Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunnylands Center & Garden (part 1)

I had been wanting to visit Sunnylands, the western estate of Walter and Leonore Annenberg ever since I learned about it around two years ago.  Even though the visitor center and gardens are open to the public, it was that extraordinary mid-century modern home with its history of celebrated guests which have included U.S. Presidents, world leaders, celebrities and even Queen Elizabeth and other members of the Royal Family, that really appealed to me.  Tours of the home itself are done during periods when the house isn't busy with meetings and the tickets for tours during a certain month are not released until the 15th of the prior month.  So, unless you live near the Palm Springs California area, that short window makes it difficult to plan a visit.  I finally got my opportunity and I grabbed it.

The magic started for me just after entering the gate leading toward the visitors center.  The driveway was lined with palo verde trees and luckily I was there at blooming season so I was swept up the driveway on a cloud of yellow.

I checked in for the tour at the visitors center and then wandered around the garden enjoying the gorgeous desert landscaping.

Aloe plants were strategically planted along the paths that were shaded by the palo verde and mesquite trees with a few Texas Ebony trees mixed in.

The visitors center was opened in 2012 and was built to mirror the architecture of the home.  The glass walls make you forget you are indoors and the lava stone walls match those in the house itself.

The visitors center is where the various tour groups meet and it also provides a cafe for light meals and a gift shop.

There is also a small gallery located inside the visitors center where changing exhibits are on display for visitors to enjoy.

The visitors center also provided displays on the wall with highlights of the many people who have visited here both during the lifetime of the Annenbergs and now that the center is open for diplomatic retreats.

Walter Annenberg was a businessman, investor and U.S. diplomat who served as Ambassador to London for a period of time.  His wife Leonore served as Chief of Protocol of the United States from 1981 to 1982.  Both were philanthropists in the arts and education among other interests.

In 2001, the Annenbergs finalized documents establishing the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands.  The foundation's intent was to turn the home into the "Camp David" of the west and to make it available to the public.  The estate is available to the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, the bipartisan leadership of Congress, the Supreme Court and other leaders for intimate, high-level retreats where experts with diverse perspectives can engage in creative problem solving.  It is certainly and inspiring place to visit.

Next Sunday, I'll post about the house tour.  Although photography was not allowed inside the house, it was encouraged on the outside and I'll be able to show you the beauty that surrounds this mid-century marvel.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Rodin Museum in Paris

There are so many wonderful things to see and do in Paris that it can be a bit overwhelming.  And with museums like The Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay to wander through, it's easy to forget about some of the smaller museums.  The Rodin Museum is one that could easily be overlooked but should be on the 'must see' list of all art loving travelers.

The Museum is located in one of the two homes belonging to Rodin. His homes were given to the French government upon his death as long as they were turned into a museums to showcase his works.  His home in Paris is a beautiful mansion with one of the prettiest gardens I've ever seen.

And those gardens are full of Rodin's sculptures like this one in the center of the reflecting pool.  It is called Ugulino and His Children.

All of his most famous pieces can be seen throughout the gardens including The Burghers of Calais above  and The Gates of Hell to the left.

There are two versions of his most famous piece, The Thinker.  One is located in the garden surrounded by beautifully sculpted trees.

The other one is inside the museum and gives the viewer a close-up look at this amazing sculpture.

Inside you will also find the sculpture, The Kiss.

I enjoyed seeing this large scale painting of Rodin by the artist Rene Avigdor.  It shows the famous man at work in his studio.

The Rodin Museum is a place where you can enjoy the work of a great man and also enjoy the beautiful home where all that creativity took place.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A California Mission

When I was in California last summer, I made a point of visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano located just a few miles south of the Newport Coast area in the city of San Juan Capistrano.  I hadn't been there in several years so it was a good opportunity to once again enjoy the beauty of this historically restored and maintained mission.

As you can see from these photos, the grounds are beautifully landscaped and planted with a variety of native plants.

The altar in the mission chapel is adorned with wood carvings and statues.

Offering candles create beautiful light inside the chapel and at the entrance.

The original church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812 but the remains are still on the grounds and visitors can walk where the church once stood.

This statue leads the way toward the ruins of the old church.

The swallows still return to the mission every year.  We didn't see them  on this trip but their distinctive nests were there to see.

We did see this beautifully costumed couple posing for photos inside the mission grounds.  What a wonderful backdrop the old mission walls will make for this couple's photo album.  

Even though I've been there several times before, the beauty of this place keeps me coming back for another visit.

I posted about Mission San Juan Capistrano before and I told the history of the place in that post.  If you are interested in the history, you can see that post here.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Annual Art Exhibit in Wickenburg

For the past 13 years, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg Arizona has hosted a special art exhibit and sale called "Cowgirl Up, Art from the Other Half of the West".  It features all women artists who specialize in western themed art.  The show runs for 6 weeks between March 23, 2018 and May 13, 2018.  If you live in the area or will be visiting here, it is well worth a trip to Wickenburg to see this incredible show.  (Above is a photo of the front of the museum, below are some of the magical things you will see in the show.)

I'm featuring just a few of my favorite pieces.  The piece above is called "Raking Hay" by Heide Presse who currently lives in Tampa Florida.  This one looked so realistic, I could almost smell that fresh cut hay.

This sculpture was a favorite among the museum staff.  At least three people asked if we saw this one.  It's called "All Work No Play" by Deborah Copenhaver Fellows.  Deborah lives on a horse ranch in Arizona.  It looks like this lady has taken a break from her ranch work to try on a pair of fancy shoes she's just gotten in the mail.

This painting made me think the artist Ed Mell.  It's called "South of Jupiter, West of the Moon" and it was painted by Marcia Molnar who lives in Prescott Arizona.

These three paintings are by Jennifer Cavan of northern New Mexico.  The one in the center is my favorite and I could easily see that one hanging on one of my walls.  It's called "Dream On".

My favorite sculpture in the show was this one called "More Mischief" by Susan Kliewer.  I love all those silly koshare (clowns) climbing all over that bronze pot.  Susan lives in northern Arizona.

Santa Fe artist Barbara Meikle created this painting called "Through a Prism".  I like the style in this contemporary piece.  It should appeal to you horse lovers out there.

Here's a painting with a sense of humor.  It's called "Way Wonky Donkey" and that donkey is definitely looking a little wonky.  This one is by Sharon Markwardt who resides in both Texas and New Mexico.

This last one was also a favorite of mine.  I like the softness of it.  It is by artist Ann Huston and is called "Heart of Chimayo". Ann is from Taos New Mexico and this is her first time exhibiting at the Cowgirl Up art show.  In fact, she won a Director's Award for New Artist in the show.

You can easily see from this little sample that the show contains some exquisite artworks.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Cathedral in the Southwest

Saint Augustine Cathedral in Tucson started life in a small two-room house back in 1858.  Ten years later is had grown to a substantial church serving an ever expanding population.  The two-room house was expanded and finally a church was built but it wasn't until 1928 that the brick structure was turned into the Mexican baroque building that we see today.

When I walked through those front doors and entered the lobby area, I was amazed at what I saw.  The entire lobby area is surrounded by a cast of characters many of whom are easily recognizable.

The entire lobby is decorated with a Trompe-l'oeil style murals containing 30 life-sized figures.

The area was painted by artist and restoration specialist, John Alan.  The murals are dedicated to Monsignor Edward Ryle and were funded by the Ryle Foundation.  The entire restoration work began in 1968 and was overseen by John Alan.

The crown jewel of the newly restored church is the Pamplona Crucifix that was gifted to the church and installed in 1981.  It was carved in Spain and is over 600 years old.

I'm posting this on Easter Sunday and I'm confident that this beautiful church is full of worshippers enjoying the beauty of this very special place.