Providence || The Rhode Island State House

Sitting atop Smith Hill, overlooking downtown Providence, a grant building of white George marble, in inverse proportion to the size of the State it was built to serve. Designed by the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White and constructed between 1895 and 1904, it is crowned with the fourth largest self supporting dome in the world, behind only that of St. Peter’s in Vatican City, the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

The Senate Chamber, home to the 38 members of the Senate; it’s design was influenced by the Pantheon in Rome.

”Hope” is the official state motto of Rhode Island, inspired by the biblical phrase “hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” This little flag made it to the Moon and back.

Thomas Wilson Dorr, 1805-1854
”The People’s Governor”, thanks to whom Rhode Island adopted a state constitution.

This is the Gettysburg gun from the First R.I. Light Artillery, damaged during the battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 with a cannonball still stuck in the barrel.

The Royal Charter of 1663 granted by King Charles II of England, on July 8, 1663, resides safely in a custom steel  vault. The Charter guaranteed Rhode Island settlers complete religious liberty, established a self-governing colony with local autonomy and strengthened Rhode Island’s territorial claims. The most liberal charter of any colony, it served as Rhode Island’s basic law until the adoption of the state’s first constitution, which came into effect on May 2, 1843.

The Rhode Island State House, Providence

November 23rd, 2018

Portland Museum of Art || The McLellan House

Last, but not least:

A federal-style three-story mansion, completed in 1801 for Major Hugh McLellan, at a cost of $20,000. Purchased in 1880 by Lorenzo De Medici Sweat, it was bequeathed to the Portland Society of Art (now Portland Museum of Art), in 1908 by Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat, in memory of her late husband. It was completely restored to its original condition and its wonderful interior can be visited as part of the Portland Museum of Art.

Do not leave the Museum without seeing this splendid piece of history of Portland, Maine.

Art

Endless Column, 2013
Justin Richel (U.S., b. 1979)

Large Vase with Nude Women, 1950
Pablo Picasso

Garden Figure, 1935
Gaston Lachaise (U.S. (born France), 1882-1935)

Portland, ME

November 21st, 2018

The Glass House

“In the case of the Glass House, the stylistic approach is perfectly clear. Mies van der Rohe and I had discussed how you could build a glass house and each of us built one. Mies’ was, of course, primary and mine was an adoption from the master, although it’s quite a different approach. In my case, there were a lot of historical influences at work. The Glass House stylistically is a mixture of Mies van der Rohe, Malevich, the Parthenon, the English garden, the whole Romantic Movement, the asymmetry of the 19th century. In other words, all these things are mixed up in it but basically it is the last of the modern, in the sense of the historic way we treat modern architecture today, the simple cube.” – Philip Johnson, 1991

And so it was that Johnson’s famed masterpiece came to be. But it’s not just the house: a Studio, a Painting Gallery, a Sculpture Gallery, Da Monsta, a Brick House and a Pavillion in the Pond complete the picture.

But first things first:

The Gate

A standalone structure with no fence, so anyone can just walk by. Still, quite impressive in size and mechanics, with the bar sliding up to let our shuttle bus enter, and down again behind it. It was a sailboat boom in a previous life.

The Brick House

In contrast to the diaphanous Glass House, it was conceived as a guest house offering total privacy – light pours in from skylights and the only windows were placed at the rear.

The Glass House

Although there are no walls separating them, Philip Johnson referred to areas within the space as “rooms.” So we have the living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom and an entrance area – their limits defined by furniture or objects.

And, yes, it gets really hot when the sun shines. In order to avoid suffocation from the greenhouse effect, Johnson had special modular wooden panels placed on the glass ones for shade; they would be moved according to the hour of day or season.

The painting in the ”living room” is ”Burial of Phocion” ca. 1648-49, by Nicolas Poussin. It was selected specifically for the house by Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first director of the Museum of Modern Art.

The only really private room is the bathroom enclosed in a rounded brick structure that holds the fireplace on the other side.

View to the Pavillion in the Pond and the Monument to Lincoln Kirstein, 1985 – a 30 feet high tower, which Johnson frequently climbed, describing it “a staircase to nowhere.”

The Grounds

Artwork by Donald Judd, Untitled (1971).
Concrete
Rear view of the Brick House and its round windows.

Let’s take a breath here because, next, we’ll take a look at the art.

The Glass House

New Canaan, CT

November 18th, 2018

The House of Jazz

“We’re right out here with the rest of the colored folk and the Puerto Ricans and Italians and the Hebrew cats. We don’t need to move out in the suburbs to some big mansion with lots of servants and yardmen and things.”

And so it was in 1943 that Louis Armstrong and his wife Lucille came to live in this modest house in the working-class neighbourhood of Corona, Queens. They lived here for the remainder of their lives.

Today, the Louis Armstrong House Museum & Archives is open to the public, offering guided tours while audio clips from Louis’s homemade recordings are played, and visitors hear Louis practicing his trumpet, enjoying a meal, or talking with his friends.

No one else has lived in the house since the Armstrongs passed away; the rooms, furnishings, ornaments, the all-mirrored bathroom and that lovely show-stealing turquoise kitchen reflect their personalities, taste and times they lived in. I tried to stay behind every time our guide moved on, to take a better look at each room. I was sure that if I touched the walls I would hear the echo of Louis’ trumpet playing – and not from the audio clip.

The Museum is expanding across the street from the House. The new Education Center will complement the existing experience with an exhibition gallery, a jazz club where musicians will rehearse and perform their music, and a store. The museum’s research collections, currently housed at Queens College’s library, will move into an Archival Center on the second floor.

The anticipated completion was pushed back to 2021 (pre-Covid-19).

With the Louis Armstrong House Museum and Archives currently closed because of Covid-19, the Museum has launched “That’s My Home,” their first online exhibition – absolutely worth a visit.

November 4th, 2018

Old Westbury Gardens – The Mansion

It could be no less gracious than the magnificent gardens surrounding it, could it? And yet it was designed by an artist with no formal degree in architecture.

One of the glorious Gold Coast Mansions, home of John S. Phipps, his English-born wife, Margarita Grace Phipps and their four children, the mansion we know today as ”Old Westbury Gardens” was designed by George A. Crawley in the style of a Charles II Restoration manor house, and completed in 1906.

Following the deaths of Margarita and John S. Phipps in the late 1950s, their daughter Margaret Phipps Boegner – or Peggie, as he preferred to be called, inherited the Old Westbury estate and opened the gardens to the public to honor the memory of her mother.

Today, one can visit the house and gardens for guided tours, view exhibitions or attend a number of family events, talks or gardening classes. Or just take a leisurely stroll up and down the stairs and out and about in the gardens, taking in the little details and trying to decide which room would be their favourite.

Mine was the bathroom.

Old Westbury Gardens – Long Island, NY

October 28th, 2018

The Six Brandenburg Concertos @Park Avenue Armory

The Six Brandenburg Concertos, one of J.S. Bach’s most iconic masterpieces meet Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, one of the world’s most acclaimed choreographers meet Park Avenue Armory, one of New York’s most iconic venues.  A winning combination and one of the highlights of the year.

”The Brandenburg Concertos consist of six concerti grossi, in which Bach deploys the instruments from the baroque orchestra in different, often audacious constellations. Against this backdrop, De Keersmaeker sets sixteen dancers originating in different Rosas generations. Following the premiere of Mitten wir im Leben sind/Bach6Cellosuiten De Keersmaeker approaches, as in Vortex Temporum (2013), Bach’s music as if it were a ready-made score for a dance piece, embodying Bach’s polyphonic mastery. The concertos are played live by the baroque ensemble B’Rock. Violinist Amandine Beyer, with whom De Keersmaeker previously co-operated for Partita 2, will conduct the orchestra.” – [source: Rosas]

October 1st, 2018