Posts Tagged ‘Balboa Park’

day ten: museum

January 10, 2017 @ 4:52 pm | Filed under: Books

 

textile and shadows

Five of us went to Balboa Park this morning. It was Free Tuesday and yet we actually got parking! We don’t usually get out of the house early enough. Huck, Rilla, and I spent most of our time in the Museum of Man while Rose and Beanie roamed the Park. I need to go back soon (very possibly this weekend, with a visiting friend) to spend some time in the Scandinavian textiles exhibit in the Mingei. I got the barest peek—a breathtaking piece in the foyer—and am champing at the bit to return. (Sans seven-year-old. I love the kid, but long periods of thoughtful gazing at large pieces of cloth isn’t exactly his specialty. Besides his own shadow, the thing he found most interesting in the Mingei was that wall outlet. He’ll be forever haunted by the mystery of why the lower half is sealed over.)

(Ouch. Just realized that even if he were as fascinated with textiles as I am, I’d only have three days to go back with a seven-year-old. He’ll be eight on Friday.)

pythagorus

Detail from “Pythagorus” drapery fabric by Sven Markelius

Back in the ’90s when I decided the thing missing from our little Queens apartment was a table loom (ahahaha), I quickly discovered that the weaving patterns that appealed to me most were the Scandinavian ones. My Carl Larsson obsession began about that same time. Although, as I mentioned the other day, I have finally grasped reality enough to part with one or two of my old weaving texts, none of the Swedish books were ever in danger. I love flipping through them, even though the loom’s been in the garage for ten years. The clean lines and simple, bright geometric patterns fill me with such satisfaction.

The Erik Gronborg exhibit is also breathtaking and begs a good deal more of my time.

(None of my pictures came out, sorry. My phone didn’t like the lighting. Plus I had a seven-year-old to watch.)

The Monsters exhibit at the Museum of Man was much more Huck’s cup of tea. 🙂

giantsquid

Sunday in the Park with Spreckels

December 21, 2009 @ 7:24 am | Filed under: Advent & Christmas, California landmarks, Family Adventures, Holidays, Photos

One of the many treasures of Balboa Park is the Spreckels Pipe Organ—the world’s largest outdoor musical instrument. San Diego employs a civic organist and offers free organ concerts on many Sunday afternoons throughout the year. I’ve been wanting to attend one ever since we moved here, and yesterday we happened to think of it just in time to catch the Christmas concert and community sing-along. The timing was perfect; my mother was visiting for the weekend. (She comes out for my birthday every year, which is the best possible present.)

We wore our new Christmas hats that my sister Merry made for us.

organ

It was really too warm for them, but we were full of Christmas spirit.

elvesatpark

As were the many doggies who attended the concert along with enthusiastic carol-singers.

dog

It was all very merry and bright.

gigglers

Possibly a little too bright.

toobright

Our all potential Christmas card photos turned out to be outtakes. That’s okay because I’ve already abandoned hope on sending out Christmas cards this year anyway.

group

The best part was when the organist invited audience members to join her onstage for the carol-singing. We didn’t know we’d get to be part of the concert! Beanie, Jane, and I were eager to sing. The rest of the gang watched from the back of the amphitheater.

We thought of our snowed-under East Coast friends when we sang White Christmas.

palmgirl

(Out here it’s a white T-shirt Christmas.)

The best part was the final song—an enthusiastic and somewhat ad-libbed rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. It is still ringing in my ears.

Methinks we have ourselves a new holiday tradition.

lbaby

Thanks for the hats, sis!

Balboa Park Posts

October 20, 2009 @ 6:13 am | Filed under: California landmarks, Family Adventures, Photos

Perusing my archives, I see the wonders of Balboa Park have inspired a good many posts. (And other creative pursuits.)

colorist

I draw (a little); she paints (a lot).

Helixes (viewing mummies at the Museum of Man; visiting the Botanical Building)

We counted koi in the long lily pond outside the Botanical Building, their splotched orange-and-cream bodies undulating beneath spiky, ladylike blossoms and the notched round leaves that reminded us of Thumbelina’s prison and Mr. Jeremy Fisher’s raft. We peered inside the deep wells of pitcher-plant blossoms, angling to see if any hapless insects lay dissolving inside. How surreal, this eager scrutiny of death, the children chattering and lively in the moist green air of this palatial greenhouse, just as they had been in the domed, echoing hush of the museum.

Got More Monet Than Time (Giverny exhibit at the art museum)

Giverny! The word is magical. It whispers: Monet, poppies, haystacks, light-streaked skies, picturesque laborers in wheat fields drenched with sun. We made a beeline for the visiting exhibit, a large collection of Impressionist works by the artists who congregated in the little French painters’ colony during the late 1800s. They took their easels out to the woods and fields in a golden frenzy of plein-air painting. All right, the wall placard describing the exhibit didn’t say anything about a frenzy per se, but it did talk a lot about plein-air painting, a term whose pronunciation I managed to fake quite passably but of whose definition I was ignorant until a kind-eyed Englishwoman explained it to Jane.

Of Fowls and Fun (another art museum visit)

Yesterday my three oldest kids went to a workshop at the San Diego Museum of Art. A docent gave a short talk about elements of art—line, shape, color, etc—and then they split into small groups and went to look at four paintings up close. Afterward, they did an art project focusing on copying details from the paintings they’d viewed. I missed most of the workshop, because I was outside with the little ones. The girls had a splendid time, and Beanie was especially impressed by the dead chicken.

Photos of the Japanese Friendship Garden (and other spots)

Bamboo
And this month’s photoessay (Natural History Museum, Botanical Building)

museumnatlhistory

San Diego Museum of Natural History at Balboa Park.

boymeetsfish

Lily Pond and lizard shirt

Good Day

October 9, 2009 @ 7:17 pm | Filed under: California landmarks, Family Adventures, Photos

(A photoessay.)

playdoh

stuffweread

couchtwo

fourlr

yeats

lastmonarch

pbh

balboa

museum

shark

dino3Dmovie

everywhereilook

stonework

whiteflower

botbldg

lookingatfish

fish

papyrus

trumpets

bbdome

pitcherplants

pitchers

toolong

cheeringhimup

boy vs blanket

running

secretpath

boyslaugh

Of Fowls and Fun

October 19, 2007 @ 2:17 pm | Filed under: Art, Family, Fun Learning Stuff

Yesterday my three oldest kids went to a workshop at the San Diego Museum of Art. A docent gave a short talk about elements of art—line, shape, color, etc—and then they split into small groups and went to look at four paintings up close. Afterward, they did an art project focusing on copying details from the paintings they’d viewed. I missed most of the workshop, because I was outside with the little ones. The girls had a splendid time, and Beanie was especially impressed by the dead chicken.

“Huh?” I asked her, ever so articulately, upon receiving this report.

“A dead chicken! In a painting! I saw it, and I drew it!”

I do remember seeing a painting with a dead fowl in it when we first visited the museum. I think it was a duck, not a chicken: Merganser by William Michael Harnett. (I don’t know if that link will work—the URL says “index.” I don’t think the SDMA site has direct URLs to the paintings. But if you’re really interested in seeing the deceased bird, you can click around to get there. Beanie thinks it is worth the effort. Me, I prefer a nice landscape with haystacks.)

During the workshop, a couple of the other mothers and I walked down to the Science Center with our little ones. There’s a kiddie room upstairs where a mama can park herself on a bench and watch her younguns play with all the interesting toys. Wonderboy loved the air chute made for putting balls in: whoosh! Up goes the ball and pops out the top of the tube. Rilla enjoyed filling the toy shopping cart with plastic fruits and vegetables. It was so easy and pleasant to sit there chatting with my friends while our toddlers and preschoolers bustled around. I remember when I thought tending two little ones in a children’s museum was a tiring day’s work. Now it’s a mini-vacation.

One thing I’m really enjoying about our proximity to Balboa Park is that we can drop by for short, frequent visits without feeling like we have to do and see everything all at once. We’ve barely begun to explore all the park has to offer. After I picked up the girls, we were strolling back to our car and we passed the little Timkin Museum, a small, free-to-the-public art gallery next to the big SDMA. Erica had mentioned that it’s an incredible collection. Jane and I noticed a huge sign advertising a special French Neoclassical exhibit, which is exactly the movement we’ve just been reading about in Young People’s Story of Fine Art, so that was a pretty exciting discovery. We’ll have to squeeze in a visit sometime soon.

Jane is also keen to see the Journey to the Copper Age exhibit at the Museum of Man—she wondered aloud whether her daddy could take a day off and take her. And I’d like to get to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Natural History Museum while it’s still there…but tops on the girls’ wish list is to go climb a certain enormous, low-branching tree they spotted on the way into the park. And when I was watching how happy my wee ones were yesterday in the kiddie playroom, I made a little mental note to remember that as important and wonderful as all this cultural stuff is, it’s even more important to allow ample time for Climbing Very Big Trees and Dipping Fingers into Fountains. Sometimes the dead chicken really is the best part of the art museum. Even when it’s a duck.

Helixes

October 8, 2007 @ 11:24 pm | Filed under: California landmarks, Connections, Family Adventures, Outings, Poetry

This time last year, I was driving through Kansas. It was our fifth day on the road en route from Virginia to California: the five kids and me. If you’d like to read about our trip, I’ve pulled all the posts together into one big page, here.

It’s hard to believe it has been a year. Hard to believe we are West Coasters now, decorating for autumn by plopping pumpkins alongside our rainbow of moss roses. (This year I’ll know to keep watch against pumpkin mush.) We’re planting sunflowers in the back yard at the same time that we’re planning Halloween and All Saints’ Day costumes. It’s a bit surreal.

We went to Balboa Park again today. This time we visited the Museum of Man, lingering particularly long in the Egyptian wing. The kids were fascinated by the mummies, but I was a little bothered by the sad remains of the Lemon Grove Mummy, the body of what seems to have been a girl around fifteen years of age, possibly pregnant, curled into a fetal position. Her skin sags loosely around her old, old bones. She was found in a cave near Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1966 by two teenagers, who stole her and smuggled her home to Lemon Grove, California. Apparently she sat in a garage for 14 years because the boys didn’t want their parents to find out what they’d done. Eventually she was discovered and donated to the Museum of Man. She’s a special part of the mummy display, but I felt uncomfortable gawking at her in her glass case: it seems like a violation of her humanity for her to be cached there in public view next to the interactive media display about how scientists determined her age and origin. She’s one of several mummies there, and all the others had struck me as simply fascinating until we got to the Lemon Grove girl. Maybe it’s because she wasn’t wrapped up in linens like the Egyptian mummies. She reminded me of the Irish Bog People, and Seamus Heaney’s poems about them.

Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.
In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach…

(—from “Tollund Man” by Seamus Heaney.)

And that made me think of grad school, where I first read Heaney’s poems, back in the early ’90s when I had no inkling that one day I would stand in a Southern California museum, recalling those lines while watching four blonde heads peer at a long Mexican teenager in a glass case, another golden-haired child perched on my hip in a sling. I didn’t see today coming even two years ago, even 18 months ago.

Rilla was born in April of ’06 and Scott got the job offer in June. I planted a cherry tree in our yard that spring, a gift from my mother. I wonder if the new homeowners got cherries this summer?

This day last year we rolled into Kansas, where the prairie “slices the big sun at evening,” to quote Heaney’s “Bogland.” Today we watched the frothy spray of the big Balboa Park fountain paint a rainbow on the blue canvas of the sky. We counted koi in the long lily pond outside the Botanical Building, their splotched orange-and-cream bodies undulating beneath spiky, ladylike blossoms and the notched round leaves that reminded us of Thumbelina’s prison and Mr. Jeremy Fisher’s raft. We peered inside the deep wells of pitcher-plant blossoms, angling to see if any hapless insects lay dissolving inside. How surreal, this eager scrutiny of death, the children chattering and lively in the moist green air of this palatial greenhouse, just as they had been in the domed, echoing hush of the museum.

How surreal to be pondering corpses while the children are laughing. Pondering the human bodies, preserved; the insects, acid-eaten, their final resting place the polar opposite of Heaney’s peat bog, where hastily buried bodies remained clothed and well-manicured for centuries, and

Butter sunk under
More than a hundred years
Was recovered salty and white.

Sometimes I think about how life is like the very DNA it’s made of, a set of intertwined spirals full of small stories. A girl dies in Mexico and centuries later is brought to another country, where a woman stares at her empty skin and remembers an Irishman with a rope round his neck, preserved through the long march of years by the tannic acid in the peat and the ripe syllables of a bristle-browed poet. A child leans out over a reflecting pool and joyously points at a fish the same color as the pumpkins she begged her mother to buy that morning. A man in Virginia wanders, perhaps, out into his yard, and plucks a withered, mummified cherry he missed during the summer harvest, while the hands that planted the tree are pushing sunflower seeds into gritty soil a continent away.

Scott’s Home, So It Feels Like Saturday

August 31, 2007 @ 8:04 am | Filed under: California landmarks, Family Adventures, Outings, Photos

And Saturday is when I play with my photos.

I love this picture of Beanie admiring a stand of bamboo in the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park.

Bamboo

That was the day we visited the art museum. We had parked behind the Organ Pavilion, which is next to the Japanese Garden, so of course we had to stroll through the garden on our way back to the car.

We were just in time to feed the koi.

Feedingkoi

Koi

I loved the bonsai collection.

Bonsai2

Bonsai

Isn’t that one stunning?

Even with five kids in tow, the garden is a peaceful place.

Pedestal

On the way out, we bumped into some friends. Rose took over the camera while the moms chatted.

Strollerboys

I think this shot of the Spreckles Organ Pavilion was hers, too.

Spreckles

This next one is from outside the delightfully named House of Charm, which holds the San Diego Art Institute (not to be confused with the San Diego Museum of Art) and the Mingei International Museum, a collection of folk art from around the world.

Tunnel

We haven’t been inside yet, but we found plenty to look at (and climb on) outside the building.

Climbingsculpture

Redberries

Statue

That’s El Cid on his warhorse, by the way. This statue was presented to the park by the San Diego Historical Society in 1930.

And how best to unwind after a day at the park? Relax on your own personal park bench at home, of course! (Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa, for the bench and the countless photo ops it provides.)

Parkbench

Got More Monet than Time

August 23, 2007 @ 8:07 am | Filed under: Art, California landmarks, Family Adventures, Outings

We’ve been meaning to visit all the Balboa Park museums since our arrival in San Diego, but the zoo and the aquarium kept wooing us back for repeat visits this summer, hogging our outing time. Then a couple of weeks ago, Alice discovered an incredible art museum near her San Fran abode, and her stories of close encounters with works by Rembrandt, Cassatt, and Monet fired me up to move “take kids to San Diego Museum of Art” from the Sometime list to the Do It Now one.

Yesterday, as I mentioned in my somewhat grumbly tale at Lilting House, was the monthly Free Tuesday there, so off we went.

Lesson number one: You might think you are being all kinds of clever and responsible by spending the morning cleaning house before packing up the kids for the big museum outing—”We’ll come home to a nice clean house, won’t that be nice?”—but you are wrong. The parking lot police officer took time out from writing tickets for cars illegally parked in the handicapped spaces to tell me, jovially, that you have to arrive before 10 a.m. if you want to get a (legal) parking spot. It was 11:45 when he was telling me this, so: whoops.

He very kindly told me where to go to find a parking lot I could drive around in for 25 minutes hunting for a space. I took his advice, and figured out all on my own how to stalk a pedestrian strolling into the lot with keys jangling, suggesting the possibility that she was returning to her car and therefore about to vacate a space. The space was approximately four inches wider than my minivan, so I spent another 18 minutes backing-and-filling in order to get into it.

By this time the kids were fed up with Balboa Park and asked if we could go home. I laughed like a crazy person and told them if they thought I was going to give up this parking space, EVER, they were sorely mistaken. “We are going to LIVE here from now on,” I told them. “Forever. I worked too hard for this space. I am never going to leave it, you can bury me here. Hold on, I need to call Daddy and give him our new address. Honey, we now reside at Space #16, The Lot Behind Spreckles Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park, San Diego, I don’t know the zip code yet. Can you change the mail forwarding? Because I can’t leave this spot to go to the Post Office.”

Then one of the kids pointed out the sign that said the lot closes at 6 p.m.

“Shoot,” I sighed. “We’d better go see that museum before they kick us out.”

YoungshepherdessThe facade of the museum is currently hidden behind plywood and tarps, presumably for a restoration of some kind, but you scarcely notice that as you herd your children up the stroller ramp, because your gaze is transfixed by the lovely pensive face of the Young Shepherdess, the gem of the museum’s collection. Painted in 1895 by William Bougereau,  the Shepherdess is arguably the gallery’s most beloved work of art. My daughters want to be her (because she is pretty, goes barefoot, and has sheep) and were desperately eager to see her.

Turns out she is off gallivanting around the country right now. A museum guard told me (very chatty these Balboa Park personnel are, and don’t I appreciate it!) that the painting is making a U.S. tour this summer. But she’ll be back in a few months, and that’s fine because it will probably take me that long to find another parking space.

Instead of the Shepherdess, we visited Giverny. Oh! Giverny! The word is magical. It whispers: Monet, poppies, haystacks, light-streaked skies, picturesque laborers in wheat fields drenched with sun. We made a beeline for the visiting exhibit, a large collection of Impressionist works by the artists who congregated in the little French painters’ colony during the late 1800s. They took their easels out to the woods and fields in a golden frenzy of plein-air painting. All right, the wall placard describing the exhibit didn’t say anything about a frenzy per se, but it did talk a lot about plein-air painting, a term whose pronunciation I managed to fake quite passably but of whose definition I was ignorant until a kind-eyed Englishwoman explained it to Jane.

She was quite a knowledgeable woman and shared many tidbits of information with us as we strolled from painting to breathtaking painting. Monet was everywhere, shimmering in leaf green and spruce green, plummy shadows, frothy blues. Forget my parking space, I want to live in one of those paintings.

I particularly liked the work of American Impressionist Theodore Robinson, about whom I probably ought to have known before but didn’t. (Oh look! I just realized he’s the same guy Elizabeth posted about a few days ago. Maybe that’s why his name jumped out at me.) We also greatly admired the work of John Leslie Breck and Guy Rose. But it was Monet who gave us the goosebumps. Jane and I could not believe we were standing there in front of his actual paintings, a dozen of them at least. I lost count. I was too occupied with counting the heads—and more to the point, hands—of my own children. “Don’t touch the wall, honey. Oh! And don’t point at the paintings. What if you accidentally touched one! Good heavens! Oh! No, Wonderboy, don’t poke the nice English lady. She’s your sisters’ only chance of having their questions answered here because Mommy is distr—Oh! No, Beanie, you can’t eat string cheese in an art museum!”

I do not pretend our outings are serene.

If I get a chance later, I will link to some of the paintings we got to look at. This one, Morning on the Seine Near Giverny (which looks washed out in every image I could find online but is in reality saturated with color so rich it’s like light poured itself into pigment) is the one I mentioned in yesterday’s Lilting House post, the print Rose fell in love with in the bookstore. There were other paintings we liked even better: I think all of us favored the golden haystack ones (and there were many—mighty fond of painting haystacks were those Impressionists) over the misty river paintings.

Not that there’s any reason to choose. The world is an art gallery nowadays. I foresee many virtual pilgrimages to Giverny in our future. As there have been in our past—Linnea in Monet’s Garden and Katie Meets the Impressionists have ranked highly in our book catalogue for many years.

After the Giverny exhibit, we toured several other galleries in the museum, encountering Goya, Renoir,  O’Keefe, Warhol, Fra Angelico, and Giotto. We missed Picasso, Rembrandt, and Chagall, but we’ll be back.

As soon as I find parking.

Maybe I Shouldn’t Have Said It

August 21, 2007 @ 7:47 pm | Filed under: Special Needs Children, Wonderboy

But I did.

I took the kids to the San Diego Museum of Art today, for Free Tuesday. Admission to the various museums and gardens in Balboa Park is free one Tuesday a month on a rotating basis. We plan to hit them all, eventually.

To our delight, we arrived to discover the museum is hosting an exhibit called Giverny, featuring canvases by several well-known Impressionists who came together to form a little artists’ colony in the rural French village of that name. We met Monet in person for the first time today. I had goose bumps. I’ll write more later about the paintings we saw today. I have lots and lots to say about our outing, but for now I’ll just tell this one story.

We stopped by the museum gift shop on our way out. It’s long and narrow, and the free-Tuesday crowd was clogging the aisles. I parked Wonderboy’s stroller in a nook by the door where no one would trip over him, and I left Jane to keep watch over him while I bought a few art postcards. The register was in the middle of the store where I could keep an eye on the kids while I stood in line.

On the whole, they were being pretty patient, I thought, and well-behaved. But Beanie reached out to touch something on a shelf and Wonderboy let out a screech. He can be quite strict with his sisters. He had seen me issue instructions not to touch anything while I was in line. Thus the screech.

Two women happened to be passing behind me at that moment, and one of them rolled her eyes at the other.

“Why do people let their kids scream like animals?” she muttered.

I couldn’t help it. I had to say something.

I turned to her with a big bright smile. “That animal,” I said, “is DEAF. He’s doing the best he can.”

Her face blanched, and she choked out an apology as she hastened past, hurrying far, far away from the poisonously sweet mother of the screeching animal. I’m pretty sure she hid in the back of the store until I left. Poor thing; she had a long wait, for the line was long.

Heh.

Okay, so maybe it was a cheap shot. In truth, his shriekiness probably has more to do with his being a high-strung three-year-old than his being hearing impaired. And yes, he’s only partly deaf. Medium deaf, if you will. Not all the way deaf.

I just get tired, sometimes, of how intolerant our culture seems to be of little children. I feel like I’m always shushing my brood, reining in their high spirits. I love to take them places, love piling in the car for another adventure in nature or art or history, but there can be so much tension in the role of the mom who is on don’t-annoy-anyone alert.

They are obedient and pleasant children. We get plenty of smiles and compliments when we’re out and about. We also get lots of stares, and sometimes frowns. If you’re walking behind us on a narrow path, we’ll try to get out of your way because I know we can be painfully slow to be trapped behind, but I can’t always pull it off. My stroller wheels stick, and I’m preoccupied with keeping Beanie from walking every wall like a tightrope and Rilla from picking my pocket from her perch in the sling. And whoops, there goes Wonderboy’s sippy cup under the stroller. And Jane wants me to look at a new species of butterfly she just spotted. And Rose requires a detailed explanation of exactly why we couldn’t buy the $60 framed print we fell in love with in the store.

Bright, happy, eager, reasonably polite. Doesn’t that balance sometimes inconvenient and occasionally noisy?

Of course I know it does. I’m not really angry about what that woman said. “Like animals” stung a bit, perhaps, but I know words like that cannot have been uttered by anyone who has walked ten steps in my shoes. And I don’t know what her own shoes feel like. Perhaps she has bunions.

She certainly does not have my screeching, high-strung, hard-of-hearing animal, who sees me taking off his baby sister’s clothes at bedtime and trots off down the hall to fetch her pajamas, unasked, chuckling with the joy of the task, and delivers them with a kiss for the baby and another for me. She does not have those skinny arms around her neck, that gaptoothed grin, those busy little fingers flashing and twisting to shape words in accompaniment to that funny, nasal, charming, tuneless singing.

One woman’s animal, another woman’s heart.

meandmyboy