes and my own clothes (and figuring out what spring outfits still fit now that it’s finally warming up).

My only “experience” with parenting is being a fur mommy to my sweet kitty. Granted, she had some similarities to a baby like waking me up at 3 am for food, being very cranky at doctor’s visits, and puking on furniture/bedding/etc. But I know I’m in for quite a change.

I’m hoping some of the lessons I’ve learned from traveling will carry over.

Dealing with the Unexpected

We made several wrong turns trying to get back to our hotel in Barcelona on New Year's Eve.

We made several wrong turns trying to get back to our hotel in Barcelona on New Year’s Eve.

Oh, my flight home has been discontinued (not cancelled, straight up discontinued)? The line for tickets at the Termini in Rome is so long that we missed the first train to the airport? The museum we thought was in this neighborhood is nowhere near here? In my early travel days, those first two problems left me panicky and flustered. But now I’m used to things turning out differently and not going according to plan. Having to roll with the punches and figure out Plans B, C, D, and E should help me learn the ropes of how to be a mom.

Dealing with Exhaustion

Turkish coffee in the Grand Bazaar definitely helps.

Turkish coffee in the Grand Bazaar definitely helps.

Red eye flights, jet lag, and ridiculous layovers are not particularly fun. It took me a few days to get over jet lag in Istanbul, and we had a layover in NYC that was almost as long as the flight from Istanbul to NYC. I’ll admit that I’m not the most pleasant person when I’m tired. But I’ve learned how to be less bitter and how to cope with napping to get over missed sleep. Hopefully this will translate over into the weeks of waking up and feeding a baby every 2-3 hours.

Dealing with Minimal Stuff

Miss Zoe, certified packing assistant. RIP.

Miss Zoe, certified packing assistant. RIP.

I used to be an over-packer. I wouldn’t know what I’d feel like wearing so I’d pack 6 extra outfits for a 5 day trip. Now, I’m much better at packing. I have a bunch of go-to outfits, a minimal beauty routine, and I don’t need a lot of other stuff to keep me occupied on long flights. I can travel with one bag on many trips, and I generally pack the same things over and over since I know they work. We’re trying to have a minimal home for Baby Art Nerd I don’t want our house to turn into a showroom for Toys R Us. I thought long and hard about what our lifestyle is like to avoid buying “necessities” we’ll never use. Until I know our baby’s personality, I don’t see the point of having a multitude of things that may or may not work. Our apartment isn’t huge, and I’d rather have Baby Art Nerd explore the world around him/her than have the latest and greatest baby item.

I know there will be a steep learning curve, but I’m hopeful that the lessons I’ve learned from traveling will help make things even a tiny bit easier.