Category Archives: Events

Artomatic 2017, and the Joy of Discovery

Artomatic, the free-floating exhibition space that pops up in Washington every two or three years, has made a welcome return. This year, more than 600 artists and performers are taking part in the seven-week-long show.

Artomatic is non-juried. With no gatekeepers to evaluate quality, pretty much anything goes.* As a result, you can find yourself wading thought some truly horrendous amateur art. But every once in a while, you’ll stumble over something beautiful and inspired. The joy of unexpectedly finding something that gives you pleasure is what makes Artomatic so much fun.

The location of Artomatic changes with each show, moving to a different building “in transition”. This year, it fills seven floors of a currently unoccupied office building in Crystal City. I was able to tour four of the floors before museum fatigue kicked in, and I plan to return to see the rest of this year’s show before it ends on 6 May 2017.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye during yesterday’s visit:


There’s more to Artomatic than the visual arts. The event also features music, video, film, poetry, performance art, dance parties, and the occasional magician.

Here’s today’s events schedule:

*I’ve never seen the artists’ agreement documents, so I don’t know whether there are restrictions on content. The show stipulates that it’s designed for adults, but there were plenty of families with children touring the exhibition yesterday.

Mercati di Rialto

Thanks to my brother’s timely intervention, I no longer had to worry that the only further dining I’d enjoy in Venice would depend on my ability to wrest popcorn away from the pigeons in Piazza San Marco, so I headed to Mercati di Rialto, the open-air food market near the Rialto Bridge.

I love old, independent markets. Given the choice between spending a morning at Barcelona’s Museu Picasso or its magnificent Boqueria market, which traces its history back 800 years, I’d instantly opt for the market. Lexington Market in Baltimore, Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Great Market Hall in Budapest—can’t get enough of them. I never went to the legendary Les Halles in Paris, since it was demolished before my time, but I’m nostalgic for it nonetheless. Nostalgic for an experience I never had.

This is another area where DC is lacking. We have the small Eastern Market, and the once-a-week Farmers’ Markets that pop up various places around town, but nothing comparable to the classics.

This is what we’re missing:

Theft in Venice

“Virginia Is for Lovers”  —  Official Slogan of the Commonwealth

“Venice Is for Pickpockets”  —  Unofficial Slogan of the Serene Republic

I got robbed.

Having a wallet stolen is far from unusual in Venice. You might almost call it a typical Venetian tourist activity, although it’s not one that I would recommend to friends.

In the middle of the afternoon one day, I was swarmed by a pack of guttersnipes. I walked past a group of girls who looked to be high school or college age. Clean-cut, well-dressed, un-flashy. They were huddled around a map, and I ignored the scamps.

Half a block later, I noticed that the rapscallions were headed in the same general direction I was, but I didn’t think anything of it. They moved loosely, with some of the rascals walking ahead of me, then pausing or dropping back, to be replaced by another couple of waifs.

It didn’t occur to me that I was being stalked. The first hint I had was when I stopped rather abruptly, and saw that one of the urchins—I think of her as “The Urchin of Venice”—was immediately behind me.

Even so, I didn’t feel threatened. My wallet was safe, inside a zipped pocket, which was itself in my closed knapsack. There’s a wonderful Mark Twain line describing “the calm confidence of a Christian holding four aces.” That was me.

They got the wallet. From inside the zipped pocket, in the closed knapsack.

I discovered it was missing when I got to my restaurant. The ragamuffins hadn’t taken my passport, fortunately, but the only money I had was the change left in my pocket.

So there I was, effectively penniless in Venice. Another old quote, source unknown, crossed my mind:

“When in trouble, when in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout”

Always sound advice.

The hero of this story is my brother David. After verifying that the person sending him email messages with the Subject Line:  “Emergency! Emergency! Emergency!” was in fact, me, and not the former Nigerian Treasury Official with whom he’s carried on a longtime correspondence, he wired me the cash to get though my trip. And at a very competitive interest rate, too!

When something like this happens, it’s impossible to avoid a serious bout of “If Only”.

“If only I’d left the museum a few minutes later.”
“If only I hadn’t withdrawn all that money from the ATM yesterday.”
“If only I’d gone to Palazzo Grimani instead of San Pantalon.”

But that way lies madness.

It’s done. It’s only money. Forget it. Move on.

You might have noticed my use of Dickensian words like “urchin” and “ragamuffin” and “scamp” to characterize the thieves. I originally included more accurate descriptors, but, for some reason, that caused my posting to get bounced by the obscenity filter.

Use your own imagination.

Venice Street Scenes

Unplanned Encounters

Some people, places, and things I stumbled across while walking around Venice.

“But He’d Have Walked up that Alley with You, Angel.”  —  Sam Spade, to Brigid O’Shaughnessy

It’s easy to get lost in Venice. You’re supposed to get lost—that’s part of the charm of the city.

You probably have to be born in Venice to really understand the street layout, and all the shortcuts to take and detours to avoid. Some busy “streets” are only three or four feet wide—no cars, remember, so no need to accommodate them by bulldozing your heritage.

A Happy Event

I was wandering around Campo Santa Margherita one afternoon when I ran into a large, loud street party. Groups were singing, people were hugging, and much Prosecco was being put to good use. Many of the young women were wearing the kind of headgear you can see in the picture.

When I asked one of the crowd what was going on, she told me that it was Graduation Day for the Università Ca’ Foscari, the university in Venice. She was wearing a laurel leaf hat to show that she was one of the graduates. Then she called over a couple of her friends, and posed for this picture.

Floating Market

In some of Venice’s side canals, the market comes to you. Buy your groceries right off the boat.

Dueling Weddings

I think there must be a tradition in Venice of having the newly married couple pose for pictures on a tour of historic sites. I was in Campo San Bartolomeo when these two wedding parties collided.

I saw one couple at Piazza San Marco, and then ran into them the next day, still in their wedding clothes, at Campo San Polo. By then, the bride’s gown was muddied and frayed. They didn’t seem to be getting any great joy from the trek, but I’m sure they’ll forget the hassles as soon as they see the pictures.

First Hatchling!

One of the two eggs in the eagles’ nest at the National Arboretum in Washington has hatched. The eaglet’s emergence was captured by the American Eagle Foundation’s DC Eagle Cam, and you can watch it in the above video. Live video of the nest and several still photos from the hatching are on the DC Eagle Cam website.

Stay tuned! The second egg is expected to hatch sometime in the next week.

The First Lady Has Laid an Egg — Watch the Incubation on Live WebCam

Yes, I admit that headline is pure clickbait. If you’re reading this, I guess it worked.

“The First Lady” is the name of the female member of a pair of Bald Eagles who started nesting  at the U.S. National Arboretum here in Washington back in 2014. The male is named “Mr. President”. Last year, the couple produced two hatchlings, named “Freedom” and “Liberty”.

(Could all those names be anymore bland and pedestrian? Whoever’s in charge of naming eagles at the arboretum is obviously not a big fan of unconventional nomenclature. Just writing those words has made me grouchy and irritated. Come to think about it, even “Grouchy” and “Irritated” would be better names than the ones they have now.)

Anyhow, the pair is back, and the eagles have landed. And once again, they’ve produced two eggs, the first on 19 February 2017 and the second on 23 February 2017. Hatching generally occurs after a 35 – 38 day incubation.

Thanks to the American Eagle Foundation, you can watch the whole thing 24/7 on the DC Eagle Cam. The beautiful picture at the top of this posting, showing an eagle keeping her eggs warm in the snow-filled nest, comes from a screenshot of the webcam.

Warning: This is nature, and it’s live, which means that while it can sometimes be sublime, it can also sometimes be brutal and ugly. There are predators out there.