Blog Archive

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Photos from a January trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art are now up on Flickr.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Present

Even though the old man has been working with computers since 1970 (or perhaps because), he assiduously avoids spending time on the Internet in his retirement.  Thus, I can post about his Christmas present without worrying about ruining the surprise.

This summer, I found a double bit axe head ground into the gravel of one his pole barns.  I’d like to think that this was something he cadged from the family farm before it was sold, but mostly likely, he picked it up at a yard sale.

Regardless, he has reached the stage in his life where he complains about having too much stuff.  Which makes present giving difficult.  So, I secreted the axe head away with plans to give it back to him at Christmas.  It had seen better days:


I took after it with the grinder, wire brushes, sandpaper and polishing compound.  About halfway through one side:


One side done:


Meanwhile, I had purchased a replacement handle (which was strangely difficult in Western Pennsylvania).  It had been sealed, so I had to sand off the finishes (and the warnings).  Some paint was in order:



Then, the old man’s initial pyrographed into the handle:IMG_20141218_095506709

Finally, everything assembled:



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This summer, my wife bought me some lovely wooden bowls at a yard sale.  I was looking for a place to park some basil seedlings at the same time and so they became (with some drilled drainage holes) planters.

But, after at the end of summer, I noticed a crack in one.  And, being obsessed with kintsugi, I decided to take a crack at a version involving epoxy and glow in the dark powder (up to this point, I hadn’t even realized that glow in the dark powder was a thing, let alone a cheap thing, and now I keep seeing uses for it everywhere).

Allow me to point out that I know next to nothing about kintsugi or the cultural underpinnings.  I do, however, think it looks awesome.  The same with wabi-sabi.  I can tell you what an American definition might be, but as far as understanding the relevance to the Japanese culture, not so much.

But I do like the patina of age and wear, and use and brokenness that the things that I own tend to have.  I like how it speaks to the impermanence and imperfection of the world ad, to a greater extent, me and my physical form.  And I like things that glow in the dark.  A lot.

This the vessel as it stood, cracked after a summer of use:IMG_20141124_131803573_1

I cleaned out the joint with a dremel and then mixed some epoxy with the glow in the dark powder.  I have no idea what ratio I used.  I dumped it until it looked good.  I’d measure it next time.  I let it cure overnight, cleaned it with some oil soap and brought it inside:


And here – a long exposure in a dark room to show off the lovely blue glow that it has at night.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ran In-Ting at Butler’s Maridon Museum

The Maridon is one of those obscure museums that you find in small towns. The kind that I should note, I am hopeless addicted to.  There’s small, usually devoted to an esoteric subject and are typically a blast to visit because the people are passionate and the halls are empty.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the Met, I love Boston’s MFA, but if I’m driving through a town and there’s a road sign advertising some obscure, tiny museum run with love and donations, I’m going to stop in.  And I’m going to buy stuff in the shop, because these small museums also have the most random souvenirs. 

The Maridon has been open now for a decade. The strangeness of the collection is because much of the museum -- the collection and the grounds -- were the personal possessions of Mary Hulton Phillips. Phillips was a Butler native who married Donald Phillips (the museum’s name "Maridon" comes from the combination of her first name with that of her husband’s.) Donald was the grandson of Butler oil and natural gas baron T.W. Phillips. Philips put that money to good use, undertaking a lifetime of collecting art works and antiques while being fantastically generous to organizations in her home town.



Photo by Cynthia Closkey

I first visited the Maridon, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh in Butler, PA, years ago, shortly after it opened, I’ll admit; I blew it off. A nice netsuke collection (although no Shunga netsuke (at least not on display), so, perverts, look elsewhere), mixed in with some replica pieces and an incongruous and large collection of Meissen porcelain which, I felt, diluted the overall focus on Asian Art.

Ran In-Ting’s Watercolor’s exhibit is the first special exhibit I’ve been to at the Maridon and it was well worth giving the museum a second chance. The exhibit includes 22 pieces from a private collection on loan and marks the first time they’ve been on public display

Unless you’re a Butler local, you’ve probably never heard of Mary Philips.  And unless you were a watercolor fan in the 50s in America, you’ve probably never heard of Ran.  Although he had some American acclaim at the start of Cold War, Ran remains pretty much unknown here in the US.  At home, Taiwan, it’s a different matter.  Ran’s work is considered a national treasure of Taiwanese art, winning the National Art Prize In 1959 from the Chinese government the highest honor an artist could be given at that time in that country. But here in the US, his reputation has largely languished, even with the increasing interest (or perhaps because of) in contemporary (rather than Modern) Chinese Art.

And that’s too bad because the work is spectacular.  Ran’s work has an energy and vibrancy that captures the clash of Taiwan's European influences and Chinese tradition.


“Beauties on a Summer Day”

There’s a great focus and delight in empty space and the concept of separation.  Gates are a common motif in these paintings, working metaphorically to separate the spirit world from the material and the contemporary world of Taiwan from the old world of Formosa. 



Even though Ran’s using watercolors, the paintings feel open and alive.The technical expertise is amazing with a combination of wet and dry strokes, layering, and a combination of colors that are breathtaking.


“Street Market”

And yes, my haul at the shop included a coin purse, two gold maneki-neko, and four replica brass Chinese coins.  I’ll use them to throw the I Ching to see what museum I should drop by next.

Ran In-Ting’s Watercolors Exhibit runs from June 1st through August 31st, 2014.  The Maridon is at 322 N McKean St, Butler, PA 16001 (724) 282-0123 and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 AM -4:00PM.   Admission Fees: $4.00 – Adults,  $3.00 - Seniors and Students, Free - 8 and under.  The Maridon Museum is ADA accessible.