Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Usual Haunts

A spooky stoop 
A rose blooms in October

Isamu Noguchi: "Age"
This was my first visit to the Noguchi installation at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  (I'd previously seen his studio in Queens.)
I caught a bit of the curator's talk; they apparently gave a lot of thought to the placement of the sculptures in the garden.  In some locations, guards were stationed nearby to discourage physical contact.  This was not the case for "Age," which was set back far from the path.  Of course, it was far more difficult to make out any details of the sculpture here, distant in the shadows, than in a well-lit gallery where it would be protected from the elements.  

"Bird Song"

I found "Bird Song" a bit underwhelming and easy to miss from a distance.  Even close up, from some angles, it looks more like fish than birds.  And from other angles, it looks more like a tree without particular ornamentation.

But at the curator's suggestion, I lay down next to it and looked up.  That was pretty cool.

And at just the right distance and angle, you can see a bird shape resting on the trees.

Two praying mantises

egg sac

One of the real highlights of the tour for me was the praying mantises on a bench in the native flora garden.  Apparently this is their usual hang-out spot.

They were not at all alarmed by the paparazzi and various onlookers - we were quite a crowd, pointing and leaning in.  And indeed they were still there after we'd moved on and I doubled back.


Roses & Foliage


Roses & Foliage II

"Magritte Stone"



crab apple

Leia Organa & Co.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Weekend Getaway

The gang had just returned from a three-day tour of some local theme parks when they picked me up from the airport, and the girls were bubbling over with enthusiasm.  It was fun to hear all the details, to see what had really caught their fancy.  

In addition to the usual complement of pelicans et al., we were treated to some visiting dignitaries.

A single woodpecker with a brilliant red crest took up residence on a palm tree, and we were able to take a few photos before it got a bit spooked.

But its courage soon returned on the wings of a friend, so to speak.  Safety in numbers, or some such.

A pair of woodpeckers flanked by pelicans

Moon over the Bailey Tract - once again, we did not see any bobcats
A rare sign of life on Wildlife Drive 

The other new visitor - or rather, visitors - of an evening were dragonflies.  Not the cute little Tinkerbell type, either, mind you, but built more along the lines of Chinooks for ruggedness.  They filled the air.

Huge dragonflies swarmed like a battalion of helicopters

All those specks in the sky? Dragonflies.
We mostly took it easy over the course of the weekend - went swimming, played Ticket to Ride, read "Hound of the Baskervilles," practiced playing bridge, and feasted on wonderful homemade meals.

The waters are very high now, even at low tide, and we'd seen practically nothing but ibises (and few enough of those) during our earlier drive through the refuge, but on the morning of my last day I thought we should go back once more to visit the Indigo Trail.

There was not much to see, initially.  There were some strange tracks across the path right by the entrance, and we tried to convince ourselves they were the marks of an alligator's tail, rather than lines drawn by kids with sticks.  We saw a few ibises flapping around near the observatory.  Then we crossed the bridge, and down to the right was - an alligator!  A fair sized one, not too hidden in the brush!

So that was cool.  Even though the gator was moderately close, we took turns with the binoculars to see the details close up.  It stayed quite still, except for the occasional eyelid blink, and the opening and closing of its nostrils into straight lines.
We watched it blink its eyes - an inner and outer eyelid - and examined its pearly whites

Down this waterway, as usual,
we saw two anhingas
We retraced our steps and turned the corner to head back to the start and saw - another alligator!  This one was even closer (maybe 3 or 4 yards away), in shallow water, with no fence between us.  It was seemingly smaller and younger than the first; my dad estimated it at about five feet.  Its head was out of the water, and it was watching us.

We took quite a few photographs here, staying respectfully and warily on the path.  We were a little nervous at how close it was.  Apparently, the gator was also nervous, for it suddenly lunged a few inches toward us with a fierce growl, then retreated to the reeds.  (I hadn't known alligators could growl - it was a little intimidating.)

A much safer location.  No one can see you there!!!
We walked back up onto the bridge for better viewing in its new location, and (while we were there) also checked out the first gator again.  It had moved almost 90 degrees from its original position and was now pointing away from us.

So we relished these views from the safety of the bridge and went back to the path, feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

And then something small, dark and furry darted across the path!

A river otter dashed down to the water on the left, but then came out again and cavorted on the bank amid the shrubbery as we watched from the trail.  The girls were thrilled!!!  (As we were all - this was only my third time seeing river otters in the wild.)

This otter was much darker than the others I'd seen, and perhaps a bit larger as well. It looked almost cat-like when it stood and hunched its back.

So this was a truly phenomenal way to end a lovely celebratory weekend with family.  (Oh, and we managed to reach the conclusion of the Holmes story as well - though we had to circle once around the airport to do it.  Luckily we still arrived in plenty of time.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I managed to clock in more than ten miles yesterday, just wandering around Brooklyn to do errands, attend an art studio open house, and stroll around the park.

It was the Gowanus Open Studios weekend, and I wanted to see the Donato Giancola exhibit.  He'd thrown his home and studio open to the public, and it was really cool to see some of his kids' drawings on the walls along with his own.  (Theirs usually in the medium of crayon on paper, and dedicated to Daddy.)  At the suggestion of one of  my fellow Mythgardians, I started at his official studio on the top floor, and worked my way down.  I quickly spotted Tolkien themes - including a lovely gem of a painting of the One Ring (we wants it, yessss, my preciousss, but it was not for sale) - and soon realized (by looking at the titles) that the vast majority indeed related to Tolkien or Game of Thrones. In the studio itself, one very striking painting with swirls around two figures looked somewhat familiar; it was the cover artwork for Shattered Pillars, by Elizabeth Bear.  The artist bio he provided for Gowanus Open Studios 2015 states:
Since graduating summa cum laude in painting from Syracuse University, Donato's paintings have graced the covers of over three hundred novels and landed him numerous peer honors including three Hugo Awards, three Gold and six Silver Medals fromSpectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, the prestigious Hamilton King Award from the Society of Illustrators, and twenty Chesley Awards from the World Science Fiction Society.  Notable clients include: The United Nations, LucasFilm, National Geographic, CNN, DC Comics, US Postal Service, Ballantine Books, Simon & Schuster, Tor Books, Milton-Bradley, and Hasbro.  Donato recognizes the significant cultural role played by art and makes personal efforts to contribute to the expansion and appreciation of genre works; to these ends he serves as an instructor at the School of Visual Arts, the online SmArt School, and lectures extensively at conventions, seminars and universities worldwide.  His current projects include themed works for exhibition, projects on 'The Lord of the Rings',and ongoing commissioned assignments.
The works are really amazing.  Unfortunately, the ones I could actually imagine hanging on my own walls were not marked for sale.  This one, visible as one descends to the main floor, was probably my favorite:

(Yes, I have a soft spot for beautiful surrealistic paintings.)

After that, I stumbled across the joint exhibit of Abby Goldstein, Amy Stienbarger, Devin Dougherty, Michael Koehler, and Sasha Chavchavadze at 110 Nevins St.

I really liked Devin Dougherty's vases accompanied by shadow-like paintings on brown paper which echoed the design of each vase:

There were also some lovely cream-colored ceramic cups, with beautifully rendered line drawings of insects.  Beautiful - but I'd want to live in a place with absolutely perfect pest control before drinking from them!  

My favorites were the Abby Goldstein map-like drawings, especially RGBY:

There was something I found so evocative about the gradations of color and the central blackness - a sort of ambivalence between foreground and background.  As if I couldn't decide whether this was a hole in the map showing something dark behind; or a darkness growing to overtake the landscape; or even, conceivably, a wound in the landscape which might be starting to heal.  

We stop for morning glories

Safety town!

More trees grown in Brooklyn, on rooftops

Ye Olde Hat Shoppe

After this, I went for a walk around Prospect Park, and finished off the day by joining some friends to see "Allegiance," the new Takei musical about ... the American internment camps for individuals of Japanese descent during WWII.  It was a little explain-y at times, as if they were trying to make sure we understood the issues and dynamics of the situation,  but it was well done, nonetheless, overall -- and not as one-sided or grim as I'd expected.  (Indeed, there were several rather upbeat numbers.)  I did predict the little twist at the end (about 3-5 minutes before it happened), but I still had to wipe away tears.  

All in all, a good day.