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Posts from the ‘Reviews of Museums, Openings, & Books’ Category

A day with Degas

A retrospective of Degas from his earliest paintings to his final photographs is at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston until Jan 16. I had been to the exhibit in December but was pleased to return again to inspect the incredible range of work he completed.

Most of us think of his work as the ballet dancers or perhaps the women bathing but there was a lot more. He was born into a wealthy family, his father a banker and was able to afford private art school in France. He spent time with his aunt and her family in France and also spent time in New Orleans. He painted a lot of portraits but they are all in very unusual poses or they are occupied with a task such as playing a guitar or judging cotton. He made lithographic prints and monoprints with colored inks when the bank failed and he needed to support himself.

Always his paintings reveal something of human nature–the ballet dancer putting on her stockings, the bather straining to wash her toes. His preliminary sketching was detailed and intimate and then there is such a range of different techniques–one using essence–letting paint sit on newsprint until the oil is soaked away and then thinning with turpentine. And who would think about wetting tracing paper and dissolving pastels in water to paint with?

Of course he knew Delacroix and Manet–Matisse bought one of his unfinished paintings after his death and used it as inspiration for some of his work. He knew the impressionists but preferred his studio work although he did produce some lovely plein air landscapes for a London sale–again–he needed money.

His last works were in photography and not surprisingly many self portraits—but not the usual self portraits–they were in interesting poses as though someone opened a door quickly and took a casual photograph–or it was of two or more people and again not in formal poses.

At the end of the exhibit before we left, I had each of us choose our favorite piece. It was hard but I chose the Beggar Woman–an early painting very realistic—but then there wer some charcoal drawings that at first glance were just black outlines of limbs–but on closer inspection were delicately modeled musculature. Sherry chose the washerwomen ironing a shirt with one of them yawning and Jeanelle chose one of the bathers. We all really liked the sculpture of the girl trying to reach her toes to wash them.

We ate Mexican food and then spent a few minutes perusing the shelves of Texas Art Supply–I did not need a single thing and I came away without spending a penny—-but then there’s another exhibit at the MFA to see—-and the Menilimg_4539-m

more photos of the day including our favorites are here:

Carrie Nation is Bested by Port Arthur tavern owner



My apologies for not so nice a photo but it’s more than a challenge to shoot through a display window at an angle with lighting not designed for photography—

However, on with the story as it is difficult to read the printed signage here.

Port Arthur in pre-prohibition days boasted many more taverns than churches and as such it was ripe fodder for Carrie Nation. She appeared with her axe and proceeded to a tavern she heard was the biggest and worst offender of the group. The owner of the tavern did not think he should close his tavern on the advice of Carrie and put up such a fight that she was so impressed she gave him this little axe pin as a memento. The tavern didn’t close and Carrie decided other areas were much more susceptible to her ambition.

This is in the Museum of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur Texas in what is mostly a very deserted downtown area. Many buildings are boarded up as the oil refinery business which depended upon multitudes of workers is now much more automated. There are huge parking lots with weeds growing in the cracks that used to be packed full of the cars and trucks of the workers.

The museum does have a lot of interesting things–memorabilia from Janis Joplin who grew up here, Karen Silkwood–ditto–a lot of football players and other sports and coaches—-and musicians. And then there is Rauschenberg who has an entire room devoted to his posters–quite nice many of them.

There was also a display of animal paintings–I was disapointed in their quality–the contest for the under 6 and up to 12 year old pieces were much more imaginative and full of life than the somewhat professionally done pieces.

Here are a few more photos of the day

A day amongst the Christmas trees in the Museum of East Texas


On a whim my dear friend Sherry and I decided to make a mad dash to Lufkin–in the mist and drizzle–to see Jeanelle and her stitched birds AND the Christmas trees on display in the museum. We were not disappointed. The trees were wonderfully creative and we each picked out our favorite tree as a symbol of ourselves–mine the tripod tree, Jeanelle the driftwood tree, Sherry the Granny Yount doll tree although she was strongly drawn to the lice tree–as a school nurse she had oodles of experience–and later on we found the sign for the Lice removal Association.

Then we went to Ray’s Drive in–a popular local spot which still has a drive-in service–we opted to eat inside. My catfish burger was hot and tasty–while the other two had more traditional burgers on gluten free buns. Then we decided a side trip to Froggy Fibers was in order as we had spied their tree at the Museum.—Bags of roving, tiny little birds and people all made from either needle felting or knitted. There were even some tiny knitting kits with toothpicks as the knitting needles and a bead glued to the end.

Then, as were driving right past Sharon’s place where she had all her fabric on 50% off–we just had to stop and enhance our fabric stashes.

Home in the drizzle and rain—but a fun day.

More photos at

A Texas sized Quilt Show


Attending the Annual International Quilt Festival in Houston is a must for those of us who live a mere 80 some miles away. The Festival has grown each year and is now the largest convention hosted in Houston Texas and is probably the reason why the George R Brown Convention Center keeps expanding and why there are two new hotels going up with skywalks.

It is always a busy time with so many vendors and new exciting products, classes on nearly every kind of sewing thing you can imagine and then there are the quilts themselves. It is a time to meet people you know just from the internet or from their work featured in magazines and to hang out with friends.

This year I took two classes to improve my long arm quilting skills, a class in making a sloper for clothing–although why I did this and then ordered a dress form is beyond my comprehension as I primarily dress in long sleeve Tshirts and jeans from Academy, and then a fun day making a small fiber collage.

My Holus Bolus group—yes that is a real word and you will have to look it up–met to exchange our row quilts–I got photos of three–just not the one I did or the one that is mine–and then we went out to dinner.

I also managed to squeeze in a visit to the MFA for the Degas retrospective–a fabulous HUGE show. And as always there is usually something else I see that is interesting and unexpected. This time it was several woven Indian blankets–Navajo—and then a silk embroidery piece from India–



A fun few days—and now back to work.

An Evening with the Arts

No photos of the artwork was allowed at this event–the Dishman gallery was packed full of people for the annual Faculty Showcase and a local photographer’s work featuring local bayous in Orange County.

My husband agreed to come with me–and wandered about politely inspecting the works and declared he liked the work by Linnis Blanton, a ceramics instructor. I always enjoy Linnis’ work as it expresses his joy in his medium with no angst or struggles to reach some ethereal level of ‘art’–pronounced with a prominent H!.

Another selection featured Kurt Dyrhaug’s new work involving 3-d printing with overlays of metal–an interesting process he explored this past summer in Germany.

Keith Carter worked with the French 1902 science fiction silent movie based on Jules Verne’s book–a favorite of mine—and colorized still images. He likes to do experimental work to present at this opening while continueing his ‘regular’ work in black and white.

Other work by remaining faculty was on display but other than the oversize charcoal drawings by C. Troutman–were not so impelling.

Then to the bayou photos—unfortunately the majority were out of focus or poorly exposed or perhaps over-photoshopped. They were indeed a disapointment as that area is rich in visual delights as you can see in my photos of Shangrila, a garden in the center of Orange—Texas that is.


Here is a link to that movie—

and to some of my photos of the bayou.


Beyond Crazy from the Heat


James Houston Evans has made a career of photographing Big Bend for the past thirty years or more. He had a commercial studio in Austin but moved to Marathon, and took a job as a cook at the Gage Hotel–knowing little or nothing about cooking. He spent his days off hiking in Big Bend.

He also worked for Keith Carter, a local photographer who teaches at Lamar University–and was one of my mentors during my master’s degree in Visual Art at same institution.

McFadden Ward House Museum hosted the event and their first ever art show. I don’t really have permission to post his photos here–the above photo is one of mine taken minutes before we were deluged in a rain storm. Here is his website;

We have been to Big Bend several times–the first time thinking we would be done with it in three days and ready to move on—but it fascinates us and we have been back many times. Although James Evans thinks living there lets him have a special knowledge of the place and the light over the mountains—but the familiar can soon become commonplace and new eyes may take a fresh new look at it all.


Here are more of my photos from Big Bend—taken at a time when I didn’t really sort through them and delete a lot–maybe that will be a project in my older age.




Samurai the Way of the Warrior

On Friday I had an appointment with the dermatologist in Houston and I always like to add a visit to a museum to the day. The day was dripping, chilly, and overcast, a great day to be indoors.

It had been a few months since I had been to the Museum of Natural Science; a new exhibit featuring the Samurai was on display.

I’m not sure if that link is active but it is easy enough to find under the exhibit section of the museum’s website.

In the late 1800’s early 1900’s, a man call Stibbert began to collect armor and war gear from around the world. Most places were happy to part with such relics but he put them all together in a museum in Florence Italy. If any of you recall the row of armor in one of the Batman movies–this is probably where it was shot.  But I digress.

The samurai armor and weaponry were carefully crafted to be light yet decorative. Lacquer was used along with many meters of silk ribbon to tie the pieces of leather or wood together. The helmets were fantastical creatures with fans and ogre faces and so forth. The horses they rode were Mongolian imported in the 4th century and controlled without reins–just body weight and legs. There were examples of their swords and bows–and two saddles, one inlaid with thousands of mother or pearl pieces.

Although I was allowed photography, no flash was allowed–so very dark photos. I took a few of the video which described the collecting process.

The workmanship of the pieces with the decorative embellishment was quite fascinating–and I wondered how the samurai dressed himself in all those pieces–and got up on the horse. Knights had helpers whose job it was to help them dress and mount–but there wasn’t a mention of a similar type person here.

It was a worthwhile exhibit; a lot of reading and I am surprised at the richness of decoration of the objects in view of the spare-ness of their artwork as noted on the scroll on display illustrating a battle.

This is from the video–which describes Stibberts collection and shows a few of the pieces.



Monet on the River

Today i dropped in at the MFA in Houston to see the newly hung show of a select group of paintings by Monet.

It has been up just two days and there were quite a few people there including several groups of school children armed with discussion sheets and pencils and a teacher/chaperone who cajoled them into looking at yet another grouping.

The show was grouped by area of the Seine River; Monet was from a shipping company and was in the family business as a youngster but left to become a painter. He spent some time in London and also in Paris but spent a great deal of time painting various spots along the Seine. The Seine freezes over in the winter and when the ice breaks up there are huge ice floes that crash into the riverbanks. Some parts of the Seine are quite placid enabling sailing regattas but Monet found the fleeting quickly turning boats too challenging to paint and so he concentrated on those tethered in the port.

Some of the paintings are quite dark with a very small palette of color; viridian green and gray; others are more typical of what we expect; soft pastels that shimmer. Most of the pieces are best seen at a distance of many feet; a challenge when there are people inspecting the paintings from only a foot or so away.

I ran out of time before I could look at the contemporary art display adjoining Monet’s but did manage to collect a few postcards==but none of my favorite one of two boats moored with the bows pointing at the viewer.

Lunch on the Lake

In an attempt to revive downtown Beaumont, there is now a very large and impressive skate board area, an immense playground built under the auspices of Rotary, and an Event Centre by a largish pond with a fountain rather reminiscent of sewage water purification. On Mondays, there is now an event called Lunch on the Lake. The Event Center broadcasts music, several food trucks show up and people are invited to bring their lunch or buy it and converse with one another at the tables set out underneath the awning.

I had long thought about attending but this week I was not working on Monday and made my way there after stopping at the Motor Vehicle Department for tags and the post office to send out some postcards.

Two trucks–Jamaican Cajun and Charlies Barbecue were there along with a snow-cone truck which was surprisingly not well attended despite the 100 plus temperature. There was a scattering of people and I was happy to take refuge under the awning-canopy. I watched one person walk around the lake; there are benches located on all sides of the center; a lot of parking and a lot of green space. The music came from a canned source; I would have preferred a more personal choice. On Thursday, there will be Jazz–hopefully it will be Dixie.


Glass and Graphite

Friday night was the opening reception for two new exhibits at the Dishman Gallery located on Lamar University Campus. The upstairs gallery featured glass pieces by Patrick Martin. The installation was not complete as there no labels on any of the pieces—which might have led to some understanding of the work. My overall impression was every day objects made in a large size coupled with chains or bullets. They were astonishingly well-made pieces but intent was confusing. The artist was there but engaged in conversation with several people who looked like they had fat wallets and were intrigued by what they saw.

The downstairs gallery was “Mark(ing) Time: Expanded Notions in Drawing. One piece was large flower shaped pieces of Mylar with outlines of pink that cascaded from the wall onto the floor; another consisted of a number of small pieces of wood with paper, sticks and string, and plaster mounted on the wall. There were several immense drawings on large sheets of paper that were tacked together almost like a stream of consciousness. One interesting piece contained both drawings and old photographs stuck on the edges in a montage-collage fashion. These were labeled but I was still mystified.

The Eisenhorn collection was open for inspection. This is a collection of assorted paintings and furnishings including a rug and invites a more intimate interaction. The paintings are rather small and dark but with very elaborate frames.

The hotel management class from the University provided the food–cheese, crackers, a beautiful fruit tray and some really great spinach dip made with a lot of cream cheese and garlic. It was probably the best part of the exhibit.