Monthly Archives: May 2014

Crystal Bridges, part 3

The Crystal Bridges art collection offers a superb overview of American art including American masterworks as well as surprising, lesser-known gems from the Colonial era to contemporary work. Sculpture in the collection graces interior galleries and outdoor trails. —Art page, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art website

I was at the Museum this past weekend, wandering the galleries and grounds. Previous blog posts (1, 2) have dealt with the exterior and the walking trails, but this post will include some of the artwork currently on display.

When I say I am an amateur photographer, I mean it. Not only am I limited in lens selection, but in skill and knowledge, but I’m open to learning and experimenting. Therefore, most of the photos here were highly edited in order to counteract the dim lighting and crowded gallery. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

Lafayette -- not handsome by any means, but his face is commanding.  (Marquis de Lafayette, oil on canvas, 1825, Samuel Finley Breese Morse, co-developer of Morse code) (c2014, KB)

Lafayette — not handsome by any means, but his face is commanding. (Marquis de Lafayette, oil on canvas, 1825, Samuel Finley Breese Morse) (c2014, KB)

The artist was also the co-developer of Morse code, and the man for whom Samuel F.B. Morse High School in San Diego, California, is named. I attended there in the late 1980s.

(c2014, KB)

(c2014, KB)

I don’t recall the name of this sculpture or its artist, but it’s of a Native American couple, him down on one knee, an arm around her as she perches on his other knee. The front is nice, but the details here were more interesting.

The Indian and the Lily, oil on canvas, 1887, George de Forest Brush

The Indian and the Lily, oil on canvas, 1887, George de Forest Brush

This is one of my mom’s favorite pieces in the whole museum, but neither of us can afford a print of it just now.

Proserpine, marble, 1840, Hiram Powers

Proserpine, marble, 1840, Hiram Powers

In the background, Mrs. Jacob Franks (Abigaill Levy) looks over the shoulder of the bare-breasted Goddess of Spring.








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Crystal Bridges, part 2

Water from Crystal Spring and other springs and streams on the Museum grounds provide all the water used in irrigating the Museum’s flower beds and lawns.  No city water is used for this purpose. —Crystal Bridges blog


Not only are wings of the Museum built out over the water, but there are many bridges on the walking trails.

On a bridge, looking back at one of the Museum galleries (c2014, KB)

On a bridge, looking back at one of the Museum galleries (c2014, KB)

Bridge leading up to a short, winding, foliage-lined walk up toward the front of the Museum (c2014, KB)

Bridge leading up to a short, winding, foliage-lined walk up toward the front of the Museum (c2014, KB)

The day I was there was pleasant, bright and mild, though the humidity finally did me in. Breathing wet air and slogging along in clothes sopping with sweat might dampen one’s enjoyment of the surroundings, but there’s always a shady spot to rest, feel the breeze, and enjoy the view.

No, not this view! Although you might see something similar. The painting below is Landscape, oil on canvas by William Trost Richards, and one of my favorite works currently on display. (Pardon the glimpse of gilded frame in the lower right corner. The gallery was crowded, so I took shots from whatever angle was available.)

Landscape (1864-1865) by William Trost Richards

Landscape (1864-1865) by William Trost Richards

And, as you’re walking, if you need rest of another kind:

Restroom along walking trail -- Frank Lloyd Wright meets the USS Enterprise. (c2014, KB)

“Skyspace – the Way of Color” by James Turrell — Frank Lloyd Wright meets the USS Enterprise. (c2014, KB)

I bypassed the building to view the wildflowers on the hill behind and alongside it. As you can tell from the second shot, the day was bright and I didn’t adjust the camera to deal with the brilliance. Still, I like the colors.

Wildflowers (c2014, KB)

Wildflowers (c2014, KB)

Tiny suns (c2014, KB)

Tiny suns (c2014, KB)




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Crystal Bridges, part 1

This past weekend, I accompanied my mother to Crystal Bridges, an art museum in Northwest Arkansas.

Crystal Bridges was designed by internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie, who envisioned a building that would complement the surrounding Ozark landscape. Nestled into a natural ravine, the Museum integrates the element of water on the site through the creation of two spring-fed ponds that are spanned by two signature bridge structures and surrounded by a group of pavilions housing Museum galleries and studios.
Architecture page, Museum website

It’s a beautiful site. Before the front colonnade is a giant, gleaming, sky-reflecting metal tree that reminds me of a lightning strike.

"Yield", stainless steel, artist Roxy Paine (c2014, KB)

“Yield”, stainless steel, artist Roxy Paine (c2014, KB)

This being May, flowers are in bloom, and wildflowers line the drive to the Museum or mantle a hill on the walking trail.

Wildflowers (c2014, KB)

Wildflowers (c2014, KB)

The Museum itself is glass and steel and stone, and spans the water. Its distinctive ridged, humped rooflines remind me of the backs of sowbugs.

Crystal Bridges (c2014, KB)

Crystal Bridges (c2014, KB)


Outside a window-lined gallery (c2014, KB)

Outside a window-lined gallery (c2014, KB)


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Fatal Enquiry, or How I Ditched Work to Be a Fan

Reposted from Penworthy Press blog:

A couple Wednesdays ago, the day seemed normal enough. I woke, messed about with e-mail and Facebook and the daily news, then settled down to the business of writing and research.

And then the mail came, and with the junk mail and coupons was a package. Inside that package was a book I’d pre-ordered in September last year. And forgotten.

I’ve been a huge fan of Will Thomas‘s Barker & Llewellyn series since reading Some Danger Involved. I picked up the paperback, riffled through the pages, read the back copy. A mystery set in Victorian London, with interesting characters and solid writing, something that looked like the work of a Holmes and Watson fan, but was it’s own thing? Yeah, sure, I’d give it try.

Glad I did. The detective–ahem, pardon me, the enquiry agent–is somewhat Holmesian, and yet Barker is vastly different. He wears tinted glasses at all times, is particular about his green tea, has a Pug for a pet, and frequents a sketchy underground eating establishment. The occupants of his household and those who operate on the fringes of society are equally intriguing and amusing.

Thomas lets the stories play out against the backdrop of actual historical events, weaving issues of the day into the plots, and letting real historical figures wander about the scenery and interact with the characters. While each book revolves around its own mystery, there’s also an overarching mystery involving Barker’s past. His fellow agent is young, likable, romantic Llewellyn, quickly learning the trade and getting into this fix or that. It is by him we are led through much of each story.

FatalEnquiry-front coverAbout that long-ordered-but-forgotten book? Fatal Enquiry, the latest in the series.

It arrived one day after the official publication date, and on the same day as the first book signing.

Two hours away.

A mere two hours away.

A favorite author, a brand new book–how could I not go?

But I was also low on cash, low on fuel, and had a writing deadline in view.

Eh. Deadline, schmedline.

The weather was beautiful, the traffic scarce, and as I am wont to do while traveling, I held my camera up to the windows and took random shots of buildings, card, clouds, whatever struck my fancy. Most of those photos didn’t turn out, of course, but some were better than expected. It’s a weird bent, perhaps, but it’s my way of recording a journey.

The directions were a bit wonky at the end, so rather than being a few minutes early for the signing, I arrived several minutes late. The talk was well underway. Argh. Still, I was able to listen to the bulk of it and learn interesting trivia, such as the fact that Thomas’s research into archaic fighting methods led to the compiling of a manual on the subject and to the creation of new martial arts clubs around the world. All because he asked a question for a novel. (Read more about the author here.)

Thomas read a selection from the new novel, then the actual signing began.

It was the most low-key yet intensely interesting book signing I’ve attended. Some have been rah-rah rallies, some have been an author sitting at a table. This one? Not only was the audience educated, fun was had by all.

If you have not discovered this mystery series, please do give it a try. Click on the book titles in the list to read excerpts of each:
Some Danger Involved
To Kingdom Come
The Limehouse Text
The Hellfire Conspiracy
The Black Hand
Fatal Enquiry

I have not yet been able to read my copy of Fatal Enquiry due to an unexpected change of schedule taking me out of state, but I hope to remedy that in the coming week or two. Meantime, below are a few shots I took while at the signing, which was held at Retro Den, a nifty shop specializing in all things yesteryear.

moderator and Will Thomas, Fatal Enquiry book signing at Retro Den (c2014, KB)

Moderator and Will Thomas, Fatal Enquiry book signing at Retro Den (c2014, KB)

c2014, KB

A haphazard queue (c2014, KB)

Fancy some furniture? How 'bout an art piece or two? (c2014, KB)

Fancy some furniture? How ’bout an art piece or two? (c2014, KB)

c2014, KB

A fan waits patiently (c2014, KB)

COPYRIGHT: all photos, 2014, Keanan Brand

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Applause v. Participation

Kishi kaisei.
Wake from death and return to life.

Tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki.
There are even bugs who eat knotweed.
(To each his own.)

I’ve been developing a short fantasy set in Japan, in an era and a culture about which I know little. That means delving into reading about all manner of topics: honorifics, architecture, food, names, proverbs. I’m tempted to fill the story with Japanese terminology, but I don’t know what’s true to the period and what’s modern. And tossing in every word I learn would overwhelm the plot, and distract or annoy the reader, so I’m backing off, using the literary equivalent of a pinch of salt. A taste, not a stomachful.

An interesting dish — but who wants to eat it?

As with everything I write, I wonder, “Who’d want to read this? Am I writing only for myself? Am I okay with that?”

My reading at the most recent writers meeting was an attempt to answer those questions. I brought my first two thousand words of the Japanese fantasy and invited the other members to tear into it. The story needs to be solid, because it will be competing against other and far better writers, and I want to do my best so there are no regrets if I lose. No excuses.

The group followed along as I read but made few notes on their copies of the pages, which was unexpected. My own copy was littered with notes before the meeting ended. The responses were favorable, the speculations thick and fast, the suggestions and critiques constructive.

It was the most — what’s the word? — refreshing critique session since, well, never.

In a prior group, my speculative stories were met with negativity, so I stopped sharing, stopped asking for feedback. The writer went into hibernation, and only the editor showed up for meetings.

At first, I believed the bad press: “Your stories are too difficult to understand” or “You’re not connecting with your audience.” While that may have been partly true, I came to realize that the audience — certain members of it — were never going to connect. Their understanding of and approach to reading left little room for deviations from their personal expectations: A story must look like this and not that.

With realization came renewed confidence. Nah, the audience didn’t change, but it stopped mattering. I could predict which of my stories they’d like — the more conventional ones — and which would make their eyes glaze and their mouths purse.

A new state and two writers groups later, I’ve landed with a mixed flock of hatchlings, most still in the nest, some just now recognizing their wings, some learning to fly. They’re fearless, though, sharing their earnest romances and troubled life stories, their awkward urban fantasies and sophisticated twisted fairy tales. They tell each other what they like and what they don’t understand, what’s not working and what piques their imagination.

The group works. I can’t explain it, but it works.

Maybe because the nasty black-hat villain Ego hasn’t arrived.

So I shared. They responded. It was good.

People have read my stories in publications, but it doesn’t necessarily occur to readers to contact authors and tell how the story affected them, how it stayed in their minds for days or roamed their dreams at night. How it made them cry, scream, laugh, think.

The response from my fellow writers the other night was like applause at a live play, accompanied by an honest but non-mean-spirited review.

I don’t need flattery or compliments or pats on the head.

As nice as it is, I don’t need applause.

What I crave? Capturing readers’ imaginations to such a degree that they fill in the details I didn’t describe. They journey alongside the characters, and talk to them, emote with them, live through them. The story matters so much to the readers they lose sleep to finish it. They argue with friends over why a character did this or said that. They can’t wait for the next story.

My cousin's son, hamming for the camera, always ready for the laughs and the applause! (c2013, KB)

My cousin’s son, hamming for the camera, always ready for the laughs and the applause! (c2013, KB)

Participation. That’s what I want.

Better than applause any day.


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