Thursday, June 30, 2016

carnival in the summertime

Nothing says American summertime like a carnival, complete with bright lights, funnel cake and deep fried Oreos. Earlier in the month, Kris and I decided to stop by, if not briefly, to check out the week-long carnival set-up in Ashburn, Virginia. Seeing the lights and moving rides at night made me somewhat nostalgic for simpler times, when as a kid, my parents would take my brother and I to the Ohio State Fair, or one of many amusement parks in the summer months. Kris and I mostly came to try the deliciously horrible "food" and I wanted to get some photos as well. It's refreshing to see people still enjoy the good old-fashioned rides and games of yesteryear. Here's to summer!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

a visit to the museum of the shenandoah, pt 2 (gardens)

One thing I did not explore on previous visits to the MSV were the acres of gardens on the property - something visitors can check out that's included with the cost of admission to the museum itself. I really thought this would be more of something that Kris would enjoy, but I found myself equally, if not more excited by the gardens, which are also part of the property of the Glen Burnie House, which is also open to the public and included as part of the ten dollar per adult admission. 

One can literally spend an entire day at the MSV, as there is more than enough to see and do, and it's a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes. Of course, visit on a day calling for good weather, if seeing the Glen Burnie Gardens are part of the plan. The museum itself once had a cafe, but that has since closed down about two years ago. They do however, sell some very satisfying food and drink items at the gift shop, and there are designated areas to eat near the entrance of the gardens. One can also eat and picnic throughout the grounds, as long as trash is properly disposed of.

While I enjoyed all of the different types of gardens, my favorites by far were the Chinese and Water Gardens. When Kris and I visited, a portion of the Chinese Garden was temporarily closed for repairs, but there was still plenty to explore. It was difficult to capture the magic of being there through photographs, but still, hopefully you get a sense of what it was like to visit on a warm, sunny day. I found that much of the time the temperatures remained a lot cooler under the shade of the many trees throughout the gardens, especially the Chinese portion, making it the perfect place to cool down, relax and reflect.

As a young boy, I always had an affinity for nature, or at least the more tranquil aspects of the natural world, and often times you could find me hanging out near a creek or pond, usually under some types of trees. As a very young child, I'd imagine dinosaurs, and prehistoric life appearing throughout the woods, and later, as I grew older, the forest itself became fascinating enough. I truly believe that if we are to survive as a species, children (and adults) absolutely must learn to appreciate the natural world, spend more time in it, minus any gimmicks and frills, and learn to reflect, look and listen beyond the electronic devices. Places like this are perfect for fostering this type of thing. 

While I'm no expert on flowers, gardens and all things botanical (that's more of Kris' area of expertise), I  found a great deal of artistic inspiration at the Glen Burnie Gardens. In fact, there was a woman who was just getting into art there, doing some drawing. Still, one doesn't have to be an artist or even a botanist to enjoy this place. Until then, we can't wait to come back again soon, as well as experience the grounds throughout the year. In the meantime, admission is free on Wednesdays until the end of July, and the MSV will also have extended hours until 8pm on those days as well!

Friday, June 24, 2016

a visit to the museum of the shenandoah valley, pt 1 (art and artists)

Recently, Kris and I decided to pay a long overdue visit to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, in Winchester, VA. We mainly went to see the Alphonse Mucha, Master of Art Nouveau exhibit, running through July 31, 2016.  Long story short, the Mucha exhibit was incredible, the museum providing the perfect space for a spectacular display of work from one of the most prominent and influential figures in art history. Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed, but this is an exhibit that must absolutely be seen in person. 

Coming here to this museum reminded me just how great a place the MSV is. The last time I visited was to see a show featuring drawings by Picasso and many of his peers. During this most recent visit, I was turned on to not only the work of Alphonse Mucha, whose art I've always been vaguely familiar with, but also to some folks who I was not familiar at all with. One of those artists was Robert Cross, whose work would fall under the folk/self-taught artist category. His imaginary architectural structures (above and below pics) were a testament to what one can do when they tap into their innate creative potential, and they reminded me of some of the work you might see when visiting the American Visionary Art Museum, in Baltimore, MD. 

Then there was a hanging relief sculpture in the museum, resembling Winchester, VA-born country music star, Patsy Cline. It was a carved wood piece that looked almost like a painted wood-block ready for print-making. The piece, called "Roadhouse Siren" (above and below pics) by local artist Neil Stavely, has a very contemporary feel, and the style is instantly recognizable, as I've seen his work adorn the walls of the Winchester Book Gallery as well.

In the gallery next to the Mucha exhibit was a room full of local landscape paintings by Andrei Kushnir. After attempting to work on landscapes all last summer, I gained a new appreciation for this genre of painting, and Kushnir's work exemplified the eye and hand of a modern master. In all honesty, his exhibit was my favorite in the museum, as stunning as the Mucha show was. His ability to capture a real sense of place, create paintings that were both large-scale and expansive, while also make smaller pieces showing tiny snippets of every-day life, won my heart over. There was a time when I thought that landscape painting was kind of ordinary and boring, and all too common, but when you attempt it yourself, and open your eyes and mind to the infinite approaches artists have explored in this particular genre, it becomes apparent that this is not the case, even remotely. Anyhow, Kushnir's work should be seen in person to truly gain an appreciation of these paintings.

Finally, Kris and I found we were in for a real treat when we stumbled upon the mixed-media collage work of Virginia artist Suzanne Stryk. Her attention to detail, infusing her work with a naturalist's eye and knowledge made each piece a richly layered composition merging the worlds of science and art into works of intriguing beauty. Kris and I look forward to coming back to this part of the MSV again very soon to further explore Suzanne's extraordinary work.

For ten dollars, per adult, you simply cannot go wrong visiting the MSV. There is so much to see and do, and it's a beautiful drive, just outside of historic Old Town Winchester, VA. In the meantime, until the end of July, the museum will be free and open to the public on Wednesdays, until 8pm. Stay tuned for the second installment post of the MSV, focusing on the gardens.