Sunday, May 31, 2020

Villa Carlotta....The Gardens

It seems like we toured many different villas while we were in the Lake Como area of Italy last year but this one stands out as my favorite.  The gardens were huge and beautifully manicured and the inside of the villa contained exceptional art and beautiful furnishings.  For today's post I'm going to concentrate on the gardens which we toured before entering the villa.

You can see one fountain in the first photo but, there were several others leading up to where the garden paths began.  One of those fountains was home to a large cluster of turtles.  I couldn't resist photographing the two who looked like they were sharing an intimate moment.

The paths were marked along the way and they led to several different garden areas.  One of the first was the cactus garden.  It was full of plants that are very familiar to me and it almost seemed strange to see them thriving in such a lush environment.

The next area was a section carefully landscaped and planted with a variety of flowering plants.  It was a patchwork quilt of pretty blooms in all shades.

But, my favorite stop was a place called the Valley of the Ferns.  This picture just doesn't seem to do it justice.  You almost need to be able to stand there and listen to all the birds singing and water in the stream trickling down the narrow canyon.  It was like how I would imagine a rainforest sounding with all kinds of bird calls and the rustling of leaves.  I stayed in this spot for quite a long time enjoying the peaceful sounds of nature.

Well manicured bushes and lawns created many photographic scenes.  

At different places we could view more sculpted gardens on different levels.

And, little patches of flowers seemed to pop up in all kinds of unexpected places.

As we got ready to tour the inside of the villa, we had an opportunity to look down on that fountain at the front of the villa.  It was just as pretty from above as from below.

Next week I'll take you on a tour of the inside of the villa.  It was impressive from the moment we walked through the doors.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Small Museum, Impressive Exhibits

Last week I did a post about the Laguna Beach Art Museum and the wonderful exhibit I saw last year when I was there.  This week I'm following up with a few photos from some past exhibits.  Above is an exhibit from 2014.  

This painting intrigued me because it seemed to tell a story.  It was painted by F Scott Hess and it is called "A Piece of Cake".  It's a scene from a party he attended in L.A. back in the mid-80's when a woman arrived late in the evening with a confusing story to tell.  He painted it mostly from memory of the incident.  If you are interested in the story, click here for a full description.

In 2015, the exhibit was stark my comparison to the year before.  It was an exhibit of the work of Marcia Hafif and artist who was searching for ways of painting beyond abstraction.  She directed her attention to pigments and made a series of single colored paintings designed to be exhibited in a way that makes the exhibition itself a work of art.  I can certainly see that working.

In 2016, I found the exhibit of Peter Krasnow's work to be simply mesmerizing.  The portrait of the artist featured on this title wall was painted by his friend Edward Henry Weston.

Krasnow was an interesting fellow who shunned the excitement and energy of the art world and because of that he is virtually unknown to most people.  His paintings are full of patterns and colors and his sculptures are almost puzzle-like.

I particulary liked this one  called "The Symbols."  In 2000, Krasnow's estate made a bequest of 147 paintings, 57 sculptures and almost 600 works on paper to the Laguna Beach Art Museum.  The gift included an undisclosed amount of money with instructions to create an exhibit and catalog of the work.  The task was finally accomplished with this superb exhibit.

This last group of work was from 2018 when the theme was "Art Colony: The Laguna Beach Art Association 1918 - 1935.  The paintings were by different artist who were members of the ever expanding circle of artists in the area.

The works were in a variety of styles and subjects but they all display and exceptional amount of talent and skill.  The exhibit filled the museum with beautiful works by artists who began the whole art scene that the small community of Laguna Beach is known for.

The Laguna Beach Art Museum might be small but I have to say it is masterful at producing exciting and interesting exhibits.  Often they feature artists I had never heard of before but whose work I've found interesting, inspiring and stimulating.

I certainly hope that I'll get to visit there again when life returns to some type of normal routine.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Art Always Draws Me In

Every year when I go to Newport for a few days in the summer, I always make a point of visiting the Laguna Beach Art Museum.  I learned a long time ago that they always have outstanding exhibits.  Last year's exhibits were no exception.  First there was an exhibit of silk-screened prints from an organization called Self Help Graphics.  The group was founded by Sister Karen Boccalero to provide Chicano and Latino artists in the L.A. region with studio space, materials and guidance.
The pieces above and to the left are by Miguel Angel Reyes and Patssi Valdez.

This one was created by Jose Lozano.

Another exhibit contained some of the artworks of John Baldessari who was among the most revered figures in California contemporary art.  He is considered a pioneer of the conceptual movement during the 1970's.  Many of his compositions use his own or appropriated photos that he alters in thought provoking and often comic ways.  Above is a series of photos of native-like women dancing around a stew-pot with a man inside.  In each photo, one person disappears until there are no people left.  

This piece is called "Eight Colorful Inside Jobs".  In each, Baldessari isolates a single geometric shape and uses a print making technique to give each a three dimensional appearance.   All the pieces in the exhibit of his works were different from each other and really made you think.  I was glad I had a docent showing them to me so she could explain different aspects.

The third artist featured was Gwynn Merrill.  She's a Los Angeles based artist who began sculpting in the early 1970's.  She is most known for her animal forms.  The pieces included in this exhibit were exquisite.  

I loved her sculptures so much that I went back again for a second look.

The Laguna Beach Art Museum is a small museum making it easy to see all of the incredible art on display.  And, it's location right on the Pacific Coast Highway, just steps from the ocean lets the visitor combine time in the museum with time by the sea.  What a perfect combination.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Very Special Meeting Place

High above the village of Bellagio in Italy is the Villa Serbelloni, a place with an ancient history.  The property was acquired by Count Alessandro Serbelloni in 1566.  He didn't change much about the simple lines of the villa, he was more interested in the immense park that surrounded the villa.  He spent exorbitant amounts to build roads and trails and to landscape the property.

The villa itself is not open to the public.  It is used exclusively as a meeting place for scholars and it has seen many illustrious guests.

However, the gardens may be visited via a guided tour and that was how I got to enjoy the beauty of the place.

The tour climbs up the hillside passing many small buildings along the way.  Our guide told us that many of the small buildings were used as places where guests could meditate or relax away from the groups they were working with.

We were almost to the top when we got our first views of the actual villa.  I'm not sure how the scholars visiting here could concentrate with a view like that outside the window.

At the top of the hill, we walked through the ruins of an older building that was sitting perched at the very top of the mountain.

With a view like this, I can see why someone would have built that stone building on the top of this hill.  The tour is a bit of a climb but with views like this and all the picturesque buildings along the way, it was well worth the effort.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

One Man's Vision for the Future

Back in October of last year, I spent a weekend in northern Arizona and on the way back home to Phoenix, I stopped at Arcosanti.  I was too late for the tour but was able to walk around a bit and visit the main building.  Arcosanti was the vision of Paolo Soleri as an alternative to urban sprawl and self sufficiency.

It is called an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community and environmental accountability.  Soleri's vision was a compact city design where architecture meets Ecology.  He called it Arcology.

The facility is located 65 miles north of Phoenix and 80 miles south of Flagstaff Arizona off of Interstate 17.  To visit you have to follow an unpaved and rather rough road for about a mile and a half.  Building began in 1970 and continues today.  It is composed of various mixed-use buildings and public spaces.

Inside the main building was a display of some of the brass and clay wind bells that have made Soleri famous all over the world.

Over 7,000 volunteers have worked on the construction of Arcosanti in the past 50 years of its existence.  When I first visited some 40 years ago, there was almost nothing there.  Now there are what appears to be five separate buildings.  I will have to go back another time and arrive early enough to take the tour.  I'm sure it would be fascinating.