American summers: Lasting Images

Today, I sort of mused about  my days of working for the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka — the rush before 4th of July to supply articles to the newspapers for their supplement, and all the people that I got to know at that time.  This post is a little memento of a lasting friendship forged with Delores Boyer during that period and stregthened through the years  that followed .   It barely suffices for the many summer days of meandering through museuems, art galleries and the time and effort she took to introduce me to a variety of art and artefacts.


She knew where to go, what to see, I gladly followed imbibing as much as I could .  There was the newly opened Newseum, (there is a half written blog piece somewhere) , the Afghan Treasures exhibition.  the Dega’s little dancer, the Washington Cathedral, the American Indian museum  etc– the question was to select–what shall we see, what are the must see exhibits come rain or sunshine, when and how do I catch the light for a photograph, admire an archetectural feature etc, etc. Of all the images and the photos taken,  here’s a few that stand out…

 Dale Chihuly’s  Glass boat at the National Garden, Washington DC, 2007

Dale Chihuly’s hand blown glass in a boat at the National Garden, Washington DC, 2007. Photograph copyright Chulie de Silva












In 2007, She introduced me to Dale Chihuly and his hand blown glass — left on a boat in the open air at the entrance to the National botanical garden !!! Later I learned that he had been doing these since 1995, inspired by Finnish children who would gather the blown glass he had thrown into the Nuutajoki river.

Last year, I was introduced to the world of Martin Puryear  —  a Washington-born artist who works with wood that he apparently coaxes into various forms and shapes.  Many weeks after my return to Colombo, Delores sent me a catalogue from another exhibition of Puryear’s work  and I saw that he uses unconventional materail such as tar, wire, mesh, rawhide and rattan for his sculpture.

This is his Ad Astra  that I saw —   The body  of the wagon is made from various woods, a sort of a fusion of ash, sitka spruce, hickory and pine, says the catalogue and a large handle spike reaches out to the sky.   A sort of wagon that might have suited Jack  for going up the beanstalk.  And as always I marvelled at the positioning of objects  of art at American museums and  how they optimize and create the  display space — one can view this piece from two floors at different angles.  Viewed from down it looks as if it reaches out to the sky.

Ad Astra 2007, Martin Puryear  Photograph@ Chulie de Silva

Ad Astra 2007, Martin Puryear Photograph@ Chulie de Silva


Delores reading near the Ad Astra
Delores reading near the Ad Astra 

















Then there was Leonardo’s portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci– one of the “must sees” as it is the only one of his work in America.

Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci                                                                      Photographs@ Chulie de Silva

Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci 1474/1478. Photograph@ Chulie de Silva


 The caption said the rather standoffish looking young Florentine lady was much admired by her contemporaries for her culture, beauty and character.  “She sits beside a juniper bush, an evergreen that not only provides a dark foil to enhance her pale features but also alludes to Ginevra’s name: the Italian for juniper is ginepro.”


Interestingly the back of the portrait frame is also on display.  The back panel has  a wreath of laurel and palm branches encircling a juniper sprig .  Entwined around the palm branches is a scroll with a Latin inscription meaning “Beauty adorns virtue.” 

Back of the Ginevra Portrait.  Photographs@ Chulie de Silva

Back of the Ginevra Portrait. Photograph@ Chulie de Silva

Together the plants and the text are supposed to present an emblematic portrait of Ginevra;. We are told that the laurel and palm are common symbols for intellectual and moral virtue, and it is the latin word for beauty that artfully twines about the juniper.



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Text & Photographs@ Chulie de Silva