Disconnected Silliness

Dear Liza,

Most days, I like to have a story to tell you, a connected set of images that move from beginning to end and make some sort of sense. But not all the pictures I take fit into the stories.

So today, you get the random bits that didn’t connect with anything else.

This tiny shelf has been attached to the telephone pole for months, but has just recently been “closed”. I love our silly neighborhood.

These messages of friendship written all over the sidewalks let us know our friends are thinking of us.

A little love from the sidewalk….

And, of course, flowers blooming and blooming!

The combination of old houses and new blossoms just knocks me out….

And Laurelhurst is still one of the prettiest places in town.

Sigh.

That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll have a story for you tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunny Walk, New Things

Dear Liza,

We had some errands to do yesterday, so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a nice long walk. And since all the places we needed to go were down on Hawthorne, we saw how that street is changing during the lockdown.

One of our gnomes, lurking in the ferns….

We saw that Chez Machin, a lovely French bistro type place, has changed its name to Frog and Snail. I am hoping it is just a name change and the owners are the same. They are nice folks, and too many people are losing their livelihoods because of the shutdown. We will have a taste of their frogs and snails when the city opens up more.

Chez Machin is now Frog and Snail

We still found a lot of businesses closed, but the art and messaging is beautiful and hopeful. I took pictures as a way of holding tight onto goodness and love.

I have been so dismayed these last few days at the level of anger and violence that has swept over Portland and the rest of the country that I sometimes just want to curl up and sleep until all the hatred has passed.

But love, beauty and just plain human goodness are making themselves heard, too. And that gives me comfort.

Yep, just that.

After dropping off dry cleaning and mailing packages, we stopped at Hawthorne Liquor. Auntie Bridgett is on a mission to find a certain kind of yummy cognac that we had on an Air France flight, years ago. We have yet to find it anywhere in the city. But I did have time to wonder at this improbable bottle of pear brandy!

How did they DO that?

On the way home we stopped at Whole Bowl for lunch, which we ate while sitting on the chairs outside the temporarily closed Common Grounds coffee shop. We stopped at Chase bank to return someone’s lost credit card, and enjoyed some more street art.

Big smiles come from small stickers!

By the time we got home, we had walked nearly three miles! I felt pretty accomplished, after these long months of too much sofa-sitting. Maybe we can put ourselves out of this hole, after all.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bridgett Spicer’s Art

Dear Liza,

You know Auntie Bridgett is an artist, right? Well, this week she sold three of her lovely paintings!!

Abstract Paris II by Bridgett Spicer

Bridgett shows her paintings, collages, buttons, magnets and zines at SideStreet Arts gallery at SE 28th and Ash Street here in Portland. She is one of nine members of the gallery and also handles the graphic design for their show postcards, their news releases, and advertisements. It is a big job!

Abstract Paris 1, by Bridgett Spicer

This last Sunday was a good day for art selling. The lady who had bought Bridgett’s wonderful collage of Max Jacob last year came by, and they got to chat. It is always nice to know where your art has gone.

Then a couple came in and, attracted by “(I wish I were) A Paris”, they went to the corner where Bridgett’s paintings were. They fell in love with, and bought, three of her wonderful blue “Paris Rooftops”!

Paris Rooftops, by Bridgett Spicer

I love these paintings, which were inspired by our vacations to Paris, and I am so pleased that people love and appreciate Auntie Bridgett’s art. It makes her happy to create it, and then it goes out and spreads happiness in the world.

That’s a win-win, as they say.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Contemporary Art vs. Modern Art

Dear Liza,

Frank Benson’s “Portrait of Elizabeth”, from 1901, is Modern Art

I learn a lot when I go to PAM, our art museum, with Auntie Bridgett. She has studied art history, so she helps me see things in perspective.

All these styles, from 1890 to 1940 or so, are Modern Art!

For example, I always thought that since Modern usually means the newest and most current thing, that Modern would be the newest, latest art. I was wrong! Modern art, as it turns out, had a specific time span, from just before 1850 to about 1950. So Modern art is older than me!

One of Monet’s Parasol ladies, about 1875, is Modern Art

Modern Art also had a lot of different styles in it… Picasso’s cubism, Salvatore Dali’s surrealism, and abstract art are all “Modern” art.

Abstract, Modern Art

Art that is done NOW, (or at least, since 1950) is called “Contemporary” Art.

Since it is newer and not carried in as many museums or art books, people aren’t as used to seeing it… so they say “That’s not art,” which is exactly what people said about the great Impressionist Monet (1850s-1920) when HE started. It was “smudgy”, “sloppy”, and “unfinished”. They didn’t get it.

Aldridge’s “Biophilia”, from 2007, is Contemporary Art

So when I see Contemporary Art and think “That’s not art”, I try to hold my tongue. I try to see what idea the artist is trying to get across, and how well that did it. It can be a challenge, but challenges are good.

Art keeps making me ask questions and think harder about things.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Kid Friendly Art at the Zoo

Dear Liza,

Art at the train stop for the Zoo

As I have said before, the Oregon Zoo here in Portland is delightful. They take good care of the animals by giving them large, interesting enclosures. The keepers make sure the animals get healthy food and enough exercise.

The zoo also educates people about animals and how we can help take care of them, both in the wild and in captivity.

Carved mural in the Pacific Northwest area

But the zoo is also beautiful. Even in winter, when trees and gardens go bare, there are sculptures and other kid-friendly art. When I can walk slowly and really look around, I see more.

Carved mural detail
Cousin Jasper, hanging out with the goats

There is a stack of goats just near the entrance which is a great photo op for families. You and the cousins climb on it every time we are there!

Being cubs together

The late Jim Gion’s lion sculpture, called Lunchtime, is a favorite with kids. They love sitting on the adults and rolling on the ground with the babies.

Sitting on the Mom…

The other day when I was at the zoo I noticed two sculptures that I had never seen before. One is a frog about two feet high, called Sunning. It is in one of the buildings with small, tropical animals on display.

Sunning, by Lydia Herrick Hodge

My biggest surprise was an outdoor sculpture group near the penguin enclosure. I couldn’t see any plaque giving the name or artist, and haven’t been able to find this information elsewhere yet.

Auntie Katie has identified the man as Charles Darwin. Grandpa Nelson wants to call it Mansplaining, which I kind of like. But I’ll keep looking for the correct name!

Sculpture group at Oregon Zoo, title and artist as yet unknown
You on the mouse

Other art, like the stone sculpture garden, is meant to be climbed on.

Jasper and the bear

At a wonderful event called ZooLights, the art is meant to be seen but not touched. Only open at night in winter, most of the zoo is lit up with beautiful colored scenes and animals that seem to swoop and run. It is chilly, but worth the extra layers.

Dramatic effects at ZooLights

I love our zoo!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Japanese Garden with Cousins

Dear Liza,

I love visiting the Japanese Garden here in Portland. It is a wonderful collection of smaller gardens situated on a hilly section of Washington Park. There is always something new and delightful to see.

Stunning fall light in Ladd’s Addition

Yesterday, Cousins Jasper and Kestrel went with me! We usually visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden downtown, but Jasper suggested going up the hill and Kestrel agreed.

Jasper being scrambled eggs

After we caught the number 2 bus and got downtown, we had fifteen blocks to walk and about half an hour to catch the 63 bus that would take us up the hill. We strolled through the city streets, playing with public art and making up stories about the statues.

Kestrel at Providence Park bus stop

There was a long line at the entrance to the garden, and the kids worried about not being able to enjoy it because of the crowd. We decided to risk it.

Finding the space between the crowds

It turns out, crowds in a garden are like freight trains in a neighborhood. They are noisy and annoying, but if you wait a minute, they blow through, leaving peace behind.

There is an art exhibit at the Pavilion Gallery called “Re-Fashioning Beauty”. The brochure says it is about “embracing past icons of Japanese beauty while looking forward.” There were several articles, never meant to be worn, showing the natural but ridiculous evolution of the platform shoe.

They make my toes hurt just looking at them!

There were also three foot tall Geisha-style hairpins, but they weren’t as interesting as these swords and other pieces of sculpture set into perfectly clear blocks of resin. We all became fascinated with the refraction of light though the blocks and spent a long time just moving, squinting, and looking.

“What am I seeing?”

Because of the way the art was displayed, I would never have noticed the refraction on my own: The kids found it because they were at exactly the right height. Playing with light became the new game.

Multiplying Jasper

We told stories, climbed steps, crossed bridges, and had a high old time.

Our trip home became a cascade of bumps on the road. We got hungry and checked out the Umami Cafe, but found food not acceptable to picky eaters. I remembered our friendly vendor at the Rose Garden. We headed down for kid friendly snacks, but he had packed up for other locations for the winter.

Fabulous, but stinky, Gingko tree

We made do with a candy bar from the gift shop and went to catch the bus back to town. But (another snag!) that bus wouldn’t arrive for almost an hour! I made an executive decision. We would walk down the hill.

The last of the roses for this year…

This was not a popular idea, as it turned out, but one I was willing to stick with. We actually had a nice surprise, running into our old friend, Rabbi Bruce Kadden, on the way! But energy and patience were running out, so a quick hug and how do you do, and off we went.

The cousins and I chatted and rolled balls down the path until we got to Burnside, where we caught a bus to another bus and eventually ended up at Auntie Katie’s store. Minutes later, Auntie Bridgett picked me up.

It was time for a quick dinner and restful evening. Being a Grandma is fun, but hard work!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Teeny Tiny Burning Man

Father/ Son boxing match

Dear Liza,

Is all you need, after all….

Burning Man is an annual Festival of art, music, and freedom. It is about being free to create your own art and is held way out in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. That is a long way away from anywhere, but thousands of people go there every year.

Auntie Katie, Blackrock Ranger

One of those people is Auntie Katie. She has gone for years, and works as a Ranger. She is one of the people who keeps folks safe out on the Playa when the art installations are set on fire.

Everyone gets to make art! This sequin board was constantly changing.

Last night, a little bit of Burning Man came to Director’s Park in downtown Portland, and Auntie Katie invited us.

Name it yourself!

Director’s Park is where we have played in the fountains and played chess. It is a paved city block, pretty flat and open, so a perfect place for activities.

Rainbow Dancer

There are also plenty of electrical outlets, useful for all the light-up art installations. At the real Burning Man, most of the activity takes place at night since it is so hot during the day.

Black Rock Warrior ‘cage’

When we first got to Director’s Park, the sun was going down and the art was getting set up. We said hi to Auntie Katie and then headed off for dinner and shopping, then came back after dark. The park had changed completely, looking weird and magical in the neon lights.

Simon for grown ups!

We enjoyed the art and people watching, seeing kids and grown ups play and make music and noise just for fun. But it was time for us to head home.

There is always something new to see !

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Bittersweet Goodbye to Max Jacob

Dear Liza,

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Max Jacob, on display

You know that Auntie Bridgett Spicer is an artist. You know she can paint, draw, and make beautiful collages and cartoons. Did you know that she sells her art?

Well, she does! Last night just before First Friday’s New Artist Reception at The SideStreet Arts Gallery, she sold her first piece of art since we moved to Portland. Her beautiful collage portrait of Max Jacob sold to a nice lady who bought it as a gift for her husband.

We are all so happy and proud of Auntie Bridgett! She works hard on her art and makes such lovely pictures, and it makes me smile to know they will go out into the world and make people happy.

How did she make this beautiful piece? She has given me permission to show you.

Step 1: She drew a pencil portrait of Max Jacob, using photographs for reference. Max was an artist  and friend of Picasso in the 1920s and 1930 in France, so there are lots of pictures of him.

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Steps 1 and 2

Step 2: She cut out all the different parts of the drawing to use as templates for the collage pieces.

Step 3: From her huge collection of papers, she found just the right ones to create his face and suit, then carefully cut them out and glued them down. She rolled each bit so it was smooth. She used paints to give the portrait wonderful depth and humanity. When it was perfect, she matted and framed it.

Step 4: Listening to me when I told her she HAD to take it to the Gallery for her show!

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Step 3

This was a long process where a stray sigh could blow all the bits away, but she stuck with it and made a wonderful piece of art.

Farewell Max!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Wet Fall Beauty

Dear Liza,

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Mushrooms

As we say slide towards winter, we are remembering the beauty of bright leaves on shiny roads and all the mysteries of the forest coming to the surface.

Laurelhurst Park is, of course, my favorite place in Portland. As cool and busy a playroom as it is in summer, it is a place of small life in fall.

Last year, around this time, we saw a fellow raking leaves into heart shapes and appreciated his art for art’s sake. Yesterday I may have seen his work again, as this wonderful “Yellow Brick Road” leaf installation greeted us uphill from the lake.

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Leaf art installation

Walking today, I saw a plaque near the Pine Street entrance to the Park. It commemorates the planting of this huge oak tree in 1932 by the Wakeenah Chapter of the DAR (The Daughters of the American Revolution) to celebrate the 200th birthday of George Washington.

 

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DAR Plaque

In a funny way, all the leaves falling reminds me of a speech from The Merchant of Venice, where Portia talks about mercy “blessing both he who gives and he who receives”.

 

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Blessed is he who gives…

 

 

Having given up their leaves, the trees show their beautiful branch structure, allowing us to see beauty that is hidden in summer. It also makes the ground more beautiful, blessing both the tree and the ground.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

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And he who receives…

Art and Brunch

Dear Liza,

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Bridgett Spicer and her collages

Last Friday I got to help Auntie Katie get her basement decorated so she can start using it as an Air Bed and Breakfast. It has nice new paint and furniture, but the walls are bare. So her friends Murray and Lurline, their tiny daughter Mary Helen and I, matted art, hammered nails and made funny faces (that was Mary Helen). We made good progress.

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New decor in bathroom

Then, because it was First Friday, we went to visit Auntie Bridgett at the SideStreet Arts Gallery. Bridgett’s art looks so good! I love her collages. Since she was busy hosting the First Friday event, Grandpa Nelson and I went over to Ankeny Tap and Table for dinner. The colder weather means they have their big glass door closed, but it is still friendly and has very tasty food! Their new menu has a beet salad that tastes very indulgent.

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Just a few leaves left!

This morning, Auntie Bridgett was working at the gallery, so Grandpa and I walked down to Bread and Ink  on Hawthorne Street for brunch. Weekend Brunch is a very big thing here in Portland, but there was only a short wait and the food was fabulous. Huckleberry pancakes, Kentucky sausage and fried eggs…all made me miss Great Grandpa Lowell, who cooked this on Sundays for years. Food, conversation, and nostalgia…who could ask for more?

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Inside Backstory Books and Yarn

After brunch we walked by a brand new used bookstore, also on Hawthorne. It is called Backstory Books and Yarn and just opened today! It has that delightful smell of used books and is so well organized. I’m sure we will spend many happy hours there.

The rest of today I will be researching Portland history and sewing on a practice quilt.

Yes, I know, I have a pretty sweet life.

Love,

Grandma Judy