Today, I'm eager to share with you a visual art exhibition which I enjoyed very much. Because there isn't a full column's worth of information on the subject, I'll also share with you my reactions to a pair of good books which I have been reading lately.
Enjoying and learning about the arts is a full time job, and sometimes just a thrilling activity in which to invest your life.
Through Sept. 4, the Roger Tory Institute invites you to enjoy approximately 50 original paintings by artist Gloria Plevin.
The RTPI is located at 311 Curtis St., near the athletic complex of Jamestown Community College. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. There is an admission charge of $6 for the general public, and $4 for students and children. Members of the Institute are admitted without additional charge.
The artist is well-known in our area, as she shares her time fairly equally between Cleveland and her Chautauqua home, located between Chautauqua Institution and Mayville, along Route 394. She has displayed her artwork often in galleries around Chautauqua County.
Her RTPI exhibit is largely made up with botanicals - textbook-quality paintings of flowering plants - finely drawn and painted in watercolor, the translucent qualities of which give sensitive reproduction of the qualities of plant textures and colors.
The majority of works in the show are botanicals, although the artist has also included a number of the well-known landscapes of our area which she has shown in other area galleries.
If you are unfamiliar with the RTPI headquarters, you enter main entrance of the beautiful wood and stone building and find yourself in an open, well-lighted atrium, with a small gift shop to the right. If you walk straight through the entryway, you will find yourself in a small gallery which features a most impressive exhibit of archeological displays and illustrations about the 1934 discovery of the remains of a giant mammoth, which took place in the New York State Fish Hatchery at Randolph.
The display is on loan from the New York State Museum in Albany, and it will be available to be viewed through Jan.12. The mammoth itself is roughly 13,000 years old.
A mammoth was a giant, elephant-like creature which was considerably larger than modern elephants. The display includes a realistic casting of the skull of the giant, creature, including its pair of four-foot-long, curving tusks. It also includes the two actual tusks themselves, one of which has been dissected, to demonstrate the structure of the huge tooth, as well as drawings and photos of the excavations by which the original bones and other biological remains were unearthed.
Instead of entering the gallery with the mammoth display, if a viewer turns to his right, he will find himself looking at the door to the institute's Green Gallery. That room holds the botanical paintings from Ms. Plevin's exhibit. The hallway which separates the Green Gallery from the small gallery with the mammoth artifacts, and the matching hallway, on the opposite side of the mammoth display, contain a number of Ms. Plevin's landscapes, and other paintings, largely created in pastel and/or acrylics.
Ms. Plevin and her late husband, Leon Plevin, bought a barn along Route 394 back in 1985. They remodeled it into a summer home, plus a studio in which she could paint, and a gallery, which she operated until 2002. The couple planted extensive gardens between the building and the busy highway, to provide an element of privacy from the road without the inhospitality of a barrier.
Many of the botanical paintings are representations of the tall flowers in those gardens. A few of them represent the amaryllis plant, a popular, indoor relative of the lily which is popular because it grows so high in a relatively short time, and produces very large, showy flowers.
Several of the paintings show these flowers in bud, at full maturity, and having withered, within the same frame.
The botanicals are quite precise, and beautifully composed. Her brush strokes are complex and intricate. The use of color is beautiful, and yet accurate and natural.
The landscapes are realistic, and will bring a smile to anyone from this area of the country, because they are so representational. Images such as tractors at work in the fields or Lake Chautauqua as seen from a distance, across rolling hills, use color and form to show us the beauty in scenes we see every day.
Homey scenes of family members playing board games on sunny porches and playing with pets have both intellectual and emotional appeal.
Most of the paintings are listed for sale.
If you haven't been to the Peterson Institute for a while, and especially if you haven't been there yet, it's a beautiful place to visit. You can hike the wooded paths in the neighboring woods, enjoy the butterfly garden and other gardens, and see the art. Take a picnic and extend your stay, as long as you're conscious of the responsibilities of picnickers in a natural setting.
To reach the RTPI from Jamestown, take either East Second Street or Falconer Street to the east, toward Falconer. When you reach the intersection of Curtis Street, turn left and follow the street until you see the Institute on your left. It's a beautiful, beautiful place.
THE MOONLIT EARTH
If you enjoy action and adventure stories, especially those with exotic settings, allow me to recommend ''The Moonlit Earth'' by Christopher Rice.
The author is the son of novelist Anne Rice, and he seems to have inherited her ability to draw readers into a story and make them want to stay with the book until the last word is read.
This book has a female protagonist, and the author has managed to make her realistic. She isn't a shrinking violet, but she isn't Arnold Swarzenegger in a dress, either.
Megan Reynolds is a talented young woman in her thirties whom we find in the opening pages to be returning to her mother's home in a small town of Southern California, having struck out in her personal relationships and her career goals, and needing to be restored.
Restless and frustrated, she flips on the television for a bit of diversion and finds herself watching a news report of a terrorist bomb, having destroyed a luxury hotel in Hong Kong. Preparing to change channels, she is stopped when her screen shows the fact that security cameras have captured two men hurrying away from the hotel, moments before the blast.
The news anchorman is describing the two as suspected terrorists. Megan recognizes one of them as her younger brother. Megan and her brother have always been especially close, especially since their father abandoned the family, leaving them with only one another to rely upon.
Rice is gifted in giving us enough information to make us care about his characters, but not giving so much detail that he's creating the whole story and we're just following along with him. He allows us to make judgments and infer possibilities which make the story ours, as well as his.
The action can be pretty chilling, and sometimes quite violent, but it always involves Megan doing things an independent young woman would realistically choose to do, if someone she cared about very much were in danger. She gets help sometimes, but she doesn't sit around waiting for someone to do everything for her. The ending is believable, and isn't obvious until it's actually unfolding.
I enjoyed reading it very much, and recommend it to you. ''The Moonlit Earth'' has 362 pages in paperbound edition, and is priced at $15. It was published in 2010 by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. Find it with ISBN number 978-1-4391-0016-5.
The only copies I could find in the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Public Library System were located in Olean and Ellington. The Olean library also owns an audio recording of the novel.
NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES
Since we're talking of adventure and action books, especially those with female protagonists, you might be interested in ''A Night of Long Knives'' by Rebecca Cantrell.
This book finds its horrors in the Germany of Adolf Hitler.
History buffs will know, of course, that the Nazi Party came to power in Germany by embracing people who were unhappy with their lives. Many of the earliest Nazis were the unemployed, those who had lost businesses or who had been physically disfigured during World War I.
Once the party was established and beginning to succeed, however, the party's leaders wanted to be rid of the malcontents and misfits who had helped them come into existence. And, of course, any rivals for ultimate power.
They got rid of them by a series of murders of members of their own party who represented leaders other than Hitler. In particular, Gregor Strasser and Ernst Rohm were removed from power, and from life itself, in this event, which has come to be called in English, the Night of Long Knives. German historians tend to call it the ''Rohm Putsch.''
This novel is the second dealing with these characters by Cantrell. In the first, titled ''A Trace of Smoke,'' her protagonist, Hannah Vogel, has given birth to a son, whom she loves very much. Nazi general Rohm was largely suspected of being homosexual, and he has claimed Hannah's son as his own, to prove his moral appropriateness to be a Nazi murderer.
At the end of the first novel, Hannah has fled with her son to South America, and considers herself safe.
When ''Night of Long Knives'' begins, Hannah is tricked into returning to Germany with her son, and the boy is kidnapped by Rohm. Hannah uses any ally she can find, who might help her to get around in Nazi Germany, and she has to skate awkwardly between being viewed as anti-Nazi and being viewed as too associated with Rohm.
Hannah is a bit braver and more experienced an action hero than Megan Reynolds, from the Rice novel, but she rarely strains believability.
The book skillfully demonstrates what life must have been like in that country, for people who could understand that the lies and the mythologies of the Nazis were false, but who needed somehow to stay alive.
It is easy to read, although some familiarity with German or at least with Nazi-related people and places makes it easier. It's a nail-biter, and the reader cares very much about what happens to the characters.
The fact that every friend might be an agent of the enemy, and every enemy might be human enough to do something reasonable is a particular pleasure for the reader.
The book has 313 pages, in hardcover, and was published in 2010 by Forge Press. It was priced to sell for $24.99. find it with ISBM number 978-0-7653-2045-2.
The only copy I can find in the two-county library system is located in the King Memorial Library in Machias. They also own one copy of the earlier Cantrell novel, as well.
MusicalFare, a company performing in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst will be performing ''Oliver! (With a Twist,)'' from Sept. 7 through Oct. 16.
The show is the familiar one which you've probably seen a thousand times, featuring Charles Dickens novel ''Oliver Twist'' and popular music such as ''Food, Glorious Food'' and ''As Long as He Needs Me,'' but it has been entirely re-orchestrated and re-written, so that it is told in a whole new way.
Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., also Saturdays at 4 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $38 for all performances, with discounts for students and for groups. Purchase them by phone at 839-8540, or by computer at www.musicalfare.com. Seats are reserved.
The company performs in their own theater, on the campus of Daemen College, which is located on Main Street in Amherst, directly across from Amherst High School.