Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wildflowers of Jordan 2017 Calendar Available for Purchase

US Friends, My Wildflowers of Jordan 2017 is available for purchase for a short time, before I return to Jordan. They are $10 apiece, which includes postage, or $7 if I can hand it to you in person. Please send me a message (desertmom88 at if you would like to one. Payment by check or Paypal. Thank you! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Post Graduation Doings in Boston and the North Shore

We took a couple days after graduation to relax in Artist Son's familiar surroundings, allowing us to take another step into his college life and experience. On Sunday, we attended his church in Salem,  After lunch we drove to Gloucester to drop off his belongings at his part-of-the-summer residence and visit some art galleries along the bay.

Wharf and gallery poses

We celebrated Artist Son's birthday by going into Boston to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a beautiful residence and personal art collection which became a museum at the bequest of arts patron, Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Beautiful gardens and architecture as well as beautiful art. It was a wonderful way to spend the day.

Notice the arc of light which follows the lines of Rembrant's left shoulder, up to the tip of the feather in his cap.

This work by Raphael was my personal favorite. The upward gaze of the monk's imperfect eyes and the rich red of his robe drew me into the painting again and again.

I liked this sketch, also by Raphael, noting particularly the balance of his composition and use of reds.

Artist Son chose an Italian restaurant for his birthday dinner, and his friend and mentor joined us for the celebration. 

A delicious carrot birthday cake was prepared by his friend.

A couple of scenes from Salem's harbor, taken just before heading to the airport. We were headed to Boise where we would be reunited with Active Son and his Bride To Be, and to prepare for their upcoming wedding--these were celebratory days for our family!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Strange Encounters~Senior Exhibition

Artist Son's senior exhibition, opened two weeks before we arrived for graduation. His friend took this picture of him on the opening day. Artist's Son's exhibition included seven works in oil on canvas, and they were hung in the small gallery of the Gordon's Barrington Center for the Arts. Thankfully, the senior exhibitions were still on display when we arrived in Wenham to celebrate Artist's Son Graduation.

Before entering the gallery, we picked up a copy of Artist Son's artist Statement:

Strange Encounters

This series explores the tension between humans and animals. Wild animals wander in a typically human landscape, that of the city. I want to paint animals in city-scapes because I am struck by their wildness within a structured, contained environment. 

The animals and humans pass by each other, confront each other, and sometimes inhabit their own separate spheres. Each enters, leaves, or stands uncomfortably on the border between connected spaces.

The soldier figure appears callous, but may or may not have a capacity for empathy. This raises questions of human brutality toward the 'other', whether human or animal. When soldiers dominate a city, it is usually a sign the city is no longer safe. It's an aggressive presence, but still human.

Space and light also become  characters on this stage and contribute to the suspense. As one wanders through the maze, there is no telling who, or what, is around the corner.

Entering the gallery, I immediately felt the calmness and serenity of the space, which seemed a result of an ideal marriage of space and art. Below are the seven works which made up this exhibition.

Never Together, Always Together


A Lonely Shadow



Into the Daylight

Elephant Musing

I waited for a family member to verbalize the question that I knew someone would ask, "What does it mean?" I had approached works of art in a similar way. And based on what I had learned from discussing art with Artist Son, I anticipated his response: "What do you see?" As the mom, perhaps I saw things that other's might miss, perceived influences from Artist Son's childhood: colors, lines, and shadows common to Jordanian landscapes, the use of wild animals, which have long fascinated Artist Son, and the imaginary worlds that he created with them.

Slow looking yields further perception and the delight that comes with recognition. Narratives with themes of ambiguity, tension, and relationship began to emerge. The role of passageways. Color; immediately delightful, but why? Beautiful tints (color mixed with white) of color masterfully expressing shadows, light, and emotion. Layers.My eye is not trained enough to know how Artist Son painted all the layers of paint and glazes, but I could appreciate the exquisite result. The paintings called us to look again and again.

After viewing Artist Son's exhibition, he gave us a tour of his studio and we were treated to a behind the scenes look at how he had created his pieces.

Artist's Son's studio space

The models

Demonstrating a painting set-up

The palate

Painting set-up for Wanderer, with the green tints

Artist Son also gave us a tour of the printmaking room and explained the process that he had learned and practiced in making prints. 

A lot of yet uncollected student work was still out on the work tables, including some prints that Artist Son had made.

Looking at this print, I couldn't help but think of a book from Artist Son's childhood, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase,

What's next for Artist Son? Until we were on our way to the airport headed to Boston, that was still being decided. Though Artist Son was leaning toward taking a year off to work on his art and apply to more MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs, he made an eleventh hour decision to accept a very good scholarship offer to study with the acclaimed Houston painter, Michael Roque Collins at Houston Baptist University this fall.

For those who are interested, here is a short (four minutes) video about Michael Collins, Artist in Residence and director of HBU's MFA Program.

And another from a Houston arts television program. The spotlight on Michael Collins and HBU happen during the first segment/first nine minutes.

 Just days after the eleventh hour decision to go directly to grad school, Artist Son received an eleventh hour offer of a scholarshiped summer artist residency program at New York Academy of Art. That was a sweet and unexpected graduation (and birthday) gift!

Artist Son is presently enjoying his residency at NYAA, creating art and soaking up beauty and inspiration from the various museums and galleries throughout the city. You can follow him on Instagram at andrewmanningart.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pomp and Circumstance for Artist Son

As evidenced by my two and a half month blogging silence, Dear Husband and I experienced a very busy spring season, and on May 12 we boarded a plane for Boston, headed to Artist Son's graduation from Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. We hadn't returned to Massachusetts since we dropped Artist Son off at Gordon to begin his freshman year as a homeschooled graduate who had grown up overseas--his college adjustment learning curve was steeper than most. What a delight it was to visit him on campus four years later to see how Gordon had become a familiar place to him and to observe the good rapport and relationships he enjoyed with peers and professors. It was a gift to step into his world if only for a couple of days.

Pre-Baccalaureate selfie

We arrived on Thursday night and on Friday Artist Son gave us a tour of his art studio, the print studio, and the art gallery, were we viewed his senior exhibition, which was still on display (a separate post on that to follow). 

On Friday night we attended our first college Baccalaureate service, a graduation/worship service that is unique, I believe, to Christian colleges and universities. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias delivered the talk.

Though it rained the night before, we awoke to a clear blue sky on graduation day, and so the commencement ceremony would be held outside. (My one oversight is that I forgot to bring sunscreen and I paid dearly for it. Who would have thought on a mid-May Massachusetts morning?)

Artist Son in the front row with his fellow-art students.

Gordon College is apparently very prudent in their assignment of honors cords, and as Artist Son was unadorned except for an Honors Society pin, I was surprised when I opened the commencement program and discovered that he was graduating summa cum laude. I asked him why he hadn't mentioned it and he said that he didn't even know about that distinction. He then mentioned that he was also invited to join the English Honors society but hadn't submitted the application. Typical hard-working, unassuming Artist Son style.

Bachelor of Art in Art, painting concentration, English minor
Summa cum laude

Gordon posted national flags for each country represented by a graduate, and so the Jordanian flag was posted for Artist Son--and the wind cooperated for the picture.

It was a long morning in the hot sun with little to drink and nothing to eat, but we steeled ourselves and took the requisite family-with-the-graduate-pictures. I'm glad we persevered.

Congratulations, Artist Son, and thanks to God for all the good gifts He has bestowed upon you these past four years. Your future looks bright as He is the one illuminating your path and we look forward to supporting you as you embark on the coming adventures.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

#beautifuljordan #springtimeinjordan

I think I can say that I've never experienced a more beautiful spring day in Jordan than I did last week--and I've enjoyed some very fine spring days in Jordan over the years. It was Dear Husband's birthday week and so on his day off we decided to drive around the countryside of northern Jordan, drop down into the Jordan Valley, near Pella, and then drive up to Amman  to end the day with dinner and a movie--our second movie in the last two months. Are we empty-nesters or what?! We used to see a movie about once every three years, and we weren't alone.

Preparation for the trip was easy: I made a chicken quinoa salad, a thermos of tea, and grabbed my phone (I've been taking all my pictures on an LG G4 these days).

As we drove along the Mafraq-Jerash road I spotted a lone black iris on my right, so Dear Husband stopped the car. I had never seen any black irises in this particular area, though I always scan the hill sides every spring as I drive his road. Additionally, it was nearly a month earlier than I usually see black irises. All around, unexpected.

I excitedly photographed that lone iris. A black iris sighting is always special. But then I looked around me and begin to see more: twos and threes, and clumps of black irises. We may have seen 30 or more, many more than I have ever seen in one location. You may have laughed at me if you had seen how exuberant I was about this flora find.

And this clump, later found blooming just a few meters from the road. How did I miss them?

With that great flora encouragement to begin our journey, we cut across the Jerash highway and headed up a country road in the direction of Ajloun, winding through charming villages and driving along roads which overlooked terraced valleys.

I love the varied texture and colors of the landscapes: red soil, tan soil, stone walls, green grass in the springtime, and always, olive trees.

We decided to enjoy our picnic lunch in the Forest of Healing, near Ajloun. Dear Husband found a lovely spot near these red-barked Arbutus trees, which are indigenous to the region.

God's teeny tiny rock garden. So lovely to find beauty in small, unexpected places.

Something in the Umbel family of plants

And more breathtakingly beautiful wadis (valleys) which were a feast for the eyes--another scene of grandeur around nearly every bend.

When I saw the yellow hillsides, I knew that we must be just in time to see Jordan's crown daisies burst into bloom.

Down the hill...

...and around the next bend. Are we really in Jordan? Why hasn't anyone opened up a bed and breakfast up here??

Echium catching some rays

And then we saw a old metal sign with the words "Jesus Cave" painted on it, pointing down this road. At this point we had made so many stops, we were getting behind schedule if we still wanted to make dinner and a movie. We agreed that seeing the Jesus Cave might just be better than a dinner out and so we turned down the road.

No tree looks deader in winter than a wild fig tree, its knarled and twisted branches drooping down toward the ground, and no tree looks more alive in the spring than a wild fig tree, with its new green leaves reaching up toward the sun.

Here we have arrived at the Jesus Cave, or a better translation, The Cave of the Messiah. The legend goes that Jesus took shelter in this cave. Maybe. The cave was used as a wine and olive oil press in the Byzantine era, and the oil press has been restored inside the cave.

The area for grape stomping 

The oil press, inside the cave

The kitchen area

Dear Husband signing the guestbook. What a wonderful detour!

The opportunity for a restaurant dinner had surely slipped away as we still need to descend into the Jordan Valley and then ascend to Amman. We did end up getting dinner as the movie theatre had surprisingly fresh offers of Greek salad (for me) and a chicken salad sandwich for Dear Husband.

The movie with which we ended our day of touring: "Theeb", the acclaimed Jordanian film, filmed in Wadi Rum, which earned an Oscar nomination, just one of it's many awards. Though it was released last year, we hadn't managed to see it then, so we were thankful for its re-release after its Oscar nomination. Active Son recommended it: "Very good. Kind of like Lawrence of Arabia, but better--and shorter." We agreed. and we discussed the subtleties of Bedouin culture as portrayed in the movie, most of the way home.

Such a wonderful Jordan day.