A Visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario

Whenever I’m in Toronto, the AGO is a must-see. Over the Christmas holidays I had the chance to catch the last few days of an awesome exhibition there: Early Rubens, plus some impressive works from other artists.

I use the word ‘awesome’ not casually, I mean exactly as the word is originally intended. Flemish Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens’s (1577-1640) paintings are huge, depicting Biblical characters and narratives in epic scale. On a wall I read this Rubens quote:

I confess that I am by natural instinct better fitted to execute very large works than small curiosities. Everyone according to his gifts; my talent is such that no undertaking, however vast in size or diversified in subject, has ever surpassed my courage.   –  Peter Paul Rubens, Letter dated 1621

Glad he mentioned ‘Everyone according to his gifts’, or else those who are afraid of heights would never be able to score any artistic achievement.

Anyway, this one in particular haunted me, The Massacre of the Innocents, around 1611-1612. Mothers try desperately to protect their sons against muscular men:

Massacre of the Innocents

Those entangled, near-naked bodies are men following an order from King Herod to kill all babies under the age of two after hearing that the King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph took their baby son Jesus and fled to Egypt to escape a ruler’s jealous rage and his desperate cling to power. Yes, Jesus and his parents were migrants, one of the early political refugees escaping from a ruthless government.

Fast forward several centuries to 1903, and in contrast to the massive scale of human tragedy of the above painting, I was drawn to this very quiet, seemingly simple painting of a mother giving a bowl of soup to her child. The mother looks unwell and seems to give away what she needs to her child. This poignant and sparse scene entitled The Soup is Pablo Picasso’s social statement of poverty and homelessness:

Pablo Piccaso The Soup

A more relaxed social scene. This painting from the 19th C. French landscape painter Eugène Boudin, Beach Near Trouville, linked my thoughts to a movie scene right away. Boudin’s work is dated 1864, that’s around the same period as Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. Boudin depicts Parisian high society mingling on the beach town of Trouville. Notice the women’s dresses:

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My mental association was naturally the Greta Gerwig directed Little Women beach picnic scene. I couldn’t help but compare their formal attires even at the beach and the actual chairs they sat on in Boudin’s painting with the beach scene in Little Women, so free and casual (not displayed in AGO):

Beach Scene in Greta Gerwig's Little Women

Don’t you want to fly a kite with the March sisters on that sandy beach?

From the historic to the futuristic, the iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (born 1929) has invented visions of infinity with her experimental installations for three decades. Her work was exhibited at the AGO in 2017 and now the Gallery has a permanent set up Kusama called The Infinity Mirrored Room – Let’s Survive Forever. I had to reserve a time slot ahead for my visit. At my appointed time, which was another hour later, I still had to wait in line to go into the room.

It’s a room of silver spheres suspended from the ceiling and arranged on the floor set against mirrors. A person standing in the room will see seemingly infinite reflections:

Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room

Here’s the image of one silver ball in the middle of the room. I didn’t do any colour changes, so just interesting to see what looked to me was a silver ball came out green in the photo:

One silver ball

You can actually see me taking the picture. What does this all mean? According to Kusama, the room gives a person a sense of infinity and limitlessness.

Only two visitors were allowed inside the room at one time. And how long could we spend in there? One minute. A staff with a timer in hand monitored the flow of visitors. When our time was up, she knocked on the closed door for us to go out and another two would go in. Call it a visual oxymoron if you will: A one-minute taste of infinity. O the limits of our human experiences.

 

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Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

Alex Colville and the Movies

Bernini’s Corpus and Modern Movies

My review of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women

 

 

 

Concord revisited with ‘Little Women’

Five years ago, I took a New England road trip with my cousin. It was a major endeavour for me coming from Western Canada, over 2,500 miles away. The photos here were taken during the road trip that fall. We began our drive across three States starting from Wayland, MA. Nearby Concord was our first point of interest. This is where Louisa May Alcott grew up and later transposed her real life family onto the page to write Little Women.

Thanks to writer/director Greta Gerwig’s adaptation, fond memories flash back as I watch the New England scenery captured so beautifully on screen. One of the memorable scenes is the panoramic autumn hillside in which Laurie made his failed attempt proposing to Jo. Another one was the Christmas morning breakfast give-away as Marmee led the girls to exercise love-in-action.

CONCORD, MA

A major attraction in Concord is Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. The Alcott family owned Orchard House from 1857 to 1884, within which period all four Alcott girls Anna, Louisa, Lizzie and May had their most influential growing up years. The house is now a museum:

Sign

The rooms and furniture, Louisa’s (Jo) writing desk, the costume and props the girls made for their plays, Anna’s (Meg) wedding gown, and all of May’s (Amy) original paintings on the walls of her room are preserved inside the Orchard House Museum:

The Orchard House Museum

Louisa transposed her family onto the page, creating parallel characters in the March household. In the Little Women Garden, the March sisters had their own flower bed, each planted their section according to their taste or maybe, character. Here’s from the quote on the sign indicating their choices:

Meg – roses and heliotrope, myrtle, and a little orange tree
Jo – never alike two seasons, for she was always trying experiments
Beth – old-fashioned fragrant flowers, sweet peas and mignonette, larkspur, pinks, pansies, southernwood, with chickweed for birds and catnip for the pussies.
Amy – honeysuckle and morning-glories hanging their colored horns and bells in graceful wreaths all over it, tall white lilies, delicate ferns, and as many brilliant, picturesque plants.

The Garden

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Here’s the issue many have questioned: Did Greta Gerwig alter the Little Women characters to appeal to modern day viewers, or, is she merely revealing Louisa May Alcott’s true image?

From Orchard House we went to visit the Concord Museum. Among plaques presenting some of Concord’s famous residents is this one of Louisa May Alcott. The quote on there comes from a letter Louisa wrote dated November 29, 1856:

I think I shall come out right, and prove that though an Alcott I can support myself. I like the independent feeling, and though not an easy life, it is a free one, and I enjoy it. I can’t do much with my hands; so I will make a battering-ram of my head and make a way through this rough-and-tumble world…

 

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The Alcott parents, Bronson and Abigail were abolitionists and environmentalists. Bronson was the first teacher in Boston to admit a black student to his class despite protests from white parents who threatened either the black student go or they go. Bronson’s school was left with very few students consequently as he insisted his stance.

But his educational ideals must have been embraced by students as Bronson introduced the idea of raising their hands to speak in class, and he was the one who invented recess in school. There you go for a Jeopardy question.

Louisa’s mother Abigail was one of the first social workers in Boston, and was active in Women’s rights. She’d said, “I will go to the polls before I die if my daughters had to carry me there.”

The Alcott’s close friends and neighbours included prominent intellectuals and writers of the day: Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne. They made frequent, mutual visits, and had personal influence on Louisa’s formation and writing.

Down the road from the Alcott’s was Emerson’s home. Emerson had helped the financially strapped Bronson with acquiring Orchard House:

Emerson's Home

And living minimally by choice as an experiment, here’s Thoreau’s cabin (replica) at nearby Walden Pond:

thoreaus-cabin

 

Thoreau's Lake Side Cabin

Growing up under such stimulating milieu where thinkers and writers are free to explore new ideas and generate new philosophy, it was only natural that Louisa grew up grasping the values and the spirit of her parents and their friends, becoming a non-conformist herself.

Louisa had admitted she’s Jo in Little Women and added: “I didn’t make her half-bad enough.” If she’d been here today and directed the movie, I’ve a feeling she’d make Jo twice as radical and assertive. Gerwig is admirably restrained and for this, kudos to her.

 

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Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

Little Women (2019) movie review

Can a movie adaptation ever be as good as the book?

A New England Fall Foliage Road Trip

 

The Last Days of Summer

It has been noted that the drive from Lake Louise in Banff National Park up the Icefields Parkway north to Jasper National Park is the most beautiful drive in the world. I spend a couple of our remaining summer days driving that scenic route and immerse in the other-worldly environs of pristine Jasper National Park.

The cold rain and wet snow in sections of the road remind me that, yes, autumn is at hand. But once I reach the boundary of Jasper National Park, I throw away any seasonal distinction. Wether it’s summer or autumn is immaterial. What’s captivating is the present. Here are some glorious sights of Jasper National Park.

The mysterious, clouds shrouded Medicine Lake in the morning light:

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Hurricanes hit Texas and Florida, here we’ve been affected by the wild fires from B.C. all summer. At the shore of Medicine Lake I feel the effects:

Wild Fire effect

But the natural beauty remains. The charred remnants of trees along the edge of the lake would become rich organic matter spurring new growths.

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A short 30 mins. drive from Medicine Lake is the picturesque Maligne Lake, serene and reflective:

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For those who must do something to seize the moment, there are canoes for rent and scenic cruises:

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Before reaching the townsite of Jasper, the 93 Icefields Parkway leads to Athabasca Falls, where one can witness the power of Nature in an aesthetic mode. Who had turned the mighty torrents into Nature’s sculptors, carving quartzite and limestones into magnificent art installations?

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In the Jasper townsite, even the man-made locomotive matches the scenery in the evening light. Like a watercourse streaming through the landscape, The Rocky Mountaineer passenger train passes through Vancouver and across the Rocky Mountains into Alberta’s Banff and Jasper National Parks.

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Even a cargo CN train exudes poetry. I credit it to the spirit of the environs:

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Just like the animals preparing for winter, I’m gathering visual memories to feed the cold months ahead.

 

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Other Travel Posts on Ripple Effects:

New England Foliage Road Trip

Day Trip to Cambridge

Establishing Shot: A Visit to Toronto

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Snapshot Oct. 15: Five Days in London

About this time last year I’d just finished a Thelma-and-Louise kind of road trip (exclude the ending, of course) to New England with my cousin to see fall foliage. The series of travel posts begins here.  This year, it’s London, England.

Here are the highlights of our short, five-day escape to London on the week of Oct. 3-7. Detailed blog posts to come.

MondayThe Go-Between at the historic Apollo Theatre (since 1901) on Shaftesbury Avenue. Leading star is Michael Crawford, the original Phantom.

 

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Tuesday — Tate Modern, Georgia O’Keeffe Exhibit. No photos allowed for that exhibit, but I was free to take artworks from other areas in brilliant Tate Modern. Here’s one I love the best. View from its 10th floor observation level:

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Wednesday — Day trip to Cambridge:

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Thursday — The British Library, King’s Cross and the St. Pancras Stations. Why a train and tube station could be the highlights of the day? Wait and see. Here’s St. Pancras Station:

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Friday — Which zebra crossing (those in N. America, no zebra, just pedestrian) is a point of interest for world visitors?

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And which movie puts a community and street market on the to-see list of visiting cinephiles and antique hunters?

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Detailed London posts coming up.

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Saturday Snapshots is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

Serendipity on Route 7

My drive continued south from Bennington, Vermont, via RT 7 to Williamstown, Massachusetts. There I stayed for the night. I knew Williams College was located there. But while exploring the town, I came to this building and saw the huge banner. Upon further investigation, I was excited to discover the campus of Shakespeare & Company:

The Miller BldgDSC_0337 (1)Later I found out that the actor Christopher Reeve met his future wife Dana in Williamstown where they later married. Reeve began as an apprentice at age 15 with the Wiliamstown Theater Festival right in those venues and eventually performed there for fourteen more seasons.

I had the chance to talk to a woman who was working on the grounds and learned that, lo and behold, she was born in Alberta, Canada, my home province! Imagine a chance encounter with an Alberta born American thousands of miles away.

The Berkshires region is beautiful and cultural. I made a mental note to come back to Williamstown for its annual Theater Festival.

My original plan was just to drive south on RT 7 from Williamstown to Lenox to see the Edith Wharton House at The Mount, when another serendipitous find came upon me: Tanglewood Music Center. So here I was at the famous summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra on my way to Edith Wharton House.

The Koussevitzky Music Shed was named after the Russian-born conductor, composer and double-bassist, long-time music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949:

TanglewoodI lingered at Tanglewood for quite some time, for the grounds were beautiful and offered magnificent views. Another mental note: I must come back for the Tanglewood Festival in the summer. :

viewAcross the road from Tanglewood, fall foliage began to emerge. That was October 7. I can imagine how beautiful it is now:

across from TanglewoodAnd finally, to The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home from 1902 – 1911. I knew she was a prolific novelist and short-story writer, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize (The Age of Innocence, 1921); later I learned too that she had been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature three times.

So I was a little surprised to find out from the tour guide at The Mount that she was also a house and landscape designer in her own right. Her book The Decoration of Houses is still used today by architects and designers.

Built as a writers retreat, The Mount reflects Wharton’s fondness of symmetry:

SymmetryWhat happened to the left side of the building? That makes it not symmetrical, you might ask. That’s the servants quarter which Wharton was willing to compromise her design principle.

Here’s another view why it’s called The Mount:

The MountI took a tour of both the inside as well as her gardens. Here’s one wall of her library:

One wallWell read in several languages since she was young, Wharton left these books behind  when she moved away to live in Paris the latter part of her life after the demise of her marriage. Her husband Edward had fallen into a state of dementia after lengthy bouts of depression and mental illness. The writer’s years at The Mount had not been as happy as its surroundings could offer her.

The Drawing Room:

The Drawing RoomDining Room, where Henry James was one of several usual guests:

Dining RoomBut where did she write? Not in the library, or at the desk in her room, but right in her bed. She had an assistant who would take her handwritten pages and type them up after her six hours of continuous writing every morning before she got out of bed. I’m sure Wharton would love to have a laptop:

Writing bed (1)And these other items I found interesting. Downton images conjured up in my mind. Typewriter, telephone, telegram:

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An original 1902 ice box, Daisy would love it but maybe not Mrs. Patmore. Give her some time to warm up:

Ice Box
A luggage lift. Definitely would be a fave among the footmen:

Luggage lift

And only after the tour did I find out, The Mount had given a Life Time Achievement Award to Julian Fellowes. The Downton creator had attributed Wharton as a major influence on his works, first Gosford Park (Oscar Best Original Screenplay, 2002) and then Downton Abbey. Speaking upon receiving the Award at the Harvard Club, Fellowes noted that he was particularly inspired by Wharton’s “… ability to judge without feeling the need to condemn.”

I bought the book The Custom of the Country in the gift shop and only just now did I learn that it is being adapted into a TV mini-series, with Scarlett Johansson playing the anti-heroine, Undine Spragg. This will mark Johansson’s first TV role.

As for Julian Fellowes’ new work? I eagerly await. After visiting The Mount, I can see what a natural shift it is for him to create an American version of Downton. The Gilded Age should be a smooth sequel.

From Lenox, I began the last leg of my New England Road Trip. I headed east on I90, a breezy 2.5 hrs. drive back to Wayland, the suburb outside Boston, thus completing the loop and a memorable journey. An item checked off my bucket list.

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Vermont: More than Scenery

Vermont has so much to offer on top of the scenery. But I’ll start with that.

The hills are alive overlooking a breathtaking view of the distant Green Mountains. That was what attracted the von Trapp Family to settle there. Right, that’s the Family von Trapp of The Sound of Music fame. Goerg and Maria moved to Vermont in 1941 and bought a 300 acre farm near Stowe, as that location reminded them of their native Austria. There on the mountain top they started a guest lodge and had since developed into what is now an upscale resorts on 2,500 acres.

The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT, owned and operated by the eldest son of Maria and Georg von Trapp:

Trapp Family LodgeJust 36 miles west of Stowe was Lake Champlain on the edge of Burlington, a vibrant college town. The Lake is a large body of fresh water, once called the sixth of the Great Lakes. It borders the States of Vermont, New York and stretches up north to Quebec, Canada.

At the pier of Lake Champlain:

Lake ChamplainI totally get how this boat is named:

DSC_0096I took the Vermont scenic drive Rt. 100 and headed south from Stowe. My destination was Bennington in the southwest corner of the State.

Not far from Stowe I arrived at Waterbury, a town with lots of restaurant choices for such a small place. I visited two major tourist sites there.

Just off RT 100 was the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, and they sure were prepared for the hundreds of visitors on the day I was there. A well organized and informative factory tour let me see how two college buddies’ $50 investment on an online ice cream making course had come to fruition. What’s impressive is their commitment to use supplies from local farms and cows that are steroids-free. A fair trade business to ensure global responsibility. (no, I don’t get a buck for writing this.)

Product MissionIn contrast, not far from the madding crowd at Ben & Jerry’s was the serene Waterbury Reservoir. When I got there it was already past sunset. So glad I could still take these photos:

Waterbury Reservoir

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Reservoir

Continued on Vermont Rt. 100 south I came by this most interesting site in the fields outside the small town of Waitsfield, population: 1,719 (2010). Here I found The Big Picture Theater, screening The Martian:

DSC_0103Two posters at the door caught my attention:

Kickstarter FFDownton Talk

One was a “Kickstarter Film Festival”. An indie film festival in this area? I was most impressed.

Another poster was about a talk on “The Costumes of Downton Abbey”. Here’s what the poster says if you can’t see it clearly (above right):
“Jule Emerson, former Costume Designer and Theater Professor at Middlebury College will discuss the fashions worn by Lady Mary and her family in the popular PBS series Downton Abbey. Free and Open to the Public”

No place is too remote for films and the Crawleys.

Rt. 100 offered some fall scenery very different from NH. I was attracted by the clumps of trees in distant hills along the road. It was a cloudy day, so instead of seeing bright and cheery foliage, I was captivated by the moody atmosphere. Just as beautiful:

Moody

Before arriving at Bennington, I stopped by South Shaftsbury to visit Robert Frost Stone House Museum. Frost bought the stone house and its 80 acres land in 1920, moving from the White Mountains in NH to warmer Vermont mainly for “a better place to farm and especially grow apples.” Aren’t we glad that he threw in some poems as well in his time-off from apple-picking.

In this fertile soil Frost not only gathered apples but poetic harvests as well. In the Stone House, there’s a “Stopping by Woods” Room where the Poet wrote his most famous “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” A facsimile of the handwritten manuscript and many other pertinent materials – parody included – were displayed. Trust my words. I didn’t want to get caught taking pictures in a ‘Photography Forbidden’ premises.

I did take photos outside of Frost’s Stone House:

Frost's Stone Houseand his juicy legacy, the apple tree in front of the house:

DSC_0205From Shaftsbury I drove the few blocks to Bennington, There at the back of the First Congregational Church was the cemetery where Robert Frost was buried.

Yes, the sky was that blue that day:

DSC_0270Frost’s grave gathered no pens or pencils as I saw in Authors Ridge of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord ; instead, people have left pennies there. If they were meant to be tributes to the Poet, it’s simply mind boggling to see how people could think a penny would suffice. Allow me to offer a little alteration to a common saying, standing in front of Frost’s grave: If you don’t have anything poetic to leave there, don’t leave anything.

DSC_0251Coming up: my last stop, Lenox, MA.

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Follow my New England series:

Orange is the Primary Colour

Driving from coastal Maine westward to New Hampshire, the foliage colours began to change a bit more. Even though I was totally enjoying myself along the coast, I did look forward to seeing some fall foliage as I moved inland.

I drove from Rockport to Maine’s capital Augusta, then continued on some small country roads towards Bethel and Gilead before crossing the State line to Gorham, New Hampshire. It was a pleasure driving through these more remote parts of the country, for the routes offer some gratifying scenery:

Driving thru MaineCountry road in MaineBut it was the colour orange on the ground that caught my eyes. From afar, they were tiny orange dots in the field:

Tiny orange dots on the groundA bit closer I knew, of course, that was a pumpkin patch. And it was orange that would be the predominant colour everywhere, in towns and in the country.

On flatbeds and wagons:

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Or laid out neatly in arrays on grass:

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arrays

In various shapes and forms:

DSC_0508At door fronts, entrances, in hanging baskets and shop windows:

EntrancesHanging Basket

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Or in the form of pumpkin people:

DSC_0552DSC_0784Or as pumpkin elves like these two sitting outside Elf Academy:

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No wonder there’s a shortage of pumpkins in the U.S. as the demand is so high. With recent crops diminished by record rain, there arose a pumpkin shortage. Help is on the way though. Here’s a recent headline on CBC News Business section:

“Canadian pumpkin patches poised to fix U.S. lack-o’-lanterns problem.”

What are neighbors for?

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This is my Saturday Snapshot October 17 entry. Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

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Saturday Snapshot February 15: Windows & Doors

By now, I’m sure many of you are tired of looking at white and greyish stuff, be it snow, or its liquid form. Let me take you on my escapade to Provence, France, and continue to bask in some warm colours.

This time, we’re looking at windows and doors. Again, they are photos from my trip to Avignon and Arles in the summer of 2010.

Blue Windows in ArlesShop windowAvignonSix windows in ArlesPink window

A shop window

Yellow windows2 blue windows

Now here’s the trick: Choose a photo. Look intensely at it for one minute then close your eyes and let the image imprint in your mind. When you reopen your eyes, I’m sure you won’t see white. Let’s just dream a little dream of warm summer daze.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy Reads. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

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ALL PHOTOS TAKEN BY ARTI OF RIPPLE EFFECTS.
DO NOT COPY OR REBLOG

Saturday Snapshot January 25: Cabin Fever

It’s January 25, and we’re deep in winter. I don’t need any more photos to remind me of our seasonal deal, snow and ice. Saw the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a couple of days ago. And Oh, how I need to unleash the Walter Mitty in me now, and let my mind zoom off to distant lands, warm, temperate, and colourful.

So here I am, travelling back to the summer of 2010, taking a road trip in Provence, France. A cure for cabin fever: I breath in the warm air, feast my eyes on colours and relive a most memorable family vacation.

We took a day trip from Avignon to Vaison la Romaine and Chateauneuf du Pape, passing through vineyards, stopping by markets.

A vineyard beside a 12th Century chapel in Vaison la Romaine:

Vineyard by 12th Century Chapel in Vaison

Grapes on vine

A street market. The colours … what a contrast to our wintry white and grey:

Street Market in Vaison

Colourful pots

Colours Colorful rolls

Motor carI like the kid here. What was he looking at?

The Kid

Or here, the yellow rose. Imagine opening your front door and be greeted by a cheerful, yellow rose:

The Yellow Rose

And the fan here. Just looking at it can cure cabin fever. Let your inner Walter Mitty take you for a ride:

The Fan

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy Reads. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

ALL PHOTOS TAKEN BY ARTI OF RIPPLE EFFECTS. DO NOT COPY OR REBLOG.

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