the roots of india’s modern art

The work of modern Indian artist Nandalal Bose is currently being shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Indian figures and forms are so comforting to me, and even more so in these diverse renditions. Bose’s work was touched by such a broad range of influences: India’s indigenous and ancient artistic traditions, Japanese and Chinese art, western modernism, and the anti-colonial movement, to name some. He experimented and produced in a wide range of styles. But his work remained always thoughtful and introspective.

"Head of Shiva" March 19, 1948.

The mood evoked in “Head of Shiva” is transcendent and inspires meditation, like the subject. The use of a single color draws specific attention to line, shading, and brush stroke. It makes me think of how neutral interiors require great variety in texture, surface, shade, and line to remain engaging. This “wash” painting is a second version of one of his early works originally done in 1910-11. He recreated his paintings in this technique in the 1940’s because much of the original work was unpreserved and lost.

"Evening." August 7, 1941.

"Evening." August 7, 1941.

“Evening” was my favorite work, and also the frontispiece at the exhibit. The composition is impeccable and riveting. It captures the feeling of Indian art so well, but it is decidedly modern. The spots of vibrant color really make this piece. The strokes in the tree trunks are reminiscent of western techniques, while the leaves on the tree remind me of Rajasthani miniatures. I believe that indigenous and ancient art in India features its subjects in the foreground, often filling the frame. Here this solitary figure is rendered partially obscured, while the trees in the foreground are larger and extend beyond the frame. Somehow the trees feel protective rather than imposing to me. This, again, is a meditative piece.

"Saraswati." April 6, 1941.

“Saraswati” is definitely lighter and livelier in line, color, and mood. The mix of the “niche”-like frame at the top and the vina extending out of this frame on the left gives the dynamic feeling of both a temple murti as well as a live depiction of the Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of arts and learning. The colors and lines, especially the lotus theme in the background, remind me of both Indian batik and block print on fabric.

Overall this exhibit really brought home the question, what does it mean to see the world through the eyes of an artist? There is inspiration and beauty in everything. The world is filled with line and color and diverse ways of interpreting what we see. And how we interpret and represent has an impact. Bose lived life through eyes like these.

reading terminal market. more than retro.

For years I have been wanting to go back to the Reading Terminal Market. I kept remembering a place that had a veggie sandwich with “carrot tuna,” basically a carrot salad in a pita. Sounds simple, but it was delicious and over the last 6 years I was never able to recreate it in my own kitchen. The Basic Four Vegetarian Snack Bar was still there, and the carrot tuna as good as I had remembered! The trick with it is the texture. We bought several scoops to take home so that perhaps we could decode the ingredients to make our own. I’ll let you know how it goes.

basic vegetarian 

As we walked through the market we began the first of a series of comparisons between NYC and Philly. The Reading Market just seemed so much more “old-fashioned” than the Chelsea Market, which actually feels more like a theme park, if only in comparison. The vendors at Reading are in booth-like set ups in an open space, and their signage is more than retro in many cases. Check out the vibe:

As it turns out, my observations about the two markets have some basis in historical fact. The Reading Terminal Market is actually a historic indoor market established in 1892, while the Chelsea Market is circa 1990, though located in a rehabbed industrial space that was a biscuit and baking company, also built in the 1890’s. The Reading Terminal Market is run by a nonprofit 501c3 established by the Philadelphia City Council, while the Chelsea Market is a commercial enterprise. I do love the Chelsea Market (esp. The Green Table), but there is a special charm to the Reading Market. It feels particularly genuine to me.

While we were there we also picked up some apple quince spread and some lemon honey, both to be enjoyed with good cheeses. Last night we spread the lemon honey on some nice Manchego we bought at the market too and it was simple but GOOD.  

We also treated ourselves to one of my favorite desserts with the Old City coffee: dark chocolate covered pretzels!

my version of philly on a sunday afternoon

Michael and I just celebrated our nine year wedding anniversary. We headed to Philadelphia for multiple reasons: we got married there, there is child care on the way there (my parents in S. Jersey), and we needed to keep it semi-local. Plus there was all this stuff I wanted to do there. The main attraction was the Nandalal Bose exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I will write about that later this week. For now let’s start with…

kelly n’ me?

I was looking through Kelly Wearstler’s Modern Glamour again, and reading a bit instead of just ogling the oh so amazing pictures. Turns out we have some things in common:

1. we both have interior designer mothers (let’s not consider the fact that everyone does)

2. we both have fathers who are engineers

3. we both wore Garanimals when we were young! This was a formative experience for me and it seems it was for her too, since she wrote about it in her book, no?

Now I just need to design something as stunning as this:

look as stunning as this:

and maybe Michael can buy me a boutique hotel?