art · life curation

My Art Highlights for 2018

After a fantastic year of enjoying art, I thought it would be good for me to post some of my highlights from the last 12 months.

There really are too many highlights to cram into one post but I’m going to do my best!

I started this year off with viewing the terracotta army statues from China. As you all know, I visited China a few years ago and fell in love, so seeing the statues was like getting a taste of authentic China. I loved it and had a great time viewing the exhibition.

Next, nothing could top seeing Kenyan art while in Kenya! I wrote a post about Tom Mboya as well as some other Kenyan artists that I enjoyed. Getting to see art overseas is always a treat, since there is no guarantee that I will see these artists’ works stateside.

Paintings by Tom Mboya

I viewed Portuguese contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and was reminded of my goal to visit Portugal within the next 2 years. Just so you all know, I’ll be resuming my Portuguese language lessons in the upcoming year. I mean it: I’m going to speak Portuguese so that I can enjoy my trip and get around a little better than the average tourist.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Archives of American Art, I viewed the exquisite and timeless work of Edmonia Lewis. I’m still impressed by her masterful handling of marble and her amazing ability when it comes to depicting her subjects with dignity and full of emotion. I was so impressed with her work that I recently did a comparison of her work with a similarly themed piece, because I simply can’t get tired of discussing Lewis’s work!

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The Death of Cleopatra by Edmonia Lewis

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Amy Sherald’s work at the National Portrait Gallery. Her portrait of Michelle Obama is a beautiful and unique interpretation of the former First Lady’s beauty, quiet resilience and charm. Seeing the painting in person impressed me far more than I expected, especially since Sherald’s signature technique forgoes capturing the rich tones of the subjects’ natural complexion and paints skin tone in greyscale, forcing art appreciators to focus on the expressions, posing, and attire depicted. I’m going to view some more of her work and maybe I’ll do an analysis of her style.

I also took a trip to Philadelphia and enjoyed the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There was so much art that I had to make a Part 1 and Part 2 to capture all of what I saw with my visit. I was delighted to see a Jean Leon Gerome painting that I’d never seen before.

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Night Flight by Howardena Pindell

I ended my year with the Howardena Pindell exhibition, that I loved so much that I had to visit it multiple times. Pindell is a living treasure, and I am thrilled that I got to see such a comprehensive retrospective of her work.

Those are my art highlights for 2018. I’m looking forward to bringing you all more art and more adventures in 2019!

 

 

 

luxury · travel

Fine Jewelry at Freeman’s

Freeman’s Auction has done it again. You may recall that I attended my first Freeman’s Auction a few months ago, when I saw a brooch that I wanted to add to my collection. I got a catalog from them a few days ago, letting me know about an upcoming fine jewelry auction.

Guys, I’m thinking about making the trip.

I generally avoid going anywhere north of Washington, DC from the months of November to April (I hate the cold) but I may put my usual protocol aside to do this trip. Besides, I loved the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a return trip would be awesome.

As far as the auction goes, I liked a few pieces in the catalog but I wasn’t struck by any lot in particular. However, I was much more impressed when I checked out the full list of jewelry on the Freeman’s website. My favorite is this wheat stalk brooch. It’s 18 karat gold, simple but unique. How many wheat brooches have you seen recently? Exactly. I’m sure there are only, like, 2 of them in existence. And I’d love to own this one.

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This gold pillbox is also going to be auctioned by Freeman’s and it’s so beautiful and vintage: I can’t stand it! It’s also 18 karat gold and has a Greek key-like pattern on the outer edge, and concentric circles on the top. No one has elegant holders for their pills anymore: how lovely is this?

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The Freeman’s Fine Jewelry Auction will be held on November 6, 2018 in Philadelphia, PA at 12PM EST. I may be there, so if you decide to make the trip, make sure that you say hello if you see me!

art

Review: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Part 2

Happy Friday, friends! There’s not a whole lot to say, especially if you’ve seen Part 1 of this review (you can view Part 1 here). I’ll stick to sharing photos that you all haven’t already seen and providing a little commentary.

I saw a few Pablo Picasso works that I’d never seen before. I’m so accustomed to seeing his Cubist works that I forget that he didn’t always work with abstract figures. Earlier in his career, he worked with Impressionist techniques, as you can see in the paintings below.

Head of a Woman, Pablo Picassso (1901)

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Old Woman (Woman with Gloves), Pablo Picasso (1901)

This is the style we know and love from Picasso:

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Three Musicians, Pablo Picasso (1921)

I always have loved Pierre-Auguste Renoir, another Impressionist. His photos are both timeless and beautiful. This is a tender portrait of his beloved wife and favorite model, Aline Charigot Renoir.

Portrait of Madame Renoir, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1885)

This sweet-faced little girl was the daughter of an art dealer friend of Renoir’s.

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Portrait of Mademoiselle Legrand, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1875)

Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers are a great example of post-Impressionist work: it features thick paint, more vivid color selection and slightly distorted forms. The work is paradoxical: it’s a still life but the technique used by Van Gogh gives it a feeling of movement and dynamism. This work inspired Faith Ringgold’s The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles, which is also at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (I missed it on this trip, but I’ll be sure to catch it next time!) Ringgold even inserts Van Gogh into her work! You can view Ringgold’s work here.

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Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh (1888 or 1889)

Lastly, I was drawn in by the beautifully serene expression on the subject’s face. She looks like she was briefly interrupted while concentrating on her embroidery. She’s still thinking about her design and this is just moments before her attention is completed diverted away from her handicraft. I love how Mary Cassatt has caught this fleeting moment.

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Mary Ellison Embroidering, Mary Cassatt (1877)

I can’t wait to return to the museum to see some more artwork and to take lots of photos for you all! Talk to you all tomorrow.

 

art

Feeding My Gerome Addiction

Part of my Philadelphia trip included a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I love to believe that the muses communicate directly with me when I’m in any museum, so I am inclined to go wherever I’m “led”, so to speak. I stepped over to the European art wing, and I got the feeling that I would quickly find something incredible. My intuition didn’t disappoint: less than a few steps into the first room I entered, I was face to face with a painting by one of my favorite artists, Jean-Leon Gerome.

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Portal of the Green Mosque (Sentinel at the Sultan’s Tomb), Jean-Leon Gerome, 1870

I’ve written about Gerome before, and back then, I struggled with expressing exactly what it is about his paintings that I love. I *think* I have the language to express myself now LOL! I love the realism in Gerome’s work. His paintings featured lots of African, Middle Eastern and Asian subjects and, unlike many European artists, he chose to depict his subjects humanely, touchingly, and accurately. For that, I’ll always be a fan.

This painting, Portal of the Green Mosque (Sentinel at the Sultan’s Tomb), was completed by Gerome in 1870. By this time, Gerome was a very experienced painter (more than 20 years experience, to be exact) and had quite a few commissions, honors, and his own atelier to his credit. He had established a name for himself and was a master at Orientalist paintings. While many may conclude that Gerome’s work objectified his subjects to the point of being lecherous, I’m inclined to take a different perspective.  The combination of “exotic”, non-White subjects and a Neoclassical or Romantic depiction of these subjects results in capturing the subjects’ humanity in ways that had never been done before.

The sentinel depicted is solemn, a little melancholy, but not to be pitied: he seems at peace with his position and dutifully stands in defense of the sultan’s remains. You can sense that this is a hot and hazy day, if the languorous hound in the foreground is any indicator. However, I sense that the dog in the background, that is standing closer to the entrance, is much like the sentinel himself: alert, solemn, ready to defend.

I enjoyed this painting, as I enjoy every other Gerome work that I’ve seen. I know that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has several Gerome paintings on view. I intend to make a special trip to view and photograph some of them. Look out for that post soon! In the meantime, enjoy, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

 

food · international

Review: Le Mandigue Restaurant

Happy Friday, friends! Today is a first for me: it’s a West African food review!

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(photo from Le Mandigue website)

I have never been a fan of the West African dishes that I’ve tried. I’ve had egusi, fufu and jollof rice, but I just wasn’t wowed. However, I really wanted to try something different. So I decided to give West African food another try.

I order from Le Mandigue in Philadelphia. As an aspiring vegetarian (that fails frequently!), I wanted to opt for a meatless entrée. So I got the vegetarian fried rice and steamed vegetables. I also got degue, monie callama and kallah, which I didn’t realize at the time were all desserts.

Here are some photos of the meal:

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Fried vegetable rice and steamed vegetables (cabbage, peas, corn, potatoes)

Dege (dessert)

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Closeup of monie callama

I ordered through UberEats and my food arrived quickly.

The fried rice was tasty and substantial. The steamed vegetables were well-seasoned and weren’t overpowering at all.

And the desserts! I How did I not already know about these amazing deserts?! These were the most interesting part of the meal. Dege reminds me of the rice pudding or tapioca pudding available at some Indian restaurants: creamy, sweet with a hint of sourness (probably because it’s made with sour milk). It’s the mix of flavors that make this such a multidimensional dessert. Monie callama is like a liquified jelly, yummy and smooth, with tapioca-like starch suspended within. Just yum!

I wish I could have enjoyed this in the restaurant but alas, I ordered it to my room. However, I will be sure to visit the restaurant in person when I return to Philadelphia. I’m so looking forward to it!

art

Spotlight on Monet

Happy Monday, beloveds! Can you believe it’s almost been a whole month since I went to Philadelphia? That trip, which was mainly for the purpose of attending my first Freeman’s auction, was a lot of fun, and a great “break” in the monotony of my day-to-day life.

While at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I made sure to tour the European art wing, because I’d be experiencing a bit of a deficit. The museum nearest to me, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, has an incredible European art collection featuring impressionist works by Claude Monet and Edgar Degas. However, the Monet and Degas works are on an international tour and won’t be returning to VMFA until 2020.

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The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pond, Giverny (Monet, 1899)

So, as you can imagine, I was excited when I saw some Monet works in Philadelphia. I got to enjoy different versions of his Water Lilies series. I love both versions that I saw: the painting that has deeper tones feels more dynamic and calls to mind a scene from a lake during the autumn season. On the other hand, the painting with the lighter colors evokes warmer weather and the freshness of spring and summer.

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Water Lilies, Japanese Footbridge (Monet, 1918-2916)

What I love most about Monet is the thing he is known for: impressionism is one of my favorite art movements. The gentle intermingling of colors (the result of applying wet paint to wet paint), the way that light is captured, and the softness of nature all speak to me in indescribable ways. Monet’s depictions of his environment make me want to experience Giverny (the commune where Monet spent more than 40 years) in person.

Ah, how I enjoyed these! I’m excited to check out more of Monet’s work at the National Gallery of Art this summer. The museum currently has 16 of his works on view, and I plan to check out each of them!

art · travel

Review: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Part 1

No trip to Philadelphia would be complete without a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This two story incredible museum has many treasures, but is probably best know for the exterior stairs that were featured in the infamous scene of the movie “Rocky”, where Sylvester Stallone does his boxing training by running up and down the steps.

If you want to run up the steps, help yourself, but once you get to the top of the staircase, be sure to go into the museum and buy a ticket, then take a leisurely stroll through the corridors as you soak up the rich art history around you.

I’m breaking my photos into two or three separate posts, because it takes a bit of time to write up the artist information under each picture. I’m also a little disappointed that I only got to view the bottom level of the museum: on this trip, time was not on my side. But that’s okay, because I plan to return. And when I do, I’ll have more time. In this post, I’ll share the most humorous pieces from the “Biting Wit and Brazen Folly: British Satirical Prints, 1780s–1830s” exhibit“Biting Wit and Brazen Folly: British Satirical Prints, 1780s–1830s” exhibit, on display until August 22.

I’m delighted to also mention that my ticket was complimentary because I am a member of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts at the Partner Level (you can also get reciprocal privileges at several major metropolitan museums, as well as the North American Reciprocal Membership and Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums, at the Supporters level).

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The museum exterior

Statue outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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The famous Diana statue inside the museum

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The Gout by James Gillray

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A Peep at Christies or Tally-ho & His Nimeny-pimeney taking the Morning Lounge by James Gillray

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The description next to A Peep at Christies was almost as interesting as the cartoon itself!

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The Blue Devils by George Cruikshank

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An explanation of what the “blue devils” are

Look out for more photos from my day at Philadelphia Museum of Art in the upcoming days. Enjoy!

travel

Review: Microtel Inn and Suites, Philadelphia Airport

Even though I adore luxury experiences and love sharing those reviews with you, it’s important that I try a variety of things because you may find it necessary to scale back the luxe and enjoy more economical experiences.

 In this spirit of this, I am reviewing a lower priced hotel in the Philadelphia area. I stayed at the Microtel Inn and Suites near Philadelphia International Airport (on Tinicum Drive). The hotel is modest but boasts a continental breakfast, close proximity to the airport, and free wifi.

I reserved a room with a double bed, and I was impressed with the simplicity and tidiness of the room upon settling in. However, there were a few issues that I want to note, for anyone interested in visiting this location.

 For starters, only the suites have microwaves, coffeemakers and refrigerators. Since my room technically wasn’t a suite, there was no way to preserve the takeout that I ordered. Also, the walls are very thin: I heard the television next to my room for quite a few hours. I know that complete soundproofing isn’t possible – nor is it desirable – but I would have enjoyed a quieter stay (for the record, the room next door did turn off/turn down the TV before 12 AM, so I didn’t have to listen to their set all night).

The main issue came after my first night at the hotel. The following morning, I went to use the internet and . . . it wasn’t working. I contacted the front desk and I was advised that they were aware of the issue but they were waiting on a technician to resolve it. It took nearly 4 hours (from the time I woke up around 6:30 AM to sometime before 11 AM) for the internet to be fixed. It wouldn’t have been a major issue except I needed to access systems for my job and send reports. I ended up using my cell phone as a hot spot, but that is my least favorite way of accessing the internet.

My overall takeaway is this: Microtel Inn and Suites Philadelphia Airport location is fine for one night, two maximum. It works out just fine for someone that may need to rest before continuing on their journey, or if you’re traveler that plans to just crash for the night after having a whirlwind tour of the city.

art

A Day at Freeman’s Auction, Part 2

After enjoying a fun first day at Freedman’s Auction, I was eager to return the next day for the actual auction.

I arrived just after bidding started and I went to Client Services to retrieve my paddle. The young woman that assisted me the day before recognized me and grabbed my paddle and a form for me to sign before I started bidding. Once the form was signed, I returned to the main room where the auction was being held.

Ooh, what fun I had! It was amazing to see how high some of the prices would go! I couldn’t help but think about how this collection – carefully assembled, with pieces loved and well worn – would soon be parceled out and sent to new homes, to become beloved pieces in different collections. There were so many people eager to make these lots part of their own personal collections; it’s just a testimony to the lasting good taste of Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton (the original owner of the pieces).

And my beautiful platinum bow brooch? I didn’t get it. I’m not disappointed: I’m sure that the right piece will come along at the right time. I’m also sure that someone will absolutely LOVE it when they get it and see that beauty in person (a bidder on the phone was the lucky winner). It’s a treasure that I’m positive will be going to a good home where it will be loved and cherished.

My time as Freeman’s was so much fun! I’m already planning to attend again, but next time, my budget will be much bigger, and I will have a winning bid!

That’s all for my experience with Freeman’s Auction. I hope you all enjoyed, and have a Happy Wednesday! Talk to you all tomorrow!

food · travel

Review: Al Forno Pizzeria

Have you ever had plans to be great – truly great – and life sat you down like, “Maybe next time you’ll be great, but today? Today you need to chill.” That’s precisely what happened to me when I planned to go out and enjoy some of the local eats in Philadelphia. I was too tired from my grueling morning commute and subsequent travel into the City of Brotherly Love.

So instead of going super-luxe, I did a low-key meal delivered to my hotel room. Unfortunately, the delivery options available for visitors staying near the Philadelphia International Airport are truly pathetic (unless you opt for Uber Eats, which was an absolute savior when I decided to use it). I was blown away by how few options were available for delivery to the airport area, especially since Philadelphia is such a large city. Anyway, I kept it simple and ordered Italian food.

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Funny, I don’t mention Italian food on this blog much, because I don’t eat much of it. I love authentic Italian food so most stateside Italian restaurants don’t pass muster.But I decided to take a chance on Al Forno Pizzeria, located in Darby, PA. I ordered the shrimp basket and the ravioli with lobster (I obviously ventured away from my vegetarian preferences), a couple of juices and a slice of strawberry cheesecake.

For starters, the food was good. Now, I wasn’t expecting blow-my-mind deliciousness, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well executed the lobster ravioli was. The dishes definitely didn’t disappoint, and I’m glad I tried this restaurant.

Fried shrimp with a big of ravioli sauce spilledon the outside (takeout isn’t always pretty)

The shrimp basket was your standard fried shrimp and French fries. Bonus points to the restaurant for providing a BIG container of cocktail sauce. The shrimp were tasty and reasonably priced considering the amount of food that I got ($8.50). I wish I could have gotten the fries fresh out of the fryer: even when lukewarm, they were really good. I can only imagine how outstanding they would have been if eaten while piping hot.

The biggest problem with takeout food? Presentation generally stinks LOL!

The lobster ravioli was savory, creamy and satisfying. The portion was huge and the fact that this entree came with a salad made it an excellent choice for the price ($11.95). I ate a bit of this on the first night and finished it the next day in lieu of a traditional breakfast.

The strawberry cheesecake was good: not unique but a solid dessert option. I would have gladly eaten two of them. The price was right for the size ($3). The juices were bottled (by EverMade) so there’s nothing to say about them, other than I enjoyed them like I always do.

My final impression of Al Forno’s Pizzeria is that it’s worth a try. The delivery was fast, the food was good, and the price was right. I was very pleased my meal and I would certainly try another meal from there when I return to the area.