Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cats in Art: The Cat in the Mirror (Balthus): 3 versions

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the 4th of a series focusing on the art of Balthazar Klossowski de Rola--AKA Balthus.

Just like last week, I'm going to offer you extra art: not one, not two, but THREE versions of this painting:

Image credit WikiArt.  The Cat in the Mirror, Balthus, 1978, oil on canvas, 67" x 71", held in a private collection.

Image credit WikiArt.  The Cat in the Mirror, Balthus, 1988, oil on canvas, 67" x 79", held in a private collection.

 Image credit WikiArt.  The Cat in the Mirror, Balthus, 1990, oil on canvas, 77" x 87", held in a private collection.

The size of the paintings-each about 10 years apart--gets larger, while the backgrounds get darker.  The first 2 kitties are great, with wonderful facial expressions and apparent interest in their images in the mirror, while the final kitty is dark and nearly indistinguishable.  The last cat could not even see its own face, given the angle of the mirror.  

I especially love the 1988 kitty as it reaches for the mirror with a paw.  

So it seems that as far as the cats go, unfortunately Balthus went downhill at the end.

I'm not an art critic, but to me the girl figures in the first two paintings look, well, almost photoshopped into the images.  The feet especially look unnatural.  Only in the final painting does the girl actually look integrated into the rest of the image.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

John West Salmon Commercial...and Ultrarunning

I recently showed this old commercial to Mister Tristan (the 7 year old human being, not the blog), I guess because it's a guy thing, and he loved it.  Of course!

So, in case you missed it the first time around, please enjoy it again.  I am continually amazed at old jokes or videos like this one, that given the passage of a few years, basically become completely new again and experience a second birth.  If the embedded video does not play, the YouTube link is here.

The (very tenuous) connection to Ultrarunning, naturally, pertains to enjoying backcountry experiences.  John West is a UK company, I believe, so the red salmon depicted may be from that neck of the woods.  But whenever I see this commercial I am reminded of Alaska, where I had the pleasure of experiencing several business trips during my working career for the Defense Department.

I was able to get away for some backcountry runs; while none were in such a pretty setting as this river, the runs nevertheless were stunning in their contrast to my everyday runs here in south-central PA.

I did find myself continually looking over my shoulder for predators, though, for man-eating critters no longer inhabit Penn's Woods (unfortunately).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cats in Art: Drawing Room (Balthus): 2 Versions

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the 3rd of a series focusing on the art of Balthazar Klossowski de Rola--AKA Balthus.

Image credit WikiArt.  Drawing Room, 1942, Balthazar Klossowski de Rola--AKA Balthus, 45" x 58", held by Museum of Modern Art, New York.

This strange painting show two girls: one relaxing, bored, or simply asleep, while the other is reading on the floor on her hands and knees.  And of course a white cat...sitting, but with its eyes closed in a dreamy-looking state.

And now note Balthus' 1943 painting, same title, same dimensions, but without the kitty (plus a couple of other minor differences).  Just not nearly as interesting:

Image credit WikiArt.  Drawing Room, 1943, Balthazar Klossowski de Rola--AKA Balthus, 45" x 58", held by Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Conococheague Creek Aqueduct to be Restored

Following on my post of yesterday, it seems that the National Park Service is planning to reconstruct the Conococheague Aqueduct in Williamsport, MD. 

I wanted to show you all a couple of photos I took yesterday near the Conococheague Aqueduct. This is basically a stone arch bridge that was filled with water--the Canal--to carry boats over a major tributary of the Potomac River, the Conococheague Creek.  

Think of a Roman aqueduct from the History Channel, only big enough to carry a long skinny boat.

Looking downstream across the aqueduct
Image credit Gary

Dozens of large wall stones, recovered from the creek
Image credit Gary

Seems that back in the early 1900s a canal boat struck the upstream wall of the aqueduct and toppled it into the creek.  The huge cut stones were recovered from the creek and placed in the dry canal bed just upstream of the aqueduct.  They've been waiting there for 100 years, now they'll get placed back where they belong.  This will be a very interesting project to follow.

The stones in the second picture convey no sense of scale.  They mostly are rectangular, about 2' x 2' x 3'.  In other words, a pretty significant chunk of stone.

Here is the long term plan, per the Herald Mail newspaper, 31 Oct 2014:

WILLIAMSPORT — The U.S. National Park Service is helping to breathe new life into an iconic national and Washington County landmark along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
Park service officials on Thursday announced the award of a design contract to a Virginia firm that will create the plans for a complete restoration of the stone-arch Conococheague Aqueduct, which last carried canal boats across the creek in the early 1920s.
"While we have photographs of boats going across aqueducts, no one living has ever actually boated across one" on the canal, said Kevin D. Brandt, superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. "... It's going to be a one of a kind experience here in Williamsport.”
The aqueduct project marks the next major project and final element to reinstate full canal boat operations in Williamsport, officials said.

Once completed in conjunction with several related projects, Williamsport will be the only place in North America where boaters will be able to ride over a watered aqueduct, under a railroad lift bridge and through a working canal lock, Brandt said.

This is waaaaay cool, from a canal geek!  And to think that you can run there, actually across the aqueduct!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"But It's a Good Kind of Crazy"...and Ultrarunning

After multiple postponements I finally made it to the C+O Canal for a run this morning.  The temperature was in the low teens and the wind was a-howling, yielding a severe wind chill figure, but I decided to program for success and go ahead anyway.

I could easily dress for the cold, and when you're running in the woods, the wind typically is not a huge deal...which is exactly what I discovered.  Nevertheless, it was a cold run under extreme conditions.

I passed a couple of runners/walkers, and to the one guy I made the comment, "You and I are crazy to be out here today...but it's a good kind of crazy."  To which he nodded, behind his scarf and face mask.

As opposed to batshit crazy, like climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers.

Here is what the Canal towpath looked like today with 2" of new powdery snow underfoot.  These were both taken upstream of Williamsport, between Milepost 102 and 103:

Looking downstream, Potomac River on right
Image credit Gary

Looking upstream, frozen Potomac River on left
Image credit Gary

Anyway, I had a WONDERFUL run.  It was pretty much a winter wonderland.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sleeping on the Top of Your Head

During this brutal cold snap here in the northeast, we're hibernating.  Our cat Tizzy is relaxing in front of the fire. 

Image credit Gary

I just love how cats can roll up and sleep on the top of their heads.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cats in Art: Girl and Cat (Balthus)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the second of a series focusing on the art of Balthazar Klossowski de Rola--AKA Balthus.

Image credit WikiArt.  Girl and Cat, 1937, dimensions and media not specified, held in a private collection.

The kitty is resting there in the right foreground, impassive, as though it were the Sphinx.  I wish the cat were not so dark, but it certainly is an excellent rendering.  Plus I wonder about the kitty's focus: while the girl is regarding the painter with a bored expression, the cat seems focused on something happening right in front of it, to the center, but just off-canvas.

While for me--of course--the cat is the primary object, I must note how the background of the painting is quite dark, with little detail.  Balthus bathes the girl in light to focus nearly all the attention of the viewer on her.

Though it pains me to admit it, the kitty is but an afterthought.

Friday, February 13, 2015