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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Snowflake House, Deerfield Massachusetts

I saw this cool old house in Deerfield, Massachusetts, this past weekend.  How did such a house come to pass?  Did the future owner say to the builder "I'd like to have a circle of snowflakes around the entire house.  Can you do that?"  (Pan to builder rolling his eyes.)  Or maybe this was one of four homes in some early version of a planned development (Quail Hollow Estates?  Running Brook Farms?) and the other three seasons burned down---maybe robin, flower, and leaf?  It would certainly be a perfect house for Snowflake Bentley.  The colors are lovely, especially the red sashes, and the front bay window must look wonderful from the inside.

And speaking of snow, there was a nice essay posted the other day about the evolution of Morris's socialist philosophy by a blogger named "Snowball".  The blog's subtitle is "Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution," a quote by Georg Lukacs, the founder of western Marxism.  Now I can't say I understand this quote at all, or even know what western Marxism is --- in fact, historical materialism sounds more like the life philosophy of a certain class of serial renovators, people possibly also obsessed with "bungalow style".   Snowball, in his post, quotes Fiona MacCarthy: "Early in 1883 Morris crossed the "river of fire" and became a revolutionary socialist........This final transformation of the cosseted son of the capitalist classes, whose family fortunes derived from copper mining in the valley of the Tamar, was described by EP Thompson, the historian of the English working classes, as "among the great conversions of the world"."

William Morris was so frigging great at everything he did!

Friday, March 26, 2010

$5 Worth of Week Long Sunshine

One bunch of daffies + some random greens that don't want to die = two bouquets + me feeling a little better about the fact that it's still snowing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.  Here is my testimony to Marie Tharp (1920-2006), mapmaker and artist extraordinaire, whose  transformation of oceanographic sonar data into detailed drawings of the ocean floor changed the way the world viewed the Earth's surface and paved the way for the acceptance of plate tectonic theory. 

Tharp's famous 1977 map of the world's ocean showing the largest continuous mountain chain on the planet, 40,000 miles long.

early sketch of Atlantic sea floor

In her own words:  "Not too many people can say this about their lives:  The whole world was spread out before me (or at least, the 70 percent of it covered by oceans).  I had a blank canvas to fill with extraordinary possibilities, a fascinating jigsaw puzzle to piece together: mapping the world’s vast hidden seafloor.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime—a once-in-the-history-of-the-world—opportunity for anyone, but especially for a woman in the 1940s.   The nature of the times, the state of the science, and events large and small, logical and illogical, combined to make it all happen."

sketch of Atlantic off of Spain

You can see how the topography contours (bottom half) emerged from the ship track data (top half).  Imagine doing this for the entire ocean.

Copies of Tharp's maps can be purchased at Marie Tharp Maps.

Jean Nouvel's Desert Rose Museum

(click to enlarge)

This sublime (and virtual) building was pictured across the top of the New York Times Arts section yesterday, accompanied by an article announcing the unveiling of French architect Jean Nouvel's new design for the National Museum of Qatar.  I knew without reading beyond the title what had inspired him, not because of any special artistic insight, but because I'm a geologist by training.  The building evokes the form of desert gypsum crystals, better known as sand roses or desert roses, which typically are a beige-pinkish color, the same color of the concrete the architects are planning to use.

(photos from Jean Nouvel ateliers)

From the NYTimes:  "Inspired by sand roses, the tiny formations that crystallize just below the desert’s surface, the building’s dozens of disclike forms, intersecting at odd angles and piling up unevenly atop one another, celebrate a delicate beauty in the desert landscape that is invisible to those who have not spent time there. The lightness with which these forms rest on the land, meanwhile, conjures the ethereality of desert life."  They go on to call this the "French architect’s most overtly poetic act of cultural synthesis yet."

I couldn't agree more, it is poetic.  What the NYTimes didn't show was a picture of gypsum crystals, which I think would have given readers a much better sense of how truly evocative this design is.  Here, for your viewing pleasure, are some I downloaded from the web.....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Klimt's Golden Kiss and Needlepoint

 The Kiss (1907-08, Oil and gold leaf on canvas)

Is there a romantic anywhere that isn't moved by this painting?  From wikipedia, "The Kiss falls in line with (Gustav) Klimt’s exploration of fulfillment and the redeeming, transformative power of love and art."  Click on it and be dazzled.

You can view the painting at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum in Vienna, Austria.  If you'd like to make your own little piece of Klimtian beauty, Candace Bahouth's gorgeous needlepoint pillows are now on sale at Ehrman Tapestry.  They are in a pleasant 10-holes-to-an-inch size.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Inspiration from Naumkeag

If it is spring it must be time to start thinking about gardens and an amazing one can be found at Naumkeag, another over-the-top summer retreat designed in the Shingle Style by McKim, Mead, and White.  Here are a few pictures I took at the Stockbridge, Massachusetts, estate --- I am feeling the inspiration.

I love the elegance of simple green plants in simple pots and irregularly cut stone pavers.  Fletcher Steele, a noted American landscape designer designed this "Afternoon Garden" in 1926 (the house was originally built in 1885).  It included the carved and painted gondola piers the owner brought back from Venice.

I also love the nonsensical squiggly pathways in the Rose Garden....

(photo from Kim Knox Beckius)

And this peaceful rill of water leads to Fletcher Steele's most famous creation.....

(photo by Felice Frankel) 

...the Blue Steps (1938) which lead to the cutting garden.  The water channel reminds me of this even more spectacular channel photographed many years ago in Hawaii (I can't remember where but it was in a botanical garden on Kauai).

An earlier pot post from Alhambra, Spain....

Kid Quilts

These complicated quilts were made by a 14 year very own May Morris, now in college.

Another post about quilts you might like.