Herman Maril, Africa, and Imagery

“The Essential Herman Maril” is the title of the art show currently featured at  Acme Fine Art in Boston.  The exhibit of works selected by Gallery owners James Bennette and David Cowan provides the viewer with an opportunity to become acquainted with some of the subject themes important in my father’s life. . His career spanned from the 1930s until his death in 1986. There is the boat, the sea, construction in the city, a garden with clothes line, looking out through a kitchen window, and one of my favorites–a black rotary wall  telephone .  My father painted what he knew and what he saw; selectively reducing and refining figures and shapes to depict on the paper or canvas what he felt to be important.

My dad, who divided his time between Maryland and Cape Cod, did some traveling and he sketched when he traveled. Writers put their notes in a journal.  Herman’s notes took the shapes of trees, coastlines, people, and buildings.  He visited the Southwest, California, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, but he never made it to Africa although he had a modest collection of African Art that he prized. In addition  to several masks and  locks from a Chief’s hut, there was a sculpture fetish that was said to have been caked in mud  and  containing a lion’s ear when Herman purchased it.. He admired the simple carved shapes of these treasures, which he displayed in the front hallway and living room of our home at a time when such objects were not particularly fashionable.

As a child in the days when there were only three or four television stations, I’d watch wildlife nature shows with my dad,   mesmerized by the images on the black and white TV. Expansive plains, tall grasses waving in the wind and the close-up of a hungry lion in pursuit of dinner, chasing a fast moving gazelle had us on the edge of our chairs. It was a shared time, just me an my father, and during my recent visit to East Africa I thought of him often, wishing he was with me to see the expansive plains, baoba trees,  lions, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and wildebeests in person.

When I told my brother David Maril  I was going to Africa, he sent me a photograph of the bird sculpture Dad had painted in the oil painting below, “Artist Contemplating African Bird” now in the collection of  Adirondack Community College, originally acquired by his close friend the poet William Bronk, known to our family as Bill.

Artistw:African Scu;pture

“Artist Contemplating African Bird” oil on canvas by Herman Maril, Collection of Adirondack Community College

David  was hoping I might be able to identify the origin of the sculpture, if I saw something similar.While I saw many large handsome birds during our travels on the Wami river and on our safari excursions overland by jeep inside Ngoronguru Crater and Masai Mara National Reserve, I saw no original pieces of bird sculpture during my visit. Walking in and out of all the tourist shops that line the narrow streets of the Stone Town portion of Zanzibar I mostly encountered the usual wood carvings I suspect are probably mass produced in China. My husband Peter and I found one quality merchant who was selling the older tribal pieces along with fine Middle Eastern jewelry and artifacts– but no bird sculptures.

Our favorite memories from the trip are those moments seeing the animals on the move in their natural environment. Watching hundreds of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelle making their way across the Serengeti Plain in search of fresh grass and sitting in a boat yards away from massive Hippos, hearing their deep sonorous groans as they submerge themselves underwater and reappear,  is an experience of a lifetime. It reminded  me that wildlife, and the variety of animals we grew up visiting at the zoo,  is not something we can take for granted.  It’s important we  try to preserve the earth  and protect our endangered species that include the Black Rhinoceros and Leopard, both of which I had the privilege to see, albeit from a far distance. (This is when field binoculars come in handy).

Nature and the images  we see, whether they are exotic animals  or the shape of flowers that bloom on the tree outside our window, can inspire the artist in all of us. You don’t have to travel half way around the world to see something worthy of inspiration, but some times taking a journey can give us perspective to appreciate what we have when we return home.





Farewell to Blob’s Park; A Baltimore Legend and Annapolis Favorite Hang-out

Some "regulars" hanging out at the bar.
Some “regulars” hanging out at the bar.

Blob’s Park is closing in less than one month.   And I for one am going to miss its unique attributes. Where else could you go to get authentic German food, listen to live music, go waltzing across a dance floor and feel as if you’d stepped back in time to the 1960s?


 In recent years, probably my husband Peter and I have not gone there nearly enough— but oh the memories!. A trip to Blobs Park, for many  patrons means polka dancing.  But there was so much else.  I remember visiting Blobs for an evening of dinner and dancing in the 1990’s and marveling at the wide variety of patrons. There would be women with beehive hairdo’s, men with rolled up short sleeves and crew cuts and entire wedding parties and anniversary parties set up at the various long banquet tables. Men and women still spry in their 80’s would be doing the jitterbug and the Lindy hop. Often I’d see small children sitting at some tables earlier in the evening, ready to dance along with Mom and Dad or not waiting and making up dances of their own.  On a Sunday afternoon there might be a band with an accordion playing  a variety of German and Polish folk dances and lots of folks out on the dance floor who knew all the patterns and steps.

Friends Doug and Wendy enjoying a dance!
Friends Doug and Wendy enjoying a dance!

Max Blob, opened Blob’s Park in 1928 as a private gathering place (think Speakeasy) It opened to the public in 1933.  He was known affectionately as “Onkle Max. “ In recent years Blobs has hosted Latin Bands, Country Music, and last Friday night it was a 1940s style Swing Band.  Unfortunately, despite the good music, the hall has become increasingly empty.

But that’s not why they are closing.

December 2012  and January 2013, 29 acres of Blobs Park land was sold to the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. The plan is for a church and school to be built on the land but the current owner/manager Max Eggerl, who is a grandson of Max Blob, the original founder , thought he had a verbal agreement to keep occupying the Hall for a few more years. Evidently that is not to be. Blob’s Park will be closing at the end of the month. The last event at the hall that has seating for 1000 people, will be  “Our Last Polka and will feature Mike Surratt and The Continentals on March 30th

In the last few remaining weeks that Blob’s Park remains open, make a  pilgrimage and walk around the place. A bit of the spirit of “Onkle Max” still remains.

Blobs Park is located at the Intersection of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 1765 in Jessup, Maryland; just a short drive down the highway from the entrance to Fort Meade.   As the western part of Anne Arundel County continues to grow in density, another little piece of history is lost.Bar Band

Last DInner?
Last Dance at Blobs?

Miniature Indonesia in Jakarta; Virtual Passport

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Monday in Annapolis, Maryland for me is a day full of meetings and a day that focuses on organizing my tasks for the week. Monday in Jakarta, Indonesia (I learned last month), is often a day to take a break, when many of the important museums and monuments in the city are closed.
So while our guide took a very nice photograph of us ( my husband Peter, daughter Alex, and myself) in front of the National Musem, we could not get inside.
The day was hot, over 100 degrees, and after walking around the National Monument we followed our guide’s suggestion to make a visit to the “Indonesia in Miniature Park” aka Taman Mini located to the east of the city.
The park was not on the list that Justin put together for us to visit, while he went into work for the day. His colleagues and friends evidently do not think highly of it as a tourist attraction, but I would highly recommend it to any tourist paying a visit to Jakarta, particularly if you do not have time to visit the five major islands in this nation comprised of over 17000 islands. That’s right…over 17,000 islands with a diverse number of languages and cultures.
The park is so large, you need an entire day (which we did not have by the time we arrived there at noon) and while you can drive around in a car, it is better to walk or rent a bicycle. We rented bicycles.
Each pavillion represents a different province, complete with architectural examples, native, costumes, temples, and even live performances at various times throughout the day. Although Borneo was not on our list, of places to visit this time around, we did get to see examples of thatched roof huts and observe a tribesman in native attire carving wood that would eventually be for sale in their gift shop.

While we did not have time to visit all the pavillions, we were able to enter a few of the buildilngs including various houses that represented the architecture of the different islands and cultures. We climbed the ladders to enter a traditional, or adat-style, Batak houses– the type built in parts of northern Samatra. These homes can be large enough to house as many as a dozen families. They have distinctive saddle-backed, twin-peaked roof made from a special palm fibre and they are commonly anchored by long poles.
In the center of the park is a large lake. The park also has
its own orchid garden in which hundreds of Indonesian orchid varieties are grown along with a bird park with a walk-in aviary, a fauna museum.
Due to the extreme heat and our limited time, we couldn’t see everything but we were happy that Miniature Indonesia is open on Mondays.

Rainy Summer Morning in Annapolis

It started with raindrops gently kissing my face, early morning rain on a hot summer’s morning. It’s been so hot and sticky here in Maryland, the rain is a welcome relief and as I walked downtown with my husband Peter and dog Grace at 6:30 a.m. today, I thought how much I looked forward to summer rainy days as a child

It started with raindrops gently kissing my face, early morning rain on a hot summer’s morning. It’s been so hot and sticky here in Maryland, the rain is a welcome relief and as I walked downtown with my husband Peter and dog Grace at 6:30 a.m. today, I thought how much I looked forward to summer rainy days as a child because those were the days my mother and I went shopping/adventuring/exploring Up Cape. Our summer home in Provinctown at the tip of Cape Cod in Massachussets had only a radio and record player for entertainment (no CDs, videos, ipods) when it wasn’t a day to spend on the beach so we’d usually start thumbing through the weekly newspapers searching for notices of auctions and estate sales to visit. And if there weren’t any auctions or tag sales we’d go searching out stores and thift shops we’d never visited, hopefully with undiscovered bargains.
This week is “No Sales Tax on Clothing ” week to encourage back-tot-school shopping and as I was thinking of what I might need to buy in the way of clothes, the rain started coming down hard.
“Remember the time we were taking a walk in August when Alex was small,” Peter asks me, “and the rain came down so hard we took shelter at the hospital (when they were still located in Murray Hill).
“Yes,” I rejoin, “And a nurse who felt sorry for us brought out a towel to help us dry off, we were so dripping wet from the downpour?”
I’m starting to regret walking out of the house without a raincoat, hat, or umbrella. I did know the weather forecast was predicting morning rain. Still being damp deels good until I step into the air conditioned coffee shop.
On the walk home I see rivulets of soapy water rushing down the road and pavement and I think of all the pollution that is flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. It’s not advisable to go swimming in the Bay after its rains. All the fertilizer, ground water, and other unsavory items laying on impervious services all are washed into the stormdrains and out into the streams and tributaries.
“Some people will do anything to get a cup of coffee,” a man yells out to us as we pass the Court House on our way back home from downtown. By the this time, I’m starting to feel soaked. The water has collected in my shoes and is sloshing around. My hair, which I had not intended to wash this morning, is wet and clinging to the sides of my face. I start to pick up the pace and wonder how waterproof my watch really is and visualizing how good a hot shower is going to feel. A slash of lightening and crash of thunder causes Grace to whimper and I start to run the rest of the way home. It’s foolish to be out walking in a thunderstorm, I shide myself.
“Doesn’t it feel good to run in the rian?” Peter asks me when we are safely inside the house. “The rain keeps your body cool while you’re burning off energy.”
Yes, exhilerating.