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My stay in Stockholm – 2 September 22, 2014

Posted by Jenny in art, Life experience, travel.
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Stockholm is a city of islands and bridges.

After enjoying the Lunchkonsert, I walked over to Gamla Stan—the Old City. I crossed on the Strombon bridge.

Looking toward Gamla Stan.

Looking toward the Royal Palace.

Looking west from the bridge.

Looking west from the bridge.

Rijksdaghuset (Parliament Building).

Rijksdaghuset (Parliament Building).

Streets of Gamla Stan .

Streets of Gamla Stan.

You notice that people are wearing clothing for hot weather. Stockholm was experiencing a heat wave—the temperature was in the upper 20s Celsius (mid 80s Fahrenheit), far higher than the summer average high of around 22  C (71 F).  The sky shone like a burnished piece of blue metal, utterly cloudless; the low humidity made the sun seem very bright and unrelenting. Everyone sought out patches of shade. I was glad to have a hat to shade my eyes.

Gamla Stan is the location of the Royal Palace, an enormous complex which has been divided into ten different attractions for public viewing, ranging from the Royal Apartments to the Hall of State, the Royal Chapel, and the Treasury. I decided not to tackle it this day. I was not in the mood for crowds and standing in line.  Even the streets of Gamla Stan seemed crowded and touristy to me, its store windows packed with souvenirs.

I recognized that I needed to retreat to my hotel for a short nap. I made my way back along busy streets. Once back there, I noticed something for the first time: although the common areas of the hotel were air-conditioned, the rooms were not. But I lay down and did get a bit of sleep.

I went back  out and walked around. I passed the modern  sculpture at Sergels Torg.

Sergels Torg.

Sergels Torg.

I found myself gravitating back to the grassy surfaces and refreshing pools of the Kungstradgarden. I picked out a restaurant at the northern end of the garden for dinner and sat outside under a canvas awning.  After eating I wandered into the garden and saw that once again free music was on offer—this time at a pavilion  in the park. A couple of musicians were playing what sounded like traditional Swedish folk tunes.

Musicians in the park.

Musicians in the park.

But for me the real attraction was not the music but the dancers. I could see that people came here to dance as a regular routine, and most of them were quite skilled. A couple of young girls  romped around, and the rest—of all ages—moved in a circular pattern, twirling and spinning each other expertly.

Dancers of all ages.

Dancers of all ages.

I found the sight strangely moving and stayed watching quite a while. The couples seemed so happy; they were clearly enjoying both the dancing itself and the bond that it created. I saw how some of the more athletic dancers put in extra little spins and variations.

Happy couple. How lucky they are!

Happy couple. How lucky they are!

I went back to my hotel and explored the TV channels a bit before going to sleep. The Swedish channels featured nature programs and documentaries. I watched BBC—a lot of news about the WWI centenary.

In the morning I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art. I thought about the Royal Palace, but modern art appealed to me more than a lot of ornate chambers crammed with rococo or baroque knickknacks. I walked to the museum, which is on an island called Skeppsholmen.

Boats everywhere!

Boats everywhere!

I believe this is the boat that serves as a youth  hostel.

I believe this is the boat that serves as a youth hostel.

I knew I was close to the art museum when I spotted these curious sculptures.

A whimsical sculpture garden.

A whimsical sculpture garden.

When I reached the museum, I found that the current special exhibit featured a painter named Nils Dardel, with whom I was not familiar. I was in for a treat! He is as impossible to categorize as Paul Klee. His paintings feature bizarre dreamlike scenes, but they don’t resemble the polished canvases of Surrealists like Dali, Magritte, or di Chirico. His style is both naive and humorous.

Nils Dardel (1888-1943).

Nils Dardel (1888-1943).

His most famous painting is titled “Death of a Dandy.”

"Death of a Dandy," 1918.

“Death of a Dandy,” 1918.

Such a strange combination of feelings here! The dandy looks quite satisfied to have died!

"Dreams," 1922.

“Dreams,” 1922.

"Cocktail Party," 1930.

“Cocktail Party,” 1930.

I saw the museum’s permanent collection as well, then repaired to the restaurant for lunch. I had a lovely table with views of the waterfront. Then I visited the other museum at the site, the Architecture Museum, and wandered over to the little island next to Skeppsholmen, called Kastellholmen. I had views of the amusement park.

Amusement park.

I walked along the edge of the islands, admiring the many pleasure boats moored there.

By now it was getting time to think about catching my train to Lapland, known as the Arctic Circle train. Departure time was supposed to be 6:17 p.m, but train service across much of Sweden was nearly paralyzed by an electrical problem, and the train departed quite late. I have told this story in my post “Sarek National Park: Day One.”

Those of you  who have read my series about Sarek also know that on Day Seven of the nine-day expedition, I discovered that my backup camera battery didn’t work. Therefore I took no pictures when I returned to Stockholm. I arrived sleep-deprived after not having caught more than a few winks on the overnight train ride. I felt tired anyway from the long backpack, I had strained my knee toward the end of the trip, and I had gotten a pretty bad sunburn on the next-to-last day. So I was not in the best shape that day. I decided, more out of a sense of duty than anything else, that I would “do” the Royal Palace.  The unusually warm weather had continued, and many rooms of the palace were absolutely stifling—except for the few areas that were below ground, such as the Treasury.

I toughed it out until afternoon, had lunch at a Thai buffet, and went to my hotel (the same one I’d stayed at before). I slept for three hours before venturing out for dinner. The next morning I got up very early to catch the airport bus.

So my stay in Sweden ended with more of a whimper than a bang, but I was buoyed up by my memories of Lapland, an incredible experience that will always stay with me.

The skies---the  snow---the peaks---the rivers---a place I will never forget.

The skies—the snow—the peaks—the rivers—a place I will never forget.

My sister’s art show October 14, 2012

Posted by Jenny in art.
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The green figure of the woman is enigmatic and fascinating to me.

This weekend I attended the opening of my sister’s art show in Northampton, Mass. Her name is Elizabeth Bennett. You can see her work at the Anchor House of Artists, 518 Pleasant St., from now through the end of the month.

Betsy attended art school back in her late teens but opted to give up her painting for many years, only producing a few collages along the way. This year, she has picked up her paintbrush again, and I feel that the results are remarkable. She has a lot of versatility. Her subjects range from inventive, dreamlike scenes such as the above to beautifully rendered domestic images such as the bedroom below.

Bedroom scene.

She has done quite a few street scenes in Northampton. This yellow house is striking.

The range of colors here is really interesting.

Her use of color makes subjects like the row of buildings in this scene a pleasure to look at.

The composition and colors are unusual.

She can take subjects no one else would think of painting.

This is a parking lot at McDonalds. I love it, especially the arrow, which has kind of an iconic appearance.

This is the base of a railroad trestle. It’s dramatic.

She has done a couple of scenes along the Connecticut River in a totally different vein. Her use of materials is inventive, and these use a laundry marker in addition to the acrylic paint.

River scene.

Tree stump near the river.

Her show includes a couple of her collages.

Mysterious objects swim to the surface.

Something complicated is going on here.

Most of her pictures are for sale for very modest prices. Any inquiries can be sent to me at the email address in the column to the right, and I will forward them to her.  You can also contact the gallery at artists@anchorhouseartists.org. If you are in the vicinity of Northampton, I hope you will stop by the Anchor House.

This painting was done back in Betsy’s art school era. It is based on a postcard of the Perce Rock on the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec.

De Chirico’s “The Red Tower” May 17, 2012

Posted by Jenny in art.
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“The Red Tower” by Giorgio de Chirico, 1913

This painting shows a disjunction in time that creates a sense of melancholy, nostalgia, and uneasiness all at the same time. It speaks the language of dreams, it lays out vivid and impossible cards as on the table of a demented fortune-teller.

The statue that’s cut off at the right has the general outline of a military figure. It could be a hero who showed courage in battle or it could be a tyrant who ruled in the past—or something else entirely. The one thing that feels certain to me is that this figure lived in a time of intensity and drama, a time that has faded away. This past time has given way to a still, silent scene that is almost pastoral—except that some things don’t fit.

The giant red tower looms over a farm, but I make an equation between the time of the tower and the time of the figure on horseback, and I put both in the past. I can’t logically justify this; this is just the way it seems to me. It is the farm that seems to belong to the present, even though no human activity can be seen.

In the foreground we see one of de Chirico’s typical desolate, empty arcades, an urban scene that has been abandoned, where no people laugh or stroll or visit shops.

I’ve seen interpretations of this painting that try to make a coherent narrative out of it, but those efforts are doomed. For instance, it isn’t “people hiding from a dictator”—that is much too literal-minded.

“Love Song” (1914} has a similar arcade to the right

To me, the subject of “The Red Tower” is the passage of time. It captures the  terrible sadness of the perpetual disappearance of the present—we cannot hold time still no matter how hard we try—all things glide unstoppably into the past, where they can never be retrieved, only imperfectly remembered.

Giorgio de Chirico in 1936