The nights get longer

As we approach Labor Day, the psychological end of summer, I’ve been noticing how much shorter the days are already.  Maybe that’s why I fell under the spell of “Electric Paris” on view at the Bruce Museum.

Only the French would design an electric light pole that looks like this.

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Charles Marville, Opéra (Lampadaire), c1865-9

Charles Marville went around the city photographing the extraordinary lamp posts.

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Charles Curran, Paris at Night, 1889

Even so, perhaps no surprise to you, I could give a pass on most of the French artists and their take on their city.  But I was mesmerized with this Curran painting, with its Americanist approach and style.  Look at how the gas lamplight dances on the street and the oil lamps on the carriages glow.  I can hear this painting.  Can’t you?

1889 was a big year in Paris, as it hosted the Universal Exposition celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution.  Artists like Curran were quick to capture the buzz of the spectacles–readymade scenes that pull us in and put us right there.

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Charles Curran, Evening Illuminations at the Paris Exposition, 1889

Careful!  You might get jostled by the crowd!

See that vertical streak of color in the background on the right?  That’s the effect of the water fountains lit each night at 9 p.m. during the fair.  The water jets were illuminated by electric arc lamps with colorful glass plates to create the cotton candy effects you see.

You might just be able to make out the Eiffel Tower, at this moment of its unveiling to the world, in the far right background.  It served as the entrance to the fair and was the tallest human-made structure at 1000′ at the moment Curran captures.  It was lit by two electric search lights at the top, with thousands of gas lamps.  By the 1900 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower was fully electrified by 5000 incandescent lights.

Here’s Alfred Maurer’s look at the monument.

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Alfred Maurer, Nocturne, Paris, n.d.

Now you can make out the beams at the top.  Maybe we can take a break and lean up against the rail, too.  You can see why the Eiffel Tower has become the symbol of Paris as the City of Light.

And you can get a sense of how fascinated American artists were with painting the night scene, as it was changing with technology.

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Theodore Butler, Place de Rome at Night, 1905

Don’t you have a sense of the night energy?  Light slashes on the wet pavement.  People are mere impressions as they move about their night.  Everything pulses with the vigor of the city.  Butler takes us way up over the scene, several stories up.  We look down on all the hustle and bustle, transfixed by light and color, now anathema to the dark night.

Night life moves inside with Everett Shinn.  In many of his paintings, he puts us right up front in the theater.

Everett Shinn, Theater Box, 1906

Everett Shinn, Theater Box, 1906

We’re seated in the box, just behind this woman with her deeply-decolletaged, sage green, pillowy dress.  Don’t you love how the faces of the other audience members get lit up?  This is truly a shared experience.

But sometimes, the night is just quiet.  And who better to give us such a scene than the painter of quiet, Henry Ossawa Tanner?  An African American painter, Tanner left the U.S. to live in Europe where his classically-inspired religious works were better received with less overt racism.

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For Tanner, light was religious.  Sparks of spirit.  Perhaps you feel that, too.

With nights like this, we might not mind the shorter days so much.  Happy Labor Day!


Riffs on Art and Quirky Toys and Games

As you know from Artventures! Game, I’m so happy to play with the over-seriousness of art.  One thing we need more of in the world right now is laughs.  So I’m delighted to introduce you to Bjorn Okholm Skaarup’s work currently on exhibit at the Bruce.

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Riffing on Degas.






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Ingres’ Odalisque

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Sphinx cat and Nefertiti







Just what I needed after a tough day.

Being a game inventor now (really?), I was especially interested in the look at historic Connecticut toys and games today at the Connecticut Historical Society.

I know that you like me can’t wait to play these games!

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In particular, I can hardly wait to play the board game ‘Connecticut’s Great Blizzard’.  Not.  Today, temps reached into the 60s.  Global warming has given us an incredibly mild fall.  Imagine during that first big storm calling out, “honey, want to play the Great Blizzard?”

The game is about getting all your errands done before Snowmageddon.  Really.

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Maybe in the 1980s, people loved just this kind of thing, cuddling up with a big mug of tea.  Would that be more fun than, say, ‘Campaigning for Election’–a game that seems to be about fundraising, too.  Both are a little too Reality-Showish for me.  Hilarious nonetheless.

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I’m getting a sense of my age, because toys from my childhood have hit the historic ranks.  We played telephone, my brother and I.  And with the Erector Set and Silly Putty and Whiffle Ball–all Connecticut-made.

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In that era of gendered toys, I’m pretty sure my brother had a chemistry set.

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We definitely had the toys that teach about the world of work–banks, fire trucks, and peculiarly here, a delivery truck of G. Fox & Co.  Maybe to help children to grow up to aspire to work there?  Or just good ol’ fashioned promotion.


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I’ve always found dolls creepy, and this c1902 doll in its underwear is absolutely no exception.  But below may be the first Teddy Bear I have ever found off-putting, this one made by the German Steiff Company.

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Gilbert was a New Haven company

Gilbert was a New Haven company





Some toys don’t seem to go out of favor and even become timely again–the Star Wars Pez dispenser heads, Barbie Dolls, and this James Bond Action Figure, strongly resembling the young Sean Connery.

Tough enough for boys, buff enough for girls.

How do you like that ad slogan I just invented?


I’ve written before about the Frisbee game invention that started with Yalie’s tossing the Frisbee’s 2015-12-12 14.28.25Pie tins.  What I didn’t know is that the Frisbee was originally called the ‘Pluto Platter’, a tie-in to the craze from Pluto’s discovery.  Which do you think works better–Frisbee or the Pluto Platter?

These hotly-debated questions fill my mind as I curl up with my hippo odalisque.





Off the Wall with Color

Julie and I postponed our trip to Storm King because of the rainy weather, so we stayed in Connecticut to visit The Bruce and Aldridge museums.

Hans Hoffman, Mosaic Mural, 1956

Hans Hoffman, Awakening, 1947










The Bruce features a voluptuous exhibit on Hans Hoffman right now, where you can scoop the paint and eat it right off the canvas.

Gabriel Schachinger, Sweet Reflections, 1886

Oh, that might be Gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins not being shown at the Bruce (seven regional museums are tackling the sins).

There, it’s Pride.  In a tightly curated show of prints and paintings from the last 500 years, Pride is dissected in ways you may not have thought about before–not just pride in the body, but pride in landscape, drawing in the hubris of ‘man over nature’.  And the vanitas of pride about possessions–you can’t take it with you.

How is the story of Adam and Eve about pride?  The Bruce attempts to make sense of that.


The Aldridge features several contemporary artists making site-specific installations, including the works that inspired their own creations.

My favorite came from B. Wurtz.

The quotidian.  Three walls of aluminum cooking pans that he has painted.  Turn a pan over, and you may notice the stamped-in pattern on the bottom.  B. Wurtz has painted the pattern in acrylic, then arranged the pans on the wall.  You can get a sense from the above.  I was mesmerized.

Like Hoffman, we have color leaping off the wall…with very pleasing patterns, replicated without repeating, along the huge open space of the gallery.  Love it!

Turkish artist Elif Uras now lives and works in New York.  She brings traditional Turkish pottery-making methods to contemporary subjects in funny ways.  We have the reference to ancient Greek red-and-black pottery with the style and its figures.  But instead of fighting the Trojan war, they are vacuuming or talking on the phone.

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Gorgeous technique, with in-this-moment social commentary.  Just like those Greeks, the ancient enemy of the Turks.  And she celebrates women–women’s labor, women’s form, and women’s artistry.  A must see.

In the salute to Off the Wall is Virginia Poundstone.  Flowers are clearly one of the most popular art subjects ever.  But you’re not likely to see a mammoth flower coming off the way quite so literally as it does in its two-story incarnation at the Aldridge right now.

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Color coming off the wall?  Not bad for a drab day!




The World in Miniature

The set designs of Ming Cho Lee are getting artistic treatment at the Yale University Architecture Gallery.  Each 3D model becomes a world of its own, and I readily saw how the set design can effect the temper of the play, at least as powerfully as any director.  The set immediately sets our mood in the audience, before a word is spoken.




I remember Lee’s set for “K2” at the Kreeger in DC.  Chilling in every conceivable way.  Palpable even in the miniature model.




Much Ado about Nothing


Lee has probably worked every Shakespeare play, and a large number are represented in the show.  Lingering in front of his “Much Ado About Nothing,” a play I know fairly well, I could hear Benedict and Beatrice carping at each other, in their silly prelude to love.  All set to the jazz beat of Lee’s set.


Also interesting is how the sets act as minimalist art objects, in miniature, and I imagine even more powerfully on stage.  What a production of “Elektra” this must have been.


I haven’t seen Martha Graham’s dance called “Witch of Endor,” but maybe you, too, can imagine her organic, twirling Witch of Endormovements performed under and around this set.

If the set were a painting, it would hold forth with minimalist power rivaling Donald Judd and Robert Morris.

But Lee says he also was interested in realist work.  As an adult, more than as a child, I’m fascinated by doll houses with hyper-realist furnishings.  I think of Carrie Stettheimer’s dollhouse, created over 25 years, at the Museum of the City of New York.

Perhaps this is why Lee’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” was probably one of my favorites in the exhibition.  It’s a ragged, sagging, tattered, sad dollhouse, already alive, just waiting for its actors to add some words.

A Moon for the Misbegotten


Next, I’m off to the Bruce Museum, for the miniatures of artist studios.  Since learning about Jimmy Sanders and his perspective boxes at the New Britain Museum of American Art, I’m a fan.  He has one of the miniatures in that show.



Come join me to see the world he creates!