Friday, March 30, 2007

trouvée: happy accidents

I found this tiny (2 x 3 1/4") photograph on eBay a couple years ago. It is one of those images that is beautiful because of what is wrong with it. A little slip of the hand transforms the "filtration room" into something quite surreal ~ a happy accident.

This weekend I am off to Oatlands ~ stepping out of the 18th century and into the 19th! I'll report back next week. In the meantime ~ enjoy this wonderful spring weather!!!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

in bloom

It is a glorious, glorious day! Spring has sprung in Washington, and the view of the cherry blossoms from my window is astounding ~ all frothy pink-white. The National Park Service's peak bloom forecast for the blossoms is April 3-5. They are well on their way!

Also in bloom is a great show at the Sackler Gallery ~ East of Eden: Gardens in Asian Art. They have a wonderful online feature for those of you who can't make it to DC. I am also in love with the New York Botanical Garden website, especially their digital library of botanical books and the (amazing, amazing!) virtual herbarium. The above images are from my own little collection of botanical prints ~ two 1811 hand-colored plates (nos. 1420 and 1432) from Curtis's Botanical Magazine.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

eye of the collector

I have been thinking a lot lately about the eye of the collector ~ an endlessly fascinating topic. One of my favorite books is The Eye Club, published by the Fraenkel Gallery in 2003. The "Eye Club" was a loosely-associated group of photography collectors who let instinct drive their acquisitions, rather than the dictates of the market. Highly individualistic, these collectors gravitated towards the off-beat, anonymous, and truly extraordinary. The Fraenkel book is inspired by the spirit of these collectors ~ and just flipping through it encourages me to look at the world with a more adventurous eye!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

photo trouvée

Another wonderful collection of found photographs ~ Photo Trouvée (Phaidon Press, 2006) ~ 285 photographs compiled by Michel Frizot and Cédric de Veigy. And for those of you as obsessed with photography books as I am, visit photo-eye.

(image from Photo Trouvée)

Monday, March 26, 2007

dead zone

My brother sent me this link last week, and I have spent the past several days completely consumed by it ~ Elena Filatova’s travelogue through the “dead zone” around Chernobyl. So much was lost in the spring of 1986, it boggles my mind. And we continue lose more and more of our cultural and environmental heritage around the globe as a result of the carelessness of human action. I generally write about the beautiful places and things that inspire me ~ Elena's journey made me realize just how very fragile they are.

(image: Elena Filatova)

Friday, March 23, 2007

trouvée: apple blossoms

"How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence."
~ Benjamin Disraeli (1881)

I found this photograph in Maine a couple summers ago. It is printed on postal card. Took me a while to figure out the inscription ~ “with New Years wishes” ~ I can’t make out the rest. But the apple trees are in bloom.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

spring rain

Some eye candy for a Thursday afternoon. Found this on The Textile Museum website ~ the "textile of the month" ~ a 19th-century Japanese raincoat (made from indigo-dyed cotton treated with oil, and lined with a katazome fabric). Generally overshadowed by Washington's larger museums, the Textile Museum is a hidden gem, tucked away in a historic building in Kalorama with a lovely garden. And (lucky me!), I live within walking distance.

(image via The Textile Musuem)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

vernal equinox

At 8:07pm last night (EDT), the sun crossed the Earth’s equator, marking the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere, and the beginning of the Persian new year (or Noruz). Having spent some of my childhood in Iran, my mind today is filled today with images of markets abundant with bowls of goldfish, pots of sabzeh (wheat or lentil sprouts), bunches of hyacinth, brightly colored eggs, and sumac berries ~ several of the traditional components of the haft seen table. Even though it is cold and grey in Washington today, I can feel a little spring in my heart.
(top image: Shadi Bahar; bottom image via Wikipedia)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

historic house tour: gunston hall

Sleet and freezing rain couldn't stop our little group from making its way to Gunston Hall ~ and by the time we got there the weather had cleared and it was just (darn!) cold and windy. Built in the 1750s, Gunston Hall was the home of George Mason, one of the crafters of the Constitution. It has some of the most extraordinary woodworking of any Georgian House I have seen. Unfortunately I couldn't take photos inside, so the only two images here of the interior are scanned from postcards ~ but you get the idea.

Outbuildings, including the kitchen (left) and wash house (right).

The little parlor, which served as Mason's office and family dining room.

The dining room ~ all of the architectural details are carved wood, not plaster! The walls are currently uncovered as the house is undergoing restoration ~ they eventually will have either a blue and white patterned paper, or a plain Prussian blue paper.

Friday, March 16, 2007

trouvée: anonymous

One of the things about found photos is that their histories are generally unknown. We can write our own stories about them. This one is completely anonymous, no date, no inscription. I can't even remember where I found it. But it has something to say. This is the first of many photographs from my personal collection ~ I will try to post one or two a week. Found photo fridays?

Off to Gunston Hall Plantation this weekend. The weather promises to be dreary, but I am sure the house will delight. I'll report back next week.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

ides of march

Don't really have time to post much today, but I thought I would give you something beautiful to look at ~ a drawing by Claude-Jospeh Vernet, Trees Reflected in a Brook (Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, National Gallery of Art).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I love to rummage through flea market boxes of old photographs. You never know what you are going to find ~ everything from the beautiful or bizarre to the mundane or humorous. Snapshots of moments gone by. A Google search for "found photographs" brought up a number of interesting websites, including Look at Me and Time Tales. More and more museums are collecting and exhibiting snapshots, including the National Gallery of Art, which opens The Art of the American Snapshot: The Collection of Robert E. Jackson in October. Each collector has his or her own distinct eye ~ and I find that fascinating too. One of the best shows I have seen in recent years was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Other Pictures: Anonymous Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection. I could go on and on, but will save it for a future post, and will perhaps show some of my own found photos.

(image via Look at Me)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the little things

As promised, here are two finds from the Featherstone Antique Mall ~ a stunning sterling 1930s tea caddy spoon with the initials J R B (close enough!!!) and a beautiful set of raspberry-pink linen hem-stitched napkins and placemats. Sometimes it's the little things that make a girl happy. Now I just need to find a tea caddy I can afford...

Monday, March 12, 2007

weather on mars

My cousin Rebecca finds the most extraordinary things (this via Pruned). Wispy winter clouds on a Martian afternoon, taken by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

sun pictures

I had a lovely weekend ~ there was nothing I had to do, and how often does that happen? The weather was glorious, so I went walking and did a little antiquing. Found lots of fun things, many of which I will share with you in the next few days. I picked up a bunch of good second-hand books, including one about William Henry Fox Talbot. His beautiful photographs have put me in the mood for longer days and lots of sunlight.

(image: William Henry Fox Talbot, Flowers, Leaves and Stem, c. 1838)

Friday, March 9, 2007

theory of boundaries

I am posting *quickly* today about another great program at the National Gallery of Art. Theory of Boundaries: A Conversation with Mel Bochner ~ a conversation between the artist and curator, Sunday, March 11, 2:00 pm, in the East Building Auditorium. Mel Bochner is a minimal and conceptual artist, whose work includes painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, film and installation. The event honors the Gallery's recent acquisition of one of Bochner's wall paintings: Theory of Boundaries, 1969-1970 (see above).

Thursday, March 8, 2007

an evening to remember

Last night was one of those rare magical evenings, which only come along every so often in one's life ~ the black-tie preview for the exhibition I have been working on at the National Gallery of Art, States and Variations: Prints by Jasper Johns. I wish I had photographs to share, but I don't, so a copy of the menu will have to suffice. The exhibition looks fabulous (though I am probably biased), and the event was gorgeous ~ tables dressed in brown taffeta with lime green floral arrangements. And gardenias everywhere. Mmmmm...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

little package ~ big suprise

I came home last night to a happy surprise ~ a package from my friend Nadya in London. It contained the most delightful belated birthday treats: a gorgeous mohair scarf from Mais il est où le Soleil? (which makes me feel very chic and Parisian) and a bar of my favorite cinnamon chocolate from Rococo in London. Not only is their chocolate amazing (with exotic flavors like basil & lime, crystallized ginger, sea salt and geranium), but their packaging is so inspired ~ made up of motifs from a 19th-century Létang Fils catalogue of chocolate moulds. In fact, even their chocolate moulds are based on antique designs.

Thank you N ~ you made my day!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

some things never change

A flea market find from this past weekend. The above photo was pretty unremarkable until I found the photobooth strip below ~ same woman (same bow?) ~ 25 years apart. Couldn't resist.

Monday, March 5, 2007

historic house tour: stratford hall

A bright blustry March day marked the first of the Historic House tours: Stratford Hall. Built in 1738 by Thomas Lee, the house is situated high on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, and is the epitome of Georgian simplicity and symmetry. The high windows and floor plan of the house ~ a capital H ~ allow light to stream in from all directions, so the interior is simply brilliant! The house also has a lovely collection of 18th-century English and American furniture, including many pieces that once belonged to the Lee family. The outbuildings and gardens (the latter restored in the 1930s by the Garden Club of Virginia) are wonderful too. I wish I could include more photographs, but here are a few of my favorites:

The chamber (the crib in the corner supposedly belonged to Robert E. Lee).

The library (loved the desk).

Interior of one of the outbuildings.

Friday, March 2, 2007

pattern and detail

My friend Isabelle brought me The New York Times Magazine Spring Fashion Issue. It did not disappoint. I loved the "African Queen" spread, photographed by Paolo Roversi. The patterns of the textiles are fantastic and the jewelry is amazing. The photographs are a treat too ~ they look a little bit like old Daguerreotypes.

Tomorrow I am off to Stratford Hall (the birthplace of Robert E. Lee) for the first of the Spring historic house tours...!

(image Paolo Roversi via The New York Times)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

wall of light

One of the things I look forward to every year here at the National Gallery is the annual Elson Lecture, which brings a working artist to Washington to speak about their art. This year is a real treat ~ Sean Scully ~ one of my favorites. Thursday, March 8, 4:00 in the East Building Auditorium of the National Gallery of Art (admission is free!).

(image: Sean Scully, Wall of Light Tara, 2000, NGA)