Saturday, July 25, 2015

There and back again... and again.

Um, yes. Life has been a bit surreal lately. And if you read this entire post, your life may take on a strange aspect, too... since this will be a longish narrative. But there will be nice photos, I promise.

Hey, that's me! Sketching ancient rocks in a French meadow.
After a week in the Netherlands I traveled to France, first to visit friend and colleague Jean-Louis Verdier and his wife Dominique. It was great to see more of Jean-Louis' work, which has run the gamut of science and science fiction illustration. I was most familiar with Jean-Louis' insect paintings... sometimes enormous, and always intricately observed.

Jean-Louis is also one of that interesting breed of Frenchmen who is (and I say this without exaggeration) mad about American "old time" music. He has an amazing collection of antique banjos and mandolins, and was kind enough to indulge my request for a private concert. (You can watch a Sigrove Stompers video here.)

 

Together we visited the Jardin des Sens in Coutières. It's a special place, not only for its lovely gardens, but also because it filters water for the entire community through a "natural" system.


From the countryside around Fomperron I traveled to the coast of Bretagne, wherein I made my one and only train mistake (and I rode a lot of trains). I missed my stop and ended up at the end of the line on the last train of the day. With much gesticulating I was finally able to convince the Chef du Gare to call my friend Denis ("Oui, he speaks French"), who was waiting in the place I was supposed to be. I felt a bit foolish, obliging Denis to drive further to retrieve me, but in the end it turned out to be a good mistake. We drove through the marais salants as the sun set, watching the paludier at work and getting to see marsh owls and baby avocets.


The trip to Mesquer was the impetus for the entire trip. Not the grand art or great food of the Continent, but a birthday party under a big tree in a garden by the sea.


It was so great to spend time with friends old and new, including a few I hadn't seen in 16 years. (!!!) The birthday boy, Denis Clavreul, and mutual friend Robin D'Arcy Shillcock (both outstanding artists, of course) have been my friends, colleagues, and confidants for almost 25 years. Our in-the-flesh meetings are infrequent and all-too-brief... but each time we pick up as though no time has passed and sharing a table is the most natural thing in the world. Which it is.


Dunes and beach at Mesquer, France
But with a blink it was over and I was in motion again, first to spend a day in Rotterdam with my dear friend Nicky and then overnight in Amsterdam for my flight back to the States. In Rotterdam Nicky and I visited the new grand Markthal... an astounding indoor market building. (With apartments all around the top and sides.) I didn't take photos of the exterior (you can see plenty if you follow the link), but here's a panorama of the interior. (That's Nicky looking at the interp display in the lower right.)

Markthal Rotterdam - click to embiggen
One of many cool things about this building is that it has interpretive displays! During the excavation  for three levels of underground parking they uncovered many layers of Dutch historical artifacts. The escalator to the parking levels is itself an exhibit... a timeline of Rotterdam history as you travel up and down.

Markthal escalator with timeline.
At each level's landing there is a door to the parking garage, and just outside the door is an exhibit of artifacts discovered during the construction.


It's fascinating stuff, and really thoughtfully done. (In both Dutch and English, if you're wondering.)

After the Markthal we stopped in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, which has fantastic collections of old masters and modern oddities. I spent a lot of time in the print room, which rotates its displays of work on paper every few months. One can also sit on the bench and access the collection digitally to check out works that are not currently on exhibit. (Images are projected on the wall opposite the bench.)


Nicky returned home to Hardenberg and I found my way to Amsterdam and my hotel. The next day I flew to Boston (via Detroit, if you can believe it). I spent two nights at the Mass Audubon Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, where I had a chance to view an exhibition of watercolors by Don Eckelberry and to lead a couple of printmaking activities with children at the Museum's summer camp program.

From there it was back to Maine and Hog Island. Yes, it was one of those cliché weeks: Monday France, Tuesday Netherlands, Wednesday Travel, Thursday Boston, Friday Maine. It's now a week later and we have just wrapped up five days of programming for Educators' camp.

On Monday the next adventure begins, as I move out to the Bingham cottages and take up my role as Artist-in-Residence.

It's overcast and cool here today, and fairly quiet. All of the campers and most of the staff have gone back out into the world and those of us who remain are enjoying a more leisurely pace... catching up with email and laundry (and blog posts). Thank you all for indulging the travelog the past few weeks... I'm hoping to share some island field work soon!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

View from.... The OTHER coast

It's been about a week since I left Maine and traveled first to Boston and then on to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam it was a series of trains and one bus to reach the neighborhood of my dear friend here in Hardenberg, but I arrived without incident.

And it was HOT! The Netherlands have been experiencing a record heatwave, just in time for my visit. It was at least 97 F here, and humid of course. Despite a month in the damp Maine coastal environment, this arid-country girl was melting.


But life goes on even when you're drowning in your own sweat, so when in Netherlands do as the Dutch and get on your bicycle.


With friend Nicky's guidance I quickly became master of the Dutch train system. Okay, maybe not master, but at least I'm not completely hopeless. Chipkaart in hand and bicycle at the ready I managed to find my way to visit artist friends in several different areas of the country, including sculptor Jaap te Kiefte. Since the last time I visited Jaap had completed and installed a commissioned portrait of the writer Simon Vestdÿk in the city of Doorn. A nice extra: there is a "secret" place on the sculpture which serves as a kind of geocache, where visitors quietly exchange one of Vestdÿk's many books for another.


It stays light here for a long time in the evenings, and it's easy to lose track of the hour. On one of my forays I found myself getting off the train in Hardenberg at almost 11:00pm. Cycling home from the station in the dark and quiet with my scarf blowing behind me is a memory that will stay with me a long time... Especially the part where I crossed over the river and had my reverie interrupted by a cloud of gnats. So much for idyllic moments.




Tomorrow the next chapter begins, as I travel to France to visit more friends there. It's a lot of moving about in a short amount of time, but I am determined to take every opportunity to connect (and reconnect) with people I don't get to see very often- To engage in conversations about art and the artist's journey, to drink wine and eat bread, to laugh, to learn about ourselves and each other. To be surprised by the things we have in common and the things we don't. Trying to sort out unfamiliar bird song and eating stroopwafels is icing on the cake.

Travel for me is not about sightseeing, it's about becoming a "bigger," better person. As Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.... Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

Amen.

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