Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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Georgetown Garden of Tudor Place

We set off in search of Dumbarten Oaks but before we got there came across the garden at the Tudor Place on 31st Street NW. Originally opened by a granddaughter of Martha Washington. We only had time for walking the gardens rather than the guided tour of the house, but in between showers, it was beautiful. The house was built in 1815 and includes 5 1/2 acres of land. It remained in the hands of the same family until 1983. The plants are being accessioned into the museum holdings as a living collection. I loved the outdoor rooms (walked through but couldn’t sit down because everything was wet. Here are some highlights:

A gate like that would be welcoming…

The store had fascinators so you can outfit yourself for a royal wedding!

Old trees, formal beds…

Places to sit (they recently lost all their fish in the ponds because they do not know how to hide). Along with the formal parts there is also a dell

(And mosquitos…)

Love the boy and his dolphin…

My favorite plants…

And historic restored cold frames to grow them…

It was a beautiful stroll through history (I have a feeling I am going to be saying that a lot this week.


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A confection…

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Gaudí was not the only one. There was also Lluís Domènech i Montaner one of his contemporaries and a professor at the architecture school in Barcelona for forty-five years. He was also a politician prominent in the Catalan autonomist movement. Montaner’s concert hall design is quite amazing.

The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall designed in the Catalan modernista style. It was built between 1905 and 1908 for the Orfeó Català, a choral society founded in 1891 that was a leading force in the Catalan cultural movement that came to be known as the Renaixença (Catalan Rebirth). Between 1982 and 1989, the building underwent extensive restoration, remodeling, and extension. In 1997, the Palau de la Música Catalana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, more than half a million people a year attend musical performances in the Palau that range from symphonic and chamber music to jazz and Cançó (Catalan song).

A red brick and iron structure, it is cramped in with its neighbors but has so much to look at I stood in front of it and gaped…

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Famous musicians connected to the choral society are depicted at the top of the pillars.

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The front has the original ticket booths that no longer function, and mosaic everywhere.

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The sculpture on the corner of the building was created by Miguel Blay and is called The Catalan Song. His signature can be found if you look hard enough.

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The new entrance is around the side of the building where we went to meet up with our tour of the interior…

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Dressing rooms, a library, and practice rooms are located in the new tower.

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New pillars carrying the spirit of the old.

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Our tour took us up to a second floor salon just off of the balcony with the exterior pillars which currently had an exhibit of Miró sculptures (I will show you that in the next post).

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Mosaics in the building were by Lluís Brú; ceramics by Josep Orriols; stained glass by Rigalt í Granell; cement tiles by Escofet; and sculptures by Miguel Blay, Eusebí Arnau and Pau Gargallo.

I took so many photos of this building…pattern, pattern, pattern…I did get a little exuberant with my iPhone out on that balcony with all the mosaic pillars…exuberance begets exuberance…so I am going to break it into multiple posts. Watch this space!


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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…

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In the next large room:

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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…


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October Bird Walk…

First Saturday in October we were on a bird walk for Terry’s master birding class. As luck would have it, the trip was to his old stomping grounds, Fort Chronkite and Hawk Hill in the Golden Gate National Seashore. Because of his involvement with the banding of hawks with GGRO we have been to this area many times and I have posted pictures from here often over the years. The difference this day was that it was 90° and crystal clear…no fabled San Francisco Fog to be seen. The first time I had seen this landscape with this bright light…

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The birders got to work…

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Some birds were particularly cooperative…

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After investigating Rodeo Lagoon and the headquarters buildings we ventured up to Hawk Hill…

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The blue patch on the right is Rodeo Lagoon from above…

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and we could see out to Lands End (I have posted pictures of those same rocks from a different angle here…)

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There was a lot of boat activity this day…

and raptor activity…

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I, however, started looking for shady spots to get out of the sun…no lack of antique battlements here…

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and no lack of killer views of the Golden Gate…

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This is possibly the best picnic spot in the Bay Area…or maybe the best picnic…I saw the food they brought in as they passed me on the path…

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The money shot…Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Yerba Buena Island with the Bay Bridge and Oakland behind it all…! On a clear day you really can see forever…

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Stairway to the stars…

After having such a fun Thursday, I am compelled to detour away from my tales of Switzerland just a little bit more. It is no secret that I have a passion for tile (in particular Heath), so when an opportunity came to visit San Francisco with a group of retired teachers from the school where I taught before going to Moraga’s JMIS, I was very excited. My heart skips anytime there are mosaics around. We started the morning by traveling to the Flora Grubb Gardens Nursery. Lots of inspiration there and it was well worth the trip as a prelude to what was to come. (They even have a coffee bar…can’t ask for anything more!) Loved this old car planted fully making itself into a garden ornament. Emphasizing the rule that anything can be a container…

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Then we drove to the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood. This is in the Inner Sunset District and at 16th Street and Moraga Street are the steps. These 163 panels are of a sea to sky theme all the way up to the top. They are constructed with Heath Tile, handmade tile, mirrored tile and since it is a neighborhood supported project there are dedications, remembrances, and names of people and businesses from the neighborhood. The mosaic was completed in 2005 by Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher. The stairs are used for exercise and tourists come to photograph them. They are well used by the residents. We were there at around noon with full sun making photography tricky (I have mentioned before the difficulty taking photos with an iPhone with bright light and glare. There was also the factor that some areas were in sun and some were in shade.) Despite the handicaps, it was fun to photograph this artful reflection of a community.

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This woman ran up and down the stairs four times before our group had made it to the top once. Her feat was very impressive!

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I did love the use of the mirror tile…

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And then we were at the top…if you squint you can see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge…

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After walking down again, we went over to the Hidden Garden Steps located on 16th between Kirkham and Lawton. These steps were approached from the top and we walked down each flight to look back up for the impact. (It was definitely an impact!) These steps were dedicated in 2013. Once again you could purchase a tile to have your name on it or a business could purchase an entire motif such as a flower. (Here are photographs of how the artists plotted out the designs.) My pictures are from the top working down.

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Luckily for us, one of our group members was Susan Dannenfelser, a ceramic artist, who knows the artists who created the mosaics.  Aileen Barr met us and guided us around her work. This is Aileen resting on her artwork (or is that resting on her laurels…I think there probably are some laurels in this garden!)

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Came home from this field trip pumped up and ready to create…thanks Del Rey Rovers for the great day!!


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Bern, three…

There is one other fountain that I must mention…it was created by an artist named Meret Oppenheim, 1913-1985. She was a Swiss artist who gained early fame creating an iconic image that defined Surrealism. She created this tea-cup and saucer in 1936 but then drifted away from the Surrealists in her later career. She was young, 23, at the time she created the object. Born in Germany but a Swiss citizen, the Swiss are very proud of her art fame.

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She was asked to create a fountain for Bern and it was constructed two years before her death. This fountain symbolizes growth and life. It is supposed to communicate with its beholder. There was much controversy about the concrete fountain that is covered with grass, flowers, and moss. Rick Steves says that the citizens of Bern only like the fountain when it is covered with ice in the winter. However, I found a short YouTube video that seems to think that it has grown on the residents. It is a very interesting video that includes a botanist discussing the plants and growing things on the fountain as well as the issues of how best to preserve it.

The fountain is situated between the Dutch Tower and the Police station. (The police station was originally the orphanage).

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Bern, two…

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After walking to the rear of the Parliament Building so we could see the view and the Aare River (muddy because of all the rain), we continued our stroll down-elevation past banks (lots of them…it’s Switzerland!) and casinos (in this case casino means opera house.)

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Also saw the sophisticated suicide barrier on the bridge…

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Our walk swung over to the center of the peninsula that is Bern so we could enjoy the Zytglogge. I am not an expert on world-wide clock towers, but this one seems to me to be one of the most special. It dates from 1530.

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The street artist was also fun…

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Walking to the rear of the tower puts you in the Kornhausplatz.

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There is the Ogre Fountain (child-eater). Possibly it was meant to scare mis-behaving children.

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We elected to stroll down Kramgasse a wide street that gives the sense of the arcades plus the cellars below that are also retail shops…

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Zähringen Fountain…a bear in full armor…

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The house where Einstein lived in 1905 when he developed the theory of relativity right here in Bern…

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The Samnson Fountain…

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We also walked around Bern’s 15th century Münster (Cathedral)…

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I could not get far enough away to get a full picture so you will have to piece it together in your brain…

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If you live in one of these houses in Bern…

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You get this as your yard…

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One more fountain (there are more than we actually walked past) before we went across the bridge to the BärenPark…of course, it was Justice…

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“Time is the justice that examines all offenders.”~Shakespeare

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(Snapseed app, Image Blender, Stackables, and Vintique)