Sunday, April 12, 2015

Birthday No. 45

Following up on last year's memorable birthday, I thought I would share some highlights of birthday no. 45, which took place on Friday evening. My birthday celebration actually began last weekend, when AA & I took an overnight trip to Philadelphia, which was nice and relaxing. We have, of course, been there a few other times before, but this time I booked tickets for our first visit to the Barnes Foundation, the art museum established by private collector Albert Barnes, with its heavy emphasis on late 19th- and early 20th-century French modernist art. The Paul Cézanne still life you see here, from 1892-94, is just one of the many beautiful paintings by this artist in the collection. In contrast, Barnes clearly also liked Renoir and as a result there are way too many really bad Renoirs there too. I was surprised, however, by the number of paintings by Modigliani and Prendergast, that were all quite good. The reason why one goes to the Barnes, however, is to see his extraordinary installations, mandated by his bequest to be remained as such, for future learning experiences. His eye was based on formal elements: line, color, composition, etc. Subject was irrelevant. As a result, Barnes liked to hang things based on balance and harmonic influences, so one sees arrangements that often seem bizarre with mixed small and large paintings hung crowded together, and with metal ornamental objects like door hinges and scissors hung to balance the linear structure of the paintings. There is a method to the madness, and the more one learns about Barnes and his vision of looking at art, one realizes what a fascinating museum it truly is. The foundation itself did a rather controversial thing in moving the museum from his home in Merion, PA to downtown Philadelphia near the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), but their new building, which opened in 2012 and was designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, is an example of gorgeous, organic architecture, and the rooms have been retained in their original installations. This is definitely worth a visit if one has never been. We also visited the Rodin Museum, which has the largest collection of works by Auguste Rodin outside of Europe, and we also strolled through a few galleries at the PMA too. We also enjoyed strolling through historical neighborhoods like Society Hill, with its delightfully charming 18th-century colonial homes, and the downtown areas near Rittenhouse Square.

My actual birthday was this past Friday, so I took the day off from work. I was suffering from bad hayfever, but fought through it to get my haircut, then eat a delicious lunch with my artist-friend MT. I received in the mail a gift from the PR-AMs: a beautifully illustrated book by Cynthia Mills entitled Beyond Grief: Sculpture and Wonder in the Gilded Age Cemetery. That evening AA & I first met up with my friend JHC and her adorable son D for a glass of wine and charcuterie. Then we had a stylishly hipster dinner of tapas & dim sum at Ma Peche in midtown. My birthday gift? A new iPhone 6! (Oh, how I love that man of mine!) I'm still just getting the hang of it, so I doubt I will write a technology review as I've done in the past, but the phone is fantastic. On Saturday, our friend AR arrived from Zurich, and last night the boys (AR, DM, JM, DC, AA and moi) got together for drinks at Therapy and then dinner at Maria Pia in Hell's Kitchen (veal saltimbocca...molto buono). All these festivities will continue some more on Tuesday when KB arrives to stay at my apartment, and we have a group post-birthday dinner with a few other friends.

But gets better. In a few days I leave for Italia. I'm going to see family for a few days, reconnecting with them after my father's passing. Then AA is flying over with the DPG-JBs, and I am meeting them in Rome. After we visit the Eternal City, we head to Florence, and then a final day in Milan before heading home. It's going to be such a great vacation. I can't believe I haven't been to Italy since June 2009 (about which I blogged here). The image you see here was taken by me back then as well, and shows a view of the Ponte Sant'Angelo with sculptures by GianLorenzo Bernini, taken from the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome.

As festive as all of this is, I think the most important part of aging and celebrating each passing year is the reflection on our lives, all of our accomplishments, and all the lessons we continue to learn each day. In thanking everyone on Facebook for their wonderful birthday wishes, I wrote the following message, and I hope it has some poignancy for anyone who reads it here as well: "Thanks, everyone, for the wonderful birthday wishes!! Having now reached the 45th anniversary of my birth, I'm starting to accept all those things, good + bad, that accompany the beginning of my 'middle-aged' years (note that I said beginning!!). Gray hair + a few extra pounds aren't that traumatic, I really don't sweat the small stuff like I used to, I've learned through difficult losses, but also with great love, that life IS about the ups + downs and learning how to ride those waves without falling, and--the one lesson I try to remind myself each day--there is truly nothing more important in our lives than the moments we are living right now. I look forward to more of life's lessons as I continue maturing gracefully."

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