There are works of art which many people with a Euro-centric background agree are masterpieces – the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, The Pieta, Starry Night, Guernica, etc.  It can be hard to view those works with fresh eyes after seeing them so many times.  Examining lesser-known works of art, especially from non-European cultures, can wake up our eyes, deepening our aesthetic experience and maybe even giving us a new perspective on the old masterpieces.

These art works that aren’t so well known but were made with great care and great skill might be called minor masterpieces.

And in fact, (according to Wikipedia) the original meaning of the term masterpiece had to do with a piece of work an apprentice in the guild system made to demonstrate mastery of the craft for admission into a guild. In that context the works photographed here might comfortably be called masterpieces.

This fascinating Indonesian ear ornament, a small gold piece from the 19th century on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,  shows “warriors clad in turbans and loincloths brandishing swords and shields as they stride boldly into battle, accompanied by smaller figures in attitudes of supplication.”  The expression on the faces and the hands in supplication are so expressive!

A small seated Buddha from the Rubin Museum in New York also has very expressive hands, which held in this mudra, (symbolic or ritual gesture) signify passing along the teaching.

Continuing with the theme of hands in minor masterpieces of craftsmanship, a wooden totem pole in Seattle adorned with an impromptu bouquet speaks volumes about technique and the possibilities of expression in the hands of a master carver.

Another figurative minor masterpiece, this one in stone, decorates a building near Philadelphia’s historic Rittenhouse Square. The artist created amazing liveliness while keeping within the boundaries of tradition and the limits of the decorative frieze.

This minor masterpiece, made of glass, doesn’t necessarily depict anything beyond the indomitable human spirit. It is pure joy as you look up into the whirling colors of Dale Chihuly’s huge installation, the Bridge of Glass, in Tacoma, Washington.

Iznik Ceramics by Mehmet Gursoy

A large hand-painted ceramic dish crafted by a Mehmet Gursoy, a renowned Turkish artist who received the “Living Treasure” prize from UNESCO a few years ago. He revived a lost technique of ceramic decoration, and as he explains here, he designs his pieces with harmony and balance in mind, forming them from natural materials, firing and shaping them himself,  and painting them with the brilliant cobalt, emerald, turquoise and garnet colors that give so much life to the work.

Though it doesn’t have the power of the works above, this is still a “minor masterpiece” for me because I drew it with care and love.  It was many years ago that I pulled the little violet plant from the soil somewhere in New York, brought it home, and drew it in pencil, and then in ink.  I was pleased to catch the lilting spirit of the little violet just as it was unfurling its leaves and lifting its head to the spring sky.

Bloggers have a lot of ideas about the word “Masterpiece” – check them out here – and maybe you’ll find a new perspective on the concept.


Dressed in summer whites and not the least bit concerned about wrinkles, these Matilija Poppies were recently seen showing off in Seattle.

The towering plants with flowers that can measure 5 inches across are a new discovery for me.  I was really taken with the bold drama of clumps of big white poppies floating effortlessly against a cerulean sky in the bright sunlight.

I was in the UW (University of Washington) neighborhood of Seattle that day to see a client.  My work takes me all around the Seattle area and that afternoon I was in rather desperate need of a bathroom. I remembered the University’s Center for Urban Horticulture, with its gardens and the clean, cool, inviting library that’s open to the public. I drove over, parked, and was pleasantly startled by these gorgeous creatures as I walked to the building.

These big poppies, properly called Romneya coulteri,  are sometimes called tree poppies, or fried egg flowers – you can see why. It looks like I was just in time to catch their annual show; the pollen was beginning to settle into the petals.

I learned that the Matilija Poppy is native to dry canyons and burned over areas of California & Mexico and is difficult to establish. But once they’re growing, apparently you’ve got them.

The Center for Urban Horticulture website says the plant “highly resents transplanting.”

You can just imagine one looking down at you, haughtily waving its paper-white petals, saying, “Go away and leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m perfectly happy here?

(If you’ve ever done an unsuccessful transplant, you know how important it is to try to match your environment to the plant’s native habitat).

Given its native habitat, you can imagine this plant deals well with drought.

And you might wonder what it’s doing here in Seattle!

Actually, we’re dry all summer long – very dry. We have lots of sun, daytime temps in the 70’s and nights in the 50’s, and no humidity. Yes, I’m bragging. I have a right to with the gray skies I put up with all winter!

So I’d say the flowers are in a simpatico location during the summer bloom time.  I noticed they were planted in a raised bed, which should allow good winter drainage. Back east I imagine it would be hard to establish them because conditions (both soil and air) aren’t usually dry for very long.  That’s probably why it was a new plant to me.

Next time your summer whites

(be they cotton or linen) are

hopelessly wrinkled, 

remember the pretty Matilija poppies,

breathe a sigh

of contentment,

and carry on.

(Note: I didn’t have my camera with me the day I discovered the poppies on the way to the rest room, so I took photos with my phone.  On the weekend I returned with my DSLR for more pictures.  If you’re curious, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and last two pictures were taken with the DSLR).


Another Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge is inspiring people with the simple idea of “Fresh.”

For much of the US, freshness is probably not the operable word in these days of heat waves, wildfires and general bad weather. But here in the Pacific Northwest, summer is definitely fresh, and its what everyone lives for – for a few months the gray lifts and we have clear blue skies, warm daytime temperatures, and cool evenings.

Often there’s a fresh breeze blowing, too…

(Forgive me if you remember seeing the rags tied to the barbed wire fence before, but I think it’s been a long time since I posted any of those photos.)

Here’s another local sign of freshness: a handful of just picked blackberries. If you don’t have a bag you could grab some fern fronds to keep them from squishing. But I bet they’ll be eaten by the time you get back to the car anyway.

Then there’s fresh-out-of-the-oven.

These chocolate chip cookies were made by our master baker friend Pat Hains, who runs a comfortable  B & B in Olympia, WA where no one ever goes hungry.

And while I’m thinking of food, here is the Excaliber Burger, a very fresh burger served at the 101-year-old Ozark Cafe in the tiny town of Jasper, Arkansas, which is (happily) many miles from any cities, but close to the scenic Buffalo River and even a herd of elk.

But enough about food – let’s get even more fundamental.

What about water?

What’s fresher than a waterfall on Mount Rainer, tumbling down over mossy rocks from the glaciers above?

Or what about fresh-off-the-press?

This linoleum block artwork is being transferred to a small cotton flag. The print commemorates someone who was killed in the 9/11 attacks. Their family will receive a paper print of the artwork. The project is the brainchild of Dianne Brudnicki, an artist and teacher who lives in a small town in Washington, far from the center of the attacks. For over a decade Dianne has been inspiring local artists, students, and anyone willing to try their hand at designing and carving, to create linoleum block prints for families of people lost in the 9/11 attacks.   Each year she travels to New York to present the latest batch of prints to a new set of families. A fresh idea!

And the always appealing old standby, fresh-as-a-daisy:

I never tire of seeing daisies in a field.   More fresh entries in this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge are here.


What place?  Here!

Life has kept me too busy to post lately. This blog is an important creative outlet for me, and I really miss it.

Feeling desperate, I’m stealing a few minutes from my other life (quote unquote!) and posting a few recent photos:

Big Four Ice Caves,  Cascade Mountain Range, 20 miles east of Granite Falls, WA. The ice caves were behind me. It was mid June, and there was still plenty of deep snow up there.

Oak fern, Gymnocarpium dryopteris;  Big Four Ice Caves Trail.

Small unidentified grass. Here I tried free lensing – taking the lens off the camera and holding it backwards against the camera to get an unusual focus effect. Thanks to Leah, the fantastic photographer at Uprooted Magnolia, for the idea.

A grass at the Center for Urban Horticulture, in Seattle (shot normally).

Rather a theatrical daisy portrait – placed against watercolor paper, in sunlight.

And finally, a self portrait taken into and through a window on top of the Smith Tower in Seattle, with reflections and a view of the Space Needle in the distance.

I hope you’re enjoying summer! More soon….I hope!


Nostalgic moments can arise inexplicably, leaving you wondering why this particular scene drew you back into a foggy pool of nostalgic associations.

An old truck,

parked on a Seattle street on a cold winter day –

the electric wires overhead, the blue sky and soft clouds,

the wet pavement and

luminous light merge,

evoking a familiar but inchoate feeling.

A recognition,



Road trips evoke nostalgia, and also the familiar roads

traveled dozens of times from home to work and back again,

their curves and hills

lodged in my muscles

like a dance.

A fall rain shower washes out the details, and

the well-traveled path transports me

to a vaguely nostalgic place.

A place located in my mind and outside it –

here and now, time expands

through being

in a particular place.

A foggy window on a winter morning

is the softly translucent  backdrop

for buds promising spring. Suddenly

I’m nostalgic for everything green and

warm and

pushing past barriers – the whole gestalt of

springs past and future,

is evoked by tiny, frail buds

holding their own against

winter’s stubborn grays.

Through the car window,

glowing in evening light, a bouquet

of summer:

Queen Ann’s Lace, White Sweet Clover, Honeysuckle…

their fragrance, their familiar names,

gathered again

from roadside waste places that I’ve memorized

over the years…

A petal


onto an old book.

Oozing nostalgia, it’s sepia pages provide

a pleasurable half


on a summer


I might sit here to read,


this nostalgia is borrowed.

I took the picture at an estate sale in a Connecticut seaside town..


cotton curtains


on a summer breeze;

the window screen


a small tear or two.

Flowers hide.

Another window screen,

another home – this screen

catching early spring raindrops.

As a child I gazed out windows,


my focus back and forth

between the details

of tiny screen grids –

and the big, beckoning outdoors,



A nostalgia of rainy roads:


the movement, the shimmering movement across space,

and through time,

until the membranes separating locations and times are thoroughly soaked

and dissolved

into nostalgia.



Take a look at this week’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, overflowing with nostalgia.

Companions – Boon and Otherwise

A “boon companion” is usually one with whom you have good times. There are many boon companions to be seen in readers’ contributions to the current Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, whose theme is “Companionable.”

My boon companion and I snapped a photo of our shadows one cold day in Manhattan:

These guys may not be boon companions, but they sure make an interesting pair:

I imagine these men that I noticed in a back alley in Seattle spend companionable time together every day – maybe not such productive time according to some people’s standards, but companionable nonetheless:

I’m not sure how much of a companion – boon or otherwise – this man thinks the Great Blue Heron that waits patiently beside him, hour after hour, really is:

On Captiva

These are most certainly boon companions – what trust – a calm face as the toenails are clipped:

Now, to throw a wrench into the flow of this post, did you know that gardeners talk about companion plants? Here’s a perfect example – only foliage, and what harmonious companionship they exhibit:

Back to a more typical view of companionship – this man can often be found playing his portable piano on the sidewalk outside Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  He plays as though there’s no better companion than his piano, and his music draws people whose companionship seems to grow deeper as they listen:

On a lighter note, these guys appear to be great companions too, don’t they?

Tomorrow another Weekly Photo Challenge will be posted. But meanwhile, there are a multitude of photos from last weeks challenge of companions to be found here.