Archive for architecture

Beautiful Bighorn Canyon NRA

Posted in Art, Artist Residency, Drawing, flora and fauna, historic sites, Inspiring People, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, National Parks, Personal History, Soul Food, Wanderings, wild creatures, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2016 by WanderArtist

One awesome benefit of being awarded artist residencies in national parks is discovering and falling in love with new places! This recently happened to us at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana/Wyoming. We stayed at historic Ewing-Snell Ranch about twenty miles north of the Park Visitor Center in Lovell, WY. There are numerous visually and historically interesting structures at Bighorn, with Ewing-Snell being the one continually inhabited until most recently. Many of the ranch buildings have been lovingly restored over the last 30 years. Until this past autumn Ewing-Snell was the only one still used as a residence by the park service and it was provided to us as part of the artist residency. Sadly, the ranch burned to the ground on December 9, 2015. We feel very fortunate to have stayed at this wonderfully restored historic building, and we are extremely sad that it is gone.

With my parents, who were visiting from Lincoln, Nebraska, we had the amazing experience of watching the supermoon eclipse from the porch of Ewing-Snell Ranch. Since no street lights were visible in any direction we enjoyed a clear and open view of the moon as it put on an amazing show, rising heavenward over the vast expanse of park land. It is truly a memory we will cherish for the rest of our lives. In light of the burning to the ground of the ranch merely weeks later, we had only an inkling of how truly lucky we were to be there at that moment in time.

Ewing-Snell porch

Ewing-Snell porch

Over the course of our two week stay at Bighorn I worked on a woodblock print representing one perspective of the park. It was not an easy place to narrow down to merely one image simple enough for a woodblock print… So many interesting cabins, canyons, horses, bighorn sheep, mountains and vast panoramic vistas! We visited all of the historic ranches, and saw many of the wild horses that live in the canyon and the Pryor Mountains that flank the western edge of the park… we wandered up into the Bighorn Mountains on the eastern edge of the park where we witnessed the ranchers herding their livestock down the mountain from summer grazing on Forest Service lands. We also had the humbling experience of spending several hours transfixed by the amazingly tangible energy at an ancient power spot called Medicine Wheel. Bighorn Canyon and its surrounding area is a very magical and humbling place. Stay tuned for a future posting about this amazing place.

Lockhart Ranch and its owner, Caroline Lockhart, held my attention early in our visit. Lockhart was probably the talk of the town (small as it was) when she bought land and began ranching in the Dryhead region (now part of Bighorn Canyon NRA). One of the quotes from this city slicker and author/newspaper owner about living there was “My job is writing books and the last thing I had in mind when I came to the Dryhead was filing on land or engaging in the cattle business, and certainly not locating in a country where a fresh track in the main-travelled road is an event.” Though likely scandalous to some she never married, and she surely enjoyed being the person in charge – of her ranch and of her own destiny.

Lockhart apparently never planned to own a ranch but bought L/♥ (her brand) in 1926 when the owner defaulted on a loan she had made to him. The ranch was then just 160 acres but she expanded it to over 6,000 by 1952 when she finally decided to make Cody, Wyoming her permanent home. She raised cattle, kept a lover at times, wrote books and made an excellent living on the ranch. Truly an inspiration for the liberated woman!

As part of my Find Your Park Through Art weekend at Bighorn Canyon a handful of artists joined together to offer workshops and to hike, paint, photograph and draw together in some of the interesting sites in the park. I met some lifelong friends while working together to create a fun and informative weekend for participants. Painter Stephanie Rose led a workshop at Ewing-Snell on plein air painting, and Photographer Marilyn Feather led a sunrise trip to photograph the canyon with other participants. Both were full of energy, freely dispensing tips and sharing knowledge of their subjects, and were truly a pleasure to work with. Marilyn even shared Ewing-Snell with us for about four nights, dodging the local black bear and enjoying the comforts of a wonderfully remote home base.

I led a group into Hillsboro Ranch to draw, photograph and paint on the final morning of the Find Your Park Through Art weekend. Although my Bighorn woodblock print depicts a building at Lockhart Ranch, Hillsboro wound up being a favorite place, mainly for the variety of interesting structures, but also because of the stories of mountain lions seen in the canyon. When our group arrived at the ranch we soon discovered a domestic cat that had somehow made its way to this remote spot and was very happy for our attention. When we left Hillsboro that day one of the group members, realizing that the kitty could easily end up as a cougar snack, decided to adopt her and a few of us happily took turns carrying her out to the trailhead. We were all relieved to get her away from the wild creatures! Blackpaw now leads a happy life with as much food and love as any cat could hope for!

After our day at Hillsboro we returned to Ewing-Snell where I did a demonstration of woodblock printing for an inquisitive group. As I said, we fell in love with Bighorn Canyon and the surrounding mountains, and we hope to return and explore for a longer time in the future. I only regret that we will not be able to stay at Ewing-Snell Ranch again. This blog post is dedicated to the park staff who spent many hours lovingly restoring all of the buildings at Bighorn. We all appreciate your efforts and expertise, and we too were very sad to learn of the demise of this special historic gem.

Mission Santa Barbara

Posted in American Indian, California, California Missions, Central Coast, historic sites, Junipero Serra, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Local Roaming, Santa Barbara, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2015 by WanderArtist

While wandering through the lovely city of Santa Barbara, in southern California, it would be very difficult to overlook the alluring architecture of Mission Santa Barbara. The historic building is beautifully preserved and reflects the SoCal light wonderfully throughout the day. The mission’s graveyard holds the remains of over 4,000 Chumash Indians, and the interior architecture is captivating… But the cemetery and inner spaces will have to wait for a later blog installment. For this article I will focus primarily on the outside of the building… This beautiful structure has caught our attention for years and we eventually realized it had to be captured at sunrise in order to do it justice. As we arrived at 7 AM we were given the gift of a gorgeous, crystal clear, peaceful morning to contemplate the details and the grandeur of the mission.

The original chapel was constructed by Chumash-Barbareño Indian labor in 1786. It was founded by Padre Fermín Lasuén as the tenth Spanish mission in the Franciscan order for the religious conversion of the local American Indians. Interestingly, this is the only mission founded by the Franciscan Friars to remain under their leadership since its founding. There is so much violence and sacrifice in the story of the building of the missions and the associated efforts by the Spanish to convert the native people of California. I will not dwell on that bloody and divisive history except to say that I am deeply saddened by the practices of the Spanish during that era, which contributed very significantly to the destruction of the cultures that occupied these lands for generations prior to the Europeans’ arrival.

Friar in the garden courtyard, Mission Santa Barbara, 1917

Friar in the garden courtyard, Mission Santa Barbara, 1917. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

The early mission chapel was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. The chapel was rebuilt and dedicated in 1820, and again ravaged by earthquake in 1925. The structure that greets us today was constructed in 1927 and 1953.

After indulging our minds’ eye with the captivating facade and mission grounds/gardens we began to explore more deeply, discovering the outlying, very old structures built by the Indians and associated with the mission. Aside from the main structure there are many intriguing features and water works…



California State Historic Landmark #309 reads:
“Santa Barbara Mission was founded December 4, 1786. Portions of five units of its extensive water works, built by Indian labor, are preserved in this park – a filter house, Spanish grist mill, sections of aqueducts, and two reservoirs. The larger reservoir, built in 1806, is used today as part of the city water system. Ruins of the pottery kiln and tanning vats are here, also. The fountain and lavadero are nearby in front of the Old Mission. A dam, built in 1807, is located in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, one and one-half miles up Mission Canyon.”

Mission Santa Barbara itself certainly has an interesting history, and it has housed since 1833 an extensive archive of approximately 3,000 original documents culled from throughout the California mission system. There is a lot of information, history and lore about this mission available on the web for those who wish to learn more… here we chose to focus on a visit to this historic site early one winter morning. We hope you enjoy our visual journey and that it stimulates you to delve deeper into the history of this gorgeous structure.


Electra’s Things

Posted in Art, Decorative Arts, Design, flora and fauna, historic sites, Inspiring People, Local Roaming, Museum, Quilts, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2013 by WanderArtist

Across Lake Champlain from here lies an amazing collection started by Electra Havemeyer Webb (August 16, 1888 – November 19, 1960) and opened as a museum in 1947. Shelburne Museum is located on what once was Electra’s in-laws farm in Vermont. Electra married an heir to the Vanderbilt fortune and spent many happy days at their farm. She was raised in a wealthy family surrounded by priceless Impressionist paintings and traveled the world throughout her life… But her collecting gravitated toward craft work, decorative arts and hand-made objects. Some of the most wonderful pieces we enjoyed at Shelburne Museum were the carousel animals, quilts, miniature scenes, and fanciful over-sized objects created for advertisements.

As you will see from my photographs, I also loved the architecture… The windows, the lovely unpainted wood… And the details, so many wonderful weather vanes, decoys, carved objects. I hope you enjoy your journey with me through Shelburne Museum!

John Brown’s Farm

Posted in Adirondacks, flora and fauna, historic sites, Inspiring People, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Local Roaming, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2013 by WanderArtist

On a beautiful summer day I recently visited a favorite spot in the Adirondack Mountains in North Elba (near Lake Placid) for a walk back in time. Abolitionist John Brown once farmed here and his old homestead is now a New York State Historic site. John Brown and two of his sons bought the property in 1849 in order to establish a farm for freed slaves. He is best known for seizing the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859 in hopes of using the weapons to lead an armed slave revolt. It was not a successful raid and he and four others were tried and hanged for the crime. He is buried at the farm along with an estimated eleven of the 21 men who participated in the raid at Harpers Ferry. Ten men in Brown’s group were killed and they killed four in the raid.

Incidentally, the fort was recaptured by a company of Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee of the United States Army. Owen Brown, John’s third son, escaped capture and eventually served as an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. He died at the age of 64 in Pasadena, CA – where it is said that 2,000 mourners marched at his funeral.


Photograph of John Brown from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

John Brown was raised by his father to believe that slavery was a sin against God. Through his struggle in opposing armed pro-slavery advocates in Kansas he came to believe that pacifism was not going to lead to the freedom of slaves in the United States, only armed rebellion. He hoped for a relatively bloodless rebellion and would have been appalled at the toll the Civil War took in human lives.


Engraving of the Harpers Ferry Insurrection from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.


The ornate iron fence surrounding the graveyard at John Brown’s Farm


IMG_1206_2“His soul goes marching on”


Erected in May 1935 this eight foot tall sculpture depicts Brown walking with a young former slave. The New York Herald Tribune stated at the time that over “1,500 people, many of them Negro pilgrims to the last resting place of John Brown, crowded about the statue.” for the unveiling.


Above is a Seneca Ray Stoddard photograph of the graveyard taken in 1896. It was not until a few years after this photo was taken that John Brown’s son, Oliver and the remains of eight or nine other men from his group (killed in the raid) were moved to this site from a shallow grave at Harpers Ferry.


The two plaques give (on left) a brief life history of John Brown and a listing of those buried here with him, erected in 1916… The tablet on the right pays tribute to the women of the Brown family who made their own sacrifices in the name of freedom, erected in 1946.


The above headstone has five names inscribed and was originally carved for the grandfather of the abolitionist – Captain John Brown who died in1776 while serving in the Continental Army (buried in Connecticut) – his headstone was replaced and his grandson had this old one sent to his farm in North Elba in 1858. It now serves as the headstone for John Brown and three of his sons – Frederick (who died and was buried in Kansas in 1856), Oliver and Watson. Brown requested that his name and those of Oliver and Watson be carved on the stone on the morning of his execution… OLIVER BROWN Born Mar. 9, 1839, was Killed at Harpers Ferry Oct. 17, 1859  WATSON BROWN Born Oct. 7, 1835, was wounded at Harpers Ferry Oct. 17 & Died Oct. 19, 1859


The handsome iron fence, beyond it you can see the headstones and a large boulder with the two bronze plaques.



The Brown home was open for tours on this summer day. On the left and right you can see scaffolding… The cedar shingle roof was being replaced, the property is very well-kept. It’s a great place for a walk or cross country ski on the two mile loop trail wandering through the woods beyond the pond and out buildings.



The photo above was taken looking back toward the house (at left) and the gravesite and iron fence. In the far right are the ski jumps built for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.


A handsome out-building at the farm


These berries were plentiful at the start of the walking trail



The leaf canopy looked to me like gorgeous stained glass


A feather found along the way

For much more detailed information about the headstones and memorials at John Brown’s Farm check out this genealogy website

John Brown was ahead of his time, and was not afraid to take action to defend the freedom of all men. He felt that armed insurrection was the only way to end slavery in the United States. Historians agree that his raid on Harpers Ferry led to tensions that precipitated the secession of southern states and eventually to the US Civil War.

“Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case), had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.

This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.” I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done!”

— Excerpt from a speech given by John Brown in court after his conviction, November 2, 1859

Manhattan, Brooklyn & Michael J. Fox

Posted in Art, Inspiring People, Museum, Personal History, Soul Food, Team Fox, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2013 by WanderArtist

The country mice made a trip to the big city recently to attend the Team Fox MVP Awards Dinner. As a result of my fundraising efforts for Team Fox I and a guest were invited to the event, held in NYC, and treated to a lovely dinner and an inspiring evening. We chose to make a weekend of it, staying with sweet friends in Brooklyn, eating wonderful food, and visiting MoMA. The following is a brief photographic illustration of our weekend.

a storefront that caught my eye on our walk around Brooklyn

a storefront that caught my eye on our walk around Brooklyn


mixed martial arts business with a wonderful mural


Russian Orthodox church in Brooklyn



what kid can resist looking through the viewing hole into a construction site in the city?


I bet you wished you…


looking west towards Manhattan from Brooklyn… if it weren’t for the clouds one could see the new World Trade Tower

After our long drive a walk around Brooklyn was just what we needed to shake off the cobwebs. We wandered with our friend Ryan and little dog Matilda. I couldn’t resist a little photography along the way. Once we’d had some time to relax and catch up with Jessie and Ryan we got dressed up and were escorted to the subway to take the train into the city and uptown.


looking sharp!


at Gotham Hall the walls and domed ceiling were lit orange in honor of Team Fox

Gotham Hall must have once been a very upscale bank… the building was interesting inside and out. To top off the drama of the space the grand architecture of the hall was lit up orange in honor of Team Fox.


Photo by PHOTOPIA / Shaun Heffernan

Photo by PHOTOPIA/Shaun Heffernan

Photo by PHOTOPIA / Shaun Heffernan

Me with Michael J. Fox before the awards dinner

Me with Michael J. Fox before the awards dinner, what an inspiration he is!

Michael J. Fox held court at the entrance before dinner to allow photographs with everyone… He must have been greeting guests for over an hour, very inspiring. The speeches and evening were also uplifting. Afterward we headed back to Brooklyn happy but exhausted – really feeling our long day of driving and rambling.

The next day was spent roaming around Brooklyn along with experiencing MoMA. We topped off the evening and the trip with an amazing Italian dinner at Dieci, around the corner from Ryan and Jessie’s flat in Brooklyn. Here is a link to the Dieci website – you owe yourself a meal at this wonderful little family-run pizzeria. We have both worked in Italian restaurants in San Francisco and Dieci served us the most delicious Italian dinner either of us has ever had.


at MoMA


the sculpture garden at MoMA


experiencing the art



MoMA scenery… unfortunately the Claes Oldenburg exhibition was not yet open


the exhibit I most enjoyed was “Henri Labrouste: Structure Brought to Light”

Engineer as Artist in 1588

Posted in Art, Decorative Arts, Design, Drawing, Ideas, Inspiring People, Museum, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by WanderArtist

When it comes to books we all have our preferences… I appreciate a story that draws me in so fully that I forget to eat dinner. And, as a visual artist, I am naturally enticed by drawings and prints. Since my first summer on the job, one of my favorite books here at The Alice has been Agostino Ramelli’s, “Dell’ Artificiose Machine”. This tome first caught my eye because of its strong cream-colored leather binding. It has simple, elegant, gold foliate designs on the spine framing the author, title, and “Parigi 1588.” Bindings like this are relatively rare due to the skill and attention it takes to create them.


As soon as I opened the cover and looked at some of the illustrations within, my curiosity was piqued – I had to know more. The book is comprised primarily of images, with the text serving mainly to explain the objects that occupy well over a third of the pages. The illustrations, intricate in their detail and precision, are comprised of very detailed drawings of machines – among them are whimsical designs for water pumps, derricks, mills, bridges, and even looms!


The above image illustrates a very specialized library table Ramelli imagined. This revolving table is designed for someone who, suffering from gout, could not get around easily. In each compartment one would place a different book to study or enjoy!

Agostino Ramelli was a military engineer who obviously had an eye for artful detail. In his youth he studied mathematics and architecture. He was a product of the Renaissance, with its emphasis on education through classical sources combined with a search for realism and human emotion in art. The beautiful details Ramelli included in his works illuminate his desire to include a human element in each diagram. They often include whimsical spouts on illustrations of wells, generally in the shape of a mythical creature or animal head, with the water pouring out of the mouth. Many of the etchings involve humans – sometimes powering the machines by walking on huge wheels to turn the cogs and gears, or at other times collecting the water as it pours from the spout.


In the above illustration the creature’s head that forms the spout even has flowers in its hair! Presumably, these would have been conceived of by Ramelli as carved stone sculptural elements serving to enhance the beauty of his machines.

Ramelli’s work was one of the first of its kind to have drawings so finely and accurately detailed that you could actually construct the machines by using his images as a reference. He wrote this volume for the French royal court, thus the text is in French and Italian.

Magnificent Hearst Castle

Posted in Art, Decorative Arts, Drawing, historic sites, Inspiring People, Soul Food, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by WanderArtist

Imagine a palace filled with wonderful artwork from foreign lands, incredibly detailed and ornate tile work, opulent swimming pools surrounded by graceful figurative sculptures – all placed in the lovely setting of rolling hills stretching down to the Pacific Ocean. It was built in the 1920s-1940s, and is an achievement that will never be equaled, not in this day.

If you have been there you already know the place I speak of – Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. On a recent visit I was floored by the beauty of the residence that William Randolph Hearst created on his family’s 250,000 acre ranch land. There are three tour options in the winter season and I chose to take the tour of the Grand Rooms. The ability to then wander the grounds of the Hearst estate was a real selling point for this artist. After the tour I settled down to draw… more on that challenge later.

The tour begins with a bus ride along a curving and scenic road up through brown rolling hills to the estate. Riding the bus is a good entree as you are not forced to look at the road but can fully take in the beauty of the views. There is a recorded introduction to Hearst Castle playing as you ride the bus, but for me the interest lay more in the scenery of rolling brown hills and Coastal Live Oaks, all with a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. The narrative provides valuable and interesting details, however, and contributes to the growing sense of anticipation and wonder.

The bus group is met by a docent as they disembark below the castle and the tour begins. The tour mainly focuses on interpreting the part of the history of the castle that most people want to hear. Visitors seem to be more interested in Hearst and his guests, the exotic animals he imported to the grounds, and in what antics guests participated while staying in the opulent rooms – during the 1930s and 1940s. A student of art and decorative arts will find very little information during the guided tour regarding the collection. There is some information available on the Hearst Castle website however.

Without delving into a blow-by-blow of my tour I wish to mention the aspect of the Hearst Castle achievement that most excited and amazed me. It wasn’t that this incredible, large and beautiful place was created in the middle of nowhere along the coast of California. What I found most intriguing was the architect. I grew up in California and heard about the castle for years… I never visited. Had I known that the architect and designer was a woman, Julia Morgan, I may have been drawn there much earlier.

Julia Morgan was an extraordinary person – one of the first women to graduate from UC Berkeley, and the first to be admitted and earn a degree from the Ecole Nationale et Speciale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She opened her architecture firm in 1904 in San Francisco. Hearst hired Morgan to begin work on his estate in San Simeon in 1919. Morgan was the right person for the job. To me, the detail of workmanship, the sturdy quality of the structures (built on the earthquake prone hills of the California coast), and the aesthetic layout speak for themselves. Hearst Castle is extreme in it’s opulence, but is still very pleasing to eye, incorporates lovely natural beauty, and an ergonomic design – before the word was even invented. Morgan created the shangri-la her client wanted, and incorporated the work of very skilled craftsmen who could copy tile work from the 16th century, and panel painting over 200 years old – so convincingly that most of us would not notice the difference.

Wondering at the vision of Julia Morgan, and the open-minded nature of her employer I wandered the grounds after my tour looking for something to sketch. I had about two hours until the grounds closed and I would be forced to ride the last bus down. First I sat near the Neptune Pool, inspired by the curving colonnades and graceful sculptural details. I thought I had simplified the scene enough to draw, but after two tries I realized I had to find another spot to capture some of the lovely detail of the buildings or sculpture.

Finally I chose a vantage point beside one of the guest houses and sketched the much smaller detail of the corner of the building and it’s iron lamp and support. The incredible scenery and intensity of detail incorporated in the estate simply overwhelmed me! I had to distill it down into a much smaller focus in order to have the time to commit something to paper! As I was completing the sketch I was finally nudged by security to make my way toward the waiting bus. I barely got to glimpse the amazing indoor Roman Pool just before exiting. The next time I visit Hearst Castle I will go on the first tour in the morning, and stay the entire day to enjoy this magical place!

Note: Photography is allowed for personal use, but reproduction of photographs is severely limited. To see photos of Hearst Castle, read more about Julia Morgan, and the collection check out their website


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