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February 2008 Archives

February 1, 2008

Shrine with red wall

inside oratorio

In honor of Day One of the Great SlowTravel Blogging Challenge and today's theme (red), I'm posting this photo of a shrine. I have no idea where this one is in Venice - this photo somehow got separated from the ones around it that would give me a clue about where I was that day.

Most Venetian red has some orange in it, closer to terracotta. I think of the bricks and the tile roofs and the many, many churches with red and white marble floors. There are the rich rusty reds of Carpaccio, but also the jeweltone burgundies of Bellini. And of course, there's this dress, maybe the most beautiful red of all.

February 2, 2008

Fantasy Art Game

A recent Daily Telegraph article listed the writer’s choices for the 30 Best Things in Italy. Three of them are in Venice, and two of those three are church-related: Santa Maria dei Miracoli (the church as a whole) and the Bellini altarpiece in the Frari. The third thing is “Venice at midnight.” All great things, for sure, though I’d have a tough time narrowing my Best of Venice list down to only three.

The writer also offers an interesting fantasy game:

“It's an idle game, but one I'm often tempted to play in Italian churches: if you could walk off with one painting, which would it be? It's a tough one, especially in Venice, where you're not exactly short of options.”

Hmm. This IS a tough one. There are a few paintings that I really love but I’d feel horribly guilty about taking, just because they belong in Venice and nowhere else. The Madonna Nicopeia in Basilica di San Marco; Titian’s Assunta in the Frari; any of the Bellini altarpieces…as much as I love these, I’d have to leave them where they are.

I’d probably choose Vincenzo Catena’s Vision of Santa Christina in Santa Maria Mater Domini. Or perhaps Carpaccio’s St. George and the Dragon in San Giorgio Maggiore (since there’s another one of the same subject in San Giorgio degli Schiavoni).

Or Titian’s Annunciation in San Salvador. Or the Negroponte Madonna and Child Enthroned in San Francesco della Vigna. It’s a hard choice!

Anyone else want to play? You don’t have to limit yourself to Venice. What painting in any Italian church would you bring home?

February 3, 2008


Remember Art Linkletter and “kids say the darndest things”? This is one of those stories.

Last weekend I was playing Wii with my nephew, Mason, who recently turned 7 years old. I’m a novice when it comes to video games – he’s much better than I am. So I got to a place in the game where I was flummoxed, and I said out loud, “I don’t know what to do now.”

Mason said matter-of-factly, “Use your intuition, Aunt Anne.” It just cracked me up! I immediately wondered, are they teaching that in North Carolina public schools these days? So I asked him where he’d learned about intuition.

His answer was, “From Scooby-Doo.” (!) He went on to explain that there’s a character in the cartoon named Daphne who talks about using your intuition to figure things out and that intuition is kind of like a feeling. Go figure!

It was good advice too because when I stopped trying to figure Wii out and just went with the flow, I began playing much better.

February 4, 2008

Venice in winter


A friend emailed this photo of Venice taken in the calm before the storm that is Carnivale. I've never had the urge to be there for Carnivale, having heard too many stories about the wild and crazy crowds and general chaos. But there are some nice photos on Venice Daily Photo, including a very cute dog in costume and a shot of rap star Coolio (?) inaugurating the festivities by flying down (on a wire) from the San Marco campanile.

February 5, 2008

Titian at the Accademia

Just a note for anyone who's lucky enough to be going to Venice in the next few months. There’s a special exhibit at the Accademia, Late Titian and the Sensuality of Painting, that runs through April 20, 2008.

It’s a collection of 28 paintings done in the last 26 years of his life (1550-1576). I'd love to see this show but there’s just no way I can go to Venice between now and April. Sigh. If anyone gets to see it, I’d love to hear about it.

In December, I visited Titian’s house in Cannaregio. There’s not much to see but I felt like paying homage. There's a small plaque above the door and it looks like there's a garden behind the wall and maybe his house is behind that. I wonder if someone still lives there today?

Titian's house

February 6, 2008

Shrine with ivy


This shrine is in Cannaregio, close to the church of Volto Santo and former convent of Santa Maria dei Servi. The church was closed but I was happy to find this beautiful shrine. It’s unusual to find a shrine on the verge of being engulfed by Mother Nature. I like the ivy’s autumn colors and how they match the bricks. And I love the weather-beaten image of the Madonna inside.



February 8, 2008

Green door in Castello


One of my favorite photos from my trip. I love the fact that they’ve got the horseshoe hanging correctly (facing up, so the luck won’t spill out) and those handprints and that strange little face on the left.

In a writing class that I took in college, we sometimes used “story starters” where the professor would give us a photo or painting and we'd write a story about it. This would be perfect for that. Whose door is it? What’s behind that door? Who decorated it? What would happen if you went inside?

February 10, 2008

A new bird!

I’m not a birder but I do have a “kitchen window” bird list that I started when I moved to this house and put feeders up. I love watching them while I’m cooking but it’s been several years since I’ve added a new one…until today when I saw a Brown-headed Nuthatch! I had to dig out the bird book to ID him and find the list so I could add him. He was a cute little guy, much smaller than the White-breasted Nuthatch that I see all the time.

I call my kitchen window “LuLu’s TV set” because she loves to sit there and watch the birds too. She’s very calm when it’s just birds but gets pretty riled up when a squirrel comes along.

Continue reading "A new bird! " »

February 11, 2008

Cats In Venice

Cat in Castello

Woo hoo! I created my first Slow Travel photo album which you can see here. It took me a long time to figure it all out, but it’s one of those things that will be much quicker and easier the next time I do it.

So this photo album shows all the cats I met on my December trip. There are quite a few considering that I saw none on my first couple of trips in 2002 and 2003. I went to Venice expecting to see lots of cats, mainly because I’d read Jan Morris (The World of Venice) who described Venice as one of the world’s great cat cities and painted a picture of all these loved and coddled colonies of cats being taken care of by Venetian cat ladies. In 2003, my friend Susan and I were so puzzled by the lack of felines and joked that Venice had “gone to the dogs” because we saw hundreds of astonishingly cute little lap dogs all over town but not a single cat.

Well, it turns out that Morris wrote her book in the early 1960’s right around the time that an organized campaign to get the feral cat population under control began. This work was led by an animal welfare organization called Dingo.

I’m reading a book called “Helena Sanders and the Cats of Venice,” a biography of the British woman who founded Dingo in 1964. I’m going to write more about this later when I finish the book but it’s a fascinating story. In a nutshell, the numbers are rather staggering:

"Twenty years, it took, to reduce the cats of Venice from a miserable and sickly multitude numbering 68,000 or so to a stable and healthy population of around 6,000."

The Helena Sanders bio was published in 1989 and I think that the population has decreased even more since then.

I’m happy to say that all the cats I met in 2007 looked healthy and well fed.

February 12, 2008

San Giacomo dall' Orio


An ancient and strangely charming church with much to see, including fossils! This is one of my very favorites; I love the church but I also love the campo, having stayed in a great apartment here on two of my trips. My favorite restaurant (La Zucca) is in this neighborhood along with my favorite wine bar (Al Prosecco), and I’ve spent many happy hours sitting in the campo drinking prosecco and watching the neighborhood while looking at the back of this great old church.


One of the oldest churches in Venice, dating back to the 10th century, this church is interesting in that the different styles of so many centuries have been combined so harmoniously. The church was rebuilt in 1225 and has been expanded and renovated several times since then. So in one place, you can see elements of the major periods of Venetian style from Byzantine to Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque.

The church is dedicated to St. James (San Giacomo), while the “dall’Orio” part of the name is a Venetian dialect phrase whose meaning is up for grabs. It might refer to a bay laurel tree (lauro) that used to be in the campo or to “Luprio” which is what this lagoon settlement was called before the creation of the Republic. Either way, it’s a reference to the location of the church and not to the saint himself.

The church and its art

sgdoI love the way this church looks from the outside. The back of the church faces into the campo of the same name, one of the nicest campos in Venice with a few trees and park benches, and real Venetians with their kids and dogs. There’s very little ornamentation on the outside of the church – it’s just stone, and it looks so….old. The apses look like huge stone barrels, all merged together, in various weather-beaten colors. The entrance to the church faces a canal, and there’s an outdoor pizzeria (Il Refolo) on the canal right by the façade. You get a sense of how a parish church like this one is such an integral part of a neighborhood. The 800-year old campanile is a nice stocky brick one with great bells that ring on a zany and inexplicable schedule that I’ve yet to figure out.

San Giacomo dall' Orio

While the church looks a bit rambling from the outside, the interior is surprisingly elegant with lots of art to see. But more than the art, it’s the quirky details of this church that are intriguing, like the floor. It’s red and white marble in a checkerboard pattern common to a number of Venetian churches, but this one has fossils embedded in it. Big fossils that look like huge swirly crustaceans – it’s great fun to walk around and find them!

And then there’s the gothic wooden ceiling (14th c). Many Venetian wood craftsmen began their careers as ship builders, and several churches in Venice have an ornately constructed wooden ceiling that looks like the inverted hull of a boat. Other churches with these ship’s keel ceilings include Santo Stefano and San Polo, among others, but this is one of the finest. There are also some nice carved wooden beams and cornices. There’s just something so beautiful about the contrast of wood and stone – too much marble can make a church seem coldly mausoleum-like, but wood warms a place right up.


And finally, the green column. The church has a number of stone columns, but only one made of green marble. It was part of the loot that the Venetians brought home from the raid on Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade (1204); before that, the folks in Constantinople may have stolen it from an ancient Greek or Roman temple. It’s certainly beautiful – Ruskin was fascinated by it and said that it was more jewel than stone, and poet Gabrielle D’Annunzio said, “It is like the fossilized condensation of a great green forest.” Fossils again! I’d love to know the story of how this one amazing column ended up in this rather homely parish church instead of in Basilica di San Marco with all the other plundered treasures that the Venetians hauled home.

San Giacomo dall' Orio

This church has a large collection of art that spans the many centuries since its creation. The Renaissance is well-represented with works by Veronese and Lorenzo Lotto (his Virgin and Child with Saints is above the high altar). My favorites include some of the older works, like the 13th c. painted wooden crucifix by Paolo Veneziano, and various Byzantine works scattered around, including a nice marble Madonna in a niche on the wall.

More photos of the outside of the church are here.

To visit this church:

San Giacomo dall’Orio is one of the Chorus Pass churches, so you can count on finding it open from 10-5 on Monday through Saturday.


Continue reading "San Giacomo dall' Orio" »

February 13, 2008

Fossils in the floor

San Canciano

Yesterday I wrote about finding fossils in the floor of San Giacomo dall’ Orio.
That was the first church where I saw one and I’ve since spotted them in several other churches. I don’t always remember to look for them (sometimes I get distracted by the art and architecture!) but when I do remember, I almost always find at least one. They are usually embedded in the red marble and look like big swirly shrimp. They are so fascinating to me.

In December, I found fossils in San Canciano (the one in the photo is from that church), Santa Maria Formosa, San Francesco della Vigna, and even in the Salute. I wonder if marble with a fossil in it was more valuable, back in the days when they were building these churches?

There’s just something so satisfying about finding them. It’s the same feeling I’d get as a kid when we’d look for four-leaf clovers out in the yard - it feels lucky! And yes, I realize that I probably look like a dork walking around a magnificent church staring at the floor. :)

Another part of it is that these churches all seem so ancient and holy to me, and they make me think about time (and long passages of time), and then the fossils connect it all back even further to pre-history.

Of course, “ancient” is relative….everything in Venice seems so old to me but I’m coming from the American perspective. Here in the USA, a church or building that’s 100 years old is “historic” while a church the same age in Italy would be considered “modern.” But the fossils are ancient no matter what.

Another thing I look for in every church is a Byzantine icon of the Madonna. Almost every church in Venice has at least one of these. Some of them are famous with legends about miracles and such, but some are just regular old beautiful icons. Even the more “modern" baroque churches usually have an icon somewhere, probably carried over from previous and older incarnations of the church itself. Some of them sit in big fancy altars while others are tucked away in the sacristy, but they are usually around somewhere. They are easier to find than the fossils!

February 14, 2008

Hearts in Venice

Since there’s not a church in Venice dedicated to San Valentino, I'm going with a “heart” theme instead.

San Marco

This heart is on the floor of Basilica di San Marco and marks the place where the heart of Doge Francesco Erizzo is buried. His body is in the church of San Martino but his heart is here, as he requested in his will. There’s no name, just the little doge hat on top. He was doge from 1631-1646, a traumatic time in Venetian history that included 16 months of plague that killed 46,000 people, reducing the population by a third. Not many doges are buried in San Marco so I guess he must have been much loved to have his wish honored.

I read about this heart in a book, but it was many visits to San Marco before I finally stumbled across it and for some reason, it really moved me when I saw it for the first time, maybe because that church has my heart too. Anyway, if you want to see it, it’s in the high altar area to the left of the saint’s crypt.

San Felice

Another heart, this one on the floor of the church of San Felice. I assume someone’s heart is buried here too but I don’t know who.

Continue reading "Hearts in Venice" »

February 15, 2008

More church floors


These photos are from Basilica di San Marco – I love the peacock!

The Basilica’s floors are truly magnificent even though parts of them are covered up to protect them from tromping tourists like me. The oldest sections are the Byzantine designs with animals, flowers, birds, and mythological creatures while the amazingly complex geometric designs came later. The best view is upstairs in the Museo where you can look down from the balcony facing the high altar.

San Marco

San Marco

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February 16, 2008


You wouldn’t think there’d be anything to say about wheels in Venice, right?

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the most unusual thing I saw in December because it happened too quickly. But one afternoon in Cannaregio, I almost collided with a man riding a unicycle! Seeing a unicyclist is fairly unusual anywhere in the world, but especially in Venice. And he wasn’t on a straight and wide fondamenta or strada, he was riding in a very twisty-turny and narrow part of town. He was an older man, very well-dressed with a huge handlebar mustache, and he was moving along quite fast - I was impressed by his skill. I told my friend Cristiano about it, and he laughed and said, “Oh yes, I’ve seen him too. He does that all the time.”

And I don’t even know what to say about this sight below except that I laughed out loud when I saw it parked and chained on a calle outside a home in Santa Croce. What's the story here?! I guess if you want to ride a bike outdoors in Venice, this is another way to do it.


February 17, 2008

Only 20 Percent?

The February issue of The Costco Connection has a short article by "travel guru" Rick Steves that’s all about "how travel can help bring the world together." He sounds like a Slow Traveler when he advises people to engage in "thoughtful travel" where you become a "temporary local."

But there's one part that really surprises me - he says that 80 percent of Americans don't even have a passport. I never would have guessed that the number was that high. Hard to believe that there are so few of us traveling outside the USA.

February 18, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse

Total Eclipse of the Moon Tonight

"A total eclipse of the Moon occurs during the night of Wednesday, February 20/21, 2008. The entire event is visible from South America and most of North America (on Feb. 20) as well as Western Europe, Africa, and western Asia (on Feb. 21). During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon's disk can take on a dramatically colorful appearance from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and (rarely) very dark gray." - NASA website

It starts around 10 pm for those of us on the East Coast. A friend emailed me the following instructions: When you see it, make three wishes... one for your own wisdom and growth... one for the wellbeing of a loved one... and one for the world!

Update: it's 9:15 and it's already started here, so scratch the 10 pm start time!

Update #2: Check out Marta's blog for some amazing photos!

It was partly cloudy here so visibility wasn't perfect, but the clouds were blowing by fast and the eclipse kept coming in and out of view - very cool. The moon looked kind of pinkish/red during the totality phase.

February 19, 2008

San Marziale

San Marziale

San Marziale

Don’t let the nondescript exterior fool you, this is one of the strangest churches in Venice. Strange in a good way though – it was well worth the many tries it took to finally get inside this one.

San Marziale dates back to the 9th century, though it’s been rebuilt a couple of times since then. It was high on my wish list since it’s one of a dozen or so churches in Venice with a legend about a miracle-working Madonna, this one a wooden statue carved from a tree trunk. The story is that she came to Venice on an unmanned boat, guided there by her own power with the help of angels, and she began working miracles after her arrival, healing a blind child among others.

I also really wanted to see the high altar. My hero J.G. Links (Venice for Pleasure) seldom recommends that his readers go inside any buildings, churches or otherwise, but about this one he wrote, “San Marziale…if open, demands a moment to glance at the strange scene under the altar, Venetian baroque at its most charming and idiotic.”

Hugh Honour (Companion Guide to Venice) was more specific: “The high altar which looks like a celestial rock garden with St. Jerome and two friends (Faith and Charity) picnicking under a table is one of the more endearing if most preposterous baroque fantasies in Venice.”

The church has some decent art too including a Tintoretto and four acclaimed ceiling paintings by Sebastiano Ricci, and I’d been trying to find it open for several years with no luck. I love these churches but I also love the thrill of the hunt. I don’t get disappointed when they’re closed (and they often are), but I DO get excited when I find an elusive one open and finally one night in December, this one was.

I went in and the place was largely dark and smelled like flowers. No one else was there. None of the church’s great art was lit, and there were no light boxes. Only two altars had lights on and sure enough, they were the high altar with the crazy tableau and the altar with the miracle-working Madonna.

San Marziale

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February 20, 2008

American "cuisine"

American section of market

Another amusing sight from my trip. There’s a small international food store in Venice with various sections – Mexican, British, Chinese etc.

And this is the American section. It made me laugh but I’m also kind of chagrined by it. Is this really the best America has to offer? And what does this say about the way we are perceived? A friend saw this photo and said, “Face it. We are tacky people and the world knows it.” That cracked me up too.

But what really blew my mind was the fact that the Aunt Jemima pancake syrup cost 9 euro. That’s over 13 dollars! I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve had it, but it’s nothing more than caramel-colored corn syrup, right? Not a drop of maple syrup in it (which could justify that price)?

So we've been trying to think of what else should be added to this section. A can of Pringles comes to mind. A Jolt cola. A box of Fruit Loops. Anything else?

February 21, 2008

Basilica facade

San Marco

It's challenging to photograph Basilica di San Marco - when you get far enough away to get the whole thing in the photo, you can't see the incredible array of colors on the facade. To do it justice, I'd have to take about 10,000 photos like the one above and piece them together somehow.

Sometimes I prefer a church's interior to its exterior or vice versa, but I love the Basilica inside and out. I don't mind standing in a long line to get inside because there are so many beautiful things like this on the facade. I've probably been in this church 40 times so far and I'm still seeing things for the first time.

I met a very sweet Italian couple from Turin who had been coming to Venice on holiday every year for close to 50 years. They are church fanatics too, and they told me that the first place they go everytime is to the Salute to light a candle and give thanks for being in Venice again. I love that tradition and decided to do it too, but I go to the chapel of the Madonna Nicopeia in San Marco instead.

February 22, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

These are my boyfriend's photos of the eclipse - the clouds caused some kind of rainbow/reflection/shadow thing that looks pretty cool.



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February 23, 2008

Santa Maria Mater Domini

Santa Maria Mater Domini

This lovely Early Renaissance church is another one of my favorites. It’s small and elegant and feels like a place that’s been much loved by many generations of grandmothers, plus it has one of my very favorite paintings in Venice.

Santa Maria Mater Domini is located close to the campo of the same name, but the church isn’t visible from the campo itself. This part of Venice is very densely built, and it would be easy to walk by the church without even noticing it if you weren’t looking up. You can see the campanile from the middle of the campo, but you have to go down a narrow calle to see the façade and entrance to the church. The campo contains some of the oldest remaining Byzantine buildings in the city – look for the windows and the Byzantine reliefs embedded in the brickwork of the houses in the campo.

Santa Maria Mater Domini

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February 24, 2008

Fondamenta dei Mori

Fondamenta dei Mori

This Cannaregio shrine is close to Tintoretto’s house and Campo dei Mori, the campo with the four turbaned statues embedded in the walls.

As you can see, the shrine has a very reflective glass. I took about seven photos before I finally got the image of the Pieta relief inside – it looks kinda spooky and cool.

Fondamenta dei Mori

Fondamenta dei Mori

Fondamenta dei Mori

February 25, 2008


I thought I’d share a few links to some of my favorite websites – some Venice-related and some not.

A Lover of Venice

A beautiful website filled with lots of off-the-beaten-path photos and info about you-know-where. I love the Madonna della Misericordia (Our Lady of Mercy) page which shows her locations all over Venice on a map, and the locations make the shape of her cloak – so very cool. The “Hidden Corners” section has great tours by sestiere –I’m looking forward to seeing the three yet to come.

Venice Daily Photo

Gorgeous photos and a great place to get a Venice fix when you need it.


Six walks around Venice in 900 photos and 22 maps. In both French and English. Lots to look at here!

A Year in the Kitchen

The chef at one of my favorite local restaurants has started a blog. Bill Smith is a excellent chef and writer and also an all-around great guy. Love reading this one. The current entry about putting butter and salt on Girl Scout cookies is funny. High recommendations for his cookbook (Seasoned in the South) too.

The Splendid Table

I love the radio show and also the recipes on the website. I tend to get overwhelmed on sites like Epicurious that have zillions of recipes – Splendid Table has less to plow through, and every one that I’ve tried has been excellent. I love to take the Stuffed Piquillo Peppers to a party – quick, easy, delicious, and people go nuts for them.

Free Rice

A fun vocabulary game. For every word you get right, they donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

National Zoo Panda Cam

This is my “go-to” website when things get too harried at the office. Watching the pandas for a few minutes calms me right down and puts me in a better mood. They don’t do much, just eat, sleep, and play, but they are such beautiful and soulful creatures. I’m trying to write about them without using the “c” word but I can’t stand it…they are cute beyond words!

The photos below are from my October 2006 trip to D.C to see the baby panda, Tai Shan, and his parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian.

At that time, Tai was 15 months old and weighed 70 pounds. Today he’s two-and-a-half years old and weighs 157 pounds. His father weighs 275, so Tai’s got some more growing to do. He was supposed to be sent to China at age two, but there’s been a panda baby boom and the Chinese are letting him stay here for two more years.



February 26, 2008

Spring on the way


I took this at a garden shop this past weekend. The mushrooms are glass but the daffodils are real. And now we have possible snow flurries in the forecast and it's going to be in the low 20's tonight. No matter, spring will be here soon.

I love visiting garden shops even though I don't garden as much as I used to. My current yard is mainly shade which isn't that inspiring for gardening. Plus I planted a bunch of stuff when I first moved here, and the deer came and ate almost everything. A few perennials have survived - some bearded iris, shasta daisies, an heirloom rose bush, daffodils - but they ate the rest. I've even had deer come on my porch and eat plants out of pots! They're virtually tame and don't even run when I come out to chase them off - they just slowly mosey off to go eat someone else's plants. Some neighbors built a very elaborate fence and one day when I was out walking, I saw a deer jump that fence and start eating the birdseed out of their feeder. I guess they are very hungry.

I do have one sunny spot inside a deer-proof fence that's for tomatoes, herbs, peppers, and zinnias. Maybe some sunflowers too. But it's about 6 weeks or so before it'll be safe to plant any of that.

February 27, 2008

Blue Shrines

Dorsoduro 35

True confession time here….I’m a bit addicted to Google. I think of something I want to know and start looking and next thing I know, hours of my life have passed by and I’ve got all kinds of new and interesting trivia in my head. I haven’t decided if I should be worried about this or not.

Here’s an example. I was looking through my shrine photos and noticed how many of the Madonna shrines are light blue/sky blue/baby blue (we call it Carolina blue here in NC but that’s another story). Either her clothes are that shade of blue or the shrine itself or both. So I went to Google to try to find out why, and here are a few interesting things I found along the way.

Bathtub Madonna shrines

Who knew? Evidently these are very popular in the Midwest. Paint the inside of an old bathtub sky blue, bury it halfway, put a Madonna inside, and voila, a shrine for your yard.

Pink and Blue

This NY Times article about the Princess Craze says that in the early 20th century, pink was considered to be a masculine color (because it was close to red) and baby blue was a feminine color (because of its association with the Virgin). But by the 1930’s, the gender associations had switched, and pink became feminine and blue masculine. How weird is that? How and why does a change like that happen?

Why does Mary always wear light blue?

This article says that she doesn’t.

I finally found an explanation that makes sense – centuries ago, blue pigment (made from lapis lazuli) was the most precious and costly pigment in painting, and using that color was a way to honor and show devotion to her. That gave me the "a-ha" moment I was looking for so I could stop googling this topic and move into the next one.

Dorsoduro 2391

Dorsoduro 1745

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February 28, 2008

Southern Folk Art Show

We went to a big Southern folk art show last weekend and saw so much amazing and inspirational art. The best part was that all the artists were there too, and you could meet them and buy art directly from them.

I love art shows and will go look at anything, but these days there seems to be a lot of cynical and depressing modern art out there. Folk art is just the opposite – it’s innocent and much of it is hopeful and uplifting. Some of it is hilarious, and the sad works are poignant and moving rather than depressing.

Another name for folk art is “outsider” art – I’m not crazy about that term since it sounds kind of snobby. Self-taught or visionary art are better labels. One of my favorite museums in the world is the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore; it’s a branch of the Smithsonian that focuses on artists with vision and talent and inspiration, but no formal art training.

The Southern show had so much beautiful and/or funky art that I wanted to buy. I walked around the whole show twice trying to decide what I loved the most, and I ended up buying two paintings from an artist named Eric Legge.

And of course, one of them is a church! Not a church in Venice – this looks more like a church in the mountains of NC where I grew up. It’s beautiful. I’d never seen any work by Eric before; he’s a very nice young man and I really enjoyed meeting him. So when I got home I googled and found an interview with him with this incredibly wise quote:

“I don’t paint to sell. I sell so that I can paint.”


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February 29, 2008

More from the folk art show


This nice pink animal was made by Clyde Jones, one of North Carolina’s most well-known folk artists. He calls his sculptures “critters,” and his home, Critter Crossing, is listed on Roadside America: Guide to Off-Beat Tourist Attractions. You can see his critters all over this area, in restaurants and in other people’s yards. I like his work a lot.

A few years ago, Clyde had a show at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, and there were about 50 of his critters in the woods behind the museum. I took my nephew (who was about 3 years old at the time) and we had a blast – it was completely magical to hike through the woods and see all these crazy colorful animals spread out over several acres of forest.

Clyde is a character and is known for being quirky about selling his art. Sometimes he will, mostly he won’t, and sometimes he just gives it away, especially to children. The most famous story is when he refused to sell a piece to Mikhail Baryshnikov who was in the area for a performance and went out to Clyde’s house to see the art. Clyde does lots of presentations in local schools and at the art show last weekend, he was in his booth surrounded by a bunch of happy kids. More photos below.

Continue reading "More from the folk art show" »

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