Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


Prisoner Ai Weiwei…

The art that drew us to Alcatraz…an exhibition of the work of the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei.IMG_7860

From the catalog: “At first blush, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, a major exhibition that pairs a politically charged Chinese contemporary artist with a landmark American national park, seems just as incongruous. Ai, a superstar in the international art world who helped design the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is currently forbidden by the authorities to leave China. Alcatraz—over the years the site of a Civil War-era fortress, a military prison, a notorious federal penitentiary, and a momentous Native American rights protest—is now a popular national park site and refuge for waterbirds. But it is exactly the pairing’s intrinsic conditions of contradiction that bring the two parts together-and make for the possibility of soul-stirring art.”

After arriving at the dock, we walked up to the New Industries Building which was originally a laundry and manufacturing facility.

“Both delicate and fearsome, the traditional Chinese dragon kite embodies a mythical symbol of power. Ai Weiwei unfurls a spectacular contemporary version of this age-old art form inside the New Industries Building: a sculptural installation with an enormous dragon’s head and a body made up of smaller kites. The sparrow-shaped and hexagonal kites scattered throughout the room feature stylized renderings of birds and flowers—natural forms that allude to a stark human reality: many are symbols of nations with serious records of restricting their citizens’ rights and civil liberties. The work references some thirty countries, including Cameroon, China, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan.

…By confining the work inside a building once used for prison labor, the artist suggests powerful contradictions between freedom and restriction, creativity and repression, cultural pride and national shame. He also offers a poetic response to the multi-layered nature of Alcatraz as a former penitentiary that is now an important bird habitat and a site of thriving gardens.”

With Wind (Installation, 2014. Handmade kites made of paper, silk, and bamboo)


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Somebody I know was looking for birds out those windows and admiring the view to the Golden Gate…



In the next large room:


Trace (Installation, 2014. LEGO plastic building blocks)

“The viewer is confronted with a field of colorful images laid out flat across the expansive floor: portraits of over 170 people from around the world who have been imprisoned or exiled due to their beliefs or affiliations, most of whom were still incarcerated as of June 2014.”

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“From the New Industries Building’s lower gun gallery, where armed guards once monitored prisoners at work, visitors peer through cracked and rusted windows to glimpse an enormous, multifaceted metal wing on the floor below. Its design is based on close observation of the structure of real bird’s wings, but in place of feathers, the artwork bristles with reflective metal panels originally used on Tibetan solar cookers…this piece uses imagery of flight to evoke the tension between freedom—be it physical, political, or creative—and confinement.

Refraction (Installation, 2014. Tibetan solar panels, steel)

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We walked through lush gardens up to the Cellhouse.

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Inside was Blossom (Installation, 2014, Porcelain, hospital fixtures)

Fixtures in hospital ward cells and medical offices are transformed into fantastical, fragile porcelain bouquets.

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There were other parts to the exhibit inside but it was time for use to go look for birds in earnest…

Now I have run out of episodes with titles I can use the word “prisoner” in, so now I must bring this chapter to a close…


Prisoner of paper…


I was so taken with our day on Alcatraz, I decided to make a book…what else could I do? This is a nice, simple structure I have wanted to try. I had a sheet of Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. paper on hand so the idea stuck and I was imprisoned by it until the book was completed.

Here is the structure.

I tore 5 pieces of paper 6″ x 12″ out of a big sheet of the Fabriano paper. (I have found if you fold and crease the paper three times, back and forth, it tears quite beautifully and cleanly.)



Three inches from each side (long way) I scored and folded a flap…


On the outside I put double-stick tape and stuck the flaps back to back. (This means there was a single 3″ flap, a 6″square, and a double 3″ flap until I had a long line of the pages attached together.


So that the book closes as a 6″ square, I folded the first 3″ flap over the first 6″ square and then folded the next double flap around to the back and continued as it folded into a book shape.


I decorated a 6th piece of paper with water-color and pen. (This piece was slightly longer, 12 1/4″, since it had to wrap around the very thick Fabriano paper and even then it didn’t quite meet in the middle. Mathematically it should have, but when it is Lois, the not-quite-precise, one just has to say “oh, that is the way I wanted it” and keep going…

The inside of the cover’s left-hand flap is attached to the outside of the first flap of the inner pages and the right-hand flap inside is attached to the outside of the last page. Both outside flaps meet on the front and are connected with a closure.


I printed out the pictures I liked from our day on Alcatraz 5″ x 5″ onto presentation paper from Office Depot (it is a nice, matte, two-sided paper that is not as expensive as photo paper. The images are very clear and I use and like it a lot for printing with my inkjet printer.) Photos that were of textures I cut in half and attached to the 3″ flaps, leaving 5 of the 5″ x 5″ prints to be centered on the 6″ pages.

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Oh, and a little silver-striped washi tape because I just can’t help myself…



Farewell, little friend…

Silver Bracelet…

November 3, 2012 4 Comments

I spend my days with my black pup. When she was young and could really be classed as a puppy, I found a silver bracelet that says, “Life should be as good as your dog makes you feel.”



She follows me everywhere in hopes of dropped crumbs or anticipation of earning a treat. She monitors my path in the house hoping I am moving toward the kitchen.
A sound outside will necessitate a patrol of the perimeter of the property. With nose skyward, so the sound carries to threatening ears, the rapid and loud barking clears the area of cats, deer, and other two and four legged creatures.
Safe, she keeps me safe, my constant, hard working companion.
My retirement days are based on her time clock. Up at dawn for breakfast; morning walk; when is dinner? MY rules or you will be pestered until you succumb. Sentry duty until someone returns home. Everything safe and secure and it only costs one cookie-treat. Her eyes say, “You can’t possibly like that cat better than me. I am more loyal.”
Friend, partner…and life is good, together. She gets greyer and I get greyer. Both of us get more hard of hearing. We won’t lose our voices, though, her barking while I paint. Onward…
Life IS as good as my dog makes me feel…


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I am re-posting a post from a few years ago when little dogs were strong and age had not caught up with them. I am too sad to write something new and besides I only want to remember when she was healthy and spry…the little girl that kept me company while my kids moved out to be independent adults and I retired and was forced to make my own structure everyday. She was the best companion and ever a friend. We are missing her horribly…



Prisoner of Alcatraz…


Wednesday morning, 8:00 a.m., we left for San Francisco so we could catch  a 10:00 a.m. ferry to Alcatraz Island.

When I think back on this year since last October, it has been a year filled with more ferries, water taxis, vaporettos, and water conveyances than all of my sixty-six years before that. Last October it started in Venice and went to Lake Maggiore in July. Now it has come to San Francisco Bay (actually twice this year, because we took a ferry to a San Francisco Giants game in August…Go Giants, by the way!). At 8:00 in the morning, traffic is a bear, but since it was Wednesday and not in the summer, parking was easy and directly across the street. Plus, the island did not get very crowded during our time on the rock. As we proceeded on our cruise we certainly hoped that Alcatraz would not have us licked.

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It was a beautiful day with great views of the Bay Bridge on the way over to the island.


Our approach to the dock included water towers, guard towers, and a view of the prison…

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This island is frequented by many bird varieties…


The Officer’s Club has deteriorated but makes for some interesting photographs…


The Quartermaster Warehouse and the power plant…

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Apartments for the guards…

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The Warden’s residence next to the prison and lighthouse viewed from the Parade Grounds…


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The water tower still has remnants of the American Indian Occupation…


A great view of the Golden Gate with Hawk Hill on the right, across the Bay…


The San Francisco skyline…

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We toured the cell block and that put us on a higher level to get closer views of the Warden’s Residence and the lighthouse…

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We walked through the exercise yard and were impressed with the view the guards must have had while they supervised…

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We wandered back to the dock through the Agave Trail and had our picnic before boarding the ferry to go back to the city.

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We were allowed to escape from Alcatraz…


There was a model at the ferry landing of what Alcatraz looked like before the buildings started to crumble…



Prisoner of texture…


In most cases I would show you the buildings of the place I visited and then the world-class art displayed in the venue. This time, however, I was so struck by the textures I kept seeing that I will delay showing you the other until the textures are thoroughly digested and absorbed. Last Wednesday we spent the beautiful, clear day traveling to Alcatraz Island (we have lived near it for twenty-eight years and had never been). It was a great day of walking and exploring, and we totally loved the environment, the view, and the art.

In these shots you catch a glimpse of a little of the Ai Weiwei art displayed, but really these are just to celebrate age, patina, and the ravages of time…

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After a few detours, I am back to describing our trip to Switzerland last July. I broke off after describing the Zentrum Paul Klee building designed by Renzo Piano. I would be remiss not to mention a bit of Paul Klee’s art, also.

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The show we saw at the museum emphasized how Klee began in his youth making naturalistic sketches of nature and architecture but eventually moved from the external surface to the “inner composition of plants and buildings.”  From the catalog: “he constructed floating forms and soaring cities, or took central perspective to the limit. This exhibition from the collection shows how nature and architecture helped the artist Paul Klee to discover organic models and develop an abstract formal language.”


An early sketchbook showing a central perspective view…


1895, Untitled (Gothic arch and plants) Watercolor and pencil

1895, Untitled (Gothic arch and plants)
Watercolor and pencil

1912, Sketch of Paris Quill and pencil

1912, Sketch of Paris
Quill and pencil

1922, Red Violet x Yellow-Green graduated Watercolor and pencil

1922, Red Violet x Yellow-Green graduated
Watercolor and pencil

1940, Suburban Evening Wax crayon with undercoating

1940, Suburban Evening
Wax crayon with under coating

The walls of the exhibit space contained quotations from Klee at various stages of his life. (He lived from 1879-1940.)

“Everywhere all I see is architecture, line rhythms, plane rhythms.”  1902

“Like the human being, the painting has a skeleton, muscles and skin. One can speak of a specific anatomy of the picture. […] First of all one constructs a scaffolding of the painting that is to be built.”   1908

“Reduction! One wants to say more than nature and makes the impossible mistake of wanting to say it with more means than she rather than with fewer means.”  1908

“Wednesday, 8 April, Tunis. My head is full of the impressions of last night’s walk. Art/Nature/Self. Went to work at once and painted in water-colour in the Arab quarter. Began the synthesis of urban architecture and pictorial architecture.”  1914

“In Italy I understood the architectural in visual art—I was standing right beside abstract art—today I would say, the constructive. The nearest and at the same time the furthest goal will now be to bring architectural and poetical painting in unison or at least into harmony.”  1920

The paintings nearby emphasized what he was articulating.

1930, Mouth of the Cave Watercolor and charcoal

1930, Mouth of the Cave
Watercolor and charcoal

There were also these wonderful houses…

1935, Portrait of a House Watercolor and charcoal

1935, Portrait of a House
Watercolor and charcoal

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1940, Yellow House I Watercolor and paste

1940, Yellow House I
Watercolor and paste

1922, The dart house Oil, watercolor, pencil, quill

1922, The dart house
Oil, watercolor, pencil, quill

1932, Small town among the rocks Oil

1932, Small town among the rocks

Klee was born near Bern and at first did not know whether to become a musician or a painter. In 1901 a trip to Italy greatly impacted him. By 1912 he had become a member of the Blue Rider group. There was a 1914 trip to Tunisia, where he underwent an artistic breakout to color and abstraction. He was drafted into the German army during World War I. He started teaching at the Bauhaus in 1921 and his work was shown in the first Surrealist exhibition in 1925. By 1933 he was suspended from teaching by the Nazis and he moved back to Switzerland (Bern). In 1937 his work was seized by the Nazis and fifteen were hung in the “Degenerated Art” exhibition by the Nazis. He died in Switzerland in 1940.

Paul Klee’s  journey as an artist…


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Tuesday morning, early…

Just because we can (two retired people), we decided to take advantage of the monthly Members Day at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. With eyes barely open we hopped in the car to brave early morning commute traffic to take advantage of special activities just for members. (The best part about it is that you get in early and there are no lines where usually the lines are quite long.) That day we wanted to see the feeding of an anaconda at 8:45 Unfortunately, the traffic did keep us from watching but by the time we got there ten minutes later, he was still cuddling his rabbit.


We wandered the aquarium until time for our next member’s activity. I felt I was being watched the entire time (and it wasn’t by the guards).

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Then it was a preview for members of the new Terrace Restaurant that would open in a few days. This meant FREE FOOD, and being San Francisco…high style free food. Oh, yum, chacuterie with duck rillettes (who does that!), cheeses and sliced meats with artisan mustards. Plus…


San Francisco cioppino with crab…


A few moments to wander the rainforest where the birds and butterflies were very active…

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Hope springs eternal that on some visit I will catch a picture of this Blue Morpho butterfly, but once again this time I could see them fluttering around but none would light in a convenient place for my little iPhone. I had to rely on the display picture…

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Then we participated in a “behind the scenes” tour and got to see where the thousands of specimens are stored. The theme of the tour was how photography is used in studying science and at the end they had specimens set up so that we and about 10 kids could try our hand at photographing specimens.

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It pays to be a member!


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