Monday, April 16, 2018

VISITORS TO VERSAILLES: Review By Polly Guerin

In its lavish new exhibit VISITORS TO VERSAILLES you are invited to vicariously visit the famous Chateau from the perspective of a diverse representation of people who passed through its gates between the year Louis XIV moved his court there and the year Louis XVI and the royal family were forced back to Paris.
      Russian writer Nikolai Karamzin's reflection on his experience visiting Versailles in 1790, "I have never seen anything, more magnificent than the palace of Versailles," is a testament to visitors' enduring fascination with the famous royal residence, even to this day. 
EXHIBITION EVOKES GRANDEUR: While there is no doubt that the exhibition is meant to evoke the grandeur and opulence of Versailles, its five galleries with aligned doorways were constructed to emulate the enfilade of rooms, generating a long theatrical vista and a sense of anticipation for the visitor. Custom-designed wallpaper suggests defining architectural elements of the palace's interiors---its marble inlays pilasters, gilded paneling, wall hangings and mirrors. 
THE AUDIO EXPERIENCE:
"Versailles is a very different show," said Danielle Kisluk-Grosheide one of its curators.    
A panoramic view of Visitors to Versailles 
No doubt. it is the new immersive audio experience, free-to-all-visitors, that brings alive the impressions of visitors to the chateau and court of Versailles in the 17th and 18th centuries. Using high quality headphones listeners can hear dramatizations of actual visitor descriptions of their experiences and personal
observations, adapted from correspondences and journals, court diaries, gazettes and literary journals which offer detailed reports on specific events and entertainments, as well as, ambassador receptions that were also documented on paintings and engravings.
        The immersive audio is produced in atmospheric 3-D soundscapes with the voice of professional actors, re-enacting the observations and conversations of the Versailles visitors. You will be immediately captivated by the rich, bi-natural sound that evokes the conversations and settings---from the footsteps of courtiers walking on a marble staircase to a singer performing a Handel aria in a private salon. The voices represented range from French aristocrats to luminaries of the arts and sciences to mere tourists. The letters and journals detailing various individuals' experiences are also complemented by tapestries, furniture, arms and armor, and all the other trappings necessary to transport viewers back in time as they join foreign travelers, royalty, dignitaries and ambassadors, artists, musicians, writers and philosophers, scientists, tourists on the Grand Tour, the public, if properly attired, and day-trippers alike, who all flocked to the majestic royal palace surrounded by its extensive formal gardens
Modes of Transportation and Costjmes
VISITORS TO VERSAILLES A number of Americans journeyed to Versailles, either as tourists or diplomats. Benjamin Franklin first visited Versailles in 1767 and played a significant role especially after 1776 when France became the colonists only military ally in their rebellion against Great Britain.                   Franklin captivated the French shamelessly playing to their expectations of Americans, forgoing a wig and dressing in plain unadorned clothes.  His brown suit, rarely displayed to the public,  is on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.The galleries also capture the modes of transportation to Versailles and the strict French code of dress. Among the principal reasons to visit the royal residence were its extensive gardens and the prized opportunity to catch a glimpse of the king. Garments on display include a beautiful robe a la francaise believed to have been worn by the wife of renowned textile manufacturer Christophe-Phillippe Oberkampf for her audience with Marie Antoinette and uniforms and weapons of the king's household. 
     The overall impression of the exhibition is that I did not quite get the grandeur of Versailles'
magnificent gardens as the lighting atmosphere is on the dim side, but then again that probably is due to necessity, to protect the precious art works.
    Ta Ta Darlings!!!  No passport needed, just head for the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an
immersion of a different, entertaining experience. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com.  Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalkfromnewyork.blogspot.com and click on the link in the left hand column to the subject that resonates with you, such as, women determined to succeed, visionary men, poetry from the heart and fashion

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

FEATHERS: Fashion and the Fight for Wildlife: Review By Polly Guerin

Muff and tippet set composed of 4 Adult Herring Gulls
Millions of people around the world celebrate 2018 at the "Year of the Bird," as it marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed.  
        Although millions of birds were sacrificed for plumage of late 19th and early 20th century feathered fashions the exhibit, FEATHERS: Fashion and the Fight for Wildlife,  at the New-York Historical Society, reveals the overwhelming toll on birds and plumage, and the industry that embellished clothing and accessories. 
       THEN AND NOW: The faint at heart may find the insensitive plunder of birds for adornment. on view, a heart wrenching reminder about the time society viewed feathered fashion with reckless disregard and how the plume trade had decimated many American bird species to point of near extinction. Image Left: Accessory Set, American, including muff and tippet, 1880-90, Herring Gulls, feathers, silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, 2009. Right: John James Audubon, Herring Gull. Watercolor, graphite pastel, black chalk, and black ink with touches of gouache, white lead pigment, and glazing on paper. Purchased for the New-York Historical Society by public subscription from Mrs. John J. Audubon, 1863. 
       However, activists soon recognized the urgency for protection and the New-York Historical Society's exhibition, on view through July 15, 2018, examines the circumstances that inspired early environmental activists to champion the protection of endangered birds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was one of the first federal laws to address the environment, prohibiting the hunting, killing, trading, and shipping of migratory birds, The exhibition is part of the Year of the Bird, centennial celebration of the Act organized by National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab ofOrnithology, and Birdlife international.
Women Flaunt the Feather Craze in Killer Millinery
EXHIBITION HIGHLIGHTS: The first gallery, featuring feathered fashions including hats, boas, fans, aigrettes jewelry, illustrates the passion for plumage.  None more egregious than the muff and tippet accessory set (1880-99) composed of four adult Herring Gulls created during a craze for gulls that nearly drove the sea birds to extinction and a pair of earrings with hummingbird heads. Need I say more, see the depraved use of birds for adornment for your own edification. 
     
Activist> Florence Merriam Bailey    
The second gallery, "Activists Take Flight, introduces several of the activists who pushed for protective legislation. New York City activists included George Bird Grinnell, a prominent conservation polymath and protege of Lucy Bakewell Audubon, who was inspired by the artist-naturalist to found the first Audubon Society in 1886. Florence Merriam Bailey, an ornithologist, whose bird books became important field guides. Then, too, I wish to call you attention to Lilli Lehmann, a German opera singer, vegetarian and animal lover, who campaigned passionately against wearing feathers, while in residence with the

Metropolitan Opera.
      The exhibition concludes with 14 watercolors by Audubon (least we forget he, too, killed many birds for his studies) including the Roseate Spoonbill, whose pink feathers were used in fans sold in the Florida tourist trade, and the Great Egret, one of the chief victims of the turn-of-the-century plume hunters that became the symbol of the Audubon Society.
         Even before the Federal Act earlier concern for bird protection was the concern in New Jersey. In the April 18, 2018 issue of The New York Times, the  feature ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY. reported a memorable headline: "MUST WEAR BIRDLESS HATS," 
March 24, 1910. The New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for women to wear the feathers, wings or bodies of birds as accoutrement, a practice that was devastating several species. "Spring styles for New Jersey women must undergo a change at once or many women will be in jail." the article noted. 
         The Year of the Bird pays it forward and examines how our changing environment is driving dramatic losses among birds species around the globe even today and highlights what we can do to help bring birds back.
        For nature lovers, several walking tours of Central Park bring Audubon's paintings to life.
May 5 and June 2 to name a few. Refer to the Museum's website for further details. 
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Become an activist and support the Year of The Bird!!  Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com.  Connect to Polly's other Blog links on www.pollytalk.com
       

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

URBAN SANCTUARIES By Polly Guerin

If you have ever wanted to let the cacophony of the city melt away and merely find a place for quiet
contemplation or to meditate in peace, one only has to step outdoors into nature. Though that may
not be a doable in the urban environment, in the quiet of early mornings, Central Park, Riverside Part and Battery City Park might offer opportunities to commune with nature's healing mediation. Then, too, even as the symphony of the city drones on nearby, there are several sanctuaries within New York City, where you can find comfort and peace of mind.    

THE CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE: Many churches throughout the city welcome visitors, but this magnificent, 125-year-old cathedral , which welcomes visitors of all faiths, is truly a peaceful place to just quiet your mind, meditate or simply relax in the majestic ambiance of the building's soaring arches and glorious stained-glass windows. As the sunlight filters in, the colors projected onto the visitors offer individual healing messages, Red for rejuvenation, blue for spiritual awakening, yellow for golden enlightenment and so forth.
     For a meditation experience of a more musical kind,  every Sunday at 4 p.m., the church offers their traditional 'Choral Evensong,' song by their world celebrated choir.  This is a wonderful time to let your spirit soar and receive colorful messages, as it is known that specific colors resonate in a musical performance. Close your eyes and listen and perhaps you may see only one color. Then, too, some very attuned individuals see a rainbow of colors when they listen to music and that ability is called, Synesthesia. 
     Location: 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street in Manhattan. info@stjohndivine.org.
Since this Cathedral is a work-in-progress, so to speak, there is a suggested donation of $10
per adult and $8 for students and seniors, for visitors not attending church services. Early
risers, please note that the Cathedral is open at 7:30 a.m. Door open all day and closes at 6 p.m.    

INTO THE SILENCE: Quiet Mornings at MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art. A lovely garden sanctuary is a magnet for midtown regulars and tourists.  
        Be sure to add this to your calendar. On the first Wednesday of every month, MoMA opens its doors at 7:30 a.m.  For a dual urban garden experience, the museum gives ardent art lovers an opportunity to view art works including the Impressionists, such as Monet's Water Lilies, in a delightful crowd- free environment.
      Not only does that draw in art lovers, but the best part, for sanctuary seekers, the Museum also includes a guided meditation session from 8:30 to 9 a.m.  On any occasion some brilliant guide, motivational speaker or a best-selling
author may be engaged to lead you through the meditation. www.moma.org.
    Location: 11 West 53rd Street., Manhattan. For early birds enter at 18 West 54th Street. Admission Adults $15, Seniors $12, full-time students with current ID $10.
Children, 16 and under free as well as MoMA members.  

THE ABBY ALDRISH SCULPTURE GARDEN at the BROOKLYN BOTANICAL GARDEN is a dreamy place where peace and quiet contemplation is invited on an 82 acre oasis in the heart of Brooklyn. Plan to spend the day as the experience will transport you into a tranquil environment with glorious colors and fresh air. As you navigate the beautiful peaceful landscape, at every turn there is reason to pause and simply clear your head of clutter, meditate or pray. 
      Then, too, there is the Garden's amazing Bonsai Museum, which houses one the the largest collections of bonsai trees, 350 at the last count, outside of Japan. Entrance at 999 Washington Street and 150 Eastern Parkway. Call 718-623-7200 for current hours and admission charge.
     Many corporate building in New York City have public spaces in their lobbies and one that comes to mind is the Bank of America Tower located on Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street.
This majestic glass and indoor space features breathtaking garden sculptures, made of living
mosses, vines and ferns.  Take a seat, plenty of chairs are provided and settle in with your private thoughts, contemplate time out from the fast lane and get into the mood and meditate. FREE and open to the public 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 
        I trust that you may find your way to one of these urban sanctuaries, as a daily measure, or for a peaceful excursion on a weekend. Blessing and best wishes, Polly.