Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chihuly, Holiday Lights, and Dinosaurs?

While in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, some of my family and I headed to Phipps Conservatory in Oakland to see their holiday light display. I used to go there a lot as a kid, and I was tired of just sitting and eating, so I tagged along.

colored holiday light balls

I want these.

They had a large display of trees and glass objets d’arts inside, and a huge light display outside. It was a bit too chilly for me to take many photos (I need those gloves where you can still use your phone), but I did snap one of the funky ovals that change color as you step outside. These are my kind of lawn decor.

Chihuly chandelier at Phipps

Phipps was also one of many botanical gardens to do a Chihuly exhibition, and they retained several pieces after the show including one in the lobby atrium. Each piece of glass is attached to or resting on a rod. None of them are fused together.

But the best part of the visit? Dinosaurs! Yes, whoever designed their toy train set up this year must be the coolest person ever because it blend your average toy train diorama with Jurassic Park-esque mayhem.

dinosaur playing basketball

T-rex chasing truck

When you enter the room, everything looks normal, but then you start catching a dinosaur playing basketball or chasing a pick up truck.

fake newspaper story about dinosaur attack

They had a fake newspaper setting up the scene once you started noticing the dinosaurs.

group of dinosaurs

When you round the bend with a giant volcano, the dinosaurs are destroying fences, railroad ties, bridges, and more. They included several hands-on components such as making a mine shaft explode or the volcano grumble.  This person had a lot of fun doing their job, and their boss is a good sport for allowing them to be so creative. Big thumbs up!

If you’re in Pittsburgh for the holidays, stop by and see Phipps. You’re guaranteed to not be bored even if you’re not a plant person.

Phipps Conservatory
One Schenley Park
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Monday, December 2, 2013

ArtSmart Roundtable: The Bauhaus School

With Thanksgiving being so late this year, I can’t believe that it’s December and the last ArtSmart Roundtable of 2013. We’ve been going strong for nearly 2 1/2 years, and I’m excited that our group is growing and touching upon topics that really pique readers’ interests.

This month, Alexandra of ArtTrav is joining us. Find her link, and this month’s participants, at the bottom of the post. December’s theme is Artistic Movements or Periods. Even though I focus heavily on medieval art and architecture (that was my focus in school), I did also concentrate on architectural history. Despite my love of over-the-top, crazily ornamented medieval structures, I also love modernist art and architecture which was part of the inspiration for the look of this blog. So this month, I’m highlighting the Bauhaus School.

The Bauhaus School operated in Germany from 1919 to 1933. In the early 20th century, there was a shift among many architects and artists away from fanciful forms towards a rational, simplified look. William Morris, a 19th century English designer, advocated the marriage of form and function. Political shifts in Europe towards the working class, rather than the aristocracy or educated elite, who lived simply also fed into this slowly developing mindset of modernism. This school of thought also manifested itself in the American Arts and Crafts movement as well as other forms of modernism throughout Europe.

The School had three locations and three architect directors over its lifetime. Walter Gropius ran it in Weimar and then Dessau from 1919-28, Hannes Meyer ran it in Dessau from 1928-30, and Ludwig Mies van de Rohe ran it in Dessau and then Berlin from 1930-33. I personally have experienced Gropius’s and van de Rohe’s work so I’ll focus on some of their works as well as pieces by lecturers at Bauhaus.

Walter Gropius door handle

Walter Gropius, c. 1922, nickel-plated brass, 2 3/8 x 7 3/4 x 6″ (6 x 19.7 x 15.2 cm) mounted on wood base 10 x 4 3/4 x 3 3/8″ (25.4 x 12.1 x 8.6 cm). Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder. Via MoMA.

Walter Gropius designed the door handles that you see EVERYWHERE. Rather than a fancy circular knob or the ornate claw-shaped handles seen on so many buildings, he created the sleek, streamlined metal cylinder that is just beautifully simple.

Gropius House, Lincoln, MA.

The entryway to the Gropius House, Lincoln, MA.

If you’re ever in Boston, make the drive out to Lincoln to see Gropius’s home. He relocated to England after his stint at the Bauhaus and then was hired by Harvard (thus escaping persecution by the Nazis). I’ve visited his home, and it is absolutely gorgeous in its minimalism. Each and every element has a reason for being there and is designed with purpose. You can also see his works in Germany, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, England, and Greece.

Barcelona Pavilion, Bauhaus, Mies van de Rohe

German Pavillion in Barcelona, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. 1929 (reconstruction 1986) via Wikimedia Commons.

Need a break from the craziness of Gaudi in Barcelona? You can find Bauhaus modernism thanks to Ludwig Mies van de Rohe. A reconstruction of his German Pavilion for the Barcelona Exhibition is a temple to modernism. He also designed several homes in Germany before emigrating to the US after his tenure as the last director of the Bauhaus. In the US, you can find his designs in Chicago, the Seagram Building in NYC, several pavilions of Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Baltimore, Montreal, Toronto, and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

Barcelona Chair at the Barcelona Pavilion via Wikimedia Commons.

Barcelona Chair at the Barcelona Pavilion via Wikimedia Commons.

He also designed the iconic Barcelona chair. I had the pleasure of condo-sitting for an architectural history professor who owns two of these so I sat on them every chance I had. He mixed luxurious leather with industrial chrome and keeps the support separate from the seat itself. Can you imagine how futuristic this looked in 1929 when the chair was first designed? Could you see these in Downton Abbey instead of the ornate heirlooms?

Josef Albers Homage to the Square

Museum Quadrat Bottrop, Josef Albers Homage to the Square paintings via Wikimedia Commons.

The last Bauhaus-affiliated person I’ll mention is Josef Albers. He was a lecturer and later professor at Dessau’s Bauhaus. He had a painting background but taught stained glass and crafts. After the Bauhaus closed, he moved to the US and directed the famous Black Mountain Art College in North Carolina and later lectured at the graphic design program at Yale. His art focused on geometric composition. He created a series called Homage to the Square with hundreds of pieces featuring concentric squares highlighting his color theories (that color is ruled by an internal logic). He also created murals for several office and college buildings, typefaces, and prints.

I hope you learned a little about the Bauhaus School. There’s so much more the see and talk about, so read up and see if there are any pieces or buildings near you.

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:

Christina of Daydream Tourist: Spanish Baroque

Ashley of No Onions Extra Pickles: My Futurist Milan

Jenna of This Is My Happiness: Arts & Crafts Movement in the U.S.

Murissa of The Wanderfull Traveler: 7 Winter Scenes Across Canada by the Group of Seven

*New!* Alexandra of ArtTrav: A brief history of art for visitors to Tuscany

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Smashed Chickpea Salad

mashed chickpea salad sandwich

I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but I’m looking ahead to when you can’t stomach the sight of more leftovers. Or you want something healthy to detox from all the stuffing, pie, and potatoes.

Well, I can thank Buzzfeed for highlighting this recipe by The Simple Veganista. I’ve made it twice, each time switching up the recipe a little. It’s perfect for a filling lunch where you don’t feel like you’re eating rabbit food. After all the heavy food this week and turkey-centric leftovers, I know a lot of people would appreciate a vegan/vegetarian sandwich that doesn’t leave them hungry.

garbanzo bean, chickpea salad

Feel free to switch things up. It’s essentially a veggie version of a chicken salad. You can use tahini, hummus, mayo, yogurt, or mustard to act as a binder though I liked it on the chunky side with just a little mustard.

I get about 3 sandwiches out of each batch. Or you could spoon it over greens and add crackers.



Smashed Chickpea Salad

Yield: 3 hefty sandwiches

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: n/a

Total Time: 15 minutes

Inspired by The Simple Veganista's recipe that I saw on Buzzfeed.


1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp mustard (I used Trader Joe's Hot & Sweet Mustard because IT IS CRACK)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced carrots
salt, pepper, paprika, and lemon juice to taste

Bread, sliced cucumbers, and whatever else you want on your sandwich.

You could sub out the carrots and add raisins and cashews or cranberries and walnuts. Go wild.


Mash the chickpeas with a fork in a bowl. Or coarsely chop them in a food processor.

Add in the remaining ingredients and mix until incorporated. You may want to add a binder like mayo or yogurt to make it more like a chicken salad, but I liked it on the chunky side.

Spread on your favorite bread to make a sandwich or scoop onto salad greens.

The Simple Veganista

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Public Art You Can Find in Medford, MA

statue, painting, maskI just wrapped up a project inventorying and recording public art in Medford, MA. pieces range from a 19th century portrait of Lincoln which hung in Faneuil Hall after is assassination to two sculptures by Emilius Ciampa commemorating Medford veterans to a First Nations mask from Vancouver Island to a painting of a Medford abolitionist. You never know what you might find in a suburb.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Atlanta: Where You Can Pay to Be in the Fast Lane

peach pass

I was in Atlanta over the weekend for the first time in 2 years, and so much has changed since I lived there 7ish years ago.

The neighborhoods around Emory are full of new shops, new roundabouts, and new buildings.

Apparently, you can smoke in bars and restaurants in Virginia-Highlands. After living in places with smoking bans for years, it was surreal and almost like time traveling to step into a bar and smell cigarette smoke. Blech. No thanks.

But the thing that several of us former Atlantans noticed was the Peach Pass sign. Rather than trying to be environmentally conscious and encourage the bazillions of Atlanta drivers to try to carpool or ditch their giant SUVs for a Prius or Leaf, they opted for something else. The HOV lane that you see in many cities is a “pay for the privilege” lane in Atlanta.

Let that sink in.

They basically converted the fast lane into a toll lane. Atlanta said screw easing traffic congestion (if you’ve never driven in Atlanta, count yourself lucky) through expanding MARTA service (hahaha), halting the sprawl (hahaha), or giving you an incentive to drive a more eco-friendly car. We’re going to sell toll chips that are scanned at certain points on I-85 so YOU GET TOLLED PER MILE FOR USING THE FAST LANE.

Atlanta, I stayed ITP (inside the Perimeter or I-285) because I hated your traffic, but this is just…special. I’m truly speechless at this idea.