Category: architecture and design

Based in Batignolles 6: Architecture and Arrondissements

Posted May 31st, 2017
Based in Batignolles 6: Architecture and Arrondissements

“Alistair Horne, Vivid War Historian and Onetime British Spy, Dies at 91.” The headline in today’s New York Times would have caught my eye any morning. Right now, however, I am up to page 306 of Horne’s Seven Ages of Paris, engrossed in his narrative of the years leading to World War I. It’s a wonderful…

Based in Batignolles 4: Love Locked Down

Posted May 19th, 2017
Based in Batignolles 4: Love Locked Down

The novelist Federico Mocci (b. 1963) published a story in 2006 called Ho Voglia di Te (“I want you”), some variation on the star-crossed lovers theme, in which a doomed pair affix a lock to the Milvian Bridge in the northern suburbs of Rome as a symbol of their eternal devotion, and toss the key…

Based in Batignolles 2: One Thing After Another

Posted May 10th, 2017
Based in Batignolles 2: One Thing After Another

Gounod’s Faust was the first opera I ever saw, and I saw it at Palais Charles Garnier in Paris in March 1970. As we ascended the massive stair forty-eight years later, studied Marc Chagall’s rainbow of a ceiling and gazed out over the loggia outside the ornate Grand Foyer, it all came back. I was…

Texas Break 1: The River Runs Through It

Posted March 20th, 2017
Texas Break 1: The River Runs Through It

San Antonio is famed for two things: The Alamo and the Riverwalk. Decades ago My Dear One paused at San Antonio, while on route to California, to see them. He was disappointed. Apparently, the Alamo site was barely a building or two, including the chapel, and primarily intrusive hawkers of cheesy souvenirs. The Riverwalk was a short…

The Naples Jaunt 4: Mining and Minding the Past     

Posted March 5th, 2017
The Naples Jaunt 4: Mining and Minding the Past     

Ruins. Antiquities. The bones of the dead. Italy is a place where one culture layers on another, razing, reusing, raising new structures for new orders. Italy has commoditized her archaeological past since long before she was unified as a nation in 1860. Romans collected and copied works of Greek art. Greek, Roman, Egyptian relics were…

Christmas Letter 2016

Posted December 13th, 2016
Christmas Letter 2016

Dearest all, I made the pilgrimage on my own, from our moorage on the Danube in Passau, Germany, up the Wallfahrtsstiege, the 321 steps to the Mariahilf.  I counted off the Stations of the Cross and contemplated the gifts people had left, pleas for help and expressions of gratitude. No one else was there, no…

I-35: Mason City

Posted October 12th, 2016
I-35: Mason City

There is sculpture everywhere. Sofas, side tables and chairs in the park, children playing, bears looking confused, a marching band worth of horns, welded dinosaurs, silvery dancers, and even Frank Lloyd Wright looking approvingly at his hotel and bank downtown. Realism, abstraction, high art and humor. Who knew. And who knew that Mason City, a…

I-35: Des Moines

Posted October 12th, 2016
I-35: Des Moines

There were dropped jaws and more polite phrasings like, “What has persuaded you to make this move?” when I told people that I was moving to Iowa, in 1985 for a job as curator of education at the Des Moines Art Center. “Big careers are made in smaller museums,” I often answered. But the truth…

In Flanders Cities 5: Brussels is Art Nouveau

Posted April 19th, 2015
In Flanders Cities 5: Brussels is Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is not really my thing—too ornate, too feminine, too precious. I admire certain artists and objects and connect to the focus on materials and their unique qualities, but l would not want an Art Nouveau home or Art Nouveau furnishings, or even much in the way of Art Nouveau jewelry. I understand—and teach—that…

In Flanders’ Cities 4: Antwerp

Posted April 18th, 2015
In Flanders’ Cities 4: Antwerp

I was here in the summer of 1970, an eighteen-year-old hitchhiking around Europe after a year on an English-Speaking Union scholarship at Princess Helena College in Hertfordshire, England. My traveling companion, Sue, was a school pal of a school pal, and we joined forces on this adventure—and an adventure it was. But I remember nearly…