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KANSAS CITY CULTURE…

In the last post I wrote only an introduction to our time in Kansas City around the bell Convention. I want to share more…

I mentioned “my” lion at the Nelson-Atkins Museum which has continued to grow with vitality.

My cousin Kathy had mentioned sculptures on the south terrace when we were making plans by phone, but we were surprised, walking from a fortuitous street parking space, to confront these botanical wonders… replications made in resin by Philip Haas from 16th century paintings by Giuseppe Arcimboldo … a wonderfully playful garden at the top of the museum’s sculpture park where a badminton game has been lobbing sculptural shuttlecocks over the museum for some years.

I’ve long loved the older Beaux Arts building so was cautiously curious when I heard about the plans for a contemporary expansion…

But, I like the Steven Hull design & feel it brings new life to the tradition I love. I was happy to realize that my lion is standing guard, looking down from the top of the stairway into the underground entrance of the new addition…

  Afine transition from inside the classical space to resurface into the light-filled new.

While the web photo above illustrates how the luminous volume rests easily next to the original, I made the photos below showing how freely spacious is the result…

We’ve have visited many museums, many with new additions to their history & this is one we both celebrate heartily. One feels there is room to grow. The collection is fresh. ‘Seems a good marriage.

I caught him several times as we explored. We both were caught by a rather garish introduction to an Indian painter…

It too is transitory in that his richly Indian sensibility depicts a surreal scene of fantastic collapse from the Mahabharata in thick gold paint enhanced with rhinestones & glitter! It keeps growing on me!

Another Indian piece uses common steel objects to assemble one of our favorite forms.

We had hoped to revisit the museum on the day we had lunch with the Mitchell cousins, but again it was closed. We were to meet my cousins [our mothers being sisters…] Kathy & Mike, with his wife Mary Jane at the Kemper Museum for lunch. The disappointment was that Kathy was ill, so for the second time we missed seeing her. We used the time we had planned for the Nelson to explore a show in this handsomly intimate museum we’ve enjoyed on previous visits. It took awhile & some elucidating comments from the two women there we discovered were docents preparing notes about the work of Adam Cvijanovic. They are big. They are mounted flat on the wall. They are painted on Tyvec, the vapor barrier one sees in construction sites. In pieces… collages… remounted… with wheat paste… to be site specific… sometimes in different compositions!

 The view of an abandoned drive-in theater was nicely placed for consideration of times past He has a thing for the movies, as you will see…

 He plays with notions like the diorama of history in his studio…

 He made this image with my initials flying off an “anti-gravitational” movie marquee above the docents…

 See the G… R & B ?!?

Both museums have no admission fee… impressively noting Kansas City’s cultural richness.We look forward to being able to visit the new symphony building on future visits, but I wanted to see the new library, if for no other reason than the huge book spines on the parking garage…

 With details continuing the book theme…

 Inside it is repeated at the steps up into the children’s library… with our guide BroJon…

 A roof garden is a place movies are shown… like a new version of that painted drive-in… or one can play a game of chess overlooking the revitalized down-town.

I’ll write about a more somber landmark in the next post…

BALI HOLIDAY – TREKKING TO UBUD…

[ This is the third of several posts about this trip… to begin at the beginning click here: ]

Feeling oriented at Villa Vajra we looked forward to exploring on our own while Joel & Nirgrantha hosted their regular Sunday meditation group.
Joel had introduced us, when we joined on his morning dog-walks, to an ancient foot path, paved with stones reminding us of those we used in Soundcliff’s garden… reportedly Indonesian.

Abelard & Heloise, loved playing into the dense grass growing tall enough to hide them before the narrow ridge dropped rather precipitously to either side. This is literally the high road!

Here I am  striding its easy surface, happily absorbed in the views across & down into the deep river valleys with Joel…

These are the backsides of the properties with entrances along the motor road, resorts or homes, often replacing the very rice fields which we all come to see…

Although I doubt these lower steeps were ever farmed… I see no evidence of the necessary irrigation system.  That lowest pavilion seems obviously most desirable for the reward of its hard-won seclusion after an endless flight of steps…

The path follows the crest while cars must traverse a more winding route down through the river valley, snaking along the side of this ridge. A pleasant half-hour trek brought us to Ubud town, which has long held the reputation of being an art center.

It is often said there is no word for art in Bali because everything is made beautifully with care… this bit of organic graffiti grabbed Stephen’s eye…  as if proof, perhaps.

Along the way there was a temple being rebuilt, giving me opportunity to observe construction techniques.

Bamboo scaffolding, of course, & some great timbers curing at the ready… Stephen has come to accept my curiosity about such mechanique… I’m always looking at functional design, studying how things work, fascinated by tools & hardware…

This  cement mixer, obviously essential to all the incredible brick & stone work,
still looked a bit out of place…
We met up again with the auto traffic down at the bridge over the river leading into town, where we became “millionaires” again by the exchange rate making $100 almost that much in Rupia. We had a leisurely breakfast of fruit, granola & blended fruit drinks… with pots of the good local coffee.
They are rebuilding their market…bamboo scaffolding on a  scale larger enough to work concrete… the metal framing surprised me!
 
 
There was still a section of the old market, 
functioning in trade for fruits, vegetables & daily necessities.
 

 Plus carved wooden masks which were touristy, yet seductive… echoing Venice a bit.
 
 Such attention to  exuberant detail exists almost everywhere one looks… The gates & doorways were constantly fascinating. The first one shown has a ramp for wheelbarrows… 
or motor bikes, more likely!

When we’d bought nice batik-ed shirts on the first day, but saw other interesting shops while Joel gave us a driving tour, which we wanted to visit having more time. We ambled, shopping & soaking-up the local life along the wildly eroded sidewalks of narrow Hanuman street while the sun got hotter… soaking our new shirts in turn.

Here, an interesting man was placing one of the offering baskets along the street side, inside a tender moment of obvious devotion inside this traditional practice… under his bleached hair!

The utility of such poignant futility
becomes curiously palpable
to our culture of digital backups hoping protection
from the demons we fear


A beer with lunch helped to cool us off. On our way to visit the nearby Monkey Forest… the shop of an ikat weaver & her husband, who made her wonderful patterns into clothing absorbed us. They were intriguing enough to inspire us to return before the end of our trip for more shirts, understandably more expensive, but we rationalized that some will become gifts later on.

While monkeys were not seen generally, the Monkey Forest is a preserve containing several ancient  temples… lots of Macaque & almost as many tourists… sometimes ourselves acting a bit like monkeys!

This one posed playing  peek-a-boo, with a wrapper!

A rather sudden rain squall soaked us as we scrambled into a shelter already crowded with Japanese families & a clutch of Balinese children, one of whom asked where we were from, wanting to practice her already good English. One of the forest’s residents joined the human pack, grabbing a bag of chips which he proceeded to devour close to Stephen while hanging on to a banana he was hoarding for later.

He began acting more aggressive & peed on the platform, rapidly clearing most of the crowd while a ranger came along to manage him with a more playful, mocking aggression & some kind of favored leaves.

I grabbed this shot of one aping the pose of a sculpture… 

Deeper into the forest ravine was a bridge with two fierce stone dragons for its sides…
Deeper yet were more sculptures… Komoto dragons, [part of the fauna of the next island east from Bali…] which seemed to be part of the water course through a ritual bathing temple above.

Stephen had fun making a couple of portraits of us that day:

We walked back along the main shopping street to find a taxi to drive us home after a tiring day on foot… we passed on the opportunity to have the dead skin on our feet nibbled by fish…

But one piece of jewelry caught my eye for its nicely crocheted wire design…

I’ll leave us as with some of the holiday decor we’d encountered, beginning with a tropical tree wrapped in festive Mylar… inviting me to think toward doing that to our apricot next holiday season for Open Studio…

Then… a street-buffering garden [was it temple or restaurant?] subtly enhancing its agave’s spines with blown egg shell ornaments… I’m quite certain, egg lover that I am, I won’t copy this amusement!

 
This bit of visual cacophony seems better than those… 
traditional festive banners dancing with power… 
Bali!

Before Bali… Singapore!

Stephen & I flew to Bali for the holidays leaving Seattle on the day of Christmas Eve arriving after a total of more than 20 hours sitting in cramped airplane seats, plus the time waiting between flights, but… Stephen had planned a short overnight for us in Singapore!

We shared a new camera because both of ours are aged… we also used both our iPhones… plus; I had my new iPad, so there is much play & experimentation in our photographs with no real way of knowing or caring which shots are by which of us with which device… Stephen made this one of our breakfast banana peels on the plane using a mode to make it look like a watercolor!

Our wild room in Singapore had a glass bathroom! There were shades if one wanted more privacy… It was great to sleep comfortably before a nice soak! You can see Stephen in the tub through the flowers painted on the glass wall while I sat playing with the camera from the bed!

Our friend Ali, who grew up in Singapore, & whom we know from when he lived for awhile on Vashon several years ago,  came to the hotel for breakfast before taking us on a walking tour of the city’s central core, which is a collection of wonderfully wild modern architecture…

Beginning with our windows at the Crown Plaza which were masked with a  sort of “propellor” grill.

The poles on the train from the airport/hotel had the handsome detail of branching into three… a very functional solution multiplying  spaces for hands holding-on, which I thought was brilliant. Add to that those shoes… seeming to match!

Escalators with their wheels showing brought a bit of what seems “steam-punk” to the numerous underground walkways to protect from the heat on the streets

In the lobby of a theatre some curious holiday vignette of  a herd of paper-mache dogs & cats all but obscured the function of another fascinating idea… to combine a ramp for wheels zig-zaging integrally with a short flight of steps for feet! I wish I could have experienced its lack of “handicap” without that of all those papier-mache beasts!

 Ali caught me making a shot inside that admiration… I further appreciate his sharing of photos!

The exterior of that building took the form of a fruit called durian…

I’m often amused & sometimes dismayed by Christmas decor in the tropics… even as that happen as well in Florida or Hawai’i… still I had not expected so much of these traditional decorations, even as it is a very international city, well aware of the commercial value of the holidays… I obviously must learn to be even more amused at my dismay…

I well remember when we thought the beaches of Goa would be an escape… only to learn it was the most Christian state in India… We did note on December 26th the 8th anniversary of the tsunami’s echo we experienced there…

We danced with some of the art !

Since we had only a few hours before the flight to Bali, we walked toward the spectacular Marina Sands towers…spanned at the top with a bridge-like structure from which we would have views of both the city & the harbor beyond.

Along the way we passed a lagoon in which were floating balls which were part of the preparations for their New Year’s celebration… to one of which I was invited to add my own greeting… which I assume is now part of that flotilla noting the year’s turning.

A foot bridge engineered with the strength of a helix from that lagoon parallels the auto bridge to the complex.

Here it is from above…

But… before we got up there, approaching at the street level, I saw these facades rippling with huge architectural curtains designed of  petals or flags on the facades…  made to flutter  in the breeze delicately forming ever- changing patterns… Quite delightful!

An expensive, ear-popping elevator ride to the top gave us views down to the river lagoon with stadium seating for a fireworks display overlooking the “exploding” museum building & the flotilla of floating balls…

In the opposite direction, the huge outer harbor beyond the botanical park & gardens below… a flotilla of rather larger sort. As we were landing the night before I had seen the lights of many more ships & boats than this narrow sample suggests…

Our schedule toward Bali allowed not enough time to visit what looked to be fascinating structures housing the collections of a botanical park. The sprouting towers seem intriguingly odd… not quite groking their function thus invites me to a longer visit in future.

Meanwhile, Ali caught me several times demonstrating what Stephen calls my “Ancil [Adams] Barnett” mode… I can become rather compulsively absorbed inside whichever lens I might find at hand… while Stephen demonstrates the beginnings of his long-anticipated holiday relax!

May the coming year be gloriously full of love & light… in interesting patterns stimulating, new creativity… evolving through & beyond our comfortably familiar… 
Blissings & blessings in all our work, play & dreams! 

A VISIT TO PRINCIPIA…

The term Alma Mater doesn’t usually mean much to me. While my time at DU was certainly a seminal experience for me, I never have felt the sense of “bounteous mother’” which the Latin suggests… but seems now much more descriptive of Stephen’s relationship with Principia College, where he began his education after leaving home & high school.

While he was accepted at Harvard, which would have been his father’s preference, he followed his matriarchal history instead, choosing to attend the same small Christian Science school from which his mother & aunt had graduated. That decision represents a still omnipresent dialog describing his familial core & defining the strongest influences I know in him… his intelligence comes from the very deep matrix of Helen, even as the form of such rock has been hewn by equally useful Ottonian tools.

The campus atop those limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River at Elsah, Illinois, was designed by the eclectic California architect Bernard Maybeck in the 1930’s.

The 60-mile drive north of Saint Louis, into more of that history, has long been anticipated as an essential sharing for us. I’ve heard his stories about this campus from our beginnings & I was pleased when we were able to make this road trip inside our travels last month, which included the American Bell Association’s Convention in the Gateway city.

We’d discussed renting a car for the day, but were delighted when Mohan & Deepa, parents of the bride whose wedding around which we designed our travels to India in 2004… offered to facilitate & share the adventure, driving their car. They were visiting Anjana, Derek, Stephen’s second cousin, & their two-year-old daughter Kavya… now living in Saint Louis & with whom we’d spent several days of family time before the convention began.

I celebrate having kept in rather close contact with Deepa because we share linkage via our blogs. To be able to enjoy more time with these friends was additional bonus since we feel strongly that sense of the joining of tribes into a larger diaspora which that wedding in Bangalore created for us. I could not help reminiscing on the cultural similarities & vast differences between those worlds while being driven by an Indian man competent on US freeways!

Crossing the river over a lovely contemporary bridge into Alton we are aware of the high flood waters which drew closer than usual to the highway built against the bases of limestone bluffs along the Illinois side.

There is a bird or dragon named the Piasa, painted on one of the cliff faces above some caves as we got near. While apparently there were native paintings reported at one time further down river, this is obviously a modern version, more mythical in a European heraldic manner. The historic pictographs probably were related to the Cahokian Mounds culture, which is another excursion we wanted to make while in the area, but is now saved to our list for another time.

The little village of Elsah is a quaint, well cared-for antique. Many homes have been restored, even as some maintain a more weathered visage…

One of the first clues to the architecture we’d come to view was this bench in a walkway built in a style much later than the original Maybeck plan, which intended to mimic the look & feel of an English village using timber & native stone facing on poured concrete structures.

For Stephen this was looking into the past…

The effects are often sweetly arresting… still more campus than village, particularly since the buildings are scattered within a very generous space.

I especially appreciated the detail of sorting roof tiles in a graduated color scheme:



The contrast with later construction is jarring, even as I can see limitations inherent to the original concept… particularly as viewed through the commonality of a mid-twentieth century lens. Deepa is seen here in front of such shift. She posted early-on her own version of our excursion on her own blog here… which begins with her visit to the Bell Convention.

To repair to dorms such as these would indeed offer a fine & useful balance…



I found many details I liked: elaborate beams in the common room of one dormitory, copper downspouts, painted shutters, linen-fold paneling & that constantly unexpected mix of raw concrete with stone & wood… becoming quite “rustic”…

Even the chapel’s traditional look was formed of the ubiquitous poured concrete, as I saw in the ceiling:

Without doubt my favorite building was this small cottage… the architect’s study building, which he called “the mistake house”… where he experimented with the various techniques used to imbue the “English Village” style atop the quite untraditional poured concrete construction.  Stephen has a particular fondness for it as well, explaining he reserved it for a several week retreat space one year. I like this shot of him, which accentuates its miniature scale…

Stephen says there were tiles on both sides of the roof, but I found it interesting to see the underlying form of roof…

Here is Stephen [that is Mohan behind him] in front of his own dorm, so I can easily understand how he wanted to spend such time in the cottage. I love having now a much better appreciation for the setting of his stories from those college years…