Friday, April 16, 2021

Alexander Calder at MOMA


Recently, the NY Times ran an article that celebrated something I have saying for months - MUSEUMS ARE EMPTY! Between limited entry, timed tickets, and a lack of tourists, new York city museums now offer the chance to see their artwork up-close and personally, without having to jostle for space. I took advantage of the chance to visit the Museum of Modern Art to see the new Alexander Calder exhibit.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is probably best known for his large kinetic sculptures, also known as mobiles. However, he worked in many different mediums. This exhibit offers examples of his paintings, wire sculptures, and smaller pieces. Here are some of the pieces I loved most.

The first gallery has several larger metallic statues. I particularly liked “Black Beast” which is there in its full size, along with the maquette he made in planning the work.

Black Beast

Black Beast - maquette

Calder made wire sculptures throughout his career. He twisted single pieces of wire to form faces and bodies. My favorite was his sculpture of Josephine Baker. I particularly liked the way this piece was hung and lit, giving as much play to the shadow as to the piece itself.

Josephine Baker

Painting was another area of Calder’s expertise. He created abstract works with vibrant colors and shapes.


Calder’s statues are very open. They have pieces that extend in many directions. As a result, they produce amazing shadows when spot lights are used, an effect that I love.


While I was at MOMA I stopped in to see another exhibit of work that they represent so well. “Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented” looked at the changes is art in Russia and Eastern Europe between the World Wars. It presented the ways artists used new technologies and political identities to move their art from decorative to ideological. The words in the title are the ones used by the artists to describe themselves as they adopted and created new visual styles such as modern lithography and photomontages. The artists worked in in advertising, theatrical design, and propagandists fro political parties. This was a fascinating exploration of a period of art that soften overlooked. While the actual exhibit is now closed, it is available at MOMA’s website here.

Soviet posters celebrating women workers

The struggle for polytechnical school is the struggle for the Five-Year Plan - Elizaveta Ignatovitch

Cover for 10 years after Lenin by Mikhial Rezulevich

The Hand has 5 fingers for the KDP by John Hartfield

COVID will continue to affect our ability to be out and about for a while yet. But if you can get to a museum, take advantage of the empty space to enjoy some of the artwork it is often difficult to see.

Nuts and Bolts:
MOMA requires timed tickets, ordered in advance. 

It is open 10:30-5:30 seven days a week. 

Entrance fees are: adults $25/ Seniors and people with disabilities $18/ Students $14.   

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Two museums and a hike in Westchester County

Cross River Reservoir Spillway


When I travel I always look for small, interesting museums. I have also been doing the same thing in New York City, where I live. But recently, I started looking north, to Westchester Country, where I have found a new group of places to visit. This week, let’s travel to two museums and take a quick hike.

Horace Greeley House - Chappaqua NY

Horace Greeley House

Horace Greeley (1811 - 1872) was a progressive newspaper editor and founder. He lived a life at the center of American politics in the middle of the 19th century. He was born in New Hampshire, and grew up in Vermont. As a youth, he apprenticed to a local printer, learning the trade. At the age of 20, he moved to New York City, where he worked at several print shops. He also started working with the state’s Whig Party. In 1834 he began publishing a literary magazine called The New-Yorker (not connected to the current magazine of the same name). He used this forum to promote the Whig party’s positions calling for more worker’s rights, and for the burgeoning capitalist class to take the needs of their employees into account. During the recession of 1836-37, he wrote one of his most famous editorials, saying “Go west young man, and grow with the country.” This was a call for the unemployed to move out of the east coast cities to this growing ones around the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. 

The Greeley family. Popular Graphic Arts, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1838 he became editor of the state-wide Whig newspaper, The Jeffersonian, and helped to elect William Seward as Governor. In 1840, the newspaper played a key role in William Henry Harrison’s victory as president. After this election, Greeley decided to create a daily paper in New York City. The Tribune, under Greeley’s editorship became a national voice for pacifism, equality for women, and an end to slavery. He even hired Karl Marx as a European correspondent. As the Whig party fell apart, Greeley supported the new Republican Party, and then the Radical Republicans, eventually running for president against Ulysses S Grant.

The Tribune. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1854, the Greeley family chose the village of Chappaqua as a place to build a summer house. The original location of the house in on a hill that over looks the village center. In 1864, they moved to a house that was closer to the main road because Mary Greeley was tired of being in the woods. The family lived in the house until both 1872, when Mary and Horace both passed, about a month apart. Their daughter moved to a nearby house in 1873, and leased their parents home to a series of families for the next 50 years. The house was sold in 1926, and in 1940 it was converted into a gift shop for Greeley memorabilia and town history.

In 1998, it was saved from demolition by the New Castle Historical Society, who renovated it as a historical site and new office. In 2000 it opened to the public. Today most of the rooms have been restored with period era furniture and art work and photos from the family.

The Story of a Summer, written by a cousin of the Greeley Daughters

Katonah Museum of Art

Katonah Museum of Art. Ɱ, CC BY-SA 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

After visiting the Horace Greeley House, head 10 miles north on the Saw Mill River Parkway to the town of Katonah. Here you will find the Katonah Museum of Art. The KMA is a non-collecting museum, which means that it has no permanent collection of its own. It produces 3-4 exhibitions every year, geared to the visual arts. They span a wide range of artistic disciplines. On my visit, they were hosting a show titled “Still/Live”. They presented many new takes on the staid tradition of still-life art. The pieces include paintings and photography, but also a robot that uses AI to create new still life pieces every day. The is ingenious use of computers that allow visitors to interact with pieces, creating their own works. 

The KMA is not large, housing three galleries and an education center. In conduction with its exhibits, KMA also hosts artist talks, musical events and family oriented activities.

New Orders, Evertime 01 by Ori Gersht

Seven Days: Birthday Party by Chuck Ramirez

Human Study #2 by Patrick Tresset. A robot that creates still life drawings


Cross River Reservoir and Dam

Just 400 meters north of the KMA, along route NY-22, is the entrance to the Cross River Reservoir Dam. This is a chance for a short hike (0.5 miles each way) from the parking area. It is a lovely walk, and the view from the top of the is beautiful. If you don’t feel like taking the stroll, you can drive up to another lot, near the  top of the dam.



New York City offers a lot to see. So does the surrounding area, and it is great to visit the towns in Westchester.

Nuts and Bolts:

The Horace Greeley House - Open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 1PM-4PM. Free Admission, but advance tickets are needed due to COVID.

Katonah Museum of Art - Open Tues-Sat 10AM-5PM, Sun 12pm-5PM. Advanced tickets are needed due to COVID. Admission is $10 adults/ $5 seniors, disabled, and students


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC


Cherry Blossom time is really special. The flowers are beautiful and delicate, and once "peak bloom" is reached, they are present for only about a week. 



This year I decided to celebrate finishing my COVID vaccine regemin with a trip to Washington DC to see the amazing display around the Tidal Basin. Bringing the cherry trees to Washington DC was a process that took over thirty years. In 1885, Eliza M. Skidmore, a writer and diplomat, returned to Washington from Japan, and started a twenty-five  of importing the cherry trees to the Potomac waterfront, as it was developed.


Finally, in 1906, an official at the Department of Agriculture, began to test the ability of Japanese cherry trees to survive in Washington's climate. Over the next three years several hundred saplings were planted in areas around the city. In 1909, Mrs. Skidmore and First Lady Helen Taft began the push to bring more trees to DC, and over the next two years, over two thousand Japanese cherry trees were purchased and gifted to the city. 


Unfortunately, those trees arrived infested with insects, and had to be destroyed. In 1912, the city of Yokohama, Japan gifted the U.S. capital with over 3000 new trees, which were planted on the grounds of the White House and along the newly designed Tidal Basin, south of the National Mall.


Visiting the cherry blossoms this week was a walk among beautiful, delicate blooms. The flowers covered the path, forming a white and pink canopy that dipped down to the water. 


The trees also offer wonderful framing for the national memorials that are placed along the Tidal Basin.

The Jefferson Memorial

The Washington Monument

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Cherry blossoms bloom around the end of March or the beginning of April in Washington DC, but no one knows exactly when "peak bloom" occurs, so it takes a little flexibility and a lot of luck. But it is worth the effort.