Meditations #64

May 20, 2015

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In the narrow places of life, it is important to be still. In those precarious moments, we need a steady walk and an absence of noise. We need to seek a wider perspective and to stare our options squarely in the eye.

There are places on earth that lend themselves to this.

 Photo:  Rebecca MacGregor

Kumaon, Indian Himalayas


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China Through The Looking Glass

May 10, 2015

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The most wonderful show, China Through the Looking Glass, has opened at the Met Museum and will be up until August 16.  It is a stunning, meandering journey through a (mostly) Western fantasy of China. The marvelous mannequins – with heads and headdresses designed by milliner Stephen Jones – inhabit three floors, the second of which encompasses the Museum’s many rooms of Chinese art including the famous Astor Court.  The sprawling show is multi-vocal, encompassing music and film, art objects, scrolls, and Buddhist art, which, together, produce a fascinating, sometimes familiar, always romantic view of a culture on the other side of the world.  The haute couture fashions are set in their appropriate rooms – the blue and white above, for example, is surrounded by blue and white porcelain, and dresses with Chinese characters appear in the hall of scrolls.  Gao Pei’s magnificent saffron gown holds center place in my favorite room of Buddhist figures.

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One of the loveliest things about this show is the wide cultural net that is cast.  In one fell swoop you are seeing wonderful clothes, listening to evocative music, enjoying scenes from Wong Kar Wai’s films, and revisiting the art treasures of the museum’s collection.  You emerge from the show, heady with enchanted imagery and great beauty.


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Next to Heaven

May 7, 2015

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 Many years ago, when the wonderful animal behaviorist and naturalist, George Schaller, was studying snow leopard, he spoke to me of the Tibetan Plateau where he lived, alone, for months on end.  He described its remote, stark beauty, sharing pictures both in word and and photograph, that enlivened my imagination.

Olivier Follmi, the photographer, has captured this same windswept landscape that seems to float on the doorstep of heaven, a sweep of treeless plain across which travel ruddy-skinned, black-maned men, women and children on rugged horses and shaggy yaks.

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And then, almost a year ago, I saw this image.

And this one.

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And there, in one image, two passions of mine joined hands:  the landscape of my imagination and a textile, enticing in feel, color and drape.

The textiles come from a social enterprise of a unique kind called Norlha Textiles.  The brainchild of a remarkable woman, Kim Yeshi, it seeks to transform raw yak wool into items of great beauty and quality, using local raw materials, skills and ingenuity.  The product is deeply satisfying in the hand and exquisite to the eye.  And, when carefully examined, each border and lining, every tassle and hem — all fashioned and finished by hand – is perfectly balanced, hued, and textured.

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In their words:

“Norlha is a new concept that links sustainability with luxury…Norlha believes in innovation: It combines traditional techniques with more modern technology to create luxurious textiles in an endless variety of patterns and weights, suitable for all seasons.”

Norlha textiles can be purchased via their website or from Atelier Courbet, located in New York City.

http://norlha.cn/en/

All photographs courtesy of Norlha Textiles


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Altagracia: Costa Rica’s New Gem

April 22, 2015

It is a new 50-room gem located in Costa Rica’s  southern highlands.  Built by a prominent family whose great wealth came, in part, from farming (they sold vast holdings to Del Monte Foods), it offers unparalleled accommodations, South America’s finest spa, a wonderful stable of fine horses and three restaurants with delicious food.  It also yearns for visitors to wind their memory clock back to simpler times and to grasp the opportunity of enjoying – again – simple pleasures:  walking barefoot in soft grass; roasting marshmallows at the fire pi;, enjoying long, peaceful walks in gorgeous surroundings.  Coupled with these back to nature pleasures are some decidedly more high tech ones:  they have 8 ultralights for guests and an airstrip that accommodates all manner of fixed wing planes to explore the countryside.

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http://www.altagracia.cr/


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The Plains Indians: Artists Of Earth and Sky

April 16, 2015

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A stunningly beautiful, moving and, ultimately, sobering exhibition of Plains Indian masterworks is a must see at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Co-produced with the Musee du quai Branley and in partnership with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, the material has a 2000-year chronological scope and showcases a diversity of forms and media from painting, sculpture, beading and video using leather, metals, porcupine quill, glass beads, textiles and paint.  The aesthetics and handiwork are breathtaking; the fact that the lifestyle which produced such exquisite objects of daily use and desire was virtually eradicated in a 60-year span is a shocking reminder of a genocide.

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The Nordic Touch

March 29, 2015

Even though winter is longer than for us in the US Northeast, it seems to wear less on the spirit here
Even though winter is longer than for us in the US Northeast, it seems to wear less on the spirit here

These are taxi driver numbers (and all of our taxi drivers spoke English fluently) — about 5.5 million population in Denmark and between 7 and 800,000 in Copenhagen — and they elicit from me a roll of the eye and an “of course” muttered under my breath as I notice the following:  streets you could spread a picnic on; flowers banking outdoor stands; young and old pedaling against the wind; mothers biking their young in barrow-like contraptions with smiles on their faces; copper politely asking a pair of hungover men to quit their scuffling (actually their tussle looked quite serious); hundreds of bikes left street side, unlocked; museums and shops with attended playrooms; crazy, out there, food, some of it delicious, some a bit strange and all pushing the edge of the sustainable envelope.

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Sunday in Copenhagen

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Sunday started out rainy and gray and then, as we made our way to Torvehallerne, the two covered markets that sell everything from flowers and cheese to artisanal breads and smorrebrode, the sun shone through.  This is a city that truly comes alive in the sun, for the orange and yellow painted building facades pop in the light, as if Copenhagen suddenly hits its mark and moves into the spotlight.  The market is fun – one of the best, in fact – for the loveliness of the produce and for the pleasure families take in the delicious breakfast foods.  And then, as the light rain began again, we hopped an Uber car with Ahmed and headed out of the city to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

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Nimb Hotel

The Nimb's brilliance is its fine blend of fantasy and attention to detail
The Nimb’s brilliance is its fine blend of fantasy and attention to detail

 

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With only 17 rooms (more to come in the next year), the Nimb hotel is part of a larger conglomerate, owned by the Tivoli gardens, that includes numerous restaurants, bakery and wine bar.  Sited across the street from Copenhagen’s central train station and backing on to the Tivoli Gardens, this is a real surprise.  Certainly Copenhagen’s best boutique hotel, it is a delightful property that recalls 1001 Nights with its Moorish arches and sprinkling of Asian furniture and objects.  But it is also wholly Scandinavian, with bare, wide plank wooden floors, clean lines and wooden country tables and armoires.  The 17 rooms all look on to the gardens, a fantasy land itself that comes alive in the spring, summer and fall when the gardens are in bloom, lights twinkle, performers take to the stages and children to the skies on the amusement rides that wind up and away.

It has a wonderful vibe as a meeting place to eat and drink but, if you are a guest, you will have a front row seat on to the revelries out your window and off the terraces that spread along the back of the hotel.  And I am assured that, even with floor to ceiling windows in the downstairs suites giving on to the gardens, there is no noise or pedestrian intrusion.

The Nimb, as with any hotel, may not be for everyone but, frankly, I was really taken with it.

http://www.nimb.dk/


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A Weekend in Copenhagen

March 28, 2015

IMG_2720It has been many years since I was last in Copenhagen and so I decided to come back for a long weekend with my son, Justin. I opted for the non-stop on SAS which was a mere 7h15m from New York but with a 6:30PM departure that had us arriving at 7:15AM – not ideal for a decent night’s sleep.  So, a bit loopy, we taxied in from the airport to the Hotel d’Angleterre, the lovely grande dame of hotels that has had a costly and very successful facelift.

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Bending Sticks and Making Magic

March 18, 2015

Monks'-Cradle-2-Tommy-O'LaughlinPatrick Dougherty -

Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Dougherty was raised in North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina in 1967 and an M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration from the University of Iowa in 1969. Later, he returned to the University of North Carolina to study art history and sculpture.

Combining his carpentry skills with his love of nature, Patrick began to learn more about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material. In 1982 his first work, Maple Body Wrap, was included in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ Exhibition, sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Art. In the following year, he had his first one-person show entitled, Waitin’ It Out in Maple at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

His work quickly evolved from single pieces on conventional pedestals to monumental scale environmental works, which required saplings by the truckloads. Over the last thirty years, he has built over 250 of these works, and become internationally acclaimed. His sculpture has been seen worldwide—from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.

He has received numerous awards, including the 2011 Factor Prize for Southern Art, North Carolina Artist Fellowship Award, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, Henry Moore Foundation Fellowship, Japan-US Creative Arts Fellowship, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Princeton Architectural Press published a major book about Patrick and his work in 2009.

www.stickwork.net


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