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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Museums: National Gallery of Art #18

It's been a while since we lasted the National Gallery of Art.  During this visit, we are focusing on a single painting. 

During Year 2, we blogged about a friend introducing us to Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) .  Mitchell was an American abstract expressionist painterTogether with Lee Krasner and a few others, "she was one of her era's few female painters to gain critical and public acclaim."

Joan Mitchell in 1984
Here is a short bio from  "Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago in 1925. After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947, she was awarded a James Nelson Raymond Foreign Traveling Fellowship, which took her to France for a year in 1948-49, and it was there that her paintings moved toward abstraction. Returning to New York, she participated in the famous “9th Street Show” in 1951, and soon established a reputation as one of the leading younger American Abstract Expressionist painters. She exhibited regularly in New York throughout the next four decades and maintained close friendships with many New York School painters and poets."

"In 1955 she began dividing her time between New York and France, and in 1968 she settled in Vétheuil, a small town in the countryside outside of Paris, where she worked continuously until her death in 1992. During the almost 50 years of her painting life, as Abstract Expressionism was eclipsed by successive styles, Mitchell’s commitment to the tenets of gestural abstraction remained firm and uncompromising. Summing up her achievement, Klaus Kertess wrote, “She transformed the gestural painterliness of Abstract Expressionism into a vocabulary so completely her own that it could become ours as well. And her total absorption of the lessons of Matisse and van Gogh led to a mastery of color inseparable from the movement of light and paint. Her ability to reflect the flow of her consciousness in that of nature, and in paint, is all but unparalleled.”"

The National Gallery recently acquired a very large Joan Mitchell painting from the now defunct Corcoran Gallery of Art.  (The Corcoran was run into the ground.  Its amazing collection was divided among other institutions, including the National Gallery.  The Corcoran building was acquired by nearby George Washington University, which has greatly expanded its fine arts and design curriculum.) 
The Mitchell acquired by the National Gallery, Salut Tom,  is pictured below.

The painting (a tetraptych-four side-by-side canvases) measures a whopping 9' tall by 23' long.  The painting is so large that we used a panorama shot to photograph it.  Hence, the painting appears distorted.  Of course, the painting is rectangular, not curved.  Below is a better photo of Salut Tom.  

.  © Estate of Joan Mitchell
According to, the "inspiration for Salut Tom, one of Mitchell’s largest and most important paintings, is the view of the river Seine from her estate in Vétheuil, France. Motivated as much by her recollection of the landscape as by the actual panorama, Mitchell depicted the scene many times, merging factual depictions of her subject with abstract ruminations."

The painting sort of looks like a river.  Doesn't it?  Below is a photo of the Seine near Vétheuil.

Recently, Artsy published an article about Joan Mitchell, titled "Joan Mitchell on How to Be an Artist".  The article is an interesting read.  One quote in particular caught Greg's attention:  "[W]hen I do paint, I am not aware of myself. As I said before, I am ‘no hands,’ the painting is telling me what to do.”

We enjoy viewing Joan Micthell's paintings.  We hope to see more during the 10 Year Plan and to learn about other artists.  

Thanks for visiting the National Gallery with us to view Salut Tom.

P.S.  Another painting depicting the Seine near Vétheuil appears below.  Enjoy.
Arm of the Seine near Vétheuil by Claude Monet (1878) 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

More Cow Bell

More cow bell is always a good thing.  Right?

Apparently, it's not always a good thing.  

While strolling through Greg's alma mater Georgetown University, we spotted some small posters (pictured below).  

One poster advised:  "Keep Calm and Know Your Noise".   It seems Georgetown students can be quite noisy at all hours.  So, they are asked to be mindful and keep it down.

Another poster made the point more clearly and comically.  Below, the fictional Gene Frenkle (portrayed by Will Ferrell) loudly plays his cow bell during a Blue Oyster Cult recording session.  

The Saturday Night Light sketch from 2000 still resonates.  You can check it out here.

P.S.  In case you want your own cow bell for late night reveling, click here.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

Strolling in D.C. #8

With Autumn's arrival, we have noticed many signs of the season.  

During a recent stroll through Georgetown, we enjoyed viewing the many houses with seasonal decorations.  It was a veritable cornucopia of pumpkins.

Below is a sampling of what we saw.  Enjoy.

In the photo below, you might spot a live addition to the seasonal scene. 
Somehow, the resident of the house trained a black squirrel (closeup below) to sit on the stairway and scamper back and forth.  That is one smart varmint.

The scene below was especially good, with cobwebs and scary heads.  Click on the video after the photo to see a special effect.  

Thanks for joining us for a stroll in Georgetown.

P.S.  During our stroll, we spotted a building, the Kanawha, that is undergoing renovation.  What amused us was the warning sign on the door about asbestos removal and the large, empty dog bed at the building's front door.  We guessed that the dog bed was intended to scare off would-be trespassers that were not deterred by the asbestos warning sign.  Very ingenious.  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Dining in D.C. #3: Dog Tag Bakery (Part 2 of 2)

To celebrate the arrival of Fall here in D.C., today we returned to Dog Tag Bakery for hot coffee and some Dog treats.  

Over the past few days, the temperature and humidity have dropped quite a bit.  The result is jackets and boots are evident everywhere and there is a nice chill in the air.  At our church, the furnace has not been turned on yet, so we were a bit chilled by the end of the service and decided to thaw ourselves at nearby Dog Tag Bakery.      

You might remember from an earlier post that Dog Tag Bakery is located in Georgetown and provides service-disabled veterans with entrepreneurship training through a fellowship program connected with Georgetown University.

We enjoy visiting Dog Tag Bakery, not only because of its mission, but also because they pour a great cup of joe and serve some delectable desserts.  We were not disappointed on this visit.  We enjoyed some piping hot coffee and some Autumn-themed treats, pictured below.

Huckleberry Fun-Fetti Cake

Purple Sweet Potato Pie
We even had the opportunity to sit in the Obama & Biden booth.  Good times.

P.S.  On a related topic, here is a bit of advice.  Run, don't walk, to your nearest Trader Joe's for a seasonal treat:  the French Apple Pie (tarte aux pommes) is to die for.  Greg's French teacher, who is from Normandy in France, agreed that the pie tastes just like ones her mother used to make.    

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Comedy in D.C.: Millennium Stage--Palestinian Stand-Up Comedy

While reviewing the upcoming schedule for the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, one event caught our attention:  a stand-up comedian who is Palestinian and female.  Can it get any more interesting?   

So, we attended the performance and heard some amusing jokes.  The feature act, Mike Easmeil (a Palestinian-American comedian), opened and spoke about living in the American South.  He now lives in Virginia Beach, where most of his neighbors are active or retired U.S. military.  So, his family frequently stands on their front porch smiling and waving to the neighbors for no reason other than being overly-friendly.  He said he has introduced falafel to his American friends, who called them tasty "A-rab hush puppies."  At Halloween, he dresses his kids as Captain America because he's "not taking any chances."

Mike Easmeil
The headliner, Mona Aburmishan, is Palestinian-American, born and raised in Chicago.  She performs in the U.S., Palestine and elsewhere.  She talked about going to nightclubs in Palestine where men would use lame pickup lines.  One was, "Can I get your father's phone number?"  Another was, "I am Palestinian but tonight I will be Israeli and occupy you."     
Mona Aubrmishan
You can view the entire performance by clicking here.

Thanks for again visiting the Kennedy Center with us.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Fish and Chips?

During a recent road trip, we were traveling in rural Pennsylvania and spotted the road sign pictured below.

The first thing that came to mind was fish & chips--fried, battered fish with French fries.  Mmmm.  

We looked for a restaurant or roadside stand selling fish & chips but were disappointed when none appeared.

So, we reflected on what the sign meant, especially after we noticed a couple more "fresh oil and chips" signs along the road.  

The other clue appeared on the roadway itself.  A lot of gravel had recently been laid on the road near edge.  

We guessed the gravel equalled the "chips" and the "fresh oil" held the gravel to the road surface.  

Later, we confirmed our guess was correct.  The Department of Transportation in the Keystone State has a practice of oiling the crumbling edge of a roadway and laying down a thin layer of gravel to extend the life of the roadway.

The "fresh oil and chips" signs warn savvy motorists so they can avoid the patches and prevent damage to their cars.  

Who knew?

As for us, we are still looking for a fish & chips restaurant.

P.S.  In case you were wondering, there are some interesting signs right here in D.C.  One of Greg's favorites is the street sign for Half Street in D.C.  No joke.  There is a street before the numbered streets begin.  "Half Street" seems to be as good a name as any other name.    


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Strolling in D.C. #7

Recently, Greg had the opportunity to put his French lessons to work.  

While strolling through Georgetown, Greg spotted a small sign on a wooden gate between two row houses.  In the photo below, Susan is pointing to the sign. 

The sign translates from French as "lunatic dog" or "crazy dog", warning trespassers against entering.   

Of course, the sign only works if a trespasser speaks French.  We thought about this and wondered if:

(a)  Only French-speaking trespassers were likely, or 

(b)  Only cultured trespassers were being warned away.  All other trespassers were free to enter and be ripped to shreds by some vicious watchdog.  

We also wondered about the type of dog a trespasser might encounter.  The dog might be truly vicious or perhaps it would be obscenely cute and lick a trespasser into submission.  

A Dogue de Bordeaux, or French Mastiff.  The dog's large head and muscular body should deter any would-be trespasser. 

A Teacup French Poodle might not work as a watchdog.  However, the puppy pictured above looks sort of tough.  The puppy's look  seems to say:  "Yes, I am looking at you and you had better turn around before things get ugly."
P.S.  If you are Far Side fan, click here for some amusing beware of dog cartoons.