Monday, December 24, 2012

A Helpful Exercise as We Contemplate Gun Violence

This weekend, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA began the process of framing the gun violence debate to their political  advantage. This PR broadside was delivered after what Mr. LaPierre suggested was a respectful period of silence. Now, as a result of Friday's press conference and Sunday's interview with Dave Gregory we find ourselves engaged in a national conversation about the feasibility of putting armed guards in schools, creating a national list of the mentally ill, and looking more closely at the societal effects of media violence. What we are apparently not supposed to talk about (at least according to the NRA) is anything that might fall under the umbrella of gun control or legislation. (As I mentioned in another online conversation, it's interesting to see how many rights and amendments people are willing to throw under the bus simply to ensure the 2nd Amendment can be interpreted as broadly as possible).

While much of the NRA's stance is debatable, what struck me most were the consistent and repetitive errors of omission. Nowhere apparently (nowhere!) does the ease of access to firearms play a role in our current state of affairs. To hear the NRA tell it, the problem is simply one of bad guys, monsters, lunatics, predators, and the criminal class (as opposed to bad guys, monsters, lunatics, predators, and the criminal class with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of guns).

Here then is a modest exercise as you follow the gun violence debate and consider the position of the NRA. When Mr. Lapierre uses words like monsters, lunatics, predators, and the criminal class, append to his quote the phrase with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of guns. It's a condition of modern America that he consistently ignores, but one worth keeping in mind as we consider the issue of gun violence in the United States.

Here's some sample quotes to get you started:
  • The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters...with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of guns...
  • How many more copycats...with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of guns...are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame...
  • There are monsters...with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of guns...out there every day, and we need to do something to stop them.
  • We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that's got these monsters...with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of guns...walking the streets.
  •  I talked to a police officer the other day. He said, "Wayne," he said, "let me tell you this. Every police officer walking the street knows a lunatic...with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of guns...that's out there...
  • And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza...with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of guns...isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What A Difference a Week Makes

Last Sunday was sunny, cloudless and 60 degrees. It was, at least in central Ohio, the first of a number of warm days that would add up to a very pleasant "Indian Summer". I'd had a busy week and decided I needed a walk to clear my head and mentally regroup. As I was out, I snapped a few pictures. 

This is the view from under the Dodridge Street Bridge. Perhaps to most people this is "just a bridge"; a modest span traversing an unremarkable waterway. To the residents of SoHu, South Clintonville, Old North Columbus and the University District it's much, much more. Closed since July of 2011 the scheduled re-opening on October 31st is cause for much rejoicing!

Just north of the Dodridge Bridge is OSU's Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. This park provides a lovely oasis of calm amongst the clatter of the University District.

This is the view of the Wetland Research Park's "billabong"; an oxbow that floods naturally during the rainy season.

One of a number of dams on the Olentangy River, this one is just north of the Dodridge Street Bridge. If you look closely you can see...

...two young men riding their bikes across it. Ah, youth!
Of course the neighborhood's not all nature preserves fall foilage. Sometimes people afix large balloons to telephone poles. Presumably this has some meaning, though it's not one that I'm privy to.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

A while back I wrote about my 1975 Saab 99 Wagonback. Well, it's time for an update and I'm afraid the news is not good. While the Saab had been a serviceable second car and much-valued conversation piece under my care, this last year had not been good to it. It started with an oil leak. Then, a cooling fan problem that ended with some stripped thermostat housing threads.

Finally, in an act of brazen disregard for all that is rare and irreplaceable, someone broke out the back window (Seriously, the 99 is a pretty uncommon model to begin with, the Wagonback version even more so). Instantly what had been a manageable oddity was transformed into a liability. The window had to be replaced. That meant some combination of time and money on my part. If I didn't attend to it the Columbus code enforcement agents would cite me for having a derelict vehicle on my property (Never mind the the fact that the landlocked SS WTF sat for months across the alley from my house. My luck doesn't run like that. If me and ten other people speed, fail to signal a lane change, or violate some arcane city code, I'll be the one that gets cited. That's how it's always been. I'm used to it).

Oh, I managed to buy a little time by covering the wound with a tarp, but with the expiration date on the tags drawing closer, I knew it was the end of the line. This was one set of plates that wouldn't be renewed. I spent the last couple of weeks contacting the handful of people in town I knew that might be interested in a 35 year old Saab. I was hoping to find a good home for it. The fact is a car like that is valuable to someone. Parts are hard to find, and there was enough left of this car to probably make it worth someone's while (The "soccer ball" wheels alone could have probably fetched a decent return if I'd had the patience and resources to start parting it out). The trick is finding that someone.

In the end, no one was interested. Two days after the tags expired the tow company came to take the Wagonback on it's final journey. The driver counted out my money on the hood of the Saab as a single tear rolled down my cheek (OK. I made the part up about the tear, but it was a poignant moment). I was struck by how the money changed hands. It was all cash; crisp twenties and no receipt. It felt like blood money. Fortunately it all spends the same.

And now it's fall. Sometime in the next week or two - as the cool wind blows and this season's leaves whip in circles around the newly vacant parking spot behind my house - I'll scrape up the last of the oil and sweep away the four tire-shaped piles of pine leaves and dirt that remain; like a shadow, like a footprint. Then, it will be gone.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mini-Vacation - Southeast Ohio Edition

Last week we took a mini-vacation to lovely southeast Ohio (specifically Nelsonville, with some side trips to Logan, Haydenville, and Athens). The main impetus of the trip was the chance to see Lucinda Williams at Stuart's Opera House in Nelsonville. We figured while we were down there we'd stay an extra night and catch the Ohio Valley Summer Theater's production of "Ragtime" in Athens.

Here's the executive summary of the trip:

1. Lucinda Williams - Awesome. Everything went pretty much as expected until she launched into a cover of "Salt of the Earth" (The Rolling Stones), which was just sort of weird.
2. Stuart's Opera House - Fantastic venue with great sound (It probably helped that Lucinda and her band (Buick 6) are total pros who play through responsibly sized amps).
3. Rhapsody - Nelsonville's best restaraunt. If you go on a weekend, make reservations.
4. Ragtime (The Ohio Valley Summer Theater) - Terrific. I'll admit upfront I was primed for some mid-level community theater antics. I'll admit too that I was very, very wrong. This was a fantastic production. Great band, great players, and a terrific little theater.
6. The Mead House - Sue (the proprietess) runs a clean, comfy B&B. She also knows the area, the attractions and local history.
7. The Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum - In the words of David Rees, if you haven't visited this museum, "consider the unfortunate turn you life has taken" and start driving. It's in Logan, as it should be.
8. Haydenville - Historic "company town" with homes and chrurches built from the ceramic bricks manufactured at the local plant. They make pallets there now.

And here's the pics to prove it happened.

 Outside the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum, Logan, OH.

 History-themed pencil sharpeners in the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum

 Rhapsody, Nelsonville, OH.

 Lucinda Williams at Stuart's Opera House

 The set of "Ragtime", Ohio Valley Summer Theater

  Relaxing at the Mead House.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The DewDroppers: Your New Favorite Band

I first heard The DewDroppers by way of a track they'd contributed to The Dick & Jane Project. A friend had directed me to the site to alert me to the kinds of cool things local bands can do when they work outside of traditional musical outlets. It's really a neat project and one that should serve as a model for how the arts and education can cross-pollinate.

 Photo by Jodi Miller courtesy of Columbus Alive

The DewDroppers cut, "Ode to Mothers"  is a jazzy and infectious number that's equal parts charm and swing. For me it was love at first listen. That briefest of introductions piqued my interest and lead me to the group's bandcamp page; featuring the EP "Nothing. Darling. Honey Baby". If "Ode to Mothers" was our courtship, then NDHB was our marriage vows. It's raggedy, loose, fresh, and bubbling over with the kind of reckless enthusiasm that typically only reveals itself when a band knows they're on to something special (and trust me, The DewDroppers are).

Well, it's turned in to quite a year for The DewDroppers. They were named a Columbus Alive 2012 Band to Watch, they played The Peach District Classic, and they got picked for a spot on the big stage at this year's Comfest. If you haven't seen them yet and you're curious to find out what all the buzz is about, you'll have your chance this weekend when they perform as part of Worthington Libraries Summer Concert series on Friday July 13 at Northwest Library.

This concert is free, open to the public and will be held on the back lawn of the library. That means bring a blanket or chairs and maybe your dinner too. The show starts at 7:00 PM. In the event of inclement weather we'll move the furniture and hold the event inside.

As an added bonus, we'll have the newest arrival to the Columbus food cart scene on hand to serve up delicious hot dogs and sausages. Tyrone and Marcella from "The Good Frank" will be selling their locally sourced wieners and cold beverages to folks looking for that authentic "dinner and a show" experience.

The Worthington Libraries' Summer Concerts are sponsored by the Friends Foundation of Worthington Libraries. For more information, check the library's calendar page.

I hope you can make it out! We'll be shaking the stacks rain or shine.

The DewDroppers
July 13, 2012 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Northwest Library

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What's in a Name?

We're putting the band back together.

Well, sort of.

My wife and I have started practicing with our friend Ann Fazzini, formerly of Magic City. We're currently learning a few covers and trying to figure out what kind of music the three of us can make. It's exciting and scary and a little bit giddy all at once. In that sense it's very much like the first months of dating, only with more people. This isn't unusual. It's how bands are supposed to start; the good ones anyway The bad ones hold auditions.

This post isn't about the band though. I learned long ago not to talk about my band. It's bad form, like talking about how rich you are or how drunk you were. No one cares. As a matter of fact, I'm such a stickler for not talking about my band that I actively discourage others from talking about my band as well. During my brief career in rock I became so adept at changing the subject that people would quickly forget they even asked me about my band.

Still, in spite of my best efforts, there's one question that can't be avoided. It is, of course, "What's the name of your band?"

Band names. So many band names. You could write a book on band names. In fact, Noel Hudson already has. It's called (not surprisingly) The Band Name Book. The obvious premise is that band names are not chosen at random. They mean something. Barring that, they at least have a story behind them.

Given that the question is unavoidable, and given that I picked a potentially inscrutable name for our new project, I feel responsible for sharing its origin. For the record, this is the first, last and only time I'll do this.

The name of the band is The Christopher Rendition. Its origin lies in the laziest and most cynical of all current band name conventions; linking two incongruous words or phrases by use of a homonym or homograph.

This particular type of band name is most often arrived at by taking a proper noun and appending to it some unrelated word or syllable, thereby creating a (presumably) clever or ironic phrase (see The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Scott Beowulf, Mary Tyler Morphine, Camper Van Beethoven, JFKFC, etc.).

In our case, it started with England's most famous architect, Christopher Wren. My wife and I had taken a trip to London and I'd been thinking a lot about the architect and his work. I was also thinking about band names, homonyms, and coming up with some suitable moniker for a band that didn't actually exist at the time (Sometimes the name comes first.). At some point the name Christopher Rendition popped into my head. I liked the sound of it. It struck me as both fictive and plausible all at once. It was made up, but also weirdly authentic. That rendition has come to mean something clandestine and covert in today's vernacular added an element of threat to it.

Christopher Rendition wasn't enough though, so I thought, "What about adding "The"?", "What about The Christopher Rendition?". Well that changed the tenor completely. It took the name out of the realm of ironic homonyms and placed it somewhere altogether different. Let me explain.

If you're a student of Hollywood film naming conventions, particularly those popularized in the 60s and 70s, then you instantly recognize the formula THE + PROPER NOUN + COMMON NOUN = FILM TITLE. That era is littered with movie titles following that exact prescription:

The Thomas Crown Affair
The Parallax View
The China Syndrome
The Poseidon Adventure
The Wilby Conspiracy
The Odessa File
The Andromeda Strain
The French Connection
The Italian Job

The Christopher Rendition, it seemed to me, would have fit perfectly among those antiquated titles. I was struck by how easily it could pass for some now forgotten thriller starring Michael Caine and Harry Andrews. I even had a backstory for it; a mob hit goes bad, the wrong guy gets killed. Michael Caine seeks revenge by enlisting the aid of a soon to be retired police inspector. At some point it dawned on me that I could probably just tell people it was the name of a 1972 Michael Caine film. I doubt anyone would have been the wiser. It just rings that true.

So where does that leave us in the world of band names? In short, we're a band named after a fictitious movie. 

This puts us in some interesting conceptual territory. The history of rock offers plenty of bands named after films. Pulp, Fine Young Cannibals, Mudhoney, Alphaville, and They Might Be Giants come to mind. There's probably more. To my knowledge though we might be the first band named after a movie that's never been made. Who knows, maybe someday someone will make it. It really is a good title.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Salon des Refusés

If you've dabbled in art history, you may have a vague recollection of the Salon des Refusés. It was, as the name implies, an exhibition of rejects. It was also one of the defining moments of modernism.

The Salon des Refusés was held in 1863 and featured artworks that were rejected by the Académie des Beaux-Arts' official Paris Salon Exhibition. It was set up under the order of Emperor Napoleon III after many people publicly questioned the legitimacy of the selection process. The Emperor, wishing to assuage the critics, offered up his now famous solution; let the public decide!

On April 24th the Moniteur universel contained the following notice: ‘Numerous complaints have reached the Emperor on the subject of works of art which have been refused by the jury of the Exhibition. His Majesty, wishing to let the public judge the legitimacy of these complaints, has decided that the rejected works shall be exhibited in another part of the Palais de l'Industrie. This Exhibition will be voluntary, and artists who do not wish to participate need only inform the administration of the exhibition, which will hasten to return their works to them.’

The rest, as they say, is art history. The most famous of the rejected works in the exhibition was Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe. Other artists that participated in the Salon des Refusés included Pissaro, Whistler, Fantin-Latour, and Cezanne. In retrospect, the Salon des Refusés is understood as a watershed moment in Western art; highlighting in the most public of ways the fissure between the "approved" academic approach to painting and the more freewheeling style of the early modernists.
Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe

Today the term Salon des Refusés is often used more generically to refer to any exhibition that features works that were rejected by official jurors. It's in that spirit that I offer now my own personal, internet age Salon des Refusés.

This year I submitted two paintings for inclusion into the Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition. Both were rejected. If you've ever been curious about what rejection looks like from the artist's perspective, it typically goes something like this:

Thank you for submitting your entry for the above division and class. Unfortunately, your entry was not accepted for further judging. Please contact the entry office with any questions.

And if you're curious about what rejected work looks like, the two paintings below were the ones I submitted:

At Anchor (After Stieglitz) #7

At Anchor (After Stieglitz) #5

I've got a couple beautiful Hackman Frames for them, so if I ever do get a chance to show them they're going to look fantastic! Until then, they'll remain in the drawer. That is unless someone decides to organize an exhibition of works rejected by the State Fair.


***UPDATE*** Both of these paintings have subsequently sold. One was purchased at the Ohio Art League's "One Night" auction. The other sold at the 2012 "Art for Life" auction.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Making The Grade

So, I'm taking a continuing education class at the Columbus College of Art Design (CCAD). Me and 15 other brave souls will be meeting weekly throughout June and July to unravel the mysteries of oil painting. According to the syllabus, we'll complete two painting during the course of our term. No promises were made regarding the quality of the completed paintings. Seriously though, I'm really excited about this.

That might sound strange considering I've already got a Bachelor's degree in painting and drawing. The truth is I've never felt particularly confident about my ability to paint. Perhaps more to the point, I never felt like I really learned how to paint. Oh, I had some great instructors. I learned a lot about art and expression and theory. Those are all important things, but when it came right down learning how to paint - in the classical sense - well, we weren't really taught like that at my alma mater.

This being my first continuing education class, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'm happy to report that CCAD has this business down to a science. Selecting classes, registering for classes and paying for classes is a breeze online. Parking is easy, and we were even issued access cards to get into our building. At first I was concerned because I didn't get any kind of supply list ahead of time. It turns out that's because supplies are included! Everything we needed was is in the studio and laid out for us when we arrived.

For the first session we had a brief lecture on the basics of color theory, light, modeling, and depth. Then the instructor gave a short demo. After that he had us tint our canvas with an acrylic wash and begin working on compositional sketches. Once we roughed out an idea of the composition, we used gamsol and raw umber to create our imprimatura (that's the fancy word for the underpainting). This is how my painting looked at the end of class. 

The idea behind this way of painting is that once you get the values down (that's light and dark) then you can start building with color. I was happy with my progress, but I'm a little worried about having to paint the plaster bust. Faces are hard to paint, even plaster ones!

Perhaps most importantly, I'm really excited about our instructor. His name is Brent Payne. I've seen his work around and I appreciate his sense of color. He obviously knows his stuff and is clearly good with the students. He spent time with each of us and offered lots of practical tips.

Below is a painting of garlic he did. It reminds me a little of Manet's asparagus paintings and a little of Morandi's still lifes. I expect he'll have a lot to offer the students.

 I think I might learn to paint after all!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Eames, Perspective, and Problem Solving

I just finished Tina Seelig's new book, "InGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity". It's a terrific introduction to both the practical and theoretical aspects of innovative thinking. One of the techniques Seelig touches upon as a means of boosting idea generation is the concept of reframing.

Normally, and not surprisingly, we see the world through a single frame of reference; our own. We apply our knowledge, experience, expectations and attitudes to the questions and situations that arise each day. This isn't an altogether bad thing. Many of our daily choices don't require a particularly high-level of creativity. Still, this reliance on one viewpoint can be an impediment when it comes to creative problem solving. As Seelig points out, our frame of reference serves to both inform and limit the way we think.

The technique of reframing reminds us that there are multiple perspectives to a to every question. Reframing can involve simply asking what the situation would look like from another individual's perspective. How would a child respond to this situation? What would it look like from a visitor's perspective? From a customer's? By assuming a different perspective we open ourselves up to interpretations and ideas that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Asking questions that start with "what" and "why" is another great way to reframe situations. These questions help us to challenge our preconceived notions and look at potential alternatives. "What is the ultimate problem we're trying to solve?" "Why have we done it this way?" "What do we hope to accomplish?". These questions are open-ended. They don't presume an answer.

To illustrate the idea of reframing, Seelig cites a short film made by The Office of Charles and Ray Eames for IBM. The film, called Powers of Ten, opens with a lake shore picnic in Chicago. The camera pulls back (by factors of ten) to demonstrate the power of shifting perspectives. Once it reaches well beyond our galaxy, the camera zooms back to earth, moving inward and examining the sub-atomic world.

It's an interesting period piece, and also a great illustration of how reframing can change the way we look at our world.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How I Almost Lost My nook: A Twitter Play in One Act

On Wednesday March 21st me and a few of my library pals drove up to Kent State University to present at the Ohio Library Council's Northeast Chapter Conference. It was a mostly uneventful trip, except that upon disembarking in Worthington for the final leg of my journey home I misplaced my nook.

Here's how the story played out on Twitter:

As I was juggling my jacket and bag in the library's parking lot, it seems I set my nook down on top of Julie's car. Fortunately she didn't go far with it; only a few miles. During the trek it managed to maintain its perch atop the car. I picked it up later that evening, and needless to say I thankful and relieved to have retrieved it. If you own a nook, you know why!

For what it's worth I'm informed by the folks at Barnes & Noble that 1-800-thebook is the customer service number to call if you ever lose your nook.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fitting Wright In: New Builds at Rush Creek Village.

Rush Creek Village is one of those hidden gems that most people seem to know about. It gets pretty regular press on the blog circuit, and once every ten years or so The New York Times sends someone out to do a feature on it. Located on the southeast side of Worthington, OH, Rush Creek Village is a unique community of like-minded homes that remains a prime example of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian style.

Welcome to Rush Creek Village

The community was founded (if that's the right word) by Wright admirer Martha Wakefield and her husband Richard. Construction began on the first Rush Creek house in 1956. The principal designer was Theodore van Fossen, a young man whose prior work consisted of working on a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright's projects. (It should also be noted that Van Fossen, who passed away December 20, 2010, was also the designer of the Robert and Mary Gunning House near Blacklick.) When all was said and done Van Fossen had coordinated the design and construction of 48 homes in Rush Creek; each one site specific, and each one unique. It's a charming community; well maintained and designed to stay pretty much the way it is in perpetuity.

All of this is more or less old news. What's new news is the two new Rush Creek homes sprouting up at the eastern most boundary of the subdivision. According to Van Fossen's obituary in the Columbus Dispatch the architect weighed in on the design of these as well. By my count that's an even 50 for the architect and Rush Creek.

"The Round House"; probably Rush Creek's most famous home.

I'm pretty familiar with Worthington, and Rush Creek Village has always been one of my favorite places to walk. Today as I was out I snapped a few pictures of the newest additions to this unique enclave. Not surprisingly they fit right in.

New Build - the horizontalish one

New Build - verticalish one

New Builds, both together

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Everything New is Old Again

This week London witnessed the expected media buzz that now goes hand-in-hand with the unveiling of the newest Fourth Plinth sculpture. Over the last few years the big reveal has become something of a big deal in the art world; presenting (if nothing else) the chance for contemporary art to demonstrate it still has the power to rankle and subvert. As the Mayor of London's website proclaims, the Fourth Plinth sculptures are "ambitious and provocative and question the role and nature of contemporary art in our public spaces."

By that criteria, Marc Quinn's Alison Lapper Pregnant, Yinka Shonibare’s Ship in a Bottle, and Antony Gormley's One and Other certainly delivered the goods. Thoughtful, human, and provocative, these works challenged the traditional idea of monumental public sculpture as well as our notions about what we choose to celebrate. Sadly, this year's work misses the mark.

Powerless Structures, Fig 101 by the Scandinavian artist-duo Elmgreen and Dragset presents a lazy, paint by numbers version of contemporary art that includes the obligatory historical references, kitschy trappings, and flawless finish we've come to expect from modern art. There's a little Maurizio Cattelan cheek, a little Jeff Koons sheen, and a lengthy explanation about how this work poses a direct challenge to our cherished (and presumably pedestrian) beliefs. The execution is so pitch perfect that I can almost hear the breathless commentary ringing in my head already, "Look at how shiny it is!", "Oh I know, and it carries sooooo much meaning!"

Don't get me wrong, it's art that wants to be challenging. It wants to be provocative. It wants to subvert. A sampling of the press makes that all too clear. The work is described as "a visual statement celebrating expectation and change". We're told that "instead of celebrating military victory and commemorating fame, it acknowledges the “heroism of growing up”".

Are they looking at the same sculpture I am? I ask because I don't see expectation and change at all. I see more of the same. I see succession. I see the future king; the heir apparent. I see a young prince in all his white-male European splendor astride a gilded toy. I see a reactionary work of art more or less toeing the company line; adhering to every cliche' regarding what modern, museum-ready sculpture is expected to look like. It's safe, self-aware, appropriately coy and hopelessly on trend. As to the "heroism of growing up", well I haven't got a clue what that might mean. Is the heroism they're referring to the heroism that comes with health, leisure and disposable income? Funny, because that looks a lot like privilege to me.

Elmgreen and Dragset, the Mayor of London and the Fourth Plinth Commission are all reading from the right script. They're all saying the right things. They clearly know what they want these Fourth Plinth sculptures to signify. They just picked the wrong figure to illustrate their point.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Sirak Collection at 20, and that Caravaggio guy too.

The Columbus Museum of Art has every reason to crow about their current exhibition Caravaggio: Behold the Man!. The chance to present a Caravaggio painting on North American soil is a coup for any museum; an event worthy of all the banners, billboards, and fanfare money can buy. And while I'm as big a fan as anyone of the art world's original enfant terrible, I'll admit to being much more excited about the CMA's other blockbuster show, Monet to Matisse: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Sirak Collection.

Edward Degas
Houses at the Foot of a Cliff (Saint-Valery-Sur-Somme), ca. 1895-1898
Columbus Museum of Art

Acquired in 1991, the Howard C. and Babette L. Sirak Collection represented a watershed moment for the Columbus Museum of Art. Complementing the earlier contributions of notable collector Ferdinand Howald, as well as an already strong selection of American modernists, the Sirak Collection provided a breadth of coverage the CMA had previously been lacking. Included in the 78 works the museum acquired were pieces by Monet, Bonnard, Matisse, Klee, Nolde, Degas and a host of other European luminaries.

James Ensor
The Assassination, 1890
The Columbus Museum of Art

What's perhaps most notable about the Sirak collection is the freshness of it. While it might consist of a "who's who" of European modernism, this is no "greatest hits" show. As CMA Executive Director Nannette Maciejunes explains in the exhibition catalog, "the Sirak's did not feel constrained to always by the canonical picture". That means there's plenty of surprises in store for viewers. These include a Degas landscape, a decidedly non-sun-dappled Monet, an early Matisse, and a Bonnard painting that does not feature his long-time companion Marthe. If you thought Georgio Morandi only painted still lifes of bottles and vases, think again. He did etchings of bottles and vases too, and the Sirak Collection has two of them. The collection also contains what may be one of the most representational Klee landscapes I've ever seen (View of Saint Germain).

Paul Klee
View of Saint Germain, 1914
Columbus Museum of Art

Monet to Matisse: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Sirak Collection will be on view at the Columbus Museum of Art through May 13th 2012. This is a fantastic chance to see all 78 works in the Sirak collection at one time, so don't miss it. Oh yeah, and that Caravaggio guy has had his stay extended. Caravaggio: Behold the Man! The Impact of a Revolutionary Realist will be up through Sunday February 5th. Check that out too.

Details and more info are available on the Columbus Museum of Art's website.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Resolution, of Sorts

I've been using Goodreads for the last couple years to keep track of what I read - and perhaps more importantly - to see what friends and colleagues are reading. I work in a library, so keeping abreast of new titles as well as books in a variety of genres is important. Goodreads helps me do that. It's also a great place to find recommendations from people who have similar tastes. I invariably learn about books I'd probably never had heard of through my Goodreads friends. Add in the copious social features (places to share reviews, comment on reviews and update your status) and you've got a pretty neat tool for book lovers. As if that weren't enough, the "Never Book Ending Quiz" is addictive and educational.

This year (2012 that is) I signed up for the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge. It's a system that allows you to set a target number of books to read in the coming year and then track your progress. My hope is that by using this tool I'll be a little more intentional about the time I set aside for reading. You see, for someone who works in a library I don't read all that much. Sure, compared to a lot of people I probably do, but compared to my friends in the profession I'm a plodding and pokey amateur.

The target for my 2012 Reading Challenge is 52 books. One book a week seems reasonable, but I guess we'll see how that works out. If you want to be friends and follow my progress I've linked my profile page below. Also - at the risk of sounding like a student in the panic of an almost late assignment - if you know of any good, short books, feel free to make a recommendation :)

Jeff's Goodreads Profile