Bonus Post: A Companion to “Having Your Cake and Throwing It Too”

Don’t you agree the Mona Lisa cake vandal owes the Louvre… da Vinci… somebody an apology? I read a book ages ago in which the main character took a cake to somebody as an apology. The recipe was included in the back of the book. I make it every now and then not so much to apologize, but because it’s a darn good cake. Here is the recipe in case all the news coming from the Louvre is making you hungry for cake!

Pology Cake (Lemon Cream Cake)*

½ cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 cups cake flour
3 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
Beat all ingredients together for several minutes until smooth.
Bake for approximately 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Do not over cook. Cool completely before frosting.

LEMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

½ cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioners sugar
4 – 5 Tbl. lemon juice

Cream butter and sugar. Add lemon juice one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Add a few drops of yellow food color if you feel like it.

Enjoy, friends!

*From Shelter Me by Juliette Fay.

Having Your Cake and Throwing It Too

Banana cream, German chocolate, apple, angel food, marble, cheese, pecan… of all the delicious cakes it was a plain white cream cake that was smeared on the Mona Lisa over the weekend. You’ve probably heard the story by now, a man disguised as an elderly woman in a wheelchair smashed a piece of cake onto the bulletproof glass protecting the Mona Lisa. Not only attacking the priceless piece of art but wasting perfectly good cake. All in the name of… the environment? I’m happy to report the not-so-sweet offender is being detained in a psychiatric hospital.

The Mona Lisa has been attacked before, but it isn’t the only famous piece of art vandals have targeted. Here are a few others:

Auguste Rodin’s Thinker outside the Cleveland Museum of Art lost its lower legs to a pipe bomb in 1970. Not what Rodin had in mind when he wanted to blow up the art scene.

Rembrandt’s Night Watch has inexplicably attracted several vandals, the most recent in 1990 when a visitor to the museum threw acid on it.

In 1986 another Rembrandt (hey vandals, what do you guys have against Rembrandt?!), Danae, had acid thrown on it. The attacker also slashed it a couple times with a knife. The painting was virtually destroyed.

Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica was attacked by a very confused (read: insane) man claiming to be Jesus. Bystanders tackled him immediately, but the damage to Mary’s nose and elbow were already done.

Another (slightly less famous) da Vinci was shot in 1988. This was also supposed to be a political statement. Whatever happened to just writing an Op-Ed piece?

In 2012 Monet’s Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat took a punch to the gut by an Irishman with a temper (wait, what?!) The hole was patched in less time it took for the guy to get out of jail.

Picasso’s Guernica was attacked in 1974 and (this is really wild) the attacker (Tony Shafrazi) is now a super successful art dealer in New York, making millions dealing art by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, and the like. Apparently spray-painting “KILL ALL LIES” across a world-famous piece of art is not the monstrous crime we might guess it is. Maybe the Mona Lisa cake criminal could do an apprenticeship with Shafrazi.

Art stirs up emotions, no doubt about it, but when it comes to defacing priceless masterpieces, I think we can all agree these vandals should get their just deserts.

The Art of Biltmore

PSA: If you have a new Ford Explorer ST or a Ford Edge ST, it comes with driving school! And if you don’t have one of those, maybe your friend does! My carpool partner (who also happens to be one of my best friends) recently bought a Ford Explorer ST and let me tag along with her to Asheville, NC to learn its fun features. With all the driving we do in real life, we naturally crushed everyone on the racecourse. (Give us a challenge next time! Maybe a hot coffee to balance, or a kid’s backpack in our lap? At least some arguing children!) Driving school was a blast, but the real highlight was our tour of the Biltmore Estate.

I mean, it’s fine if you like that kind of thing.

Good golly. Those Vanderbilts were rich.

The entire house (mansion? castle?) was a thing of beauty, but there was a wide array of conventional art too, including (but not limited to) paintings by Renoir, Monet, and John Singer Sargent. I’ll share some of my super high-quality pictures with you in a moment, but first- some facts about Biltmore!

  • Their winery is the most visited in the United States! I brought back several bottles and tasted several while I was there. Biltmore = drink more!
  • Biltmore House spans 175,000 square feet. In the winter 65 fireplaces helped heat it. Or you could throw back some hot chocolates, then use one of the 43 bathrooms!
  • Is there at least one room with gold plated walls? Why yes, there is.
  • The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, landscape architect to the stars! (And my 5th great-uncle!)
  • The Vanderbilt family was very hospitable. The Roosevelts were just one of the high-society families that frequented the Biltmore.
  • The Vanderbilts had tickets to sail home on the Titanic, but were a little homesick for Biltmore, and came back a week early instead. A close call!

Okay, now the moment you’ve been waiting for! Some Biltmore House pictures!

Even though my photos are the best of the best, I recommend seeing the Biltmore Estate in person. Bonus if you get to go to driving school while you’re there!

Ten Great Art Quotes and Two Stupid Ones

If you are looking for an artsy quote for your IG caption, or to impress your wine and cheese club, look no further! I have scoured history and the internet for ten beautiful, emotion-evoking quotes about art. There are a million lists like this on the internet, but good news! You found the best one.

10. “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Thomas Merton

9. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Maya Angelou

8. “Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end of the day.”

Winston Churchill

7. “If ever there’s a problem, I film it and it’s no longer a problem. It’s a film.”

Andy Warhol

6. “There is no ‘right’ way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there- just get to work and make something.”

Lisa Golightly

5. “If people would just look at the paintings, I don’t think they would have any trouble enjoying them. It’s like looking at a bed of flowers, you don’t tear your hair out over what it means.”

Jackson Pollock

4. “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Pablo Picasso

3. “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

Banksy

2. “… and then I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”

Vincent Van Gogh

1. “The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.”

Neil Gaiman

Two Stupid Quotes:

“Computers are useless. They only give you answers.”

Pablo Picasso

I see what he’s saying here. The stupid part is that I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that Pablo Picasso was alive at a time when computers existed.

“At the heart of all great art is an essential melancholy.”

Frederico Garcia Lorca

Disagree! I think joy, even giddiness, have been essential ingredients to some of the best art in the world.

Do you have a favorite quote about art (or anything, really!) that isn’t listed here? Share it in the comments!

Secunda None! A Museum Review

Carla: “I have the day off on Thursday. Let’s do something!”

Me: “Want to go to the Secunda Art Museum?”

Carla: “Yes.” Pause. “What’s that?”

Me: “I don’t know, but they have a little sign on I-96, and I’ve always wondered about it.”

It’s good to have friends who are game for anything. I figured if the Secunda Art Museum was really something special we would have heard of it. It’s less than an hour from my house, after all! But Carla was as curious as I and we agreed to get ice cream after the “museum” so if the “museum” was disappointing, at least we’d get dessert out of the deal.

The Secunda Art Museum is located at Cleary University in Howell, MI. We followed my GPS’ directions, parked, and stared at the building. No sign. No clue it was an art museum. Shrugging, we walked inside. Art! Art! Everywhere! In every sense of the word! The museum is named for Arthur (Art) Secunda who was a prolific, well-respected artist. We were so impressed by the first paintings we saw, we immediately looked up this mystery man.

Turns out he’s not such a mystery in the art world. He has pieces in the Detroit Institute of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA, and tons of other places. This guy is legit! The museum consists of several long halls and one or two rooms dedicated to his work. It also has classrooms peppered throughout. Carla and I whispered our delight as not to interrupt the lectures going on. We were the only ones there to see the art (some pamphlets on display indicated we may have been the only non-student people to visit since 2019.)

Arthur Secunda’s range was akin to Adele’s. He did everything! (Does? He’s 94 now and hopefully still creating!) You could line up three paintings and not tell the same person did them. For instance:

There was one section of the gallery that featured portraits. Carla and I covered the names and tried to guess who was who. We got each and every one wrong. Want to play?

Answer key at the bottom of the post!

Here are a few more pictures from our visit.

The Secunda Art Museum was a pleasant surprise! (Thanks, little sign on I-96!) Next time you find yourself in Howell, stop by! And don’t forget your ice cream after!

Shout out to M Street Bakery!

Answer key: 1. Vincent Van Gogh 2. Anne Frank 3. Michelangelo

Philly: A Museum Review

There was a lot of talk about Will Smith at our house this past week. Because… the girls and I spent our spring break in his hometown of Philly! Why? Is there some other reason we’d be talking about Will Smith this week? It was a road trip full of “In West Philadelphia, born and raised on a playground is where I spent most of my days. Chillin’ out max and relaxin’ all cool….” etc. etc. My daughters loved my rapping as much as you can imagine.

We drove all day Monday, spent Tuesday doing historical stuff, and planned on visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning we saw the museum is closed on Wednesdays.

If we have learned one thing these past couple years, it’s how to pivot! Instead of the museum, we had a lovely morning in New Jersey (more on that another time) and a lovely afternoon in Delaware! Thursday the museum was open! It was walking distance from our Airbnb, so we headed over before it opened at 10 to pose with the Rocky statue (I mean, I do have a daughter named Adrienne, after all!) and run the famous steps (we weren’t the only ones! And everybody raised their arms in victory at the top. One guy was even wearing a gray sweatsuit. Way to commit, buddy!)

The museum is free to youth under 18 and was $25 for me. Three free tickets felt like a steal! We started in the American gallery, where we saw several works by John Singleton Copley (one of my favorites ever since I saw this gem at the DIA) and a bunch of art from various members of the Peale family (see same post from the DIA). The museum employee in that room was wonderful- she took the time to show my girls particular pieces she thought they’d like (they did!) and chatted with me about her own art and how she hopes to come to Michigan someday to visit ArtPrize.

We made our way up the regal stairs to the “Big Names.” The girls were delighted to see Monet’s bridge that they each recreated in third grade art class, Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Picasso’s cubes, Degas’ ballerinas, and tons of other uber-familiar works. Even better, we discovered a new favorite artist: Leon Frederic. We were completely enamored by his series, The Four Seasons. We even loved The Source of Life even if it made some of us cover our eyes and giggle. The girls were more mature about it.

I obviously had the girls pose like these children. It didn’t turn out. I was shaking with fear that C would tip over and hit the Van Gogh next to her.
Heehee. Little buns!

At the end of our visit, as always, I had everybody pick their favorite piece of art. Here they are:

Molly: this altarpiece was truly incredible. It was so majestic and intricate. She certainly did not waste her pick on a subpar work.

Zoom in for maximum wow!

Adrienne: this herd of sheep spoke to Adrienne for its cozy, quaint vibe. Plus, Adrienne will always give baby sheep the win.

The Return of the Flock by Anton Mauve.

Charlotte: Charlotte found her favorite almost immediately. It was a huge map of the United States on the wall. For once, the fuzzy picture is not my fault. The work purposely blurs the lines using more than 80 charcoal pieces. This showstopper was made by Teresita Fernandez.

My favorite was The Four Seasons, as I mentioned, but I also loved this sculpture by Brancusi. Some of us thought it was sweet (me), some of us thought it was gross (the 4th grader). What do you think?

Verdict: If you have the chance, definitely visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art (just not on a Tuesday or Wednesday!) It has old, famous artwork, lesser known artists to fall in love with, and something most museums don’t offer: a workout (Rocky was right, those steps are killer!)

Until next week, friends- “Yo cabby, smell ya later!”

Three (Plus) Ukrainian Artists to Fall in Love With

As you know, I like to steer clear of politics on here, but I think the attack on Ukraine is less politicky, more world event-y. And the Ukranian people have no doubt been in your hearts and on your minds too. Of course, in all heartache and destruction, there are some sweet stories, some light. Like the touching communication between owners and renters on Airbnb. Did you know you can get any “rare find” you want in Ukraine right now? On St. Patrick’s Day I rented a lovely 5 bedroom home (Airbnb is waiving their cut, so all proceeds go to the homeowners.) and minutes later received the loveliest note from my “hostess.” It’s a cool and creative way to show support, I think. If you’re looking for an artsier way to support Ukraine, there is Art for Peace, where you can buy beautiful art that benefits the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

Ukraine may be small, but it is not lacking when it comes to talented artists! One showed up in this post a few years ago! Here are a few more Ukrainian artists I think you’ll love:

V. Lishko: Lishko is bringing all the color! His work is so bright and so fun, it almost makes me want to cry. In a good way. His paintings are basically what I want my personality to be. Bright and sweet and a little complicated. Take a look for yourself (and follow him on IG too! @lishkovitaliy)

Evgeniia Gapchinska describes herself as a “supplier of happiness” and with good reason. I went down a forty-five minute rabbit hole of her art and came out happier than when I first learned President Zelensky was the voice of Paddington Bear. Her art has a notably different feel from Lishko’s, but is equally fun and sweet. The little characters for which she is famous are snuggly and precious and you just want to bop their little noses. Tell me if you don’t! (You can follow Evgeniia on IG too: @gapchinska)

Finally, (if you can stand a little more color and talent) let me introduce Petro Bevza. Not only does he have a cool birthday (Jan. 1), he has a relatively easy name for me to spell (not true of almost all Ukrainians. Lovely names, hard for this American to spell.) And then there’s his art. It reminds me of a bit of Wassily Kandinsky who is touted as a Russian artist, but spent his early years in… modern day Ukraine! Do you see an influence?

Most of Bevza’s work is even more colorful than Semantic Outline (above). Take a look:

I would be remiss if I did not direct you to a few more incredible Ukrainian artists. If you are so inclined, check out:

Maria Prymachenko Warning: sad story. Prymachenko’s folksy art is vibrant, wholesome, and lovely. She was self-taught, which I think deserves special accolades. A few weeks ago several of her pieces were destroyed when the Russian military set fire to the Ivankiv Historical Museum.

Anatoly Kryvolap (You can tell by the picture on his homepage, he’s a total bad***!)

Ivan Marchuk (He doesn’t have a website that I could find, so this links to his Wikipedia page. His art is amazing, his moustache? Amazinger.)

Oleksandr Balbyshev (Okay guys, this list is starting to resemble a moustache Hall of Fame! Save Maria.)

Enjoy these Ukrainian artists, my friends! Pobachymos’! (That’s “see you later” in Ukrainian!)

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Three Irish Painters

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! A PSA: remember to wear green, so you don’t get pinched! Let me thank you for taking a moment in between green beers to read this post. Your shepherd’s pie is probably waiting, so let’s get right to it: Irish painters.

One of Ireland’s most famous painters is Charles Jervas. He had the distinct honor of painting Jonathan Swift (redhead!) and Alexander Pope, as well as other dignitaries. Fun fact: he also did the translation work for a little book called “Don Quixote.” (Which Wikipedia tells me is the second most-translated book in the world besides the Bible.) Jervas was notorious for being more than a little confident. You might say he was straight up conceited, in fact. With good reason, I suppose. He did have a knack for portraits. Or McPortraits as they call them in Ireland.

Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton. Survivor of the appleocolypse.

Jack Butler Yeats was another big name in Irish art circles. If the name is familiar, it’s because his family was super artsy. His dad, John, was a portrait painter and his brother, William, is the famous poet. No doubt Jack grew up under a barrage of limericks at the dinner table. Let’s try one:

My brother Jack likes to paint

My mother swears he’s a saint

But I know better

It would just upset her

Instead of “isn’t” he says “ain’t.”

– A FAKE WILLIAM BUTLER BATES LIMERICK

Jack was talented in his own right, creating paintings like this. Ain’t it lovely?

The Birds are on the Move. This title makes me laugh because, um… I don’t see any birds.

Mary Swanzy (are we all picturing Mary Swanson from “Dumb and Dumber”?) is one of many talented Irish female artists. Nano Reid, Mainie Jellett, and Letitia Marion Hamilton are just a few others. But I love Swanzy’s swanky paintings that are so bold and colorful. She lived in Hawaii for a while, and the influence is clear in her paintings.

Aloha! This is called A Voyage No Longer Overlooked.

Please resume your St. Patrick’s Day celebration now, wowing your friends with your knowledge of Irish art history. And pro tip? Guinness pairs perfectly with Lucky Charms.

*This post was first published March 17, 2021

Why I Can’t Stop Staring at My Stairs

Friends! Do you remember at the beginning of the year when I mentioned my 2022 art goals in this post? I’m happy to say my stair mural is complete and… it is even better than I’d hoped!

Ever since we took our carpet out and painted the stairs, I’ve been agonizing over them. They needed attention. In fact, lately I’ve been craving more color in my house, period. While I was mulling the staircase situation over, Adrienne Gelardi popped up in my Facebook feed. When I visited her website, I knew my artsy prayers were answered.

Before we put anything on the calendar, Adrienne had me send over a picture of the stairs. I also sent a few screenshots from her website of work that I especially loved. Together we decided a pond would look awesome and provide the extra color I was looking for. I especially loved the pond idea because we have a pond in our yard. Jim and I are constantly channeling Chevy Chase in Caddyshack and explaining to our kids, “there are pond people and there are pool people. We’re pond people.”

“The pond would be good for you.” Such a great line.

We decided Adrienne would come March 2-4 (it’s true- she did the whole thing in three short days. It would take me three days of crying in hopeless despair before I could even pick up a brush.) She rolled up in a bright, beautiful van that would put the Mystery Van to shame and got to work on the stairs! By the time my girls came home from school and the house became “high traffic,” she was ready to pack up for the day. Repeat over the next two days and voila! She left my home a brighter place!

Adrienne’s mural was perfect for us. Here is a before, during, and after:

Adrienne was delightful and chill and obviously very talented- we could not be happier with our new stairway. And I, for one, have learned murals are a lot like tattoos- once you have one, you want another… and another… and another! Suddenly every surface in my home looks a lot like a blank canvas!

One Dog’s Artsy Opinion

It feels like spring! It’s the first day of Lent! An artist is starting my stair mural today! The world news is heavy, but I am more thankful than ever for art that brings some JOY to our lives! But what art to feature in today’s blog post?! I couldn’t decide. Luckily, I have some fun, handy flashcards of famous paintings that I looked to for inspiration. Still, I was torn between three springy choices. So, I called in art connoisseur and classical painting expert… our dog, Mojo.

Our fair Judge.

The contestants are:

Who do you think Mojo gave her rose to? Which artwork (or tasty treat) couldn’t she resist?! Well, at first? She resisted all of them.

What kind of dog needs this much coaxing to come eat a delicious, meaty snack?! She’s either a food snob or an art snob. Maybe both.

I stopped recording. I explained I really needed her help, told her she’d really be doing me a solid. I promised fresh new bones, walks every day, a spot at the window to scope out birds and squirrels. We negotiated a place at the foot of the bed and that I’d stop mumbling under my breath when I run a lint brush over myself multiple times a day…. if only she’d pick a painting for me.

The winner was Primavera by Sandro Botticelli! Perfect for the springy weather and longer days we are enjoying!

Primavera: Not just a pasta dish.

Here’s the cast of characters in the painting:

  1. Venus is in the middle looking like she just overtook Kylie Jenner in Instagram followers,
  2. Venus’ son Cupid is air-swimming above her.
  3. Mercury is on the far left pushing a raincloud away and humming, “rain rain go away, come again another day, when I say you can.”
  4. Zephyr is the blue genie-looking guy on the far right. He’s the god of the spring wind and bonafide rabble rouser, from the looks of things.
  5. The other girls are C-list celebs making TikTok videos and drinking martinis sangria (a more springy drink, don’t you think?). The three graces make up the group on the left (the goddesses of charm, grace, and beauty). On the right a Greek nymph turns herself into Flora (the girl in the flowery dress) to get away from Zephyr. Cool party trick!

The painting was done on an enormous wood panel (Venus is life-sized!) for a member of the Medici family (those guys got everything!) I love the enormity of the painting and the details (can you imagine painting each little fold and wrinkle in those dresses? Every tiny leaf?) Botticelli makes Venus look like a total boss by framing her with the blue sky and shrubbery. There’s no question who the star of the show is. And despite Zephyr’s antics, the painting has a celebratory feel. It makes me want to throw a springtime party, get barefoot in the grass, and pluck peaches from overhead. Then gossip over who Cupid shot and which of the graces is crushing on Mercury.

Spring is upon us, friends! Let’s party!