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Re-Opening the Renwick and the Morning After

The quiet child of the Smithsonian family of museums re-opened this November with a surprisingly bold statement.  The aptly named Wonder exhibit is well worth a visit for its truly impressive installation pieces.  While I’m happy to have the Renwick Gallery back, this re-birthday party feels overly flashy, just a bit narcissistic, and certainly out of character for a museum dedicated to decorative arts.  While an entertaining show, I am left wondering about the future of this museum and the potential for a reinvented purpose.

Renwick Gallery facade

The “new” Renwick Gallery at dusk

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12 Days of Colonial Christmas

The day after Halloween, the Christmas decorations went up in my neighborhood.  Then right after Boxing Day, there were already Valentine’s Day candies in stores.  As someone who really enjoys the holiday season, this early decoration overkill and immediate disappearance seems like both too much and too little.  That’s why I appreciate some historical perspective on the season.

colonials on the street

Just some locals in Williamsburg enjoying the holidays.

18th century Americans didn’t decorate until Christmas Day and then spent the next 12 days celebrating with parties, dancing, weddings, and lots of eating and drinking.  To take in the classic (and not so classic) wreaths, greens, and holiday trimmings essential for the holiday spirit, I spent a few days in Jamestown and Williamsburg, two living history museums in Virginia.

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Merry Christmas 2015

Grafton Street, Dublin

Christmas cheer along Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland

Thank you all for following along in 2015!  It’s been a busy month for me (as evidenced by the photo of Grafton Street in Dublin above).  I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and holiday season, and hope you are surrounded with family and friends!

A Day in Old San Juan

As the weather cools and Fall takes over, folks in the north start to daydream about the Caribbean for a sun-filled weekend away.  While I’ve never been much of a beach person, I recently took a quick trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico and enjoyed it.  The old town was lovely to wander through, I enjoyed the historic fortresses, and the public beaches were relaxing.  While Puerto Rico’s status as an American territory makes travel there easier, the unique local culture and cuisine made it feel like I was exploring another country.

beach, San Juan, PR

Pretty and relaxing beach in San Juan

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Shocking Paintings of Martyred Saints

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are discussing Death & Darkness!  Take a look at all the creative interpretations of his topic at the bottom of the page.

Peter Paul Rubens - "St Sebastian

While images of St. Sebastian were often an excuse to paint the human figure, not all martyred Saints were this “elegant”. Peter Paul Rubens – “St Sebastian”, 1614, Staatliche Museen, Berlin (Photo)

November 1 was All Saints Day which got me thinking about this pantheon of holy men and women.  The Saints can be grouped based on their spiritual achievements, like the Scholars, Leaders, Mystics and the Martyrs.  For frightening, chilling stories, Halloween’s monsters have nothing on this last group!  While they are revered as holy people, the lives of these Saints contain some gruesome tales of torture and execution.  Since images have historically been used to educate viewers, may of the most disturbing images in art history depict the various grisly deaths of the martyr Saints.

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