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Leatherstocking Tales

Gazing ball in the pond

Last week, I had an appointment with the facial reconstructive surgeon in Houston who put my nose back together after Mohs surgery. It has healed nicely but I’m not sure how he managed to make my father’s nose into my mother’s nose! He takes photographs at each step and it is rather strange to have someone focusing in on my nose. It is also impressive how steady his hands are as he takes his photographs.

I’ve driven  through Houston many times but I always feel a bit anxious when maneuvering through certain merge points. Several years ago, Houston put in a train system and last year, my husband and I discovered we could park at Herman Park and take the train to St. Luke’s. And then, we could visit the Museum of Natural History or if I was by myself, the Museum of Fine Arts.

Rain spoiled my plans to eat my lunch in the sculpture garden and do a bit of sketching. Several new exhibits were on display in the museum. Although I plan to see a certain exhibit, the museum enticingly places other interesting exhibits and it is always a thrill for me to see—in  person—objects from my art history days. Saarinen, Gehry, Wright, and Sullivan were all architects who were challenged to produce a piece of furniture. Unfortunately, there was no brochure for me to identify the other architects. On display were the famous wooden zig-zag chair, the yellowish plastic taffy candy chair, and a baluster from a Sullivan stairwell. One chair, a traditional armchair was constructed of hundreds of pieces of 1 inch pine nailed together in many angles. Gehry’s chair was instantly recognizable constructed of brushed aluminum. My overall impression was that the people who sat in those chairs were quite short, the seat area just barely above my ankles and that for the most part, they were quite uncomfortable.

Across the street, there were two exhibits, the Ife (pronounced E-Fay) and the German impressionists. Ife was a culture in Nigeria. Terra Cotta heads and metal heads were part of their rituals. Holes in the top of the head were believed to be anchoring spots for headdresses and some had holes around the mouth for the beaded veils indicating aristocracy. Some of the heads had vertical lines from top to bottom representing the ritual scarification of the face with beetle juice. Others had three lines on the corner of each mouth indicating ‘foreigner’. All of them had a sense of vitality about them.

Upstairs, the paintings and drawings of the German impressionists, Lieberman, Corinth, and Slevogt were on display. The German influence was clear, but here and there hints of other painters peeked out. Lieberman was fond of Millet’s work and enjoyed painting humble workers. ‘Garden Party’ is reminiscent of Renoir’s ‘Boating Picnic”. I wasn’t particularly taken with Corinth’s work but I fell in love with Slevogt’s work. His drawing skills were amazing; he did all the lithographic illustrations for James Fennimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales even though he had never been to America. A short video showed him working on the lithographic stone.

Landscape was clearly most important with people being secondary. Several small watercolors done as field sketches emphasize the landscape with people as tiny figures for scale. A certain sense of rigidity is seen in all of the paintings suggesting a need for order. Although they embraced the wild brush strokes of Van Gogh, the dabs of paint by Monet and Cezanne, there is a reluctance to leave the safety of realism.

And now, that I’ve impressed you with my analysis, I wowed the gym personnel on Thursday by wearing my sweat pants inside out!

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