Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DON'T Miss the Zorn Show(s)!

If you haven't yet made it out to the Legion of Honor for the Anders Zorn show, you'd better get a move on. The show closes on Sunday, Feb. 2nd, and of course it is much better than any old silly Superbowl game could ever be.  So rearrange your weekend and make that journey way, way out to the nether lands of San Francisco.

You will be impressed. Especially with his watercolors (heck, I didn't even know he did watercolors. I thought he mostly did society portraits like John Singer Sargent).

Elsa Gonzalez Zorn
There is another Zorn worth knowing about, who also is a marvelous painter in both watercolor and oils. She is Elsa Gonzalez Zorn, not Swedish, but Spanish with a German mother. We met at my best guy's painting workshop in Italy this past fall. She was a star.

In Elsa's family, there is a clear understanding that it is a very good possibility that Anders Zorn is part of their tribe. In her own words:

Anders Zorn's father was Johann Leonhard Zorn, German Beer businessman, and, as you know, he never had the chance to meet him. Apparently, this affected him all his life, as we can read in his autobiographical notes. Anders' mother was a worker in the beer company and she became a single mother, so she had to work hard while raising the child.

As Anders was born in 1860, his father would be related to my mom's great-grandfather Zorn. That part of my family came from the very East of Germany, the Prussian part, which nowadays would be Poland. I have asked my mom many times about the origins of this name, since it is not a very common name, not even in Germany. She says that there is no information at all, because everything was destroyed during Germany's sad history before and during WWII.

I have been asked so may times if I am related to him, mainly at the Art Students league in NY, and I always said no. Now I see there is no way to know, so I think I will leave a door open to the possibility, as my mom says, it could be and no one can prove the opposite. :)  And I prefer that version, too.

To view Elsa's paintings, visit Siempre nos quedara (We will always be here)
And to see her films, visit ACIB: Elsa Gonzalez Zorn

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Good Use of Fame and Fortune?

Collect art. Own a large tract of land in the Napa Valley, use it, live on it, grow stuff on it, even plant your art collection all over it. Then turn it into a museum. With your name on it: di Rosa. Strange, though. It seems that it used to be known as the "di Rosa Preserve." I guess those two extra syllables just didn't measure up.

At any rate, the di Rosas did a damn fine job. I can't say that I appreciated all of the objects in the collection, but I did enjoy the experience.
To visit the preserve you will need to sign up for a tour. But no worries, our tour group had a total of three people and a knowledgeable, albeit a bit chatty, guide.

di Rosa participates in the Discover and Go programs of both the Oakland and the Berkeley public libraries, so reserve your tickets that way and save a chunk of dough.

Then you can spend it all on a fancy lunch after the tour...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Rain, Rain, Please Come Again, Any Day

Yeah, yeah, everyone talks about the weather, but these days when you're talking small with friends and neighbors, it's not really about the weather. It's about the rain. And its total lack. And how, even though we are into the new year, there still is that "wait-wait" look and feel of November: the anticipation of those winter storms that will clean out the air and the streets, perk up the plants and make going to the matinee on a dreary, wet afternoon great fun.

Oakland registered just shy of 4 inches of rain for 2013 (the Gobi Desert averages 7.6 inches). Typically, the annual rainfall for Oakland is somewhere around 23 inches. So that's a big gap, from 4 to 23 inches. That's even too big for grade inflation to disguise.

For 2014, who knows? The Old Farmer's Almanac is predicting January to have 8 inches of rain; it also predicted 2 inches in December and we got slightly over 1/2 inch, so don't go hunting for the umbrella quite yet.

Even though we can talk about "average" annual precipitation, the Northern Californian climate is characterized by enormous variations in rainfall from year to year. Not surprisingly, the climate change experts expect it to only get worse - intense winter storm seasons (think floods and landslides) alternating with very dry years. Oh jolly.

What to do? Since going through life without a shower is not an option around here, I'm considering:

Learning how to harvest the rainwater,
Building a water cistern like the ancients, or maybe even,
Practicing the art of Native American rain dances.