Watercolor journeys

Yesterday morning, a visit to a specialized museum in the far south of Palo Alto: The Foster Watercolor Exhibitions of Wilderness Journals. Open to the public, free, with generous daytime hours.

Bonus: a free-standing mosque in the neighborhood which opened in 2015. I had been unaware of the Foster and also of the mosque.

(Hat tip to Juan Gomez, who discovered the place by googling and who endured my paroxysms of coughing while we were there; I’m suffering from the flu or a truly monumental cold, I’m not sure which. Sleeping, fitfully, 16 or so hours a day.)

From The Foster’s website:

(#1) The entrance to The Foster

Take a break from regular life and experience beautiful art and inspiring journeys.

The Foster is located at 940 Commercial Street in Palo Alto [in a pefectly ordinary one-story tech/commercial building] near the corner of E. Charleston and San Antonio Road [just south of Palo Alto’s Jewish Community Center].

Our mission is to share artist-explorer Tony Foster’s powerful watercolor journeys to inspire reflection, discussion, and education about art, wilderness, and the natural world

Born in Lincolnshire, England [but now living in Cornwall], artist-explorer Tony Foster finds inspiration in the wild places of the world, which he paints en plein air. Since 1982, he has undertaken a variety of watercolor “journeys” — painting projects based on a philosophical or environmental theme — that often involve multiple expeditions over many years. His subjects range from mountains, rivers, rainforests, deserts, coral reefs and Arctic icebergs to such iconic natural areas as the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest.

Hiking, rafting, kayaking or canoeing to find the perfect painting site, then camping outdoors for weeks at a time to make his paintings, Foster frequently faces challenging weather and difficult conditions. His paintings, complete with diary excerpts and “souvenirs,” document his experiences in wilderness and his commitment to its preservation.

Exploring Beauty: Watercolour Diaries from the Wild: Tony Foster’s latest journey spans the globe with painting sites nominated by leading scientists, explorers, writers, and environmentalists as “the most beautiful places in the world.”

The exhibition depicts Foster’s global journeys – from Greenland to Borneo to the Atacama desert – however it starts in Cornwall, his own back garden, which Foster nominated himself. Vivid colours of wildflowers, moss-covered boulders and twisted tree branches shows clearly his determination for this region [once despoiled by tin mining] to sit comfortably with the range of stunning landscapes and natural settings in the rest of the collection. Lush greens make Tywardreath Marsh and the Luxulyan Valley feel like they are bursting out of the frame, assisted, as with all of Foster’s paintings, by a small collection of ‘souvenirs’ included alongside each picture, to help mentally transport the observer into the natural scene, to the exact spot where Foster sat whilst painting.

The focus of the exhibition is arguably the enormous Grand Canyon painting, which stretches across an entire wall, and took Foster 23 days to complete. Along with the usual selection of souvenirs collected ‘from the field’, as well as a set of smaller accompaniments depicting various other stunning viewpoints and perspectives on the canyon, he takes advantage of an extraordinary vantage point to illustrate the landscape in staggering detail; from the constantly-varying shades of rock formation, to the assorted green vegetation, to the river flowing way below, it’s a majestic image which could easily be studied for hours.

Three shots from the exbibition:

(#2) Looking Out from Deer Cave, Mulu [Malaysia] – Six Days, 2015. Watercolour and graphite on paper, beads (wood, glass, plastic), filament, animal tooth, map, glass button, acrylic box

(#3) Dive 106 – Vilamendhoo [in the Maldives] (detail), 2007. Watercolour and graphite on paper, crayon-pencil on plastic film; David Attenborough’s request for a watercolour of a coral reef meant Foster had to make initial drawings using crayon whilst underwater, before recreating them with paints back on land

(#4) Cover of Sacred Places booklet: Spider Rock from Spider Rock Overlook, 2001 (detail)

The bonus mosque. As we were going out to Route 101 to return to northern Palo Alto, I spied the dome of a free-standing mosque:

(#5) Minister Amin Saheb Huzefa Poonawala walks down the steps of the Palo Alto mosque (masjid) on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015; members of the mosque follow Dawoodi Bohra, a sub-sect of Shia Islam (from the San Jose Mercury-News)

The Merc story also includes photos of visitors from the Jewish Community Center residences being taken on tours of the mosque. It’s only neighborly.



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