Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where the Art Is

I had a delightful lunch today, surrounded by a large and diverse collection of stunning small art pieces created by women artists. No, I wasn't on vacation--and no, I wasn't in a local museum cafe. I was at the Junior League of San Antonio's very own Bright Shawl tea room, where I caught up with this year's Gallery Chair, Maria Downes, over enchiladas suizas and caprese sandwiches. Maria and I are kindred spirits--both of us are lucky to be following a creative pursuit, very different from our day jobs, as our JLSA placements this year. Although she is not an artist herself, Maria started collecting art when she was around 15 years old and even thought about scrapping her business degree for an art degree. One of her goals this year is to expose Bright Shawl patrons--many of whom are JLSA members--to a wide variety of art that is priced to inspire beginning a collection of one's own. Oil on canvas is her favorite medium, and she particularly enjoys still life paintings and florals, especially works with a "pop of color." Her Gallery Chair placement has afforded her the unique opportunity to meet artists in and around San Antonio, and to bring their works to The Bright Shawl for us to enjoy while we gather for lunch or wait for a meeting. While our former Gallery Chair, Michelle Anderson, is responsible for the placement of the current collection, I think the current works on display certainly fall within Maria's vision for the Gallery this year.

I was amazed by the variety of pieces in the collection, "Summer Small Works," curated by Sylvia Benitez, President and Founder of the Gentileschi Aegis Gallery Association, that is currently on display--from simple black and white charcoals to glossy, complex, colorful abstract pieces, there is something for everyone. There are classic pieces and portraits, landscapes, mixed media and watercolors. There are pieces with subdued colors and pieces that are bold and vibrant. Maria and I agreed that San Antonio newcomer Jennifer Polnaszek's two portraits were among two of our favorites. Here is Polnaszek's provocative "Girl in a Doorway," which can also be found on her website here.

I was particularly intrigued by an abstract piece by local artist Elizabeth Williams titled "Pink," and I enjoyed the beachy colors and textures of a pair of paintings by Ruth Mulligan. I was older than Maria when I started my modest art collection of images of the Alamo, but looking at the various works currently on display made me think about what my next art purchase might be. 

"Summer Small Works" will be on display until August 13, and Maria has some exciting and intriguing shows planned on the horizon. Her friend, Emeka Okoro, a Nigerian artist, will be showing his work in the Gallery in the near future, and The Royal Canvas Painting Parlor will provide an upcoming collection of fanciful paintings created by children and adults. For now, make plans to stop by The Bright Shawl for lunch or a Happy Hour glass of wine tomorrow, July 25, for the monthly "Wine Down Wednesday," from 5pm to 8pm, and immerse yourself in a fascinating array of pieces by a diverse group of female artists. You may just be inspired to start a collection of small works of your very own!

Do you have a favorite piece or artist from the current collection in the Gallery? Comment below!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Getting Ready for the JLSA Golf Tournament:

"Fore" JLSA Lady Golfers Share Their Love of the Game

I don't golf. I have golfed, but I'm not a golfer. That being said, I've always been drawn to the game. My grandmother, Martha Westmoreland, was an avid golfer. She loved the game. In a seemingly odd pairing, my dad and his mother-in-law (my grandmother; "Mammaw" was what I called her) would play together almost every Sunday at Onion Creek Country Club when I was in college at UT. Given my Mammaw's true athletic prowess and passion for the game, I always assumed that I would eventually pick it up. Two full time professional careers (mine and my husband's), volunteering, twin teenage stepsons and two busy young daughters later, my golf clubs are still sitting in the closet, patiently waiting for me!

Did you know that our immediate past President of the JLSA, Gretchen Garceau-Kragh, is an avid golfer? Here she is with her husband on the links in Vancouver!

Gretchen, along with several other JLSA members, told me a little about their love of the game and imparted some words of wisdom for those of us who have thought about venturing on to the golf course. Janet Peavy, this year’s Fund Development Council Chair, learned to love golf while she was working at her first job out of college. She quickly discovered that playing golf was a great way to get to know the executives in her company. Melissa Unsell, Vice Chair of Membership Engagement and Retention, played her first round of golf at the Mission Hills Course in Rancho Mirage, California, where the Kraft Nabisco LPGA Championship is played. While it was a tough day for Melissa and not the ideal course for a beginner, she says she was “completely hooked.” This year’s Sustainer Liaison, Lesley Vernor, started playing golf in high school but then took a 15 year break and started playing again when she met her husband. Gretchen says she learned to play golf before she was born! Her mom played golf until she was 8 months pregnant with Gretchen. “When she could not see the ball any more, she stopped,” Gretchen says. Gretchen played off and on with her dad, brother, and grandfather when she was a little girl, but she really picked it up again when she got out of college.

JLSA golfers have played courses all over the world! Janet loves Bearpath in Eden Prairie, Minnesota (a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course) and has played in a couple of tournaments there. Melissa’s absolute favorite course is Luana Hills on the island of Oahu—she calls it the “Jurassic Park of golf courses” because you are surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains and the rain forest. Lesley played Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, last year for her wedding anniversary. Located right along the edge of the Pacific Ocean, she says the course is beautiful. Gretchen has played a variety of courses across the country and is planning a trip to Australia in October and possibly Scotland (the birthplace of golf) in 2013.

Melissa Unsell playing Luana Hills.

Our profiled JLSA golfers identified a variety of reasons why they love the game. Janet loves that golf combines strategy, athletics and social skills. “Depending on who you play with, it can be a fun, casual afternoon or a really competitive outing,” she says. Melissa loves that no matter how many lessons she has had, she can go out on the course and have an “off” day or an “on” day—you just never know with golf. She says, “The game will definitely test your mental stamina. Even if you play the same course over and over, the game is always different.” Similarly, Lesley says golf is something she can do with her husband or girlfriends, and it’s always a challenge to improve each time she plays. Gretchen says that golf “is a sport that I will be able to play, hopefully, well into my 80s and beyond. It is a sport I can play with my parents, my husband and now my niece and nephew.” 

What words of advice do our JLSA golfers have for you if you’re thinking about picking up a club? According to Janet, “Take the time to get at least a few lessons from a pro. There are a lot of little things you can do to make your game better—things that are next to impossible to pick up yourself unless you have someone else watching and critiquing you.” Lesley also suggests taking lessons, “otherwise, you will just get frustrated and quit.” According to Lesley, “There are about 100 things to remember each time you hit the ball. You should learn the 100 basics from the very beginning.” According to Gretchen, if you are looking to learn the game, “first take lessons from someone other than your husband! Also, look at joining a women’s golf league that has women at different golfing abilities. Take the time to learn the rules of the game. Last, don’t be intimidated when you go out to play on a Saturday or Sunday and you are the only woman on the course. It is such a thrill when you hit a great shot and you shut all the guys up who were watching and waiting for you to chunk your shot into the woods.”

After hearing all of these wise words from some wonderful women about the sport, I feel inspired to dust off my clubs and hit the course! Are you with me? If you’re ready, register (or encourage your golfing friends!) to play in the JLSA’s inaugural Golf Tournament at TPC San Antonio! Click here for more information.