Elusive Beauty

Taken yesterday with my iPhone. The blue morpho butterflies are currently hatching and mating. There were thousands of them. Quite a marvelous sight. I’m told by repeat visitors that nighttime is actually the best time to capture still shots as they are less active. I was pleased with this photo however.

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Suspended Starlight

I went looking for the Ursid meteor shower in the past few days and found these instead.

Taken on December 20, 2018 on an overcast evening. I love how the evergreens in the lower righthand corner almost look like they’re right out of a painting.

Part of the ongoing Garden Glow holiday lights exhibit at Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Art Days 01: Egyptian Archaeology

Recently, my family and I had the opportunity to see the underwater archaeological exhibit, Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds. The exhibit, which is self-paced, featured a number of artifacts recovered from the bottom of the Mediterranean, off the coast of the Nile Delta, in a city comparable to the mythology of Atlantis.

Private album

This stele is an example of one of the treasures recovered and holds a rich history behind those hieroglyphs which reveals that this lost city, Heracleion, was a major port in Ancient Egypt, both for trade, for taxes, and as a religious center. The exhibit had an optional film (1 hour) which was a wonderful overview of the excavation process by Franck Goddio and his team in Aboukir Bay, Egypt.

One of my favorite pieces from the collection was this statue:

Private album

Nudity, or partial nudity, seemed to be a unifying factor amongst multiple statues in the exhibit, showing the exemplary idealization of the feminine form, but what I found particularly fascinating about this statue is the artistic mastery of depicting sheer fabric out of the stone. This strategy, a particular favorite of mine, can be seen elsewhere in ancient art, i.e. Giovanni Strazza’s The Veiled Virgin.

If you have the chance to visit any of the current or upcoming cities already slated to host this exhibit, I do recommend it.

Upcoming Tour Dates:

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds
March 25, 2018–September 9, 2018
Saint Louis Art Museum
St. Louis, Missouri
http://www.slam.org

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds
November 4, 2018–April 14, 2019
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Minneapolis, Minnesota
http://www.new.artsmia.org

St. Louis was the first North American city to host this exhibit so keep an eye out for upcoming cities later in 2019 and beyond.

On Entomology, and Biophilia by Christopher Marley

Part of me always wanted to be an entomologist, except for the whole collecting bugs bit of it. Every time I think of pushing pins into a butterfly’s body, I just shrink back in horror.  Maybe that’s just urban myth or maybe it’s not even done that way anymore.  Regardless, that’s sort of why I admire insects from a distance. There’s something extraordinarily beautiful to me about a well-placed arrangement of insects that it becomes an art form.

Recently, I had the opportunity of visiting the City Museum in St. Louis which has a display of an “Entomologist’s Room” that I was fortunate enough to get to visit and take a few photos of, although it’s difficult to capture displays accurately through glass cases.

As in much of the permanent exhibits at the City Museum, I suspect that this is someone’s private collection which is being displayed and it’s interesting to note the various species and types of insects on display which extends into other animal types as well like sea shells, birds and even fossils and hives. There’s such a difference between looking at an illustrated plate of a species and seeing the actual animal preserved.

This is perhaps the second collection of publicly available insects that I’ve blogged about locally (see my blog post ‘In Search of the Blue Morpho’). Whenever I come across a display, I like to take a few moments and see what’s there. Sometimes they are trunk shows (i.e. the Missouri Botanical Garden) and you can score a framed butterfly or insect for your home for about $40.00. I’m still looking for a blue morpho if anyone has suggestions!

With ‘bugs on the brain’, I was surprised and delighted to stumble upon a new release at my local library, Biophilia by Christopher Marley.

Biophilia_JKT_1124.inddThis oversized collection by Marley was released in 2015 by Abrams (Abrams, NY) and is an exquisite foray into Marley’s lifelong pursuit (from his teenage years) in using insects as an art medium.

The cover is a gorgeous example of the kaleidoscopic visions contained within. I counted sixty bugs on the cover alone, the shape of which reminds me of a snowflake, and which Marley identifies as ‘Elegans Prism’, a collection of Calloplophora graafi, Malaysia; Glenea celestis, Indonesia; Coccinellidae sp., Indonesia; Anoplophora longehisuta, Malaysia; Pareronia tritaea, Indonesia; Geotrupes auratus, Japan; and Scutelleridae sp., Indonesia. The size of this composition piece was 24″x24 “.

There are also singular specimens from snakes and lizards, to the full plumage of a parrot or finch, geometic cube displays of rock formations, and some (beautiful to me) framed skeletons of fish and snakes. I admire seeing the simplicity of God’s design in the structure of a butterfly fish or a cobra.

Within the art pieces displayed in this collection some of my favorite pieces included…

From the “Insects” Collection:

  • Cerulean Butterflies (Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Irian, Sulawesi, France)
  • Sumptuosa Prism (Laos, Indonesia, Tanzania, Philippines, Thailand, Japan, France)
  • Damselfly Wash (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines)
  • Amazon Grasshopper (Ecuador)

From the “Sea Creatures” Collection:

  • Pastel Urchin Mosaic (Philippines)
  • Sea Horse Skeletons (Philippines)
  • Nautilus Pedestal (Philippines)

From the “Reptiles” Collection:

  • Bamboo Rat Snake (Thailand)
  • Green Tree Python (Australia)
  • Cobra NeoFossil (Malaysia)

From the “Birds” Collection:

  • Green-Winged Macaw (Venezuela)
  • Greater Blue-Eared Starling (Botswana)
  • Blue and Gold Macaw (Bolivia)

From the “Minerals” Collection:

  • Keichosaurus (China)
  • Blue Chalcedony (India)
  • Rough Rubies (Madagascar)

Marley provides notes in the rear of the book on each of the plates in the collection including their scientific names, where they were found, composition size, and occasionally a commentary on the piece itself which I found to be fascinating look at his artistic process.

While some of these pieces are in museums or private collections, I’ve no doubt that the cost for any of these featured (if available) are far beyond the means of this readership. So for those of us who cannot afford the originals, I humbly suggest you pick up a copy of this lovely collection (U.K. £30.00/U.S. $50.00/C$57.50), or one of the calendar releases which are now available for the 2015 year, and the upcoming 2016 year. You can learn more about Marley’s art and see other gorgeous examples of his work at his wholesale site, http://www.pheromonedesign.com.

Brain Health & Disease Prevention

June may be Brain Awareness Month but your health is too important to put off.

This weekend I was reading an article about early testing for Alzheimer’s Disease and I learned that the brain is like a grape — if you leave it out to dry, you’ll wind up with a raisin (analogy from the article). I don’t know about you, but even though I like raisins, I don’t want my brain ending up like one. As romantic as the tortured artist image is, I think I’ll do my best work with a fully functional brain, thank you very much.

Image by samarttiw, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image by samarttiw, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

And I have reason to be concerned, too. Alzheimer’s and dementia run in the family, along with a cocktail mix of other mental illnesses. My genetics are a bit like Russian roulette: if each potential illness was a bullet placed in the 6-barrel chamber, and if n is the odds that I don’t end up developing one later in life when the ‘trigger’ is pulled, well, the odds are definitely not in my favor.

So what do I do? Continue reading

La diada de Sant Jordi

fieldnotes_bannerLa diada de Sant Jordi (23 Apr) is St. George’s Day, and April 23rd is also declared by UNESCO as the International Day of the Book, in honor of the traditional birthdays of Miguel de Cervantes (Gregorian calendar) and William Shakespeare.

In 2014, Americans are celebrating La diada de Sant Jordi on April 28th, because of when Easter falls on the calendar this year.

Who is St. George?

Artist: Briton Rivière (1840-1920)

Artist: Briton Rivière (1840-1920)

St. George was a Christian martyr and military saint who is the basis for the legend of ‘St. George and the Dragon’.  As the legend goes, a dragon plagued a town in Libya called Silene, and after offerings of sheep failed to appease the dragon, the citizens drew lots and the lot fell to the King’s daughter to be sacrificed to the dragon.

Although the king pled for her life, it was to no avail. St. George happened to be riding by and making the sign of the cross, he charged the dragon and subdued it. He promised to slay the dragon if the people of Silene would convert to Christianity. A church was built on the spot where the dragon was slain (source).

Perhaps because of this legend, St. George has become a symbol of the chivalrous knight in shining armor who saves the fair maiden.

The Day of the Rose & the Book

While the feast day of St. George is celebrated in many countries, it is considered to be the second most-celebrated holiday in Catalonia, where St. George is the patron saint.  It is also in Catalonia where the tradition began of the “day of the rose and the book”.

In Barcelona, vendors set up stalls selling roses and books each April for the occasion and La diada de Sant Jordi has become a “day for lovers”.  A lady will buy a book for the gentleman she favors and her gentleman presents the lady with a rose (or roses). You can learn more about how books became incorporated into the feast day of St. George here.

Celebrating St. George’s Day

La diada de Sant Jordi is a special holiday in my family. The feast of St. George usually falls on April 23rd, which is my older brother’s birthday (happy birthday bro!).  So, without knowing it, my family had already been celebrating the day in a familial way.

Public domain image

Public domain image

The feast day took on its romantic meaning for me though when my husband and I began courting and the first La diada de Sant Jordi together, he presented me with a long-stemmed rose. He has been faithful every year to remember La diada de Sant Jordi, and it’s become more of a romantic holiday for us than that holiday for lovers that falls in February.

This year will be my second attempt to coax some book suggestions from my husband so I’ll have time to order well in advance of the feast day.

You don’t have to be in a relationship to celebrate La diada de Sant Jordi.  Books and flowers are a great springtime gift.  Roses come in many colors and each color can have a different meaning. Here are some ideas of how you can start your own tradition:

  • Why not surprise a platonic friend with a rose or a book, just to celebrate your friendship?
  • Perhaps you could buy a book for someone who you respect, like a mentor or a teacher?
  • Or a rose for the house-bound neighbor you know?

If you’re shy about presenting flowers to strangers, wait a few more days and start your own May Day tradition of leaving a basket of flowers on a neighbor’s doorstep. It’s such a rewarding experience!

However you choose to celebrate La diada de Sant Jordi, I hope you take time to embrace love and literature this spring and find an opportunity for giving this Easter season.