The Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond, Virginia.
A Fine Place to Visit
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
While visiting family in Richmond, Virginia this month, I made sure to also visit my favorite place in the city, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. I love the space and light in the building which has three floors plus a café and restaurant, gift shop, theater and special exhibition galleries. Most importantly, the museum has an exceptional collection of art that ranges from ancient to modern times, and encompasses many cultures and movements.
When I visit an art museum, I like to choose just one or two areas to see because I enjoy taking my time wandering through the galleries and savoring the paintings. On this occasion, since I have been reading about modernist artists of the mid-1800s to the First World War, I decided to see the McGlothlin Collection of American Art. In this collection you are invited to “Encounter broad themes, including Westward the Course of Empire: American Landscape, The Gilded Age of Realism and Impressionism, and All That Glitters Is Not Gold: Modernism,” states the Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s website.
Yachting the Mediterranean painted in 1896 by American artist Julius LeBlanc Stewart.
One of my favorite paintings was by the American artist Julius LeBlanc Stewart (1855 – 1919) called Yachting the Mediterranean. This is a large, vibrant wall-sized canvas depicting a group of holidaymakers aboard a sailing yacht. Four ladies in long gowns of the period, a couple gentlemen, and a sailor mill around the decks as the yacht glides through frothy waves on a fine day. What struck me about this painting was the tilt of the yacht, the feeling that you are there too, perhaps looking down from a sail, and the marvelous vibrancy of the colors that seem to glow. The blue of the sea especially caught my attention.
In front of the reflecting pool at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.
The sun was beginning to set when I stepped outside after my visit, bathing the granite walls of the building in a rosy light. Behind the museum, a reflecting pool glittered. To the right, a green slope rose to a rooftop garden, all part of the parking deck where I’d left my car! The grounds are definitely part of the museum’s charm and a lot of fun, too. To top it off, there is no fee to visit the museum’s collections.
The next time you’re in Richmond, enjoy a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. Check out the museum’s website at: vmfa.museum.
The green slope leading to a rooftop garden on the museum parking deck.
©Annette Bartlett-Golden, Blue Heron. Watercolor, 9 x 12 inches. $175
A Magnificent Bird
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
I’m very fortunate to live near a park with woods, open areas, and a couple ponds. Although I’ve been there hundreds of times, when I go to the park I always look for a particular resident of the upper pond, an elegant blue heron. Walking with my two elderly dogs one hot late afternoon in summer, when the park was filled with a great many people, I was surprised to observe the blue heron standing calmly at the edge of the pond.
An avid fisherman, the great bird was watching some people fishing across the way. Indeed, he often seems to linger near the fishing folk, whether a few yards away or in the shadows on the floating dock, a favorite fishing spot. Sometimes people toss him fish which he adroitly catches in his long thin beak. That seems a lovely interaction between human and bird, a moment when trust and goodwill intersect.
That day I had my good camera with me – I was on a greater mission than a walk. Mesmerized by the grace and beauty of the heron, and encouraged by the bird’s serene demeanor, I slowly edged nearer, all the while the dogs pulling on their leashes in opposing directions. I snapped a number of photos, trying hard to stay as still as possible. Eventually, I sat down on the grass and endeavored to continue photographing the blue heron. Taking two excited dogs and a big heavy camera on a photography excursion was clearly not a good idea. Still, incredibly, I managed to take dozens of photos of the magnificent bird, most of which turned out well, while a few were simply amazing.
Using one of those photos as my reference, I made the watercolor of the blue heron you see here. I have found that seeing, experiencing, and interacting with whatever I choose to paint is necessary for me to add a sense of life and spirit to my paintings. It’s that personal connection to my subject, just like personal connections in human relationships, that make all the difference.
Two Eryngium yuccifolium plants in my flower garden.
By guest author Avery Bartlett-Golden
Since receiving fifty or so plants from my herbaceous perennials class last year, and losing the tags for them shortly after they were planted, I have tried my best to guess what I planted. Some plants are easy to identify like the giant hyssops at the back of the perennial bed and the orange milkweed. Other plants are rather surprising, like what I thought was a cardinal flower that turned out to be a sneezeweed. There was also a pair of leathery, long leafed plants that looked a bit out of place. The plants started growing a long stalk that ended in odd green flowers. Digging around in the flower bed I found the tag. These plants are Eryngium yuccifolium, also known as Rattlesnake master.
It is said that Native Americans used the root of Eryngium yuccifoliumto treat rattlesnake bites and so the plant became known as rattlesnake master. There are a number of other interesting names for this plant, too: Button eryngo, Button snakeroot, Beargrass, and Bear's grass.
The green flowers of the rattlesnake master plant in summer
and berries on the plant in autumn.
Rattlesnake master is listed as native to the prairies of North America, including fifty counties in North Carolina, and is a member of the carrot family. With leathery leaves and some spines, it appears to be deer resistant. The most surprising part of the plant are its green flowers -- thistly petal-less green balls -- on the end of a three to four foot stalk. By fall, the flowers have given way to dark fruit resembling blackberries.
Rattlesnake master would make a great addition to a dense perennial bed or border and offers a nice sharpness to contrast with other more common perennials. It can even potentially be used to complement or replace stick verbena and other tall screening plants. With its unique foliage and striking architectural shape, Rattlesnake master can bring a novel crispness to a planting.
Guest author Avery Bartlett-Golden is a Horticulture Science major at North Carolina State University. He is currently studying abroad in Valencia, Spain.
©Annette Bartlett-Golden, Cantata of the Soul. Paper collage, 11 x 8 inches. $165
The Sound of Colors
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
This month I want to share with you a really fascinating and fun exploration of the concepts of color. Although it’s not a book or even an audiobook, the podcast titled Colors on the Radiolab website is really a gem. I first heard Colors on a public radio station and was mesmerized. As the about page of the Radiolab website explains, “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”
In Colors, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, with the help of many guests, investigate many facets of the nature of color. The hour long episode is divided into three parts titled Rippin the Rainbow a New One, The Perfect Yellow, and Why Isn’t the Sky Blue?
They begin by asking a few questions. Where exactly does color exist? Is it within us or outside of us? To find out, they compare how different animals see the rainbow: dogs, humans, sparrows, butterflies and the amazing mantis shrimps, which I had never heard of before then. One of my favorite parts of this program is how they use a choir singing to illustrate the rainbow throughout the show.
In the second part, The Perfect Yellow, I was struck by the sad story of the yellow pigment called gamboge, a deep saffron color traditionally used to dye the brilliant robes of Buddhist monks. In Why Isn’t the Sky Blue? I was intrigued by the ancient poet Homer’s description of a wine colored sea and other strange color descriptions. But what I find especially astonishing is that for a long time there was no concept of blue!
You can listen to the podcast of Colors on the Radiolab website at:http://www.radiolab.org/story/211119-colors/. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Annette Bartlett-Golden paints a wide range of subjects from landscapes to animals and makes abstract works with paper. Using vibrant colors, she imparts a sense of immediacy, vivacity and optimism to her paintings and paper collages.