Another Must See: The Chihuly Exhibit at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Girls’ Day

     Some of the posse finally met at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to tour the Chihuly exhibit that continues until February 10, 2013.  Ever since our Fine Arts and Flowers visit when we spied Chihuly’s stunning blue and gold chandelier hanging at the main window of the Museum, Ellegram and I have been anticipating our return.

Chihuly hallway chandelier

I have recurring visions of this divine glass confection, which weighs about 3,000 pounds, consists of about 2,000 pieces and took a small army of workers and volunteers four days to install.

     The exhibition exceeded expectations.  In addition to the chandelier (which the Museum’s board would be crazy not to acquire and leave right here facing the Boulevard forever) and the outdoor red reeds in the water garden adjoining the Best Cafe, Dale Chihuly’s works are spread throughout seven display rooms that each contain completely unique and jaw-dropping glass works.

Chihuly Finland

Ikebana Float

When you get downstairs to the exhibit rooms, you have got to purchase the audio tour.  Don’t be a cheapskate:  for $5 you will hear Mr. Chihuly describe the inspiration for and execution of these larger than life creations.  The background information enhances the whole breathtaking experience.

Chihuly water garden

After having our minds blown open by this colorful art form and filled with wonder as to its actual installation, our Girls’ Day included a stop in the wonderful VMFA gift shop and concluded with lunch up on the Third Floor at Amuse, the members-only restaurant that creates its own locally-sourced and constantly changing culinary masterpieces.


The Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Exhibit Book

Family Holiday Adventure

     I am only including a few iPhone snapshots to pique your interest and because my photos cannot convey the beauty of this exhibition, which you do not have to limit to touring only with your girlfriends.  This presentation is so accessible that the whole family will enjoy it.  With only seven rooms to visit, the tour itself goes very fast.

I wish this were my Christmas tree, don't you? Maybe next year.

I wish this were my Christmas tree, don’t you?  Maybe next year.

The kids will not be bored, and in this season of light and wonder, a visit to Chihuly should prove the perfect complement to your family’s festivities.


Mark Your Calendars for this Fall’s Edition of The Ivy Market

     The Ivy Market returns next week, October 9th and 10th, at the University of Richmond’s Jepson Alumni Center.

     It looks like a couple of new vendors have been added to the line-up of unique boutiques.  Collard Greens is an eco-friendly but preppy mostly men’s clothing line.

I wonder if anyone on my shopping list would love this pig bowtie as much as I do?

     Lindsay Cowles is one of my favorite local artists.

A St. Catherine’s graduate, Lindsay is always such a delight to talk to whenever I see her showing her captivating work.   Dubbed a “Design Genius” by popular design blog Sadie + Stella, Lindsay and her nature-inspired oils will be a wonderful addition to The Ivy Market.

     I am also looking forward to seeing some of my favorite vendors’ latest offerings.

Lori Daniel Rowland‘s new wrap bracelets with rhinestone button closures look fabulous.  The Ivy Market is definitely the place to update your look with some new accessories.

     With donations being accepted at the door for ASK, The Ivy Market provides the perfect combination:  great shopping for an even greater cause.  Make plans to put on your cute shoes, and get your holiday shopping started next Tuesday and Wednesday.

SPARC’s Live Art: Filled with Exuberance and Surprise

     Last night we witnessed a world premiere.  My daughter and I attended the first ever SPARC Live Art performance which featured two family friends.  We were not quite sure what to expect, but we ended up being Enthralled, Engaged and Entertained for over two hours by an Enthusiastic cast that filled the Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage with EXUBERANCE.

     SPARC is the School of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, a well-known institution throughout the area for talented school-aged children.  Traditionally, though, children with developmental and other disabilities, as well as the hearing-impaired, have not been considered the target population for performing arts groups like SPARC.  Through the vision of its Director of Education, Erin Thomas-Foley, that seems to be changing as she created Live Art to include such children alongside typically developing students.

     The program included art in all of its forms, from singing, sign language, painting with hands and feet (you should have seen the final monster canvas), spoken poetry and musical instruments to dance, mime and acting.  The joy on these performers faces as they participated in the non-stop action spread to the audience which embraced the often spiritual and emotional numbers.  As the performers created “live art” on stage, those of us sitting in the theater were treated to a colorful display (including a unique computer visualization technology called Dance.Draw) that engaged our senses and had us dancing in our seats.

     The whole event was professionally arranged through a huge partnership of local artists, educators, organizations and community supporters.  The Saturday Richmond Times-Dispatch article listed some of the local notables who gave their time and talent on and off stage.  The Whos-Who of Richmond’s musicians included Steve Bassett, Susan Greenbaum, Jesse Harper, Marc Langlelier, Josh Small and Robbin Thompson, plus Samson Trinh and the Upper East Side Big Band.

     The biggest surprise of the night was the special appearance by SPARC’s most famous alum, Jason Mraz.  How incredible that Live Art chose to keep his presence a secret beforehand so that the attention would be given to the amateurs participating in the event.  Mr. Mraz performed three of his songs with the student troupers on stage and, as he strolled over the canvas covered with wet paint, clearly showed his passion for SPARC and this inclusive, ground-breaking production.  Like Ms. Greenbaum’s songs, Mraz’s lyrics for Live High, Sunshine Song and Details in the Fabric really spoke to the importance of recognizing each individual’s creative abilities and unique contributions.

     As the mother of a child with developmental disabilities, I could not have been more thrilled to see the Richmond arts community reaching out to this often overlooked population and planning to make Live Art a regular event.  The professionals were able to lift up these children by focusing on their abilities, which inspired the rest of the cast, the audience and all of the contributors.  Live Art was a wonderful reminder that art is all-inclusive and life-enhancing and should not sideline anyone whether or not they are perceived as “talented”.  As the poetry readers recited in unison near the beginning of Act 2,

The Earth without Art is Uuuggghhhhhh.

Feeding My Soul: Figure Drawing Class at The Visual Arts Center

     Have you read Julia Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way:  A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity?  I stumbled upon a reference to it while reading a design blog about 3 years ago.  Curious and feeling at loose ends after completing a long-term fund-raising project that required a lot of creative energy, I promptly ordered a copy and delved in headlong.

     Ms. Cameron’s words in the first chapter granted permission to follow a new path:

No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.

She persuaded me to embark on her morning pages journaling routine.  That journaling eventually led to my having the nerve to start Avad Fan.

     The Artist’s Way also led to an acrylics class at the Visual Arts Center (formerly the Hand Workshop) in the Fan.  Then I took another class and tried my hand at drawing and watercolors.  Taking these classes has felt like unlocking a door from a suffocating space, and I now have an almost physical need to be enrolled in an art class.  Just knowing that I have a set time for creative pursuit frees me from the claustrophobia of my daily chores.

graphite pencils

     My favorite teacher at the Visual Arts Center is Lisa Fisher Johnson. We originally met through a local lacrosse travel team on which both of our sons played, and over the course of several classes she has become my artistic mentor. A graduate of the New York Academy of Art and a subscriber to many of Julia Cameron’s philosophies, Lisa ensures that each of her students feels relaxed and confident in her classes and constantly reminds us to leave our “’inner critics’ {one of Cameron’s well-known devices} at the door”.


Do you see your inner critic?
It’s pretty hard to banish her.

     I recently started Lisa’s 12-week Wednesday morning Figure Drawing class.  To say that I was uncomfortable in the presence of the live (i.e. nude) model is a bit of an understatement, but with Lisa’s gentle guidance and taking my own advice to lighten up, prudish me is now enjoying putting pencil to paper as we focus on the body’s volume. Time flies in these classes where my brain takes a holiday from the real world of schedules, errands and worries and exercises regions within hitherto untouched.

photo by Avad Fan

     The Artist’s Way helped me see that each of us unique beings has been blessed with a creative soul that is seeking outlet.  You can either feed it and allow it to thrive or starve it and stunt its growth.  Aware now of this creative spirit within, my goal for my second half-century is to nourish it and give it the opportunity to flourish wherever and however I can.

     So glad it is Wednesday!  It is time to feed my soul.  I’ve got my pencils packed and ready to go.

Art Finds at the West End Antiques Mall

     I am an Avad Fan of the West End Antiques Mall.  It’s a great place to spend several hours exploring its many booths filled with vintage and antique finds when it’s too hot, too cold or too rainy to be outdoors.  I hadn’t stopped by this sprawling location in an old strip shopping center on Staples Mill Road just north of Broad Street for quite some time, but the current heat and humidity gave me an excuse to spend some time indoors.

     The aisles were packed with even more goods than the last time I visited.   Apparently several of the former vendors of the now defunct Willow Place Antiques Gallery have decamped to the WEAM.  Willow Place was the perfect size for a relatively quick browse of its lovely inventory, so I was sad to learn that the Gallery had closed its doors.

     As I wandered the aisles of the WEAM, several pieces of art featuring colorful outdoor scenes really caught my eye.  I had to return the next day to take some photos and discovered that at least two of the fetching pieces were already gone.  Fortunately others remain that have captured my fancy but maybe not for long.

      No doubt the oldest of the pieces that appealed to me, the sunlight on the water brightens up the whole picture.

     Water views just make me happy, and this unframed one is a real deal.

     This modern watercolor by Lindsay Jessee is simple yet stunning and beautifully framed.  My photo does not do it justice.

     Though I’m not much of a horse woman, the colors and movement on this painting are mesmerizing.  I’d love to find a place for it in my home.

     The hues of this oil are gorgeous.  It would work wonderfully in my family room.

     This soothing work and the two pieces above it were all created by a Rumanian-American artist named Dumitru Danielopol (1905-1982).  The son of a Rumanian ambassador to the United States who was forced to follow in the family business and become a lawyer, Dumitru managed to find some time to develop his alluring style with oils.  They seem to reach out from the canvas and lure you into the scene depicted.

     The last thing that I need to be doing right now is buying art, but I still can enjoy the pleasures of discovering some beautiful pieces.  If you are in the market and looking for some good deals, you’ve got to stop by the WEAM.  Even if you don’t purchase anything, you’ll find an enjoyable refuge from the heat.

All photos by Avad Fan.

“Fabergé Revealed” Last Night

     Last night, the Hub and I were the guests of dear friends to the private Opening Celebration of Fabergé Revealed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  The well-heeled crowd filled the Cochrane Atrium with anticipation.  There the Museum’s biggest supporters enjoyed Russian-inspired hors d’oeuvres with cocktails before descending to the NewMarket Gallery to behold the wonders of Fabergé. 

     Wonders they are indeed.  As we entered the exhibition space, my companions and I let out a collective gasp.  Before our eyes was the most exquisite diamond tiara.  The picture below does not do justice to this masterpiece that is magnificently displayed in a perfectly lit glass box designed to capture all of the sparkling facets of its many diamonds.  Though Richmond is hardly a town for tiara-wearing, any woman seeing this stunning creation would be delighted to don it.

Royal Taira

Royal Tiara, circa 1900, from the Arthur and Dorothy McFerrin Foundation Collection, photograph by Houston Museum of Natural History

     The marvels continue as you proceed through the exhibition halls.  This shows features the extensive VMFA Fabergé collection amassed mostly by Virginian Lillian Thomas Pratt, as well as loans from three other significant collections.  This combination constitutes the largest Fabergé assemblage ever seen in the United States.

     As I viewed the enormous array of mostly bejewelled and enameled artifacts, I found that I wanted to know so much more about who owned them and when and how they used them.  While generally aware that the Romanov family commissioned many of these objects, including the Imperial Easter Eggs, I, like so many others, am fascinated by this tragic imperial family.  Craving more information about them and these singular treasures, I had to purchase the 400+ page exhibition catalogue, Fabergé Revealed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts by Géza von Habsburg (Skira Rizzoli, 2011) published in conjunction with the show.  Weighing in it at nearly 5 pounds, I am looking forward to learning more from this great coffee table book.

     The designers of this remarkable exhibition saved what I believe is the best of the show for last.  Behold

the Lilies of the Valley Basket.

Created before 1899 of gold, silver, nephrite, pearls and rose-cut diamonds by the Fabergé firm in St. Petersburg, this stunning object d’ art is now owned by The Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation Collection.  I scanned this picture from Fabergé Revealed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

     How does this Fabergé masterpiece compare with real lilies of the valley?

I could be happy with the pearl, gold, diamond and nephrite version.  How about you?

     If you think so, you’ve got to visit the VMFA to see Fabergé Revealed.  On display from July 9 to October 2, it is definitely worth the price of admission if you are not a member.  Make a tour the focus of a Thursday or Friday girls’ night out when the Museum stays open until 9 p.m., and its wonderful, mostly locally sourced Amuse Restaurant serves dinner from 5 until 8.   What a delectable evening that would be.

Watercolor Crashing

     I am all ready for my Watercolor Crash Course today at the Visual Arts Center in Richmond.  Well, almost.  I still have to stop by Main Art for the right size covered pallete and a sheet of special paper.  Ben Franklin was able to fill most of my supply list, and now I feel like a third grader ready for the first day of school.

     This is the third genre of art class that I will have taken at the Visual Arts Center, formerly known as the Hand Workshop.  My first adventure was in Acrylics with Aime Oliver.  Taking that class with no background in art was a huge leap of faith.  Aime makes her students feel comfortable and pushs them beyond their comfort zone.

     Last fall, Lisa Fisher Johnson taught my friend, J, and me in a beginners drawing class.  I had met Lisa through our sons travel lacrosse team last summer and really got to know her during this session.  She has such a down to earth teaching style and is a great advocate for the Julia Cameron The Artist’s Way approach.  Her weekly reminders to park our inner critic at the door allowed us to feel good about our creations.  I am hoping to take a figure drawing class with Lisa when our schedules allow.

     With a crazy spring and summer schedule, this Watercolor Crash Course, which runs only from 10-4 today, fits.  No doubt, I will be taking a longer course when my schedule allows, but I wanted to get my hands full of paint before the summer arrives.  I am so looking forward to meeting my instructor, Catherine Southall, and learning basic watercolor techniques.

     Each of these classes has opened up my eyes to the challenges (not to mention expenses) involved in any visual art genre.  Actually working through the disciplines allows me to better comprehend the extent of accomplishment of the celebrated artists (dare I even say Picasso).  As I put a paint brush or charcoal on paper, I feel my brain making new connections, and even when my inner critic doesn’t like  the result, I have come to crave the process itself.

Still my favorite after seeing the VMFA exhibit. Unlike this thumbnail, it is huge and breathtaking.

     Finding time at home to pull out the materials from my classes and try to create anything is nearly impossible.  Sufficient chunks of time are just not available when there is laundry to be done, a dishwasher to be loaded and unloaded, appointments to make, emails to read, a dog to walk, piles of paper to sort.  Need I go on?

     Enrolling in classes at the Visual Arts Center makes me get out of the house so that I can challenge myself and stir my creative juices.  I will never be a Picasso or even approach the artistic caliber of my Visual Arts teachers, but having awakened my creative juices over the last couple of years did finally give me the courage to start writing this blog.  Like those visual endevours, this writing brings me joy as it challenges me to compose something from within that you might read and, dare I hope, enjoy.