Showing posts with label Norton Museum of Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Norton Museum of Art. Show all posts

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, An Oasis of Beauty

Hidden away on a small street in West Palm Beach is the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.  If the name sounds familiar it’s because her husband, Ralph Norton, founded the Norton Museum of Art.  She initially came to Florida to teach art and met Norton at his Art School.  The Museum was their home during their marriage.  The Norton House is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is located at 253 Barcelona Road in West Palm Beach.  It’s right on the Intracoastal with a distant view of Mar-a-Lago across the waterway.  There is no parking lot.  One just parks on the street.  The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens is a remarkable place to visit with two plus acres of gardens and indoor and outdoor sculptures.

Who knew?  My own Ann was there originally 15 or 16 years ago but just recently escorted visitors from Connecticut there and was blown away by the current exhibition.  So of course she was determined to take me as well as very dear friends, Art and Sydelle, who we met on our first Caribbean cruise 17 years ago.  We had lunch and drove there last weekend.

 Presently there are two special exhibits in addition to the omnipresent Ann Norton sculpture pieces:  The Lost Bird Project, black bronze sculptures of extinct birds by Todd McGrain, objects of art which are meant to be touched, stroked, and the birds remembered.  They range from small sculptures to massive ones for the outdoors.  The other special exhibit is the unforgettable ‘Rising’ The Mystical World of Sophie Ryder, consisting of “Hares and Minotaurs, strange amorphous figures fashioned in wire and bronze, some with human attributes are characters beyond human form.”  These are large outdoor pieces, many of which needed cranes to be put in place.  It is spectacular to walk among them, as are some of Ann Norton’s own works, permanently on display.

It’s one of those places that many locals are not even aware exists, but definitely should be visited. 
These are just some photographs of our own visit but check out their web site for more information.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ann at The Norton

My wife, Ann, was invited to her 55th HS reunion and this is what “Ronnie G.” – the organizer had to say about her: 

In high school, Ann Linguvic, you were one of the most fun and exciting ladies I ever knew.  I, along with many others, never knew what you were going to say, but whatever it was it was Always Great creating lot's of laughter.  I loved to flirt with you and you were a Classic Challenge.

He certainly had her pegged.  She’s still a “classic challenge,” here posing as a Barbie Doll at the Norton Museum Exhibit last weekend, part of their Wheels and Heels: The Big Noise Around Little Toys featuring Barbie Dolls and Matchbox Cars.

Also from the Norton, the last day of their extraordinary special collection (particularly to me, born and raised in NYC), Industrial Sublime: Modernism and the Transformation of New York’s Rivers, 1900-1940. One of my favorites was Jonas Lie’s Path of Gold. (1914) but there were so many to choose from, equally evocative of NYC and the growth of industry during those years. 

Here’s what was said about this particular painting:  In 1914, Jonas Lie traveled to Panama to document the construction of the Panama Canal, which, like the island of Manhattan, was a symbol of America’s industrial might and global power.  Upon his return, he viewed the city with eyes transformed, portraying city canyons and flowing rivers as, what one critic called, “vital forceful constructions.”  In the dynamic of Path of Gold, the viewer gazes longingly on the city in the mist, and, like the tugboats on the river, is drawn, irresistibly, to ply its path to gold. 

Ironically, the painting is from the Collection of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, the city of Ann’s birth and where she was raised.

And, from The Richman Gifts: American Impressionism and Realism, is the unforgettable Rockwell Kent painting, Holsteinberg, Greenland (1933) which as a gift to the Norton is becoming part of their permanent collection:

More on that painting and their current exhibitions are linked here.

And if you visit, be sure to have lunch or dinner at their wonderful restaurant, great food, beautiful surroundings, and a refined ambiance, light jazz softly playing in the background.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

New York and Boston

It is challenging writing while on the boat.  There is limited broadband connection, and it is frequently lost, so frustration is a prevailing theme.  And while we’re here for such a short summer, other activities compete for time. 

Nonetheless, I don’t want to find an impossible chore when we return in the fall, so, as a placeholder, this is a relatively brief entry on the last week, for which I have about 150 photographs and I can only offer up a few, covering the huge canvas of, first, our day with our friends, Harry and Susan, at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, and then, two days later, our trip to Boston, to see our son Chris, and our friends Bruce and Bonnie in Sudbury MA.

Several years ago I edited a collection, New York to Boston: Travels in the 1840's, which incorporated parts of Charles Dickens' American Notes (1842) and D. Appleton & Co.'s The American Guide Book (1846).  I’ve been fascinated by the history of the two cities (and the rivalry when it comes to baseball).  Visiting Boston again, but this time as a tourist, really brought home the differences, the influences of the English, vs. the Dutch on NYC.

We ventured into New York for a day with Harry and Susan, lunch and dinner and in between, an exhausting tour of MOMA, not having been there for years and years.  Although it was a weekday, the throngs of people were overwhelming, not to mention the size of the museum as well.  It gave us a new appreciation of our local Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, much more negotiable.  But of course, nothing can compare with MOMA if you have the time and stamina. 

After the New Haven railroad delivered us about ½ hour late, we finally made it to the Fireside Restaurant at The Berkshire Place on E 52 Street (where we had the pleasure of staying when I was in NYC for overnight business meetings).  It was “restaurant week” in NYC so we had a wonderful fixed price three course luncheon.  From there, it was a short walk over to the MOMA.  The photos below are just a few of the highlights (for me).  I hope to have more complete coverage later in the year.

On the way back to Grand Central, we stopped at a fast food Hamburger Heaven for a light dinner.  NYC Hamburgers are the best and the ambiance of an old coffee shop allowed us all to linger and talk until it was time for us to catch our train and our friends to find their ferry back to Ft. Lee.

Two days later we drove to Boston, letting the GPS take us through the labyrinth roads of downtown, so evocative of London, to the venerable Parker House Hotel, which is an historical site onto itself.  Dickens stayed there and John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie in a corner booth in the historic restaurant.  We saw the marble table on which none other than Hô Chí Minh rolled dough in the hotel’s bakery from 1911 – 1913. (Oh, the supreme ironies of life, that JFK had to deal with him some 50 years later as the North Vietnamese nationalist leader.)

One of the main reasons for our visit was to see our son, Chris, who had recently moved to Cambridge and showed us his office in the historic Old City Hall, built in 1865, just one year before his great-great grandfather established his photography business in New York City.  We had two dinners with him and as a fish fanatic, I requested only seafood restaurants.  We had outstanding meals, the first at Dolphin Seafood in Cambridge and the next night at Scollay Square Restaurant which was right near our hotel, both reasonably priced and serving great fish.

Boston is immersed in history, and in such a concentrated area within a short walking distance of our Hotel.  We tried to hit the highlights of the Freedom Trail, such as the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, Paul Revere’s home, and, Faneuil Hall.  We were lucky to have ventured out early on Sunday morning, before the mobs descended, to Quincy Market and then to Faneuil Hall, a public meeting place which is still used to this day, where we had a private tour given by one of the Park Rangers.  (In the men’s room there was a sign which read “As the first President of Boston’s Board of Health, Paul Revere supervised the city’s privy (outhouse) inspectors, who made sure residents properly emptied out their privies and didn’t let them overflow.”)

By Sunday afternoon the Hall became so crowded that we strolled down to the waterfront and sat with Chris, taking in the sights and sounds of Boston before our last dinner together.

Monday morning we drove to Sudbury to see my college friend, Bruce, and his wife, Bonnie.  I had last visited Bruce in his home half my lifetime ago, and was able to dig up a photo of that visit to juxtapose it to the present day.  I had remembered where the photo was taken, but not where we stood, and why that should matter, I have no idea – perhaps it was merely an exercise of Absurdism.  But here we are...

And now….

While we’ve changed physically (merely a little less hair), the years have not changed our outlook on life and the need to laugh at some of the same silly things we did as college students.  We four had a lovely lunch at, where else, Legal Sea Food in Framingham.

From there, it was back to the boat which we took out a couple of days later for a brief cruise on the Long Island Sound.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Practice Sessions

A couple of months ago Ann and I saw a remarkable piano concert at the Norton Museum of Art , Alexander Wu performing a program of Fascinating Rhythm: Music of the Americas, 20th century pieces by composers from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and as the title implies, works of Gershwin, including his Three Preludes.

The highlight after the intermission was his virtuoso performance of Fantasy on Porgy and Bess, an arrangement by Earl Wild of Gershwin’s classic opera, as a solo concert piano composition. It is an extraordinary piece: delicate and powerful at the same time, and extremely difficult to play, befitting the talents of Gershwin himself who was a gifted pianist in addition to his genius as a composer. Rare is the composer who can transcend both the popular and classical worlds and one can only wonder where his gifts would have taken him had he not died at only 38 of a brain tumor.

After the concert I met Mr. Wu and asked him about the difficulty of the piece, something he acknowledged. Unfortunately, he had not yet recorded Fantasy on Porgy and Bess (he said he will in the future), but I found one by Graham Scott, Wild Fantasy, which includes other Gershwin pieces as well. So I bought it as a downloadable MP3 and now have the pleasure of listening to Wild’s magnificent arrangements.

It is hard to explain what it is like to passionately love something you think you are on the cusp of being able to do yourself, but the remaining distance between where you are and your goal is only an illusion of closeness. You are looking through the ocular lens of the binoculars, whereas, in reality, your age and ability renders the real view through the objective lens, your dream much, much more distant in reality.

We’ve all been asked the question of what ideally you would have done with your life if you could wave that proverbial magic wand. I’ve always answered the question unhesitatingly: a jazz pianist and not too close behind a baseball pitcher. Luckily, what I actually did do professionally, publishing, would have been third choice.

Well, my pitching days are long over and the Yankees will have to go it alone without me. On the other hand the piano is something one can play for life, and since retiring I have devoted more time to it, even having recorded two CDs in a studio, just so I have something for friends and family.

After hearing the Wild arrangements I focused more effort on playing some of the music from Porgy and Bess, but my interpretations are marred by my limitations as a pianist, and while I can practice from here to kingdom come, there is just so far I can go without the requisite skills to even remotely go to the place where Wild, Wu, and Scott can bring Gershwin, not to mention the composer himself who was a highly accomplished performer. In fact Gershwin said in a preface to his own arrangements in the Spring of 1932: “Playing my songs as frequently as I do at private parties, I have naturally been led to compose numerous variations upon them, and to indulge the desire for complication and variety that every composer feels when he manipulates the same material over and over again. It was this habit of mine that led to the original suggestion to publish a group of songs not only in their simplified arrangements that the public knew [from traditional sheet music], but also in the variations that I had devised.” Just one look at those “variations” reveals the technical difficulty of his arrangements, the confluence of his jazz roots and his classical training.

The hands of the master, himself, George Gershwin

Nonetheless, I wanted to record my own practice attempts. The CDs I’ve recorded were in a studio, all relatively short pieces in a controlled environment, so they don’t sound half bad. But for my “practice sessions,” I wanted an inexpensive digital recorder for home recording, a means to establish a baseline, something I can try to improve upon over time. Therefore, I bought a Sony Digital Voice Recorder with 1GB Flash Memory that handles MP3 recording and playback and plugs directly into a USB port (and is not much larger than a USB storage device). Talk about “practice sessions” – just getting up to speed with this technology was daunting in itself.

And listening to these home recordings, so far removed from the idyllic conditions of a studio, with all the “warts” of background noise, the turning of pages of sheet music, and the mistakes, none of which can be airbrushed out with editing software, is painful for me. And as I can no longer sight-read music other than the melody line, I have to sort of make up arrangements as I go along. But Wild’s arrangement of Porgy and Bess obsessed me, so I continued to practice six songs from Porgy, playing them without pausing with little transitional phrasing, recording them on the Sony. Because of upload limitations I had to divide one such practice session (although played continuously) into two digital files, and here they are, “warts and all,” the first including Summertime, My Man’s Gone Now, I Got Plenty O’Nuttin’, and the second including Bess You is My Woman Now, It Ain’t Necessarily So, and I Loves You Porgy.

As we live on a boat over the summer, I will be without my piano and any means of making improvements, other than studying some theory, until next fall. In fact, this blog will be brief or go silent for a while, as we will be in transit. Perhaps next season I will take the lessons I should have had decades before, become less reliant on the sustain pedal (something Gershwin criticized amateurs for when playing his compositions), and take time to practice scales, something I haven’t done since I was a kid. But it will be difficult breaking bad habits, so I will be looking to make small improvements and have no illusions about making major leaps.

I’ll conclude this entry with my studio recording of Gershwin’s Love is Here to Stay, the last song Gershwin ever wrote. He and Ira were working on Samuel Goldwyn’s film, The Goldwyn Follies in Hollywood even as his headaches were increasing to the point of his having to be admitted to the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital on June 23, 1937. He died only a few weeks later. The range and volume of Gershwin’s work are staggering for such a short life; his brother’s lyrics say it all…

Love is Here to Stay

It's very clear
Our love is here to stay;
Not for a year
But ever and a day.

The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies,
And in time may go!

But, oh my dear,
Our love is here to stay.
Together we're
Going a long, long way

In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble,
They’re only made of clay,
But our love is here to stay.