It’s never a bad day to visit the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco. My teacher membership has been well worth the price this past year. I was able to see Monet’s paintings along with other “Impressionists on the Water” last July, and last week I took in the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Going to the park is an experience in itself, always worthwhile, always rewarding, no matter the season. But spring has a particular allure, with burgeoning blossoms in cherry trees, rhododendrons, and every other imaginable type of plant in flower. I can see why Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of flowers and nature are so universally liked. The exhibition covered the period from 1918 to the early 30s, when she retreated from New York City to Lake Geoge (to photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s house) to connect with nature and paint her favorite things: mostly flowers and trees.
While her style was very subjective, frequently abstract (as in many paintings of flower details), and never quite realistic, she had a very good sense of artistic composition. I particularly appreciated her paintings with a good use of contrast (Red Canna, 1919); texture (leaves, 1923); and the often exaggerated organic line (White Birch, 1925). She shared my fascination with trees. Her Chestnut Grey (1924) is particularly delightful, with its grand denuded, pruned trunk silhouetted against the sunset and distant mountains, punctuated by an evening star.
Like all artists, she experimented with different treatments of her subjects, almost venturing into realism on one end of the spectrum (Dark Red Apples & Tray, 1920-21), and bordering on surrealism on the other, in her subjective treatment of form and fluid line of natural elements (Stamp in Red Hills; Pelvis with the Distance). Many of her abstract floral paintings are strongly suggestive of female genitalia. Her visual experimentation with these forms can perhaps be understood in her words: “I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.”
Playing Tourist in My Own Backyard
Whou’da’ thunk it would be such a beautiful day in late November on the bay? Heck with black Friday. Black has never been my favorite color. I’d much rather go out in the sun and feel the wind on my face.
A BART ride to the historic Ferry Building. Once the second-busiest transit station in the world outside of Charing Cross Station in London, it now spends most of its time as a trendy shopping center, housing permanent upscale restaurants and shops, as well as a huge Saturday gourmet farmer’s market.
Arriving in Sausalito, my girls and I meet up with our boating friends. As we motor out onto the all but windless water, we enjoy brie, crackers and olives, along with some champagne. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. Conversation is punctuated by laughs as we glide along the channel, past sunning cormorants, pelicans and a few seals.
It’s a fine day for just being on the water. Not a hint of the normal San Francisco chill. My youngest is offered the helm, and, feeling a bit tentative at first, she quickly adapts to her new status. And then, a steady 4-knot breeze picks up, enough for her to learn how the wind vane and tell-tales work. As we saunter leisurely towards the city skyline, she maintains her heading, reading the wind to avoid luffing the jib.
No hurries, no worries out here on this sparkling blue lake of a bay. Knowing how rough it can be toward the Golden Gate with its treacherous “potato patch” makes us relish the extreme languor of the moment and the day.
Then, noting the sun heading behind the Marin Headlands, my benjamin daughter calls “Ready about?” and then, “Helms alee!” and we gracefully come about and make our way back to the marina.
We enjoy some delicious ice cream at Lappert’s in Sausalito before catching the last ferry back. Night has fallen, and it’s getting chilly. We are greeted by the Ferry Building’s glowing clock tower (the largest mechanical dial clock in the world), and the holiday-lit outlines of the Embarcadero Center high-rises.
BARTing it back to Union Square, we are almost crushed by the hordes returning from the tree-lighting ceremony. We hike up to meet my sister and her husband in Chinatown,
and then proceed a few more blocks to North Beach, where we have the best cioppino ever at the quirky Mona Lisa restaurant. A reproduction of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” as well as a topless version of the Mona Lisa are prominent among the confusion of artworks and sculptures lining every inch of the restaurant’s interior.
What better way to spend the holiday than out enjoying some local color in my own backyard?
OK, I blogged about synchronicity recently with regard to the International Space Station (see Spacemen in my Backyard), but I didn’t really define it. I’m not going to go look it up in the dictionary right now (but feel free, if you want to); instead I will describe what that term means to me. It means being so in tune with the time/space/eventuality continuum that, instead of planning for things ahead of time, things just seem to happen for you at the right moment. Just what you want/need/have been hoping for, falls into your lap, or presents itself, without any outward effort on your part.*(See metaphysical footnote, below.)
A close relative once said that our family is blessed with this kind of coincidental serendipity, almost as if it were a supernatural gift. That family member labeled this charactieristic “intuition.” It is knowing without measuring, arriving without planning, obtaining without struggling. It is the ability to materialize what you need when you need it, like good “parking karma” in a congested urban environment. My rationalization is that it derives from a state of openness and listening, a state I like to call being “centered.”
It’s useful to have good intuition, especially if you don’t have a lot of money or time to waste. It’s nice to be at the right place at the right time to get bargains on the food and other things you need, to get free tickets to Giants games or symphony concerts, to have friends who can fix your car or your house for a reasonable price. My family is blessed with these things. So even if we can’t afford luxuries like cable TV, we get by with good intuition, parking karma, and a little help from our friends.