Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Heino, Leiden, Amsterdam

My second day in the Netherlands I took the train an hour an a half to Zwolle, where Pien Rotterdam picked me up to drive to Heino to visit an old castle that was turned into a museum. This museum has two locations, here in the countryside and then in Zwolle, but we only visited this one so I could see some of the more rural areas. Her great-grandfather, Jan Voerman (his son also an artist of the same name) was a well-known Dutch painter and a ton of his work was on display, so that was a great way to connect then to now.
The main reason really for meeting was just to meet! We had corresponded on and off for years and since Pien lives in the north, it was easier to meet in between. Plus, it's SO EASY to get around, the train travel is quite straightforward and easy. In fact, leaving the country made me sad because I knew I'd be returning to my home country where they would never make airport to train and bus connections so easy, where life without a car is too hard in most places. This is the old ice house on the estate, and we saw it on our little walk in between lunch and tea.
To be more present and have manners, I didn't take many pictures at all. Pien and I exchanged paper and artwork and it was wonderful to see her pulp printing techniques, artists' books, and other bits. I was happy to hear about her journey to book arts and her dedicated expertise in language learning, specifically English as a second one. While historically the Dutch had a giant empire, she reminded me that now it is a tiny country and that becoming bilingual was her way to open her world to the vast possibilities afforded through reading books in English. This was the perfect way to spend Easter Sunday.
Because of a train crash right before I arrived, the lines were messed up to other cities, so instead of visiting other places, I took one last jaunt through Leiden before meeting my family in the afternoon. Here is a bit of a Neruda poem.
This poem is by Mohammad-Reza Shafiei Kadkani, and is translated to "Travel Safely!" here but I've seen another option as "Happy Journeys!" and both seem apt.
Since it would be open before other places, I walked to De Burcht to see this old fort on a manmade hill.
It's pretty basic, with nice views from the upper level, and a random toothpaste bench made mostly of wood inside the middle. I couldn't find any info on it (there is even a squirt of toothpaste sitting further away from it).
There are plenty of museums in Leiden and I picked the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, a science one, which starts with a little video in a theatre set up to be like the ones where they dissected bodies.
The exhibits begin with humans trying to figure out the world outside of them, especially the challenge of moving from Earth-centric to helio-centric worldviews. Paper engineering in its early uses!
Invariably, then the focus shifts inwards, to figure out what the heck is going on with human bodies. All of this history made me very glad to live in a time of sterile surgical fields, antibiotics, and barbers just cutting hair rather than bloodletting or doing surgery.
This female anatomical model was used in medical training and carved of ivory (to show that the owner was rich AND smart), likely from the late 17c to early 18c.
A friend back in Chicago talked about how hard it was as an art director for a TV show to find an iron lung and that in her research, she found a woman who actually needed one but as it broke down or needed parts, she would have to source from museums.
Once I heard from my sister that the family had landed, I scurried back to the hotel to get my bags and jump on the train. I got off the bus to get to the hotel in the museum district right before the big rain started. As my family got settled, I ran around to get a lay of the land. This Vermeer show at the Rijksmuseum was the whole reason we were visiting, but we were a bit derailed by the little one getting a 24-hour vomiting bug.
This is the view if you turn around from the previous picture, and I find it hilarious that they have to emphasize that hot dogs = American. HAHA.
After going up the stairs to the exhibit, I didn't take photos and wish that everyone else would have done the same. It is so not fun to go to an art show that is packed, elbowing your way to see tiny paintings, only to have to wait for people getting shots with their phones. The reproductions are better in the books, folks!
The rest of the trip was a lot of family juggling and figuring out where we could seat 7 and please older and younger tastes (impossible), but I did manage to drag my parents on a very windy day to Zaanse Schans to see the historical village with windmills.
This was the one mill I wanted to visit, the paintmill, De Kat! I got a few pigments to test once my beater is fixed. The wind had the mill going full speed.
View from the upper level of the mill, where I almost fell through the floorboards.
Samples of pigments. I only got the natural ones, not synthetic, but was very glad the gift shop sold hot chocolate!

My mom wanted a break from walking in Amsterdam with another hot cocoa, so we stopped at the Cafe American and they served us the fanciest kind: a big glass of steamed milk with a wooden stick inside with a chunk of chocolate at the end. Stir, stir, stir, to melt it away. While I couldn't do what I would have liked to on my own (like visit the PAPERMILL, or see Asian art at the Rijksmuseum directly next to the Vermeer exhibit...hard to be so close and have to skip it for immediate family needs) it was overall a good time, and our first jaunt like this with the whole family, ever. I came home to way-too-warm temps at home and was very cranky about that. Now it's snowing and my car is in the shop with repairs that will be way more expensive than my flight to Amsterdam. Real life is relentless! If you have time, join me online for an artist panel Thursday at 7pm.

Pien Rotterdam

Kasteel Het Nijenhuis

Voerman show @ Museum De Fundatie

De Burcht

Rijksmuseum Boerhaave

De Zaansche Molen

Leiden Day 1

Because I was traveling from a different city than my family, I decided to take a couple extra days before the family trip to Amsterdam and chose Leiden as a very manageable, low-key place to stay. I arrived early in the morning to Schipol, took the train 20 minutes to Leiden Centraal, stowed my bags at the hotel, and walked into the morning. It was Saturday so I knew I'd be able to see the market.
I wasn't ready for interaction yet so I didn't buy anything (it would have been a great idea to get food for the rest of the day but I didn't want to carry it) but saw the requisite baked goods, asparagus being peeled quickly in a glass box machine, and flowers.
The main place I wanted to visit was the botanical garden but had to wait a bit here for it to open, where I discovered that my compression socks from the plane had drifted like giant blossoms at my ankles, so I gladly took them off.
The area also has a museum of Japanese things that Philipp Franz von Siebold had brought back from his long stay and fascination with Japanese flora, fauna, and culture. I didn't go to that museum but his presence is in the gardens, for sure. This Basho poem is one of many poems painted onto the sides of buildings in this university town, and a translation that a friend found for me is: Above the rough seas / stretching herself out over Sado Island— / The Milky Way.
A bust of Siebold is behind this little structure in the Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical garden in the country, in the Japanese section.
These are jars in the Chinese herb section. I don't know enough about the vast Dutch history of colonization in east Asia to speak to all of this in an informed way, but absolutely this currently tiny country did a lot of questionable to terrible things to have all of these riches now (not just plants, but EVERYTHING).
Because it was a bit cool and damp before the gardens opened, I had a light breakfast in their café attached to the entry glasshouse, where they have the carnivorous plants upstairs.
There were rows and rows on a catwalk high above that made me think, maybe I do have a bit of a fear of heights that is getting worse with age, and held things like this with sticky droplets to capture prey.
I walked outside and then into the tropical greenhouses, which were full of all kinds of plants, a bit overwhelming, but on the way downstairs from another catwalk and flowering canopy, I saw this sign. Isn't this in the family of the plant whose tubers give us konjac?
There were several different species of Amorphophallus and the most distinctive part was their spotted trunks.
Outside I enjoyed the fencing/terracing that made clever use of felled trees. They cut them up and stake them and there is your border!
After that, I just improvised what I'd see. First I walked down the nearby canal to visit Rembrandt's birthplace.
Which had a view of this windmill.
The original house was torn down so they had an artist make this public art of a child looking at a painting, and a crude portrait of Rembrandt hangs on the nearest building.
I was extremely tired by this point because of the jet lag and lack of sleep, but I figured out the next best place would be the Museum De Lakenhal. First, I lunched in the café where they had the most beautiful, fresh, and giant salad that I had to ask to wrap up, it was even too much for me (they don't have takeout containers so they improvised with foil and plastic wrap). I also loved that fresh ginger tea is a thing here, wonderful to get chunks of ginger in hot water. Anyhow, this museum gives great context for Leiden as a major textile center. These are stamps that would make the lead seals attached to bolts of fabric that were inspected before they could be sold.
The old building was built in 1640 as the cloth hall for the famous cloth produced in this city. The museum shows all aspects of this industry, aside from old master paintings, and downstairs had a contemporary project that explained all of the steps of making woolen fabrics from shearing to finishing.
An old loom, of course! Right past it was a giant contemporary metal art piece of a figure pulling warp from a loom, SO much wire and metal, must have been a bear to construct.
I'll let the tag below explain this lovely cloth:

There are little rooms off of rooms after rooms, and this one was wallpapered with this wrought leather, a huge amount of work, and made to give the effect of gilding.
I wouldn't have realized what it was if I hadn't read the tag and it reminded me of the Japanese paper versions that they made to mimic this (a sample hangs in my office right now, a better sight than my computer!).
These old sample books of fabrics are encased in this room as well. While it would be nice to be able to page through them, they already look like contemporary book art.
Another room had the giant table where they used to measure and cut fabric. What I haven't shown are all the old paintings of the dudes who were in charge of this industry and got rich from it. They are EVERYWHERE.
Each length (supposedly the length of a man's arm) was marked on the table. After this visit, I had no more energy to do anything but get back to the hotel and wait for check-in. Requisite shower, nap, and then walking through a construction area to get some pizza, fully intending to have leftovers for breakfast!

Hortus Botanicus

Museum De Lakenhal

Monday, April 17, 2023

Return, loss, seeding anew

This was one of the first pictures I took after landing in the Netherlands, riding to Leiden, finding my hotel and dumping luggage, and walking into quiet morning mist when every touristy thing was closed. I could finally breathe, smile, and appreciate ducks in a canal. I've pulled back from blogging, e-blasts, the like, to divert energy to mundane things that include studio work, housework, family time, and caregiving. I am also feeling life shifts, like where do I actually want to put my energy as opposed to what I "should" do for my "career." And body shifts, because I simply can't do as much I could (aka, no more overload!).

I'll post separately about my vacation, the first time in maybe forever that I was separated for a week from my computer (my main means of admin as I hate using a phone for that type of work). It felt great! But then I came home to be shocked by the terrible news that pneumonia recently killed Chandler O'Leary. I don't think I've ever been so unprepared for loss; I first thought it was a cruel joke when I saw the listserv post that combined her name and "passing." I can't remember exactly when we met, maybe 10 years ago? While we were not close, she had a way of making everyone feel completely included and wonderful and present. She was the first to tell me about RISD's Nature Lab, and always generous with her time and advice in emails that ranged from "what kind of DSLR do you have" to "how do you deal with admin without help??" Her holiday cards were a buoy in the madness of the season—brilliant, beautiful, and festive in a genuine way. I followed her blog and have been a huge fan of her collaboration with Jessica for years, which I own in different iterations and use consistently in the classroom. Her public art was thoughtful, effective, and different from the usual, and the pace with which she made unique trade books astonishing. It is devastating to have to accept that she is now herself a Dead Feminist.

I "should" activate more with this reminder of how short life is, but instead I felt like I was slapped in the face and consequently mad. All I can do for now is give what little I can to the fundraiser to support her husband and 4-yo son (this is the heartbreaking part). Later, I will check in with Jessica to see how else I can help after the immediate shock has subsided.

While I was away, I got another request from Dohee Lee, someone I really admire and have also seen flower in an incredible way over many, many years, to support a Korean American farmer, Kristyn Leach. The video showing her persistent labor makes it clear why I would support farming and seed cultivation in this way, and especially in having her own her own land to continue.

I hope you can support these two incredible women and their legacies. Even if not in dollars, spread the word.

Chandler O'Leary tribute (her FAQs are so...her)

The Nature Lab

Jessica Spring

Dead Feminists

Support Chandler's family

Dohee Lee

Support Kristyn Leach/Gohyang Seed Campus