Museum Sketchbook: The Habsburgs

habsburg_journal I've been anticipating the Houston Museum of Fine Art's "Habsburg Splendors" exhibit since it was announce a year ago. One of my favorite paintings is on display: Jupiter and Io by Correggio, along with other treasures collected by the Habsburg monarchy. There are some fascinating pieces of armor, including this red coral-hilted ceremonial sword: utterly impractical, but gorgeous. I hope to visit again before the exhibit leaves in September.

Other news! I now have prints for sale of my recent work at my new Inprnt shop.

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Inprnt has been recommended to me by several other artists, and I'm very happy with the quality of a print I ordered from them. They print in-house, check for color accuracy, and all prints are on 100% cotton rag acid-free paper.

At the moment my puppets and some older prints of children's illustrations are still available on Etsy.

Museum Sketchbook: Mysteries of Sanxingdui

This past Sunday my sister-in-law gave birth to her first child. While she was in labor, I paced the halls of the Houston Museum of Natural Science waiting for news. I felt like I had to keep moving-- as if that would speed my sister-in-law's labor along. I'd already planned to visit the museum that day, since a new exhibit, The Mysteries of Sanxingdui: China's Lost Civilization, had just opened.

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I walked and sketched and prayed for the baby's safe delivery in the company of some of the oddest works of art I have ever encountered. I have never seen anything like these bizarre bronze statues. Apparently the archaeologists haven't seen anything like them either, because the information for each piece was very vague: "We think this is a religious artifact," or "this wheel might symbolize the sun."

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On the upper left is one of my favorites, a smiling head the size of a boulder with two pillars jutting out of its eyes. Perhaps the pillars symbolized a gimlet gaze, or all-seeing eyes. My father suggested maybe this was a torture victim with spikes driven through his skull. If so, this head is the happiest torture victim ever, because it's definitely smiling.

I was also struck by the consistency of design. The ears had the same curls, the eyes and jaws the same lines and geometric angles. I'm no archaeologist, but these pieces look as if they were designed by the same artist, or at least came from the same "design studio", or the ancient Chinese equivalent. The muppets created by the Jim Henson Company all have a family resemblance. Tim Burton's films all have that creepy Burtonesque flavor. These bronze oddities have that same feeling.

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All in all, a great exhibit. And my niece, Henrietta Mae, was welcomed into the world at 2:39PM EST:

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Samurai Sketches

On Sunday I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to visit their new samurai exhibit. My scant knowledge of samurai came mostly from video games, so I knew they carried a sword called a katana and cared a lot about Honor and Duty. Thanks to my younger brother's passion for Japanese culture (and those video games), I'd also heard of bushido. I hoped the exhibit would fill in a few of the blanks. samuraisketch2

The exhibit had some fascinating pieces, but it was disappointingly small (especially for the current price, $25 for non-members and $12 for members). Only two rooms of artifacts, and so dimly lit that it was impossible to see fine detail. I have no idea why the HMHS keeps some of their exhibits so dark. Even the spotlights on the displays are dim.

And no, I don't have cataracts.

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I was fascinated by the helmets (properly termed kabuto). On the left is a sketch of a fish-helmet. The fish is a creature called a sachihoko, and it has the head of a tiger and body of a carp. Apparently they were supposed to cause rain to fall.

On the right is a sketch of the most evil looking tortoise I've ever seen, another kabuto decoration. Evil Tortoise had fangs and claws and a nasty grin.

There was also a helmet with huge bunny ears. I regret not sketching that one.

If anyone is interested in seeing more crazy kabuto, I have quite a few pinned to my Arms & Armour board.