Picking up our informal tour of public art in England and Ireland, I’d like to begin with an introduction to our Irish blogger friend, Grannymar, who was so gracious as to meet us at our hotel in Dublin. Here she’s standing with a mannequin dressed as James Joyce in front of a tiny little bookstore filled with all kinds of used books and Joyce paraphernalia, the kind of place you can lose yourself for hours if you’re a bibliophile like me. There’s just a little glimpse of the inside there in the thumbnail below. For a larger view, click on the photograph. Now I know that technically a James Joyce mannequin probably doesn’t qualify as a real art piece. The problem is that during the short time I was in the city, the rain, and my first 1/2 pint of Guiness, plus the sad fact that I lost a few pictures “accidentally”, suffice it to say I didn’t get many. I did get this shot, however. Grannymar has the distinction of being one of the pioneers of blogging in Northern Ireland. She’s the winner of numerous Irish Blogger Awards and I’ve been following her since she began blogging around the same time I did. We were charmed by her generosity of time and spirit, plus she paid our cab tab due to monetary exchange problems! We found her delightful, and hope to continue our friendship online and personally for a very long time. In fact Hubby thinks we should retire to Ireland (the sunnier part) due to the Irish respect for those in its population who are aging!
This is probably the most famous goat in County Kerry in Killorglin, Ireland. According to an online history along with our tour guide’s story accounting for the origin of King Puck, we know he’s associated with Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland in 1649-53. While the Roundheads (English soldiers, so-called because of their short-cut hair) were pillaging the surrounding countryside, they tried to herd grazing goats. Nothing like roasted goat meat for hungry soldiers. Naturally the animals scattered in fright, and the he-goat or “Puck” broke away on his own, losing all contact with rest of the herd. While the others headed for the mountains, Puck went towards Killorglin on the banks of the Laune River. His arrival–in a state of semi exhaustion–alerted the inhabitants of the approaching danger and they immediately set about protecting themselves and their stock. In recognition of the goat’s roundabout service protecting them, the people began a special festival in his honor. And I’ll bet you never before thought of a goat as a hero, huh?
Now we move along to Waterville, a seaside village along the Ring of Kerry where I enjoyed a wonderful seafood chowders, where we found this bronze statue of the beloved little tramp of silent films, Charlie Chaplin. Most Wintersong readers are close enough to the ages that remember the plight of Charlie Chaplin during the McCarthy Era in the 1950s. He and his family spent many summers at the Butler Arms Hotel. The family enjoyed being here because the people always respected their privacy. It is said that many locals still remember seeing him strolling along the seafront promenade that runs along the center of the village. The Chaplin estate granted the city permission to hold the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival in the spirit of Charlie Chaplin. Looks like we only missed it by a little more than a month.
Remember the cow parade, the international art exhibit that took place in major cities of the world in the late nineties? Whether we were a “major” city or not, I remember the cows in Las Vegas fondly. But who knew about the pigs? It was a surprise to me–since I feel a special affinity for pigs due to my pet pig Buster from childhood–to find this amazing pig in Bath? This one stood just outside the front of the Roman Baths built by the Romans during their English occupation. The pigs that still remain here were made for the King Bladud Pigs in Bath auction of 2008. There’s the legend as told to us by our tour director, David, to explain King Bladud’s connection to Bath.
In Celtic times, a British prince (Baldud) contracted leprosy. If you’ve read many Bible stories, you know how anybody unlucky enough to contract leprosy was shunned and banished, because the disease was easily spread. Banished from the court by his father the king, his mother tearfully kissed him goodbye and gave him a golden ring as a farewell gift. She hoped he would find a way to rid himself of the disease, but until that happened he was forced to make a living living as a swine herder living among the pigs. You know the old bad news, good news adage: after awhile a few of the pigs he herded caught the disease. Once again he was forced to flee, taking his leprosied pigs with him. They swam across the river at Avon into the city of what is now Bath, wandered around aimlessly until one day one of the pigs seemed to go crazy, propelling itself headlong into a black bog in the marshy ground. Bladud, who had no one other than his diseased pigs, wrestled his pig out of the bog, becoming covered with the foul smelling mud. Now the good news: After the rescue, he noticed the pig’s skin lesions had disappeared. Also, wherever the mud had touched his own bare skin, the lesions were also gone. So he jumped back into the bog, immeersing himself fully in the warm mud, and became fully cured. Cautiously he made his way back home, not knowing how he would be perceived. Of course his mother recognized him by the golden ring she’d given him years before and welcomed him with open arms. Long story short, he went on to become the King and founded the city of Bath.
That’s why Bath chose pigs as art for an auction in 2008 to raise money for a direct, traffic-free thoroughfare for walking and bicycling travelers between Bath’s city center and the Midford Valley 2 1/2 miles south of the city. Over a hundred decorative pig sculptures were designed and auctioned, and apparently some–like Waterloo pictured here, by Bath artist Natasha Rampley–still stand in tribute to Bath.
English sculptor Nic Fiddian Green, who is known for his equestrian sculptures, works primarily in bronze and in beaten lead. He grew up with horses and “sees them as a spiritual entity, not just a living thing with a beauty and energy particular to itself but a universal vessel for a whole breadth of emotions.” There was certainly something that drew me to take several pictures of this piece from different angles, giving the sense of movement in the ears and jaw line. However, I confess, most of the time I look at this picture, I think of the “long face” joke. A horse walks into a bar and sits down at the bar. The bartender looks up and says, Why the long face?
I must plead innocent as it was not my intention to show irreverence to Art (notice the captial A), the reason being the piece we’d seen just minutes before by Italian pop artist Mauro Perucchetti. Hubby and I both loved the playful nature of the Jelly Belly Family of Marble Arch, he just couldn’t resist his usual mugging in front of the camera. Originally this sculpture was intended for display only until the end of April. Happily for us, it was still there mid-October when we were. It’s created of resin, and if memory serves me, it depicts the unity of family and the multicultural aspect so prevalent in most of modern society, particularly in London–a nice sentiment don’t you think?
Finally, as I promised in the last post, here’s a favorite of mine from Chicago. Who doesn’t recognize Marilyn Monroe standing above the subway as depicted in the movie “The Seven-Year Itch,” all 26 feet of her. While Marilyn wasn’t really that tall in stature, one might argue that in reel stature she seemed to surpass that. Nearly 50 years after her death, she continues to draw attention–most recently with the release of the movie My Week With Marilyn based on the book by a young Englishman, Colin Clark. Many Chicagoans consider the piece vulgar and offensive, especially to women. Whatever happens to this giant Marilyn, she’s planning to be around until some time next year. I feel somewhat nostalgic by pop-art such as this, though it certainly doesn’t match something like the horse head. What do you think?
[Marilyn photo courtesy: John & Pam Sanders]