Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Music I'm Listening To: A Week of Music

I heard Midori in recital at the Green Music Center on April 23 and Hilary Hahn in recital at Davies Symphony Hall on the 26th. On the 29th, I'll be in San Francisco again to hear a concert conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado featuring Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9.

It's sad a name as big as Midori can't fill the Green Music Center. Filling the hall seems to have been a persistent problem since its opening, about four years ago. The first two seasons, I was delighted to subscribe to reasonably priced San Francisco Symphony concerts at the Center, but that program was abandoned—because the hall was usually no more than two-thirds full. Is Rohnert Park too far to drive if you live in San Francisco? I suppose people who live in San Francisco don't feel the need, no matter how good the sound, and it appears the native (Sonoma County) audience for classical music isn't big enough to support the venue unaided. I've heard it suggested that the Center hasn't been well enough advertised in San Francisco. Perhaps attendance will pick up if Bruno Ferrandis is replaced by a better, more charismatic conductor at the Santa Rosa Symphony (his contract runs out at the end of this season and will not be renewed).

At the Midori recital on the 23rd, I sat in the seats behind the stage for the first time. They are closer to the performer than I realized, but it's easy to forget how directional the sound projection of a violin is. I remember noticing sharp changes in dynamics at concerts by Kyung-wha Chung (who virtually dances while playing, frequently turning from side to side). Midori, mostly facing away from my vantage point, was sometimes hard to hear, especially during the opening piece, a Bach sonata for violin and piano that lacked impact. However, I very much enjoyed her performance of Schubert's C Major Fantasy for Piano and Violin (although it always seems a little longer than it needs to be) and her performance of the Brahms Piano and Violin Sonata No. 1, in G Major). Two pieces by Tchaikovsky rounded out the program—The Valse Sentimentale and the Valse-Scherzo. Midori also played an encore, a song by Grieg, as she told us in the lobby after the performance. She was accompanied on stage by pianist Özgur Aydin.

I've heard Hilary Hahn twice before in San Francisco, playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, with James Gaffigan conducting, and playing one of the Prokofieff concertos, with Osmo Vänskä conducting. I'd never heard her in recital before. It was an excellent opportunity to listen closely to the sound of her violin (according to the Wikipedia article on Hahn "an 1864 copy of Paganini's Cannone made by Vuillaume"), which seems particularly sweet in the mid-register and rather nicely balanced throughout its range, unlike some violins that seem to favor either the low or the high end.

The program was varied, earlier music in the first half, more modern music after intermission. It began with Mozart's Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano (Cory Smythe accompanying) followed by the Bach Sonata No. 3 in C major for Solo Violin. Hahn played the Bach absolutely purely, absolutely correctly—every note articulated and right where it was supposed to be—without sounding in the least cold or distant, somehow being  utterly confident and charismatically present yet almost transparent, the music seeming to flow through and out of her. Her performance was mesmerizing—probably the most convincing performance of one of the Bach solo violin pieces I've ever heard, its only possible rival in my experience being one by Itzhak Perlman I heard as a college student in the early 1980s in Columbus, Ohio. Hahn was deeply moving. The entire audience immediately rose to its feet after she finished and brought her back on stage to acknowledge the applause several times before letting her go and starting the mid-concert leg stretch. She wore a beautiful floor length skirt—black with embroidered metallic discs.

She was equally impressive in a selection from Anton Garcia Abril's Six Partitas for Solo Violin (which I'd like to hear more of), in the Copland Sonata for Violin and Piano that followed, and in Tina Davidson's Blue Curve of the Earth, which is one of the 27 pieces Hahn commissioned for her recording In 27 Pieces (Hahn played this as an encore at the May 25, 2012 concert with Osmo Vänskä that I attended, so I've heard her perform it twice now).

For an encore, Hahn played the world premiere, she said, of Catch, by Aaron Severini, one of the honorable mentions among the 400 or so pieces she received as entries in her encore competition. She spoke directly to the audience in introducing the piece. After the concert, signing autographs for the longest line of people I've ever seen at Davies Symphony Hall waiting for a signing, she kindly wrote the name of the piece in my program for me. She gives the impression of being an extremely gracious, down-to-Earth person. When I asked her to date the CD cover she signed for me, she didn't know what day it was. It must be hard to keep track sometimes when you travel as much as a touring performer does.

[Update: The concert on the 29th was wonderful. Heras-Casado was overflowing with energy and so was the music. The program included Dance Suite by Bartok, the world premiere of Auditorium, by Mason Bates, Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Symphony No. 9, by Shostakovich. ]

Photo of Midori courtesy of the Green Music Center website. Photo of Hilary Hahn courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony website.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 138 (Santa Rosa)

Another new collage, although the first I've done in a couple of weeks. This one was inspired by a piece of Japanese textile stencil I found at a rummage sale. I usually avoid found paper in my work, because I don't trust ephemera not to fade, discolor, or stain the other papers I use. Found papers often have too strong a personality of their own, drawing attention away from the abstract qualities of the composition, which, for me, always are primary.

I loved the color of the stencil, though—a deep maroon or oxblood with an ever-so-slightly iridescent effect when side-lit—impossible to reproduce photographically. I'm confident this paper will retain its qualities: it's already decades old, and these stencils, stained with persimmon tannin for water repellency, always seem to be this color or something close to it, thus stable.

Untitled Collage No. 138 (Santa Rosa), acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper (Japanese textile stencil), collage. Image size 23 x 27cm, matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed on dated on reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab here, or visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Serendipitous Art: Scratched Window

Although this looks like a piece of modern calligraphy, it's scratches on a window I saw somewhere in San Francisco not long ago. The window had been painted over. Looked like art to me. Unintended art, serendipitous art.

For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Book I'm Reading: Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

Much has been written about Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. I've read five or six biographies myself. This one—Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia (By Michael Korda, Harper, 2010)—is probably the best of those. It seems unusually well researched, it's fluidly written, and, perhaps most important, while it details Lawrence's time in the desert with the Arab Revolt, it presents a balanced picture of his life, devoting more space than usual to his childhood and also to his later days, after he attempted to retreat into anonymity as an airman in the budding RAF. In the first instance, Korda elucidates Lawrence's relationship with his religiously zealous mother in particular, in the latter, his uncanny ability to stay connected with and influence the most influential people in Britain even as an airman. His intellect was irresistible. Reading Hero, I'm left wanting to read Seven Pillars of Wisdom again.

Rain: Another Half Inch Overnight (April 21-22, 2016)

Rain has been in the forecast for today, Friday, for the past couple of days, but it started early, late on Thursday and it was enough to make a difference. I found 0.55 inches in the rain gauge this morning. It's still drizzling. So far that brings our total for the 2015–2016 rain year to 29.90 inches at my Santa Rosa location. That's still below normal (historically, almost 34 inches by this time of year), but the most rain we've had in three or four years.

[Update: It rained hard again later in the day. By the end of the 22nd we had had 0.90 inches of new rain, this 0.45 inches in addition to the amount reported above. So, the total at my location now stands at 30.35 inches for the 2015-2016 rain year. This may be the last significant rain of the year. If it is, we will end up about six inches below normal but still far ahead of the last couple of years. So, much better in the short term, but not real relief from the long-term drought.]

[Sudden rain again on the night of April 26-27 sounded impressive, but left on 0.05 inches in the rain gauge, raising the total to 30.40 inches.]

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 137 (Santa Rosa)

My most recent collage. This is Untitled Collage No. 137 (Santa Rosa). March 14, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. Image size 18.3 x 15.3cm. Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed and dated on the reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab here, or visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Rain: Unexpected Rain Overnight (April 14, 2016)

A sudden downpour woke me last night. I found 0.35 inches of new rain in the rain gauge this morning. Rain hadn't been in the forecast. This new precipitation raises our total for the 2015-2016 rain year to 29.35 inches at my northern Santa Rosa location. While that still leaves us below average, the very fact of appreciable rain this late in the season is a good thing.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 136 (Santa Rosa)

Following a comparatively large piece, I made another diminutive one. It measures 10.8 x 10.6cm, or roughly four inches square. This is Untitled Collage No. 136 (Santa Rosa). March 11, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. Matted to 11 x 14 inches. Signed and dated on the reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the "Art I'm Making" tab here, or visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Rain: April Showers (April 9, 2016)

More rain. It was beginning to look like rain was over for this year, but we've had a half inch of precipitation overnight and this morning. Before this new rain, our total for the 2015-2016 rain year stood at 28.25 inches at my north Santa Rosa location. The historical average for this date is 32.83 inches. Thus, we are still about 5 inches below normal, but the rain virtually stopped in January last season, so we are miles ahead, even if this is the last rain we get until autumn. Let it rain.

[Update: Further drizzle has left 0.75 inches in the rain gauge this morning (April 10). That brings our total for the current rain year to 29.00 inches at my Santa Rosa location.]

Friday, April 8, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 135 (Santa Rosa)

I've been doing collage work for almost three years now. In that time, I've never made a piece bigger than about 8 x 10 inches and my smallest pieces have been no more than about 2 inches on a side. This hasn't been by design. It's just happened that way. The monoprinted papers I use, seem to work best at a size that requires close examination.

I recently made a large piece, however,—or at least large for me. Untitled Collage No. 135 (Santa Rosa) is about 9 x 14 inches, although I can't measure it as I write this because it's in a show at the O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, in Mill Valley, through April 19. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper (automatic drawing fragment in archival markers made by a Doodlebot). February 25, 2016. Matted to 20 x 24 inches. Signed and dated on reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the "Art I'm Making" tab here, or visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Music I'm Listening To: Master Class with Cellist Zuill Bailey

Cellist Zuill Bailey, in Santa Rosa this week to perform with the Santa Rosa Symphony, gave a master class for string players of the Santa Rosa Symphony's Youth Orchestra and Young People's Chamber Orchestra on Monday, April 4. Bailey worked with three young cellists during the class, but I was deeply impressed by the broad applicability of the ideas he stressed. Much of what he said pertained to efficient and productive practicing—of any instrument.

He emphasized getting the structure of the music down solidly before attempting to make it your own, reflecting his view that really good music has most of its expressive qualities written into it and that the music and its audience  often are best served simply by faithfully playing what's written, paying attention to rhythm in particular. Several of his remarks drew laughter from the young cellists and the spectators, but he got an especially big laugh when he suggested you can easily save hundreds of dollars in music lessons simply by buying a good metronome and using it.

Bailey also pointed out that efficient practicing is essentially problem solving—that it's pointless aimlessly to run through pieces you're working on without a goal. He suggested always asking yourself what you aim to achieve before a practice session and he recommended focusing on the technically difficult passages or—and this seems very important—the passages that may not be technically difficult that you nevertheless have trouble with or feel uncomfortable about, whatever the reason.

He emphasized the importance of not just repeatedly trying to get these right without finding the cause of the problem. To do less, he said, is to repeatedly play the passage wrongly—thereby reinforcing the wrong way to play it rather than mastering the difficulty. He recommended always playing through these difficult or otherwise troublesome spots while practicing (not stopping in the middle of them) by at least two bars and, when going back to try again, always starting at least two bars before the trouble spot, to avoid creating the habit of stopping at these places or becoming unnecessarily apprehensive about their approach because, as he put it, "practice makes permanent." That is, practice reinforces both good and bad habits and eventually solidifies them.

Using this method, he suggested, clarifies problems, finds the right way to surmount them, and reinforces a relaxed overcoming of them while avoiding repeated frustration and repetition of mistakes and errors to no purpose. I very much wish my son, a clarinetist with the Youth Orchestra, had been able to see the class. Although Bailey spent a lot of time working with the young cellists on string-specific problems such as finding the most comfortable and solid fingerings, he said much that was applicable to anyone studying a musical instrument. It was a pleasure to hear him play and watch him teach. The almost instantaneous improvement he drew out of the performances of his pupils in the class was remarkable as well.




Sunday, April 3, 2016

Books I'm Reading: Arguing About Art

Arguing About Art, subtitled Contemporary Philosophical Debates (edited by Alex Neill and Aaron Ridley, Routledge, Second Edition, 2002), appears to be intended as a textbook, although I didn't know that when I acquired it. How and when this book found a place on my bookshelf now escapes me, but I liked the title. It's a series of paired essays of opposing viewpoints, each preceded by a summary that neatly captures the issues raised. Re-reading these introductory texts after reading the related essays helps retain the main points of each argument.

The subjects range widely. The first pair of essays attempts to decide whether food is art. The last section examines questions related to public art, specifically the installation and later removal of Richard Serra's sculpture Tilted Arc, in Washington D.C. (this section differs from the others in that it comprises four sub-sections rather than two—a transcript of hearings about the sculpture, the two main essays, and an essay that looks at the Serra sculpture alongside Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans' Memorial). In between, writers discuss authentic musical performance; fakes and forgeries; rock music and musical culture (this pair seems dated now); appreciation, understanding, and nature; photography and representation; feelings and fictions (about why we empathize with characters we know to be fictional); the seeming paradox of enjoying horror; sentimentality; art and morality; and feminism and aesthetics. I thought the essays on fakes and forgeries, on photography, on enjoying horror, on sentimentality, and on public art most interesting, but generally worth a read as an introduction to some basic questions in aesthetics.

The Cocktail Glass Collection: International Cocktail Lounge, San Francisco

I came across this neon cocktail glass sign yesterday in San Francisco, outside the International Cocktail Lounge, near the corner of Taylor and Columbus. Another addition to my growing collection. For more, use the "Cocktail Glass Collection" tab at right.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Art I'm Looking At: Lewis Bodecker—Paintings and Drawings on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi

New show opening soon on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi, downtown Cotati. Enigmatic Bay Area artist Lewis Bodecker (1926-2009). Abstract paintings and drawings. April 5 through May 29, 2016. Opening reception, Monday, April 11, 5:30PM to 7:30PM. Light refreshments served. This week is the last week to see work by Lisa Beerntsen and Deborah Salomon (closes April 3, 2016).

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Art I'm Making; Collage/Assemblage at O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley (March 31 - April 21, 2016)

I'm pleased to announce that two of my collages have been chosen for inclusion in the juried Collage/Assemblage show at O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, in Mill Valley. March 31 - April 21. Opening reception Tuesday, April 6 from 6:00 to 8:00PM. For information and directions, call (415) 388-4331.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Art I'm Making: My First Cyanotype Attempt--An Interesting Failure (March 20, 2016)

My first cyanotype attempt. An interesting failure. On the whole, though, better than I thought likely for a first try. The most obvious problem is the paper I used, which is too light and absorbent. It was looking blotchy already when I coated it with the cyanotype solution--although the finished image is much less obviously blotchy than the paper was when wet, after it had dried following the initial coating, or after exposure and during "development". The image itself is too contrasty. The highlights in the branch on the left are whiter than I want (the scan here is better than the original, with the bright whites softened). Still, this is in the ballpark.

The image shown here was made using the Bostick & Sullivan cyanotype kit, a traditional cyanotype formula. I used 90 drops of finished solution (45 drops each of parts A and B mixed) to coat an 11 x 14 inch sheet of paper. The exposure was about 8 minutes in late afternoon sunlight on March 19, 2016 (partly cloudy). The digital negative (printed on PictoricoPro transparency film, using the glossy photo setting on an Epson 3880 printer) was made from a color digital image converted to B&W that I then adjusted using a cyanotype curve I found online. I next converted the B&W image to orange by using Color Balance, in Photoshop, boosting the yellow and red sliders all the way up. I then flipped the image horizontally so that the image would be right way around when placed against the cyanotype paper with the printed side closest to the paper (flipped). With the rain, I'll be able to expose no more images today, but I may go to the art supply store to seek a better paper to work on. I'm also reading up on toning cyanotype prints with tea, which darkens the highlights a little and convert the bright Prussian blue of the cyanotype to a deeper, navy blue.

Rain: More Rain (March 20-21, 2016)

It started raining again on March 20, the rain continuing into the following day. By the end of the 21st,  we had 0.80 inches of new precipitation in the rain gauge, which brings the total for the 2015-2016 rain year to 29.10 inches at my location in northeast Santa Rosa. The historical average for Santa Rosa is a little over 36 inches.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Art I'm Making : Untitled Collage No. 134 (Santa Rosa)

And yet another collage from February, again using some recently made monoprinted papers mostly in warm tones.

This is Untitled Collage No. 134 (Santa Rosa). February 23, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. Image size: 16.1 x 18.0cm. Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed and dated on reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the "Art I'm Making" tab here, or visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Monday, March 14, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 133 (Santa Rosa)

A recent collage using some of the pink, brown, yellow, black, and white papers I monoprinted a few weeks back. This is Untitled Collage No. 133 (Santa Rosa). February 20, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. Image size: 20.0 x 26.0cm. Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed and dated on reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the "Art I'm Making" tab to the right, or visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Music I'm Listening To: Charles Dutoit Conducting the San Francisco Symphony, Nikolai Lugansky Soloist

Renowned Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit is serious and precise on the podium (I'm sure he accepts no nonsense) but behind the seriousness, he seems to have a healthy sense of humor. He usually has an impish half-smile on his face and an air of amiable unflappability before and after he works. He almost dances when he conducts, seeming not so much to coax as to command music from the performers, and, apparently, they can't help playing at their best when he's in charge. At Friday night's concert (March 11, 2016), he drew forth some of the best music I've heard in a long time anywhere. Dutoit is something of a magician. On the program were Ravel's Mother Goose, Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and, after intermission, Fauré's Pelléas et Mélisande Suite, and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite—a longer program than usual.

Mother Goose is rather amorphous, but it has a lot of color and interesting detail. It was well played and a good warm-up for the Rachmaninoff.

The  Rhapsody must be challenging. It frequently alternates long passages of notes that seem impossibly fast with strings of widely spaced single notes that mostly accent the orchestral part yet have to remain melodically coherent. Timing is critical to keep things together. Lugansky was nothing short of phenomenal, the orchestra behind him, equally superb. I can't imagine a better performance of this piece and have never heard a better one. Despite an enthusiastic standing ovation of several minutes, Lugansky declined to play an encore, suggesting with a gesture that his fingers weren't up to it. It was easy to forgive him. He had already done more than his duty.

Dutoit and the Symphony gave us more magic in the second half of the concert. I thought the Fauré particularly well done—lush and intense, but not overdone. Dutoit seems especially good at pushing boundaries of tempo and dynamics just enough to make familiar music exciting and fresh without going too far.

Photograph of Nikolai Lugansky by Marco Borggreve, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony website. Photograph of Charles Dutoit, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony Website.

Plants I'm Growing: First Blooms--Ceanothus, Rhododendrons, Michelia, Flowering Crabapple

In the past couple of weeks, a number of plants have come into bloom in the garden, including the large Julia Phelps Ceanothus outside the kitchen window; Michelia Yunnanensis, a magnolia relative native to China; our flowering crabapple tree; and the large white Rhododendron called "King George." The Ceanothus and the Michelia came into bloom on March 3, the crabapple on March 10, the Rhododendron on March 11.


Rain: Approaching Normal Levels (March 13, 2016)

More rain in the past two days (March 12-13) has added 1.30 inches to our total for the 2015-2016 rain year. So far, we have had 27.50 inches of rain at my Northeastern Santa Rosa location. Other locations are reporting slightly less than that, but the historical average for March 13 in Santa Rosa is 29.69 inches. This is the closest we've been to normal rainfall in several years. Although the rain this season hasn't been enough to make up the deficit from the past few droughty years, it's a good thing.

[Update: So far, as of 6:00PM on Sunday (March 13), we've had another 0.45 inches, but I'll update the total tomorrow morning, as it's still coming down.]

[Update: On the morning of Monday, March 14, the skies cleared. The forecast for the next few days is for sun, which will be a welcome break. That said, the precipitation has been good. The world is damp and green. A total of 0.75 inches accumulated since last reporting. That brings the total for the 2015-2016 rain year to 28.25 inches at my location--less than two inches below average.]

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Cocktail Glass Collection: Fred's Place, Mountain View

In Palo Alto recently, I drove by this custom neon cocktail glass sign in front of Fred's Place, on Middlefield Rd., technically in Mountain View, according to Google Maps.

For more neon cocktail signs, use the "Cocktail Glass Collection" tab to the right.

Rain: More Rain (March 9-10, 2016)

It rained fairly heavily through most of the night last night. This morning I found just over an inch of new rain in the rain gauge. That brings the total for the 2015-2016 rain year at my Northeastern Santa Rosa location to 24.25 inches--and it's still raining. We remain significantly below the historical average in Santa Rosa (28.99 inches for March 10), but we're catching up and every bit helps. Updates to follow, as it's still raining and the forecast is for rain through Sunday--potentially as much as three more inches. Now the threat of flooding looms....

[Update: AS of 3:00PM on March 11, we've had another 1.95 inches of rain. That brings the total to 26.20 inches at my location. This is the closest we've been to normal precipitation in several years. If rain continues as predicted, we may actually catch up.]

Serendipitous Art: Trash (March 9, 2016)

Trash on the street in San Francisco looked like art to me. Serendipitous art, unintended art.

For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 132 (Santa Rosa)

Another new collage—one of a group from the past few weeks using new papers I've made—mostly in yellows, browns, oranges, and pink—although I've made some all-black and all-white sheets as well, these variously tainted with other colors, an effect achieved by deliberately not washing the glass plate they were printed from.

February 17, 2016—Untitled Collage No. 132 (Santa Rosa), using monoprinted papers. Image size: 18.8 x 26.0cm. Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed and dated on the reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the "Art I'm Making" tab here to the right, or visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Rain: Heavy Rain Added 2.85 inches to our Total (March 5, 2016)

Heavy rain throughout the day on March 5 left 2.85 inches of new rain in the rain gauge the following morning--a very welcome addition. That brings the total at my location to 22.00 inches for the 2015-2016 rain year, which runs from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016. 28.36 inches is the historical average for March 6, so we are still more than 8 inches below normal, but a little more rain is forecast this week. Despite the deficit, we're better off than last year, I'd think, as it pretty much stopped raining completely last year at the end of January. The rain appears to have been fairly variable from place to place. Last time I checked, the official total for Santa Rosa was slightly higher than the total at my location, while the total reported at the website I look at to get the historical totals reports only 19.88 inches as of today. A variation of 1-2 inches even in an area as small as Santa Rosa is not unusual.

[Update: As of 9:30PM on the 6th, we'd had another 0.75 inches, bringing the total to 22.75 inches—and it's still raining.]

[Update: Drizzle and light rain has continued. By today, the morning of March 9, we've had another 0.50 inches of rain, bringing the total at my location to 23.25 inches.]

Friday, March 4, 2016

Art I'm Looking At: Art at Stanford

I recently spent a day at Stanford University. I went to see the Art-o-Mat® that's supposed to be on campus, but, despite two hours of looking—questioning telephone operators, librarians, and people in the art building and at the Cantor Arts Center—I had to give up. I imagine it's there somewhere, but apparently its exact location is a guarded secret. The Art-o-Mat website mentions "Residential Services." Their officers were closed. A subsequent phone enquiry so far has been ignored.

After giving up, I went into the Cantor Arts Center thinking I'd look at the permanent collection quickly,  but immediately I got sidetracked by a show of mannerists prints. Prints and paintings of this period usually aren't my sort of thing—but I was quickly drawn into the show (Myth, Allegory, and Faith) and ended up seeing it all, in detail.

Detail is the right word. Myth, Allegory, and Faith includes Etchings, woodcuts, chiaroscuro woodcuts, and engravings, but most of the prints on show were the latter—and engravings often of astonishing precision. Magnifying glasses, tethered to the walls, were provided to facilitate seeing the finest of lines, a nice touch. It's hard to imagine the time and effort required to produce this kind of work. I enjoyed nearly every piece there was to see, but favorites included: David Beheading Goliath (1540), an engraving by Giovanni Battista Scultori (1503-1575), shown below; Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Grows Cold (1600), by Jan Saenredam (Dutch, 1565-1607), shown left; Saturn (c. 1540, printed 1604), a four-block chiaroscuro woodcut by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino (Italian, active 1540s), after Pordenone; Neptune and Thetis (after 1551 to 1580), an engraving by René Boyvin (French, 1530-1598) after Léonard Thiry; The Three Fates (1538-1540), an engraving by Pierre Milan (French, active 1540 to around 1557); The Rest on the Return from Egypt (1575), an engraving by Cornelis Cort (Dutch, 1533 to before 1578), after Federico Barocci; and Venus and Cupid (1505-1536), an etching by Daniel Hopfer (German, 1470-1536), among many others. The luminous quality achieved in the engravings in particular was startling. Nearly every print included the human form—notoriously difficult to capture accurately in any medium, particularly when foreshortened. These artists have succeeded, using overlapping engraved lines that in some instances wrap themselves around contours with such natural grace and rightness that they beggar belief. Well worth the time. Through June 20, 2016.


I also saw an interesting group of drawings of the Battle of The Little Bighorn by one of its participants, one Chief Red Horse of the Minneconjou Lakota Sioux, who fought against Custer there, and a small (one-room) exhibition called Speed and Power, a rather disparate grouping of photographs from the Cantor Art Center's permanent collection. While the theme seemed a little forced, there were a few gems among them. I particularly enjoyed Mechanical Form 003 (2004) by Hiroshi Sugimoto (1948- ), shown here, and Satiric Dancer (1926), by André Kertész (1894-1985).

I had intended to look at the new Hopper and the Diebenkorn sketchbooks again at the Cantor Arts Center, but, with time running short and having seen them back in December, I headed next door to The Anderson Collection, in a low, modern building that looks closed even when it's not. I wanted to get a taste of the place to see if it was worth coming back to for a more leisurely look. Worth it? Yes.

The building (itself very interesting) houses only a portion of the personal collection of the Andersons (whoever they are—I didn't have time to find out*), who must be in the upper 1% of the 1%. Frankenthaler, Motherwell, Diebenkorn, Pollock, Guston, De Kooning, Nevelson, Rothko, Morris Louis, Wayne Thiebaud—many more. Just what's on display here would make a very fine museum of post-war modern art for a fairly large city, yet this is only one part of a much larger collection in the possession of a single family. I particularly enjoyed a black Louise Nevelson sculpture positioned directly across a passageway from a large set of black metal elevator doors—creating a pair of bookends—with an uncharacteristically dull De Kooning visible between them (the De Kooning one of the very few duds in the place.) Definitely worth another visit. Below is Wall Painting No. IV (1954), by Robert Motherwell (1915-1991).


*Following my visit, I looked at the website for The Anderson Collection.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rain: A Little More Rain (February 3, 2016)

A little rain last night and today, mostly just drizzle, has added 0.25 inches of rain to our 2015-2016 precipitation total. More rain is on the way. So far, we stand at 19.15 inches at my location.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 131 (Santa Rosa)

Another new collage—one of a group I've made rapidly in the past two weeks , inspired by new papers I've made—mostly in yellow, brown, orange, and pink, but I've made some all-black and all-white sheets as well. This piece, more about form than color, uses the black sheets almost exclusively.

February 16, 2016Untitled Collage No. 131 (Santa Rosa), using monoprinted papers. Image size: 10.8 x 19.5cm. Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed and dated on the reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/
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