Dramatic Live Steam Show Envelops Virginia Museums

The restored 611 arrives in downtown Roanoke behind the art museum

The restored 611 arrives in downtown Roanoke behind the art museum

For the last month, crowds in western Virginia have been turning out in droves to see the dramatic result of engineering, technology, and determination by several museums and volunteers to resurrect the biggest, fastest passenger steam locomotive to live out its former glory on the Norfolk & Western Railroad. If the CEO of Norfolk Southern hadn’t sold his Rothko in New York in 2013 and donated $1.5 million of its record-breaking proceeds, this amazing steam revival might not have happened.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation is celebrating the culmination of efforts to “Fire Up the 611” and let this 100-mile-per-hour wonder rip through the foothills of the Blue Ridge and points east all month and hopefully into the future.

Waiting for the 611 at Evington, Virginia on its debut run

Waiting for the 611 at Evington, Virginia on its debut run

As the 611 made its way from its rehab yard at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina, people lined the tracks to see the newly refurbished 1950s streamlined locomotive pull 17 passenger cars loaded with fans 140 miles north to its new home in Roanoke.

The celebration of 611’s return has been going on all month, as the locomotive keeps making runs to Petersburg, Lynchburg, Radford, and other Virginia towns. The 611’s Twitter feed lets everyone know when to expect it, although the piercing steam whistle and roaring sound are also sufficient alerts to anyone in a five-mile radius. Listen to its sounds on our Flickr video of its 45-mph pass through one lucky town and see photos its Roanoke arrival.

Inside the O. Winston Link Museum, showcasing Link’s spectacular photographs of the last days of steam on the Norfolk & Western Railroad

Inside the O. Winston Link Museum, showcasing Link’s spectacular photographs of the last days of steam on the Norfolk & Western Railroad

The 611 and its 13 sister locomotives (Norfolk & Western J Class) were produced after 1941 and pulled passenger trains through Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee until the late 1950s – around the same time that Rothko painted the canvas that would later benefit the 611’s resurrection. Since it’s retirement, this coal-fired steam engine mostly sat in the yard at the Roanoke museum, but had a brief comeback in the 1980s making a few tourist rail runs.

Norfolk Southern initiated a “21st Century Steam” initiative, and volunteers at the Roanoke museum began the “Fire Up the 611!” campaign. The NS CEO decided to jump-start the initiative with the $1.5 million from the Rothko sale, and volunteers put in over 8,000 hours to bring the magnificent machine back to life.

611 parked next to the O. Winston Link Museum

611 parked next to the O. Winston Link Museum

When the 611 steamed into downtown Roanoke on May 30, it stopped for photos and an official welcome right behind Roanoke’s contemporary at museum and in front of the O. Winston Link Museum, housing the work of one of the most acclaimed railway photographers of the 20th century in the former Norfolk & Western Railway Building.

Link, a Brooklyn-born commercial photographer, fell in love with steam locomotives that he knew were rapidly being replaced by diesel. He not only innovated nighttime lighting gear to capture dramatic shots of the steam giants coursing through the hills and crossroads of West Virginia and Virginia. Link recorded their sounds as well – recordings that continued to sell well for decades. Catch a glimpse of Link’s gorgeous images, equipment and recordings on our Flickr site.

Link’s 1960s portrait of steam locomotive fireman, Joe Estes

Link’s 1960s portrait of steam locomotive fireman, Joe Estes

After finishing its July runs, the 611 will be on display in the museum yard in Roanoke, parked alongside other giants of steam.

 

Enlightenment through Gems

Center of 8-in. ritual offering dish made in 17th-18th c. Nepal

Turquoise Dhurga defeats a dragon in the center of 8-in. ritual offering dish (17th-18th c. Nepal)

It’s clear that wearing and giving precious (and semi-precious) gems can elevate the mind to higher levels of consciousness – at least in the minds of the Tibetan Buddhists – according to what you’ll see in Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, running through this weekend at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The curators feature some remarkable statues, ritual dancewear, mandalas, and arms in the show, but let’s focus on the jewel-encrusted mosaics, containers, and jewelry displayed in the corner of the second-floor gallery, estimated to date from the 17th to 20th centuries.

Tibetan Buddhism emerged over the centuries in a dry, dusty, seemingly barren but beautiful region where people’s own adornment or bright flags atop mountain passes seem to be the only bursts of color. Inside homes, personal shrines, and monastery temples hang intricate, colorful mandalas pictorially suggesting the path to enlightenment, often symbolized by brightly adorned temples.

Mrs. Tsarong and two ladies from Tsang wearing special-occasion jewelry and hats as photographed by C. Suydam Cutting in 1937. Courtesy: Newark Museum collection

Mrs. Tsarong and two ladies from Tsang sport special-occasion jewelry and hats near Lhasa in 1937. Photo: C. Suydam Cutting. Courtesy: Newark Museum

These conceptual centers of enlightenment are often thought of as colorful crystal palaces emblazoned with jewels – an attractive image to hold in one’s mind on the lifelong journey to this higher plane of existence. What better way to remember your goal than to contemplate bedazzling diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, quartz, pearls, amber, coral, lapis lazuli, and turquoise?

To honor one’s journey to enlightenment, wealthy Tibetans often donated jewels to temples to adorn statues of the deities or commissioned personal devotional objects. That’s why you see so many jewel-encrusted objects in the Met’s collection. Personal shrines had jewel mosaics jam-packed with a dazzling array of stones. Gigantic statues were adorned with jewel-encrusted ornaments and surrounded by similarly elaborate containers for offerings.

This Forehead Ornament for a Deity is only 8 inches long. Four celestial Buddhas are interspersed with diamonds

This Forehead Ornament for a Deity is only 8 inches long. Four celestial Buddhas are interspersed with diamonds

For special occasions, women sported accessories with amazing numbers of stones, reminding everyone of their social status, wealth, and devotion to an enlightened path.

Although some of the metal work was done in and around Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, the majority of the eye-popping jeweled settings were created across the border in Kathmandu, Nepal by Newari masters who created some of the most intricate visions in metal, wood, and paint ever known to the world. We’ve provided you with some close-up looks here and on our Flickr site. As shown, the result is a mix of Tibetan and Hindu imagery – typical of this region where so many cultural influences mix.

Densely packed diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, quartz, pearls, amber, coral, lapis, and turquoise in corner of Birth of the Buddha mosaic (18th-19th c. Nepal)

Densely packed diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, quartz, pearls, amber, coral, lapis, and turquoise in corner of Birth of the Buddha mosaic (18th-19th c. Nepal)

The Met’s own site for the objects in the show also allows you to zoom in on the details. Learn more about how the Met conserves such intricate jewel work in this blog post by an intern in the conservation department. See close-ups of how the Newaris set their gems.

Finally, explore Tibet as it was 100 years ago through this slideshow prepared for this show at the Met by the Newark Museum, which itself has a world-class collection of Tibetan objects and perhaps the largest collection of photographs of Tibetan people and temples from that time.

Lincoln Speaks at The Morgan

Lincoln reenactor visiting the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War Surrender, Appomattox Court House, April 2015

Lincoln reenactor visiting the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War Surrender, Appomattox Court House, April 2015

A grammar book, a book of math homework, dark romantic poetry, and required Shakespeare reading could be found in any literate teen’s bookshelf. In this case, they belong to Abraham Lincoln – key items that bring insight to his love of words, literature, and learning in the Morgan Library’s exceptional show, Lincoln Speaks: Words That Transformed a Nation, on view through June 7.

The show begins with Lincoln’s early books and poems, including those inspired by Mr. Poe’s The Raven, and presents drafts, manuscripts, letters, and the occasional photograph in a sequence that follows the trajectory of Mr. Lincoln’s life – campaigner, leader, emancipator, chief, and icon for the ages.

Follow along in the online version of the exhibition here and take a close look at some of the most important writings and objects in the show.

You’ll see Lincoln’s first use of the “house divided” reference and hear a reading his famous “house divided” speech (click here). Experience Lincoln’s ability to connect with the everyday voter by using clear, plain language.

Right Hand of Lincoln, a 1888 painted bronze cast by Leonard Volk, from original cast done in 1860 when Lincoln was nominated for President. Source: NYHS

Right Hand of Lincoln, a 1888 painted bronze cast by Leonard Volk, from original cast done in 1860 when Lincoln was nominated for President. Source: NYHS

The visual centerpiece of this unique tribute – a cast of Lincoln’s hands that were eventually scaled up for use in the Lincoln Memorial – is on loan from New-York Historical Society. Among other remarkable items are the Emancipation Proclamation and the first letter he wrote on April 2, 1865 at the fall or Richmond. It was to his wife, Mary, and ironically it would be the last she would receive.

The website and museum installation both feature terrific media and commentary, including an insightful documentary screening in the gallery.

Copy of life cast done by Leonard Volk of LIncoln in 1860. Source: NYHS

Copy of life cast done by Leonard Volk of LIncoln in 1860. Source: NYHS

The Civil War and the end of slavery are primary topics, of course, but looking at the handwriting, personal notes, and original writing provide significant insight to this monumentally important individual.

Although it’s not related to the exhibition, click here to see Lincoln, Grant, and other reenactors recreating the sights and sounds of the Civil War surrender at the 150th anniversary at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Saints in the ‘Hood in Brooklyn

Kehinde Wiley’s Saint Amelie in stained glass, 2014

Kehinde Wiley’s Saint Amelie in stained glass, 2014

Take a look at the saints as you’ve never seen them in Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic through this weekend at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

They’re not saints, exactly, but Mr. Wiley is asking you to look at the young African American men you pass in your everyday life in a slightly different way – through the lens of Byzantine icons and Medieval stained glass. The icons and would-be saints are magnificent, proud, and mysterious, just like his slightly earlier portraits that are grace the walls of Lucious Lyon’s mansion in the hit series Empire.

The Cantor Gallery is filled with these men of higher purpose, and the crowds love it. Bronze busts echo the 18th century marble work of Houdon, and visitors check them out from all angles.

The Archangel Gabriel, Wiley’s 22-karat gold leaf and oil on wood painting from his Iconic series

The Archangel Gabriel, Wiley’s 22-karat gold leaf and oil on wood painting from his Iconic series

Beyond this gallery, the curators have assembled a survey of Mr. Wiley’s 14-year career – dominated by his giant canvases in which guys from the neighborhood take on the heroic poses of European aristocrats and conquerors. In fact, when he began, Wiley would scan neighborhood streets for handsome, statuesque subjects and ask them if they would feel comfortable posing as other-era men of means in his painting studio. Those who said yes were asked to select the person they felt comfortable emulating from Wiley’s library of art books on European portraiture.

Elsewhere in the show are Wiley’s first-ever bronze sculpture of female subjects and selections from his world tour, where he found portrait subjects in Israel, Palestine, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. Check out some of the works in our Flickr feed and on the museum website.

Although it’s common to see a gigantic Wiley portrait in another museum these days, Brooklyn is proud that it was among the first to collect his work. If you journey to another floor, you’ll see a five-panel painting installed on a ceiling like some Renaissance master’s and several portraits from his Passing/Posing series in 2003.

If you can’t get to Brooklyn to see this show, let Mr. Wiley take you through the exhibition via video:

Plains Indians Wearable Art at The Met

1780 Plains Indian horned headdress assembled from a powerful mix of materials including bison horns, deer and horsehair, porcupine quills, glass beads, wood, metal cones, cotton cloth, silk ribbon, and paint. From the Musée du quai Branly in Paris

1780 Horned headdress assembled from a powerful mix from mighty bison , deer, and horse. From Musée du quai Branly in Paris.

With all the attention this week on the couture gowns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ball and Costume Institute show, don’t forget that some of the most elaborately embellished mixed-media wearable art is installed on the second floor in the expansive tribute, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, through this weekend.

The masterworks have been gathered from select European and North American collections and feature beadwork (mostly on leather), symbolic headdresses, and magical objects that directly telegraph the wearer’s connection to nature, the universe, and supernatural power.

The show was organized by the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, in collaboration with The Met, and in partnership with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, and features works from the 18th century through today (like the China exhibition in the other wing).

All-over beading on contemporary platform shoes by artist Jamie Okuma, 2014.

All-over beading on 2014 platform shoes by artist Jamie Okuma.

The curators track changes in materials, styles, and concerns of the Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Blackfeet, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, and Meskwaki nations from the time they dominated the Midwest through the demise of the buffalo, the great wars, the transition to reservation life, and participation in 21st century art and culture.

Take a read through the curators’ story on this exhibition site and see some of our favorite looks on our Flickr feed, where we’ve organized the pieces in chronological order. We’re giving you a close-up view of some of the bead, quill, and embroidery work. You can see the transition from more shamanistic embellishment to use of imported Venetian glass beads, to the all-over bead style, and finally to current creations, such as Jaime Okuma’s beaded platform shoes.

Central painting on large-scale Mythic Bird robe from the Illinois Confederacy, 1700-1740. Courtesy: Musée du quai Branly in Paris

Central painting on Mythic Bird robe, Illinois Confederacy, 1700-1740. Courtesy: Musée du quai Branly in Paris

Much of the painting and handwork was divided according to gender – men painted figures and women did the beadwork and painted the geometric forms. This beautiful robe with a geometric mythological bird is one of the earliest surviving large-scale paintings from Plains tribes, and the beaded geometry of the 1895 Crow wedding robe is another marvel.

Compare the mixed-media horned headdresses from 1780s Missouri with Chief Red Cloud’s dramatic all-business trophy-feathered war bonnet of 1865. The fluffy-feathered 1925 creation from Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center almost makes you wonder if that version were strictly for wild west shows.

It’s also interesting to learn that the powerful symbolic paintings on shirts and shields were essentially “owned” by their creators.

Close up of the tiny Venetian seed beads used to decorate a Lakota woman’s dress (Teton Sioux), 1865. From the Smithsonian’s NMAI

Tiny Venetian seed beads decorate a Lakota woman’s 1865 dress. From the Smithsonian’s NMAI

Similar to what we learned about 1920s French couture designers’ concerns about unlicensed copies in FIT’s recent Faking It show, anyone wanting to replicate a particular war shirt or shield, had to be granted formal permission. The Met exhibition explains that replication permission of Plains Indian designs were closely held and protected for generations.

A full database of the amazing objects in the show is on the Met’s website, as well as the complete audio guide to the exhibit on the museum’s Soundcloud site. As you click on the audio tracks, you’ll see a small thumbnail of the object.

Listen to curator Gaylord Torrence, explain how French culture and embroidery techniques collided with Plains Indians culture three hundred years ago to such magnificent result:

 

Bird Watching with Audubon: Forget the Binoculars

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), Havell plate no. 307, 1832

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), Havell plate no. 307, 1832

If you climb up to the second story of the New-York Historical Society to see Audubon’s birds, grab the magnifying glass right inside the gallery door. See the magnificent details painted by the watercolor master of all time in  Audubon’s Aviary: The Final Flight (Part III of The Complete Flock), running through this weekend.

NYHS is the lucky owner of every watecolor JJA produced to make his historic Birds of America subscription project in the early 1800s, which documented over 700 species.

Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber), Havell plate no. 397, 1837

Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber), Havell plate no. 397, 1837

The watercolor collection – from which engravings were made – is so large that NYHS had to split the exhibition into three parts. It’s a joy to look at the life-size paintings that Audubon produced through the magnifying lens, seeing the tiny brushstrokes on lush feathers and miniscule detail on the small hummingbirds.

Paintings featured in all three shows are hung in the sequence that JJA painted them. Although JJA traveled extensively throughout the East and South, he never actually saw birds west of the Missouri in the wild.

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), Havell plate no. 311

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), Havell plate no. 311

By the time Audubon began cranking out the watercolors needed for his final installment of his masterwork, lots of new birds were being discovered out West. Scrambling to keep up – after all, he committed to documenting every American bird – he accessed specimens collected by recent Western expeditions, Lewis & Clark’s trove, and other American specimens archived in Europe.

He holed up in Charleston, South Carolina in the winter of 1836 and worked, worked, worked to finish all the watercolors, which would be shipped to Mr. Havell in the UK for engraving.

How did Mr. Auduon’s studio work compare to the real thing? See for yourself in this bird-watching documentary shown inside the gallery. The birds featured are from the previous installation of the exhibit, including the rare, rambunctious Prairie Chicken at 1:25.

For more, go to the show’s excellent website, explore some of JJA’s works in more depth, and listen to the bird calls for the exhibition, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

On Kawara: Time and Life as Art

On Karawa always wanted to see his work on the timeless, spiritual spiral ramps of the Guggenheim and got his wish. Photo by David Heald

On Karawa always wanted to see his work on the Guggenheim’s timeless, spiritual spiral ramps. Photo by David Heald

Back in the 1970s, you couldn’t find a language-art or Conceptual art exhibition without the enigmatic world traveler On Kawara. Sometimes you would see canvases with a single day’s date, but other times you might encounter a single telegram sent from a major world city with simply the message: “I am still alive.”

The Guggenheim is paying tribute to this favorite through the weekend in its show On Kawara – Silence, and has done a magnificent job of displaying and interpreting the life work of an artist who always appeared barely there. Although he was fully immersed in the New York art scene, he seemed always to be on the go, traveling to some other major world capital. He managed to make art out of this peripatetic life.

Visitors peruse On Karawa’s Today series paintings and peer into their newspaper-lined storage boxes below. Photo by David Heald

Visitors peruse On Karawa’s Today series paintings and peer into their newspaper-lined storage boxes below. Photo by David Heald

Indeed, at one point in his early life he thought he might like to be a travel agent, but an immersion in the ancient cave paintings of Altamira changed that. He decided to dedicate himself to art and set upon a unique course.

At the start of the walk up the spiral ramp, you encounter his Today series – a continuous set of rectangle canvases, painted each day with the day’s date, beginning with January 1, 1970. Over the next four decades, he would create more than 3,000 of these. In a twist, the Guggenheim displays many with its associated storage box that the artist assembled each day when he was done, lined with the newspaper from the same day.

From the I Got Up postcard series. Photo by David Heald

From the I Got Up postcard series. Photo by David Heald

Although the artist never intended the paintings to be shown with the storage boxes, the throngs of visitors have quite a time looking at the date and then peering down to see what else was happening in the world that day – for example, Golda Meir’s proclamations about Israeli-Egyptian standoffs, desegregation in the South, the Chicago Seven trial, and Vincent Canby reviews.

It’s stunning to see the assemblage of tourist postcards that he sent at the rate of two per day to friends and colleagues with the stamped inscription I Got Up Today with a time stamp of his rising. Travel and personal routine systematized and packaged into a series of projects he carried out from 1968 through 1979.

He didn’t want the moments or people to pass as he journeyed throughout the world, so he began the series I Met. He noted every single person he met every day for twelve years – friends, artists, waiters, store clerks – and typed their names on pieces of paper that were time-stamped and bound into books.

Viewers peruse a fraction of the 1,800 postcards that On Kawara sent to document the time he got up at various cities in his travels. Photo by David Heald

Viewers peruse a fraction of the 8,000 postcards that On Kawara sent to document the time he got up at various cities in his travels. Photo by David Heald

It’s amazing to encounter the bound volumes on the ramp, visitors circling the extensive set wondering what it must have been like to carry out this level of life documentation.

The curators explain more in the video below about how On Kawara took on monumental projects to translate his day-to-day life, travels, and schedule into the art that fills this meditative, peaceful, and mind-expanding show:

See more views of this thought-provoking installation here. For more curator videos, click here.

Benton’s Freebie Masterpiece at The Met

Viewer contemplates “The Changing West” panel of Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today mural (1930-1931)

Met visitor contemplates “The Changing West” panel of Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today mural (1930-1931)

When times get tough, did you ever take on a job or make something for free just to build up your resume and showcase what you could do? That’s exactly what one New York up-and-comer did, and it really paid off. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show, Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘America Today’ Mural Rediscovered, tells the story.

Back in 1930, the New School was just completing its modern building in the Village on West 12th Street and was seeking something to jazz up the boardroom.

“City Activities with Subway” portion of America Today based on his portrait sketches

“City Activities with Subway” portion of America Today based on his portrait sketches. (It’s Pollack’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth)

Mr. Orozco, the famed Mexican muralist, had already been commissioned for the more visible dining room/lounge, and Mr. Benton, who was teaching at the Art Students League, saw an opportunity to showcase his painting chops.

Social realist chronicler Reginald Marsh had introduced Benton to the mysteries of mastering egg tempera, and Benton felt ready to go to town on a large-scale portrait of American life in all of its regional glory. Here’s the deal: no pay, just loft studio space about a block away.

Twenty years earlier, Benton had hung around Paris, soaking up the birth of the French Cubist and Italian Futurist movements in Europe. Ten years earlier, he roamed around the back roads of the United States, filling up sketchbooks with steel town landscapes, lumber camps, oil derricks popping up in Los Angeles, dives, diners, and small town stuff.

“Steel” portion of the mural, featuring model Jackson Pollack, Benton’s student

“Steel” portion of the mural, featuring model Jackson Pollack, Benton’s student

The mural began taking shape, crammed to the gills with swirling activities, people, industry, and pop culture that he saw. Need models? Why not ask Jackson Pollack, his art student, and his sister to pose?

It’s hard to imagine serious board meetings taking place in a room so alive with oversized ambition and action. Over the decades, the New School repurposed the room for classroom lectures, and over time, the scuffed mural was removed completely.

Lucky for us, Benton’s 1930s historic masterpiece found its way to the Met, which has lovingly restored and installed it in a rectangular room just beyond the Frank Lloyd Wright room.

The curators have filled the adjacent galleries with extra treats: the inspirational sketches from Benton’s earlier road trips and works by Mr. Pollack and Benton’s Village contemporaries.

See our Flickr album to glimpse the installation (and works by early Pollack, Abbott, Marsh from the Met’s collection), and watch the Met curators tell the story of how Mr. Benton’s freebie paid off and their joy in giving this ten-panel chronicle a new home.

Reverent Ceramic Master Honored in NC

Hiroshi’s “Twin Vase”, a monumental 2002 stoneware sculpture with crawl glaze

Hiroshi’s Twin Vase, a monumental 2002 stoneware sculpture with crawl glaze

Known for a strong pottery tradition, North Carolina’s Cameron Art Museum is paying tribute to a Japanese ceramic expert in Hiroshi Sueyoshi: Master of Reverence through September 6.

As a young artist who apprentices with ceramic masters of 1960s Japan, he was advised by folk artist Shoji Hamada to see as much of the world as he could before he turned 25.

In the early 1970s, he came to Asheboro to help build a pottery, trained with Japanese ceramic-artist ex-pats, worked at Seagrove, and landed teaching jobs at several North Carolina colleges.

By the end of the decade, he relocated to Wilmington, teaching and serving as an artist-in-resident at the Museum.

Although the show features the full scope of Hiroshi’s work, it exhibits the work of the ceramic artists who influenced him. Works by Rita Duckworth, Isamu Noguchi, Peter Voulkos, and Shoji Hamada are shown side-by-side with his own, demonstrating the tradition upon which he draws.

Rock Garden, a 2014 interpretation of a Zen garden made with hand-built “rocks”. He wants the viewer to be conscious of their surroundings

Rock Garden, Hiroshi’s 2014 interpretation of a Zen garden made with hand-built “rocks”.

Landscapes, biomorphic shapes, streams, voids, spirals, crackled surfaces, and Zen gardens – you’ll see and feel it all as you slowly work through the galleries. Find power in Hiroshi’s simplicity and lots of detail upon closer inspection.

The sculptures echoes of the primitive power of Brancusi and installations evoke the meditative calm of the Rothko Chapel. The museum has even hung up some of the coverings that Hiroshi uses for his pottery tables on the wall in the back gallery. Their subtle dust-ground, worked surfaces feel like subtle, magical Twombly atmospheres. So, even Hiroshi’s work cloths feel like art.

If you can’t make it to see this beautiful work in Wilmington, take a stroll through our Flickr site.

Biomorphic 2009 wall sculpture Blossom. Stoneware with crater and crawl glaze. Courtesy: New Hanover Library

Biomorphic 2009 wall sculpture Blossom. Stoneware with crater and crawl glaze. Courtesy: New Hanover Library

Ennion: Luxury Tableware at The Met

Two identical one-handled Ennion jugs from different sites. On right, the only Ennion piece with an intact foot, 1st c. A.D.

Two identical one-handled Ennion jugs from different sites. On right, the only Ennion piece with an intact foot, 1st c. A.D.

It’s unlikely that you have any of this sought-after designer’s pieces accompanying your best table setting or that the MAD Museum has any of his hand-blown, molded glassworks in their collection.

Two thousand years before ABC Carpet began retailing high-end home goods on Broadway and Martha Stewart branded her at-home lifestyle line, a Mediterranean craftsman in Sidon, Lebanon (then Phoenecia) created a line that every aspiring tastemaker in the Roman Empire just had to have. The Metropolitan Museum of Art pays tribute to his output in Ennion: Master of Roman Glass, on view just off the Greek-Roman study galleries through April 12.

Who needs old-fashioned metal cups or pottery jugs on the well-laid Roman table when Ennion was creating stunning cobalt-blue and transparent glass equivalents?

Two-handled cup, with Ennion’s Greek brand (“Ennion made this/it”). Blown glass into mold, 1st c. A.D. Courtesy: Turin museum; other by private collector

Two-handled cup, with Ennion’s Greek brand (“Ennion made this/it”). Blown glass into mold, 1st c. A.D. Courtesy: Turin museum; other by private collector

Ennion’s workshop was on the cutting edge of a manufacturing-and-craft revolution – blowing glass into decorative molds (which took the guesswork out of creating place settings for four, six, or ten) and exporting sets for sale throughout The Empire.

Ennion’s competitors were doing the same, but Ennion of Sidon had the big brand emblazoned on his work, working it into the design in the same way that MK, DKNY, DVF or YSL do today. His logo was written in Greek, the universal language of the first century: ““Ennion made me/it.” Scholars reckon that it was all made and exported from Sidon, a first-century glassmaking powerhouse, since none of Ennion’s molds featured a bilingual brand.

After two millennia, only about 50 of Ennion’s gorgeous works remain, and the Met’s show has assembled about half that amount from its own collection (courtesy of master-collector J. Pierpont Morgan), the Corning Museum, private collections, and other museums of antiquities in Israeli and Europe.

Non-Ennion glass jug made in a four-part mold; right, a two-handled amphora blown into a three-part mold, ist c. A.D. Source: The Met

Non-Ennion glass jug made in a four-part mold, 1st c. A.D. Source: The Met

In addition to Sidon, Ennion’s output has been found in excavations of ancient homes in places as far flung as Jerusalem, Croatia, Italy, and Spain. The Met’s team has had fun displaying glassware from identical molds next to one another, despite the fact that pairs were discovered thousands of miles from each other at different archeological sites.

Check out the Met’s beautiful tribute to a master artist on our Flickr feed.