Category Archives: Museum

Homage to the Oklahoma City Bombing Victims

Twentieth anniversary of Murrah Building bombing.

MurrahMemorial-sealTwenty years ago today — before the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, assorted school shootings and other horrific acts of violence, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols set off a massive explosion next to the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people and injured 680 others, including children, and sent shockwaves through the nation. At first, makeshift memorials of plush toys, crucifixes, photographs, flags and other personal items were hung on the chainlink fence surrounding the site by grief-stricken citizens.


Chainlink fence remaining at the site honors the original makeshift memorial.

Then, plans were made for an official memorial. When the call went out, 624 entries from all 50 states and 23 countries were received. A commission narrowed them down to five finalists, and the selected design is by Butzer Design Partnership (then of Berlin, Germany, and later of Oklahoma City). Designers Hans and Torrey Butzer with Sven Berg created what is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial. 

Back in 2008, I was a speaker at a conference in Oklahoma City. I arrived in the evening and walked the few blocks from the historic Skirvin Hotel to the Murrah memorial. The sight of the memorial and its empty glass chairs atop illuminated glass pedestals at night was powerful. Being there by myself added to the sense of tragic loss of life.

First look at the Murrah Memorial was at night. The haunting sight of empty chairs atop lighted glass cubes remains with me.
First look at the Murrah Memorial was at night. The haunting sight of empty chairs atop lighted glass cubes remains with me.

Two days later, my speech out of the way, I returned to visit the museum. It was, of course, poignant too, with chronologically arranged curated photographs and artifacts from the explosion artfully displayed, multi-media displays and interactive exhibits too. At the Murrah site, the clock has permanently stopped at 9:03, the morning hour when the truck bomb went off two decades ago.

The museum is located at 620 N. Harvey Ave., Oklahoma City. The outdoor memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year; entry is free. The museum is open daily. Admission is adults $15; senior (62+) $12; military (with ID) $12; student (6 to 17 or college student with current ID) $12 and child (5 years and under) free.

Highlights of the Eastern Four Corners

Southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico sites worth seeing.

My son has lived in Durango since he went there for college in 2001, and I’ve been there often. I’ve driven by the Chimney Rock ancient site (now a National Monument), and my husband and I hiked up on a splendid fall day some years ago and explored the site, I’ve driven past the signs on US Highway 160 pointing to Ignacio but never turned off the highway. I knew about the Aztec Ruins National Monument just outside of Farmington, New Mexico, but hadn’t been there, and I’d driven past Shiprock to the west. My husband and I recently went to the Four Corners area to see my son and also our friend, Mary, who had just moved to Bayfield from Seattle. We did several day trips, both to introduce Mary to her new turf and to revisit it ourselves. Some highlights of what I think of as the eastern half of the Four Corners — that is, southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico but not Arizona or Utah.

Downtown Bayfield

A cute little town that still maintains its rural flavor, though now there’s a brew pub and a couple of cute restaurants.

An appliance store with a sense-of-humor front yard display.
A main street Laundromat with a sense-of-humor front yard display.

Weminuche Wilderness

At 488,210 acres, this is the largest wilderness area in the state of Colorado. It is just 15 miles from Durango. The nearest access is from a campground just north of Vallecito Lake, a lake  surrounded by cottages, resorts, outfitters and other small commercial businesses. This area was devastated during the Missionary Ridge Fire of 2002. It also made headlines a couple of years ago when young Dylan Redwine disappeared while visiting his father a decade later; his remains were eventually found. The area is considerably more tranquil in early spring, when few visitors are around. We started up a trail from a seasonally closed campground and hiked a short distance up Vallecito Creek. Looks like a promising hike later in the year.


Aspens tall and straight as lodgepoles.
Aspens tall and straight as lodgepoles.
Vallecito Creek.
Vallecito Creek.

Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum

Ignacio, the main town on the Southern Ute Reservation, has an obligatory casino that I’d never bother with and the excellent Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum. The dramatic building encompasses includes many symbols of Native life in the Southwest, and the exhibition inside calmly and poignantly documents the history of the Four Corners’ people. No photos inside.

The main entrance recalls a teepee shape within the kiva-inspired circle.
The main entrance recalls a teepee shape within the kiva-inspired circle.
Soaring entrance lobby.
Soaring entrance lobby.

Continue reading Highlights of the Eastern Four Corners

Soulful Music in a Surprising Austrian Venue

New museum hosted talented artist whose songs stir the soul.

AngelehnerMuseumWe expect cutting-edge museums and compelling musical performances in world cities, but not in smaller, less-known places. One such place is Wels in northern Austria. It’s not near the music meccas of Vienna or Salzburg, but it has a firm spot on the Austrian cultural map thanks to the Angerlehner Museum, which opened in September 2013 to showcase the private contemporary art collection of Heinz J. Angerlehner.

Like art museums elsewhere, it hosts concerts and recitals of surprising quality and variety.  Just as the art is contemporary, the music is often of our own time. One such was an October performance by Latin American/Austrian musician Jessie Ann de Angelo. Her commentary on pictures of the exhibition comprised clever words and personal associations. She also dedicated one of her songs, performed evergreens or her own compositions to each work of art. It was the most successful performance in the museum’s short history. Whatever the musical era, Austrian audience tend to have finely tuned ears, and the accolades she received were not just for her technical gifts but for the soul and passion she brought to the performance.

Jessie Ann de Angelo in concert.
Jessie Ann de Angelo in concert.

As a friend whom I trust on such matters put it  “It was with fireworks of musicality and a remarkable proficiency that she released the feelings expressed by the pictures without becoming too sentimental. It was singing that, as was once described by Rossini, will be heard by the soul (“Il cantar che nell’anima se sente”).”

In this performance, as in others, Jessie Ann’s music moved the audience’s hearts, her vitality and joy of life were contagious, and the associations global. For instance, the rhythm of a Rhumba Catalán perfectly fitted a picture painted by the Chinese painter Xianwei Zhu, and even ripped the listeners from their seats.

She dramatically accompanied a picture that communicated a fear of heights and vertigo with a stirring song from Paraguay. It tells the story of a child who climbs a tree before his proud parents’ eyes and then suddenly falls.  When the child’s soul rises to the sky as a small blue bird, everybody in the auditorium responded. The universal question seemed to be: Is there a greater misfortune than the memories of lost happiness?

In this performance, the program by turns expressed clever and worthy thoughts or told cheerful stories. And she made the listeners feel her happiness at the privilege and honor of playing for them on that evening. A rare gift that roused a feeling of mutual esteem and gratefulness reciprocated by her fans.

Jessie Ann might come on stage in a costume like the enormous boa below stretched out to mimic a condor’s wingspan or a tall fruit and flower headdress in the manner of Carmen Miranda, but when she gets down to the business of music, she is absolutely compelling. Here’s a YouTube video of a performance:

I wonder whether she will ever tour in the United States — and if so, by a stretch in Colorado. Otherwise, it is necessary to travel to Austria or elsewhere in Europe to hear her. Come too think of it, that’s another reason to go.

Cartier Jewels Dazzle at the Denver Art Museum

Exclusive exhibition of treasures from Parisian jeweler.

DenverArtMuseum-logoI don’t generally wear much jewelry: my wedding ring, my late mother’s wedding ring, my birthstone in a simple setting on a thin gold chain around my neck and cheap earrings that I bought somewhere on my travels. My few good pieces reside in the safe deposit box, taken out only for the rare dressy occasional in ultra-casual Boulder. But I love to look at bling. At the Tower of London, I ride the moving walkway along the Crown Jewels several times. On tours of stately homes, palaces and museums, I am also entranced by the precious jewels. So “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century” at the Denver Art Museum through March 15 has my name all over it.

Here I am. Does the drool show? I love seeing grandiose bling.
Here I am near the entrance to “Brilliant.” Does the drool show? I love seeing grandiose bling.

Some 250 items, mostly from the Cartier Collection in Paris, are on dazzling display at the museum. The earliest pieces before World War I belonged largely to European royalty and nobility — and to the occasional American heiress who married a titled European. Later, even as the world plunged from Jazz Age prosperity and imped through the Depression and World War II, Cartier kept designing jewelry, decorative accessories and fashion accessories. The exhibition, which snakes its way through several gallery pods, includes “Aristocracy and Aspiration,” “Art Deco: New Outlook,” “Art Deco: Foreign Fascination,” “Masculine View,” “Age of Glamour” and “Icons of Style” (this last being Cartier jewels that belonged to Daisy Fellowes, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor and Mexican film star Maria Félix. Be awestruck:




One room contains such man-pleasing objects as aircraft and space commemorative items.
One room contains such man-pleasing objects as aircraft and space commemorative items.
After the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922, Egyptian design themes were all the rage.
After the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, Egyptian design themes were all the rage.
Even stars and other celebs kept scrapbooks.
Even stars and other celebs kept scrapbooks.


Saga Centre Focuses on Viking Life & Legends

Museum explains Icelandic sagas where they took place.

P1100191Sagas are stories about early Vikings, their epic voyages, the battles that took place during the voyages, about Viking migration to Iceland and the fierce feuds between Icelandic families. The tales were eventually written in the 13th and 14th centuries by unknown authors. In all, there are 40 narratives about Viking age around the year 1000 AD, tumultuous time when Icelanders forsook their ancient gods in favor of Christianity. It includes the history of the creation of a parliament in 930 AD and the strong role of the women in medieval Iceland.

Viking ships remain part of Iceland's important symbols.
Viking ships remain part of Iceland’s important symbols.


Ship models and maps depict the accomplishments of these remarkable seamen.
Ship models and maps depict the accomplishments of these remarkable seamen.

The Saga Centre in the south coast hamlet of Hvolsvöllur, the epicenter of Viking life on the island, is devoted to the  the Njáls Saga, the tale of a 50-year feud — Iceland’s most important literary masterpiece. The center’s “The Exhibition of Njála” covers Iceland’s ancient stories, Viking cosmology and the literary art of the Sagas.

Volunteers stitch a tapestry as epic as the sagas themselves. When completed, it will be 90 meters (some 300 feet) long.
Volunteers stitch a tapestry as epic as the sagas themselves. When completed, it will be 90 meters (some 300 feet) long.
Life-size image of a Viking warrior.
Life-size image of a Viking warrior.

Also, the “Exhibition of Cooperative Society” addresses the history of trade, commerce  and the cooperative movement in Iceland during the 20th century. The museum is at Sögusetrið Hlíðarvegi 16, 860 Hvolsvöllur, Iceland. Tel: +354 487 8781,  +354 618 6143

Happy Birthday, Smokey Bear

New Mexico village boasts Smokey’s museum and park.

SmokeyBearOn August 9, 1944, the image of Smokey Bear was born, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council settled on him as a mascot for their fire-prevention efforts. Six years later, firefighters rescued a real orphaned baby bear that was clinging to a charred tree in a devastating blaze in New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest. The bear, which had badly burned paws, nicknamed Hotfoot and taken to Santa Fe for treatment. When his story became known — more slowly than today — he was rechristened Smokey Bear, personifying the character created during World War II. Smokey was then moved to the National Zoo Washington, DC.

After receiving millions of visitors a the zoo, Smokey died in 1976, and though another rescued cub took his place, he never found the fame of the original Smokey. After his death, the bear’s body was returned to its home in the Lincoln National Forest, where he was buried without fanfare. Meanwhile, the Smokey Bear Museum had opened in 1961 in the village of Capitan in south-central New Mexico. The museum, housed in a rustic one-room building, is filled with Smokey memorabilia, photos and posters that chronicle the history of Smokey Bear and his message to prevent forest fires, along with the inevitable gift shop chock full of Smokey souvenirs. By the way, it’s Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear. The definite article was added by songwriters who needed an extra syllable.

Smokey Bear Museum, near the state-run Smokey Bear Historical Park.
Smokey Bear Museum, near the state-run Smokey Bear Historical Park.

Where to find it? At 102 Smokey Bear Boulevard, on the north side of New Mexico Highway 380, just west of the intersection with State Highway 48, and just east of the Smokey Bear Historical Park, where the famous little cub’s grave is found. Operated by the state Forestry Department, it features a visitor center with exhibits about forest health, forest fires, wildland/urban interface issues, fire ecology, the history of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program and a theater showing a 10-minute film discussing today’s fire and forest health issues. An outdoor exhibit features six of the vegetative life zones found in New Mexico, an outdoor amphitheater that is used for educational programs for school groups and the final resting place of the “living symbol” Smokey Bear. Also located at the park is a playground, picnic area with group shelters and the original train depot for the Village of Capitan. Entry is a modest $2 for adults and $1 for children.

Unless you happen to be in Capitan, it’s too late now, but for the record, the grand opening and dedication of the renovated visitors center, guest lecturers and a cake honoring the recent 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and of course, the 70th birthday of Smokey Bear’s campaign. Also, celebrations today at the Smokey Bear Ranger Station in Ruidoso.

Art Everywhere — But Where?

Nationwide “art exhibition” on billboards and other places.

ArtEverywhere2014-logoTomorrow, August 4, is the rollout of Art Everywhere US, billed as “the world’s largest art show” and described as “a public celebration of great American art exhibited on thousands of out of home (OOH) advertising displays across America. OOH displays include billboards, bus shelters, subway posters and much more.” It was inspired by Art Everywhere UK.

"American Gothic" behind a staircase.
“American Gothic” behind a staircase.

Five important American art museums selected works that represent American history and culture, and the American public was invited to vote for their favorite artworks, 58 of which are featured in the Art Everywhere US campaign that is about to launch in New York’s Times Square. Where else will works appear? I don’t know, and the organizers aren’t telling exactly (except to say that theywill be in all 50 states), so you’ll just have to be on the lookout. It’s like a national scavenger hunt for famous American artworks.


New Aspen Art Museum Taking (Box-Like) Shape

Renowned international architect designed an “un-Aspen” home for art museum.

AspenArtMuseum-logoThe Aspen Art Museum has been a boutique-y museum in a repurposed old powerplant on the fringes of downtown. As a non-collecting museum — meaning it only hosts visiting exhibitions — it hasn’t needed vast storage space for works that are not on display. Its specialty is post-World War II, and in that realm, it is among the tops in the country. I can’t imagine an artist or an artist’s agent who would not want to show in Aspen. In short, the new museum being built in the downtown grid that will triple the gallery space (to 12,500 square feet) is fantastic news to the contemporary art world.

Old Aspen Art Museum -- a low-key, out-of-the-way building nestled among the trees in a park.
Old Aspen Art Museum — a low-key, brick building nestled among the trees in a park.
Rendering of the new Aspen Art Museum by  Shigeru Ban Architects.
Rendering of the new Aspen Art Museum by
Shigeru Ban Architects.

Opening next month, the new $45 million museum was designed by renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, winner of the Pritzker Prize, which is arguably the world’s most prestigious award in architecture. It comes across as an enormous glass box, sheathed with an outer screen of woven wood that lets in the light and provides museum-goers with views of the surrounding mountains. It is crowned with a roof-top sculpture garden that is sure to wow. We wandered over to look at the construction site in the dim after-dinner light, and the bulk is imposing.

Every art and architecture writer on the planet is sure to comment on this building. For my part, I’m going to guess that I will prefer to be inside it so I can look at the mountain, as well as the art, rather than outside of it looking at that big, out-of-proportion box. Call me a Philistine, but I have always felt the same way about New York’s Guggenheim Museum, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece (and coincidentally also not a collecting museum) that looks like a white snail amid blocks and blocks of brick and stone buildings. Buildings in dense areas do not stand alone.

Rockets Land on German Cruise Ship

No damage but big scare for passengers.

"AIDAdiva" with her colorful hull.
“AIDAdiva” with her colorful hull.

As if norovirus, pirates off the Horn of Africa and the occasional grandstanding captain weren’t enough, cruise ships being in the wrong place at the wrong could be recipients of unwelcome rocket fire in the eastern Mediterranean That reportedly happened to the “AIDAdiva,” a cruise ship carrying German passengers [that] was under rocket fire attack when leaving Ashod, Israel’s largest port.

According to a report in ETN Travel News, “It is unclear if the rockets were those from the Israel Defense Force or from Hamas, the radical Palestinian organization currently firing dozens of rockets at cities in Israel. When the cruise ship left Ashod, sirens were sounding in Ashod and other Israeli cities warning of attacks by the radical Palestinian Hamas organization…Rocket parts landed on the cruise ship. Fortunately the rockets exploded  before hitting the vessel deck. No casualties or significant damages to the cruise ship have been reported.

“The ship is currently on its way to the next port of Crete in Greece. It should reach Crete on Wednesday morning.. A Statement released by “AIDAdiva” voices its regret. The cruise liner said no travel alert was issued by German authorities prior to them sailing to Israel. After the incident, German authorities issued an alert.”

Certainly makes for a memorable vacation, and not in a good way.

Toulouse-Lautrec & Friends at Golden Museum

Turn-of-the-last century Paris art at Foothills Art Center.

030Aficionados of French art have been treated to an astonishing and wonderful progression of special exhibitions this year. The Denver Art Museum’s Passport to Paris was a three-pack of complementary exhibitions (Court to Cafe, Nature as Muse and Drawing Room) that traced French art and provided insights into the great social changes from the late 1600s to early 1900s. It was quickly followed by Modern Masters, featuring 20th century artworks  from the post-Impressionists onward (many French)  from Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Gallery. Now the smaller Foothills Art Center in Golden continues on the French theme with Toulouse-Lautrec and La Vie Moderne, 1880-1910.

Turn-of-the-last-century works by French artists include bucolic scenes in gilded frames...
Turn-of-the-last-century works by French artists include bucolic scenes in gilded frames…
...and actresses, dancers and ladies of the night. Curator Marianne Lorenz gives a great interpretive tour.
…and actresses, dancers and ladies of the night. Curator Marianne Lorenz gives a great interpretive tour.

This is the extremely rare chance to see these works, which were assembled from private collections in, surprisingly, Amsterdam.  The Foothills Art Center is an intimate venue. Toulouse-Lautrec is the marquis name, but lesser-known artists add to the mix that depicts an era when cutting-edge artists frequented Paris’s Pigalle to document the outrageous and exciting lives of the démi-monde.

Curator Marianne Lorenz has intelligently hung this exhibition, which is up through August 17. Because the space is small, I found myself crisscrossing galleries and doubling back from one work to another, even as I listened to her informative presentation. She is conducting a one-hour interpretive tour at 3 p.m. on July 13. Reservations are required, and I highly recommend joining her if you can. If that doesn’t work for you, 45-minute docent-led tours are offered every Friday at 1 p.m. (free with admission).