Learning About Armenia

I walked into the Armenian Museum of America not knowing a thing about Armenia, except that its people suffered a genocide (but I had no idea when). At first glance, it looked like a small museum…but I spent almost two hours there.

There were many beautiful artifacts and artworks:

Armenian Museum artifacts

Armenian Museum artifacts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was thrilled to see a Yousuf Karsh exhibit. Born in Armenia, he was a famous photographer who took stunning portraits.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The term “genocide” was first coined by a lawyer who was studying the events that led to the extermination of 800,000+ Armenians between 1915 and 1917 by the Ottoman Empire (later known as Turkey). What can I say about this…no words suffice. I’m glad to be informed about this horrific time in world history, but I struggle to comprehend such evil.

The Armenian Museum is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighborhood of Watertown, Massachusetts.

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A Cultural Smorgasbord

It was a happy accident that I experienced a cultural smorgasbord within a four-day timespan in March…

Every year, I like to try a new art form. This year, the Groupon gods sent me a water marbling (or ebru) class, which was taught at the Turkish Cultural Center. I’d never heard of water marbling. I invited my art partner in crime Mary along; this was our fourth birthday list art escapade.

Our teacher was Turkish and just lovely. She buys all of her art supplies from Turkey, including special paper, brushes, and paints. I can’t quite explain the process; it was like magic. There were about 10 of us in the class and we rotated among three work stations. We stood in front of a pan of water that was treated with something special for 24 hours. We then picked a few colors, dipped the brush into the paint, and kind of “flicked” the paint onto the water, circles of color floating in the water mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we decided that we were done, we gently laid a piece of paper on top of the pan of colored water, slid the paper off, and voila, the paint ended up on the paper!

We each made two pieces and I was pretty happy with the results…but I mistakenly left one in the classroom and I have misplaced the other one! Search online for “ebru painting” sometime and you will see what a beautiful art form it is.

A couple of days later, I went on a tour of a local mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, thanks to the organization of my friend Anya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walked into the mosque not knowing anything about Islam. Our tour guide was wonderful and spent more than the allotted time with us, telling us about the history of Islam and the history of the mosque. She explained the main tenets of the religion and answered our many questions. I left with the message that Muslims want the chance to explain their religion to others; they want to be a part of the community just as other religions are. I highly recommend taking a tour at your local mosque if you are like me and didn’t know anything about Islam.

A few hours after I left the mosque, I was attending a performance by Kodo, a group of Japanese taiko drummers. I’ve been interested in taiko drumming ever since I took a class last year.

I was expecting a few hours of loud, powerful (but beautiful) banging on gigantic drums. Silly me. It was a few hours of drumming on many different types of drums, plus bell ringing, plus beautiful and sometimes humorous choreography.

In the aftermath of this smorgasbord, I felt grateful to live in a city that offers so many opportunities to experience other cultures. For someone who loves to travel but can’t always afford it, I cherish the fact that I can have such experiences without leaving home.

Burning Down the House

The new craft I tried this year was woodburning. I saw a kit online about a month ago and decided to try it and make some Christmas gifts in the process.

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The kit included the tool, a few different-shaped points, letter stamps, and a bunch of wooden utensils.

I wasn’t nervous until I watched a video tutorial, during which the host mentioned that the tool warms up to 950 degrees.

That’s hot.

I’m happy to report that I didn’t burn myself or any of my possessions. I enjoyed trying it out, although I have a long way to go to perfect it. I really liked using the letter stamps but realized that one needs to have somewhat of a perfect touch to get the whole letter burned—not too light and not too dark.

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This might be a craft that I explore further. Have you tried woodburning?

Happy New Year to all! Thanks for reading about my birthday list adventures.

Steve Martin, Museum Curator

He’s a comedian, actor, producer, and musician. And now he can add museum curator to the list.

Steve Martin was in town last month to talk about the exhibit he helped curate at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Martin is also an avid art collector, and he enjoys the work of Canadian painter Lawren Harris. He must know someone at the Museum of Fine Arts, and I imagine they started talking about Lawren Harris, and the MFA person suggested that Martin help curate an exhibit, and there you have it.

My friend Tracy and I stood in line outside of the MFA on a March afternoon for two hours to ensure that we would get a seat at a free panel discussion about the exhibit. Martin, artist Eric Fischl, and writer Adam Gopnik sat on the panel, which was moderated by MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum.

Luckily the lineup was projected onto large screens, so I didn’t have to keep craning my neck to get a glimpse of them.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I listened to them speak, I imagined that I was really smart and rich and I was attending a cocktail party in New York City at which this type of conversation is commonplace. For an hour, they talked about Lawren Harris, the art world, and the MFA exhibit. Martin was serious most of the time, but he did crack a few jokes and made some signature faces.

It was totally worth the two-hour wait in line! I’ve been a fan of Martin since the ’80s and have always marveled at his many talents. It was a joy to see him in person.

So I have about six weeks to accomplish nine more things. Totally doable, right?

T – 58 Days

I’m closing the book on another decade in fewer than two months!!!!!

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I’m taking solace in my new Peeps socks.

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I have 20 things left to do on my list and am trying to talk myself into staying calm.

I’m planning to finish Tender Is the Night this weekend (#28 on the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels List). And I am going to try my hand at Tatebanko, the Japanese art of paper dioramas. Those who know me well know that I’m just crazy about dioramas.

I was introduced to Tatebanko after visiting the Museum of Fine Art’s stunning Hokusai exhibit last night. I noticed the Tatebanko of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa in the gift shop and thought I would give it a shot. If I figure it out, I will post a pic. Wish me luck!

 

 

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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