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…



Garden and Glass, two…


As you leave the dark gallery area of the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle you step into areas where the glass objects interact with natural light. The glass glows in both environments. Talk about blowing your mind on color. In the transition area is a wall filled with blown-up images of old postcards depicting a collection of landmark glasshouses in gardens around the world. Right before walking into Chihuly’s glasshouse you get a sense of this unique type of architecture. I was reminded of walking into the Sainte-Chapelle Chapel in Paris. Maybe I was experiencing “art as a protective covering”. Chihuly’s glasshouse is asymmetrical and contains a 100 foot suspended sculpture.

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Exiting the glasshouse you enter the gardens where the glass interacts with nature.

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I loved the way plants were used as a backdrop for the glass. In an area confined to black and white coloring, covering the ground was black mondo grass. (It is not often you can find a plant that can give you such a background color and texture. Works wonderfully here. I mentioned this plant before and how I combined it with chartreuse plants, although, in our garden I can only use it in containers since it is not a California Native. TM sets the rules on that!)


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Black mondo grass covering a hill, this time…

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It was time for lunch before going up in the Space Needle, so we went back inside to the cafe connected to the garden. It seems Chihuly is also an inveterate collector (the cafe is called Collections and his personal collections are everywhere.)


The ceiling contains his collection of accordions…


Walls have a collection of his paintings and figurines…


and the tables to eat at were the coolest…a box covered with glass was in the center of each table and inside was one of his collections.

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The food was good, too…later, coming down from the Space Needle I got this bird’s-eye view of the layout of the garden…


There are some nice videos on Chihuly’s website. Worth the time to watch…



Todi had a funicular. So thankful for an easy way to get up the hill to the center of town from the car park. Very thoughtful to provide that for those of us with weak knees!

Todi’s lovely Piazza del Popolo sits on the site of their old Roman Forum and  the Duomo is surrounded by 12th century palaces.


The Duomo itself sits on the site of a Roman Temple.


One of the palaces contains the Museo-Pinacoteca e Museo della Città. The path up to the entrance door was a lovely staircase. Unfortunately, the Duomo was closed on the day we were there, but the museum was open and the women’s restroom had a wonderful view of the valley below.


Up at Piazza Jacapone, the San Fortunato Church (started in 1292) had a facade by the same architect (Maitani) as the Duomo in Orvieto.



No mosaic pieces but intricate carvings. Some at this point are missing their heads but it makes for a wonderfully textured facade.


There is also a Piazza Garibaldi with a statue from 1890.

Todi definitely has my stamp of approval…and a movie, too…

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Spoleto, two…

Italian hill towns have parking lots on their edges to keep as many cars as possible off of their tiny streets. Spoleto hosts a major music and art festival in the summer and also has ingenious ways to move large groups of people around. We would park in the far out structure and then walk through a long tunnel that included six flat escalators (they referred to it as a mechanized underground path) and and then take an elevator up to Piazza Della Libertà. From there, other than a little up and down and random stairs, you can wander, amble, or stroll the town.

First time i ever had my foam on my cappuccino decorated…but this restaurant, Il Pentagramma, not only had framed menus signed by famous patrons of the festival, it decorated on the theme.
I am throwing this picture in

because that is the best tomato tart and panzanella salad ever. EVER.
Spoleto has Roman ruins and architectural sights. The Roman Theater was excavated in 1891.







The Museo Archeologico was in a contemporary building next door.







In total contrast was the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna. No pictures allowed but some nice Calder’s (paintings and jewelry) and paintings on the walls of the old palazzo.



Close by is San Domenico a 13th century Gothic church with a striped facade and mosaic over its door.








This is the “Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas”

There is even more about Spoleto (we really did spend a lot of time there) so…next: Spoleto, three…because I haven’t even gotten to the aqueduct, yet…

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Avignon, two…


The Pope’s Palace in Avignon was a massive structure which at this point no longer exhibited much opulence, the centuries having seen its decoration removed or deteriorated. The remaining decoration could not be photographed because of preservation concerns, so I settled for light reflections and vaulted ceilings until we were almost finished with our interior tour.

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The last large room we walked into contained some treasures of a new variety, however. There was set-up going on of a significant art show that would open two days later.


Entitled “Les Papesses”, it featured five high priestesses of modern art with their modern work reverberating against the Medieval space of the Palace.

The art was in disarray, I could not get near or find many good angles for photos, and there was caution tape everywhere, but it has been fun since we’ve been home to try to figure out what the art and exhibit was about.

Before the Popes came to Avignon, there was a Pope that turned out to be a woman, Pope Joan (discovered because she was pregnant). The name “Les Papesses” (women Popes) refers to the five women artists considered to have major impact in their field of art. At the time I was familiar with Kiki Smith and knew she was American. After I got to researching I realized I was also familiar with Camille Claudel. I had seen a large portion of her work the year before when we visited Rodin’s Museum in Paris. She was his Muse and lover and tragically spent the last thirty years of her life institutionalized. I had seen the work of Louise Bourgeois (French) before as the sculpture garden at San Francisco MOMA has one of her large spiders near their Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk (wonder if it will still be there after their three-year renovation?)

The other two artists were Jana Sterbak (Czech) and Berlinde De Bruyckere (Belgium). Once again I was struck with how labels in art museums help me put art into context and understanding. None of that here. Some of my pictures are trying to be just an impression of the art for that reason. I did not buy the catalogue of the show. It was big, heavy and would not make it home in my suitcase. So I have tried Google searches but specific pieces are hard to name without the catalogue especially since sometimes all I could see was the back. I rented the DVD “Squatting the Palace”  about Kiki Smith from Netflix since I have been home (a documentary about a show she had in Venice) and I looked back at my pictures from last year at the Rodin Museum. I loved seeing the contrast of the art with its antique environment and wished I could have come back later when it was all set up.

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Louise Bourgeoise “Maman” (the spider) with “Planetarium” by Jana Sterbak behindIMG_6105 IMG_6119 IMG_6121IMG_6124Jana Sterbak


“The Princess and the Pea” as well as some floating nightshirts and straight jackets. (Is that a comment of feminine or what…)

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Kiki Smith’s “Pyre Woman Kneeling”

IMG_6132IMG_6134 IMG_6136 IMG_6135Opposite the original art of the structure…

IMG_6137and a slight bit of original fresco…

IMG_6142It was another lovely day in Provence…one of many…


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Mars, one…

We are almost ready for another trip, yet I haven’t processed the photos from one of the best days we had in Paris last September. The day took a radical turn and was not what we originally anticipated. It was a total making lemonade out of lemons type of experience.

On September 11 last year we ventured by train from Paris to Giverny. We were pleased with ourselves and over-confident at having navigated there and back. (We were very accomplished except for the minor fact of not “composting” out ticket. Train tickets are issued for a period of time but when you actually use them they need to be stamped with day and time in the “composte machine.” The conductor was nice about it and really only asked us if we were tourists…had to admit to it.) Confidently we set out on the next Sunday for a trip by train to Auvers-sur-Oise a haunt of Vincent van Gogh and where his grave is. Different train station, this time the Gare du Nord, and we could not find the correct platform…so we missed the train.


The yellow box on the pole in the lower right corner is the composte machine (don’t ignore it!).


I think you can tell by now that I am fascinated by steel and glass construction.

Chagrined at our inability to catch the train, we had to come up with a Plan B on the spot. Seemed like it would be our chance to see the Eiffel Tower up close, at last. We hopped back on the Metro to the École Militaire Station. When we came above ground we could not cross the street to the park around the Tower due to a bicycle race that had just taken off.



We took a detour through security into the École Militaire because we could hear a drum cadence and came across a recreation (or maybe we were on the set of Les Miserables) where we found some very interesting characters with great faces.

IMG_5710IMG_5707IMG_5708 IMG_5709IMG_5712 IMG_5713 IMG_5711 IMG_5714IMG_5721When we came out of the facility, we could get across the street and walk through the grounds from the Peace Monument to the Tower. The Peace Monument is made of steel and glass and contains the word “Peace” written in 32 languages and 18 alphabets.

IMG_5719IMG_5726IMG_5716 IMG_5718IMG_5720 IMG_5723 IMG_5725Then we walked the paths in one of the busiest parks in Paris, always focused on “The Tower” through the Champ de Mars, passing the perennial favorite of Paris parks…the merry-go-round…

IMG_5727IMG_5728 IMG_5729Before standing directly under the Eiffel Tower, I did not realize the amount of bracing it contains. It almost looks like lace.

IMG_5732IMG_5733 IMG_5734 IMG_5736The day had just begun but this post is getting long so I will split the pictures into two groups…tomorrow: part two!

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Walking through Portland…

If your tour guide in a city is the talented and artistic Katura Reynolds (her blog here) not only do you get a thoughtfully prepared itinerary but a hand drawn map and lots of giggles and fun along the way. Plus she and her husband Chris know really good restaurants when they see them. This is just a little film of the beginning of our day’s adventure. Cool buildings in the Streamline Moderne style, great signs, conveyor belts, smells of yeast and an art supply store. Oh, and the first of many elephants…after all it is Portland. There is more to come…a fabulous contemporary craft museum and real live breathing elephants. Soon…


Art field trip…

Last week— a trip to SF to see the current show at the deYoung Museum. The special exhibit has “The Girl with a Pearl Earring,” (ca.1665). Loved the book, loved the movie, wanted to see the painting in person. Johannes Vermeer did not disappoint. The man knew light and the painting was gorgeous…but, the one that knocked my socks off was a small painting by Carel Fabritius, “The Goldfinch,” that was exquisite. Painted by Fabritius  in 1654 it is a beautiful rendering of a pet bird (notice the chain). Fabritius had been a student of Rembrandt. In reading about the work I found out that, at the time, goldfinches were often pets and sometimes were successfully trained to lower a thimble-sized bucket into a glass of water so they could quench their own thirst. !? Not much of the art of Fabritius survives because he died young and his studio was destroyed in a munitions explosion that leveled one-fourth of the city of Delft. His painting glowed, but I could not take pictures in the exhibition. I was left with the photos I took later of the post cards I purchased of the works. (The museum also has a concurrent exhibition of “Rembrandt’s Century”.) Lots and lots of etchings. Another beautiful day in San Francisco, highlighted by art that feeds the soul…the paintings will be at the de Young until June 2, 2013.



and, of course, the flowers from the women’s restroom and the restaurant:


Here’s a movie to go with your popcorn…

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Photo walk…

My friend Lisa and I went for coffee and a photo walk last Saturday. It was a lovely day in my neighborhood (hard to tell it is winter) and I worked on my video technique…no tripod so some shaking going on but for the most part did not try to pan. My goal was to be brutal in my cropping and brutal in my leaving out of unnecessary shots but still I keep thinking that it needs to be as long as the music. Maybe next time I will concentrate more on what can be done with the audio.

My town has a community center that was built in the 1930’s and recently they built a new library. I think they did a nice job of melding the structures together. Plus I like the public sculptures they have situated around the site. Quite whimsical… (wouldn’t want this town to take its self too seriously!) As always I am fascinated by the color and texture. Most of all it was fun to do art with my friend and visit my most favorite coffee store in town.

Welcome to my town…