public art in the UK and Ireland

Once or twice a year my father drove our family from the farm in north Florida for weekend visit to my relatives in Daytona. Our travel always took us through Palatka. This was a highpoint of my trip because I loved the bronze statues of service men with the eagle sitting on top of the bronze globe at the top of the arch. It’s the Memorial Bridge across the St. John’s River and was erected to the memory of soldiers and sailors of Putnam County, Florida. Each time we crossed the long concrete bridge, I sat enthralled by the miles and miles of vessel laden river. My father would casually remark that the soldiers were all taken down twice a year. Of course–as he knew I would–I’d always ask why.  “So they can pee and have a bath.” As you can see, I’m not entirely responsible for my coarse–some might say crude–sense of humor. I respond best to the simpler themes of uncelebrated people and animals, caught in simple and everyday events. Those that tell a story of sorts.

I like this lion because the artist made it look so easy that I could do it myself if I just had a big enough rock and a hammer and chisel. The Lion of Scotland it’s called, by Ronald Rae, is the traditional symbol both of power and of Scottish identity. It once stood between the royal palace of Holyrood House (Edinburgh Castle) and the home of the Parliament, but it was moved in 2010 to the St. Andrew Square Garden in the middle of Edinburgh where I took this shot. If you’re looking to buy a lawn sculpture–perhaps as a Christmas gift or as a means to publicly denote your Scottish heritage–this one is for sale. Be advised, though–for shipping purposes–it’s sculpted of granite, is about 8 x 17 x 7 feet in size, and it weighs 20 tons.

Gretna Green is a small town in Dumfriesshire County in Scotland on the road south from Edinburgh to northwest England. It’s biggest claim to fame, as far as I can tell, is the number of marriages performed there every year. Parliament passed a law in England in 1753 requiring parental consent for anyone under 21 years of age to marry. In Scotland, the legal age for marriage was 14 for boys, 12 for girls–with or without–parental consent. Obviously, these conflicting ages of consent caused a lot of problems for irate parents, and Gretna Green soon became famous for runaway marriages. Another peculiar Scottish law at that time, that allowed anyone to perform marriages, led the two blacksmith shops to begin performing marriages there to earn extra money. They quickly became known as anvil priests and were very popular for eloping couples from England. According to an online Gretna Green wedding history, young couples often were chased by at least one set of angry parents, and that on occasions the ceremony would be halted and the young couple hustled into the nearest bed. When the angry father found the couple in bed together he would head home in disgust, thinking he was too late. Once the father had gone, the couple would then continue with their wedding.

Moving on to Limerick in Ireland, I’m reminded of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, and it actually is the setting for both the book and the movie. It may be the vividness of detail McCourt recalled in the book that color my impression, but oh well. To me it will always be a depressing place. The fact that it was raining during the one night we spent there did not help either. Neither does this statue of a hurling player and a rugby player on a downtown street in Limerick do anything to dispel my overall impression. For the sake of the people who live there, I hope I’m wrong. To say I am not a sports aficionado would be an understatement. Except that apparently the people of Limerick love football–all kinds–I find no romance in violent sports and, alas, no story either.

Dublin is a different story. Except for its busy-ness that I generally disliked, I found it quite a colorful place. I wish we’d had more time for exploring there. Much of its charm I attribute to those wonderful doors of Dublin all around the city, and Molly Malone the lass who wheeled her wheelbarrow through streets straight and narrow singing cockles and mussels alive alive-o, designed by Jeanne Rynhart. It’s quite rare, I understand from the locals, to find her all alone without tourists posing next to her, but here she is. Gee, now I wonder why her breasts are not as dark as the dress she’s almost wearing? Our local guide, a quite proper looking woman, I thought rather gleefully pointed out her various nicknames among Dubliners: Tart with the Cart, Trollop that sold Scallops, Dolly with the Trolley, Dish with the Fish, and Flirt in the Skirt.

Backtracking a tiny bit here, Chester was by far my favorite town in England. One of its most unique features is the nearly two-miles of walls surrounding most of the city center that makes the most complete Roman and medieval defensive wall system in Britain that served as inspiration for artist Stephen Broadbent’s Celebration of Chester sculpture I found near a tourist information center just outside a shopping mall. The three intertwined bronze figures symbolize three important aspects–thanksgiving, protection, and industry–that reflect the personal and corporate life of the city.

Nearby we found this baby elephant that looks so real, our first impulse was to reach out and stroke it. I wanted to take it home with me, but decided to capture this image instead. Its creator, Anna Yarrow, grew up in India in the 1930s and 1940s and thus has first hand knowledge of elephants. Remarkably lifelike, this bronze beauty was a gift from the Chester Zoo to celebrate the friendship between the zoo and the city of Chester.

At this point, I’m realizing the futility of placing 15/16 pictures into one post. Rather than leaving some out, I should stop now and leave the remaining ones for another post. In the meantime, friends of ours recently returned from a visit to Chicago, shared pictures of a couple of new pieces of public art they saw there. Just to show the U.S. will not be left behind in the premise of public art, I share one here with you today and hold the other, my favorite, until the next post. I hope you’ll come back and see it another day.

[photo credits: John and Pam Sanders]

According to Wikipedia, Cloud Gate, a sculpture by Indian-born British artist, Anish Kapoor, is the centerpiece in this loop community area of Chicago. From another angle you can see a 12-foot-high arch providing a gate to a concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives. Chicagoans immediately dubbed it The Bean because of its bean-like shape. It’s made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together with highly polished exterior with no visible seams. Pretty fantastic, huh?!

welcoming mountain woman to the blogging world

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce my art loving readers to a new multi-talented blogger on the block, MountainWoman Silver. I’ve known Silver since around 1994 when this attractive, silver haired woman walked up to me at a writer’s conference in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and asked if we’d met someplace before? As far as I knew, we hadn’t, yet she did have an air of familiarity about her. The next two years we spent a good deal of time exploring the Tennessee hills and valleys together as we discovered we had quite a great deal in common besides our love of writing. As we became better acquainted, I would learn of many other talents of hers that included all the arts I admired–photography, sculpture, painting in oils and acryllics, and fabric arts to name a few. She’s good at them all.

When we were in Tennessee for that short period of about two years, she was heavily involved in exploring the fabric arts. We went to quilt shows together, and she produced some traditional as well as art quilts during that period. She even convinced me I could do something like that. I really can’t, but she encouraged me to practice it for my own enjoyment. Here’s a couple of examples of her work that I especially enjoy. “Grandma in Her Garden” up there has become one of my favorite for obvious reasons.

Here’s a detail of a commissioned art she did for a woman who had lost her young son in a tragic accident and wanted a quilt for her wall designed especially as a memorial tribute to him. The finished project is stunning, although out of respect for the owner (whom I could not contact for permission) I will not post the entire quilt. It’s possible you could see a photograph on the art web site where Silver’s art, fabric as well as painted canvas and other media, is listed. All these pictures will enlarge so you can see more detail, by the way, if you click on them. To go to the Art Site, click here.

Here’s a quilt in progress. You can see the blocks have not yet been attached but the layout gives you an idea how the quilt came together in the traditional box layout. I have Silver to thank for getting me to think a little outside the box to try and encourage my own creativity. Sometimes things that aren’t perfectly matched or leaving a frayed edge makes a piece of fabric art much more appealing. I must tell you, it takes a certain “eye” that isn’t nearly as developed in me.

I doubt you’d be surprised at all to know that Silver’s won awards and accolades for not only her fabric art, but some of the paintings she’s devoted her time to the past several years have been accepted into juried shows around the country and she’s now an award winning painter as well as fabric artist.

Last but not least,  “That Quiet Miss Emma” is one of her earlier collages I’ve always admired. I feel it represents all those other quiet little women who sit on the sideline and are easily dismissed into one stereotype or another because of how they look, their educational status, or myriad things that don’t truly define them. All the things that went into making Miss Emma don’t show on the outside except for those the artist chose to bring to our attention. If we take the time to know them, we’ll learn there’s a lot more to all the Miss Emmas of the world.

Just before she moved away from Tennessee to a new state in the southwest, Silver was struggling with decisions to be made about how to dispose of a lot of things that seemed too burdensome to keep moving from place to place. So that quiet Miss Emma lives with me now.

I know this is a busy busy time of year when there’s just not enough time to do all the things we need or would like to get done. But I do hope you’ll take a few minutes to stop by Silver’s new blog, Mountain Woman Silver Speaks, where you can see more of her painting and quilt art. And while you’re there, I hope you’ll leave a little welcoming message. Oh and one thing she probably would NOT want you to mention . . . is how much I loved it when she used to sing the Milk Cow Blues to me, and how I was always begging her to sing it. So don’t mention that, okay?

sacrifice for art

Sometime back my grandkids were going to be in our charge for a full Friday (!) and more than half of that time that would mean me, by myself (!!), as Hubby had a meeting to attend in the morning. So earlier in the morning, before they arrived, I decided not to panic but went instead to my source of comfort. My friendly computer. Into the google search engine I typed entertainment for kids 6 and under, and I came up with a multitude of ideas and things to do at the keyboard.

You might try it yourself in a pinch sometimes if you’re not one of those earth mothers that make great grandmothers. Kids scare me. Even my own. Even when they’re all grown up! Especially now that they’re all grown up.

With the older one settled onto the couch watching bad cartoons with on demand cable service, I took the younger to my office and soon she was happily playing age-relevant computer games. Then at some point I decided to give her a chance at the Jackson Pollock paint site, which she absolutely loved.

If you haven’t tried it yourself, you might want to, especially if you’ve ever fantasized about tossing buckets and paintbrushes full of paint without worrying about cleanup, just give it a go right here. Be forewarned that with the very first, even minuest movement of the mouse, you’re painting!

She had a wonderful time and we printed out many of her masterpieces to take home for her mother. It took only minor monitoring of both kids, going back and forth between my office and the family room before, amazingly enough, the Hubby poked his head in the door, home from his meeting.

On another Friday, this time both of us watching the kids after school, the 3-year-old asked me to let her play on the computer, i.e., paint a picture a la Pollock like she’d done that other day, and I could not for the life of me remember the url. (dot com didn’t work and I didn’t remember it was dot org instead.)  Some mistakes lead to other things though, and good ol’ google came up with another art website that lets you paint with wild abandon. Another bingo! She loved it.

There are several ways on art dot com to create paintings. You just pick your style (are you a Pollock, a Picasso or a Rothco?), then you take your time–you can even undo things if you make a mistake–and when you’re finished, you can add a frame and hang it in their gallery. You can even print it if you want, and they helpfully remind you to set your printer to landscape instead of portrait for the best layout.

Best of all,  you can send a link to your family and friends in an email. I begged my granddaughter to let me send a copy to Mommy at the office, Auntie in New York, and another to myself. She said No! In the back of my mind I also thought it would be cute to make and save a copy as a jpeg  so that I could share it and brag on Wintersong.

For a 3-year-old, she was quite emphatic with her “NOs!” She even stated it in plain English so I couldn’t pretend I didn’t understand what she was saying: I do not want you to put my picture on your blog!!!!

Finally, after bribing her with a cup of giant marshmallows she loves (and isn’t allowed to have at home), plus a few red cough drops (medicine), and a cup of hot chocolate, she relented and allowed me to send the link to Mommy and Auntie. Alas, I was unable to save it as a jpeg to use on Wintersong, but I did manage a link. If you want, and if you promise not to breathe a word to her, you can view one of her masterpieces here. Notice her color choices. She’s all girl!

Just a note. All my links open in new windows. That means you have to click your back page button to get back here. So before you go, let me just say that if you go there and decide to try your hand at painting and you never make it back here? That’s okay. I forgive you. Anything for art!!!!

It’s all in how you say it . . .

If you read a lot, and especially if you’re a writer, you will have heard about flash fiction that is so popular now. It’s a story with the traditional beginning, middle, and a suitable ending in anywhere between 500 to 800 words, the number varying somewhat. The idea is to trim every extraneous word away until you absolutely cannot remove another word without ruining the story. I once spent a week’s worth of classes at a writer’s colony working on just this concept. It’s a very difficult, but satisfying, practice in writing if you’re lucky enough to get the hang of it.

Yesterday I received two emails from a couple of my old friends from when I lived in Las Vegas. Both contained a link to this video via another distributor. It’s the winner of the Fourth Annual Short Film Online Competition from the Cannes Film Festival of 2008, Historia de un Letroro (The History of a Sign). The winner’s name is Alonso Alvarez Barreda. The music is outstanding, the story sincere and . . . maybe you’d better have a hanky or a box of Kleenex handy. It’s not sad, it’s uplifting in the ways that make people tear up or cry a little, or at least their throat burns a bit. Also–and this doesn’t hurt either the film either–the hero is very good looking. I’m sure, Eiko and Ginger, that you didn’t even notice! But thanks to you both!

Since my WordPress hosted account limits my options for formatting videos, I had to search it out and link it to youtube rather than the version I first viewed. The quality is a not quite what I wish, but I think it’s satisfactory enough, and the story heartwarming enough, that you will enjoy it very much. The film’s running time is 4 minutes 50 seconds, but it runs almost 6 minutes if you watch full credits at the end. By the way, it’s in Spanish with English subtitles for the very limited “dialogue.” And just like great flash fiction, when a short film says it right, it’s wonderful.

Author’s note: This video IS still available, although I’ve noticed that it sometimes takes a few moments to upload. It’s worth the wait.

With a stroke of the pen, a stranger transforms the afternoon for another, less fortunate man, reminding us that sometimes the gift of time is far more valuable than mere money.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Clearly I still have much to learn about posting blogs directly from Flickr. I’m no knucklehead, and I followed directions explicitly two or three times and still I’m only able to post one photo at a time. I wanted to share the three of my beautiful Oregon coastal lighthouses, but they’ll have to come one at a time. Now, back to the Flickr page to see where I sent wrong. Hope you like this one plus my reflections at the bottom.

IMG_4607, originally uploaded by aliceatwintersong.

The impressive 93 foot tower of the Yaquina Head Light House in Newport, Oregon is visible for several miles along the Pacific Coast highway. Completed in 1873, it is the most visited light house on the west coast with over 400,000 visitors each year. It was quite chilly and windy the day this photograph was taken, as you can probably tell by the direction of the sunflowers.

Lighthouses are compelling and imposing at the same time. They seem to have a lonely tale to tell. I mean, can you imagine living in one year round? Cold, windy, sea waters lapping at you all night long. Once there were thousands of lighthouse keepers on guard. They must have led a very lonely life. Now, there are automated systems for switching the lights on and off. If you know any good lighthouse stories, please mention them in the comments. I love ghost stories especially.

Art & Aquaria Combination at Oregon Coast Aquarium

The Oddwater exhibit in the Oregon Coast Aquarium combines marine biology and colorfully blown art glass inside the displays and life-size murals of some of the ocean’s larger oddities. The theme throughout is that “it’s okay to look different and some of these critters do.” These pieces remind me of a couple of Dale Chihuly exhibits I’ve attended, except on a smaller scale, and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the art, or glass, from the fish.

(Oops! That one should have been turned around. Sorry.)

Of course some exhibits even without the art are still beautiful and interesting; is that art or turquoise fish? This is the underwater walk through tunnel.

Then there was this guy who wanted to get up close and personal. I think he liked my eyes.

And what’s an aquarium without one of these?

Sea Otters

Or these? This little guy is Hunter, a little sea orphan. After being rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, he was released and monitored using a radio tracking implant. After being recaptured five times in 2 1/2 years of begging for food at local piers and jumping in kayaks, he was deemed non-releasable because of his inability to feed himself.

And how about this little fellow, who’s just taken a refreshing dip and is just enjoying the warm sunshine?

This is only a fraction of things you can see there at Oregon’s Aquarium in Newport, and we pretty much managed to see it all thanks to our special friend Mickie. We enjoyed it very much and I think it’s pretty obvious why.

What’s Going On?

stockton (2), originally uploaded by aliceatwintersong.

If you happen by here a lot, you may have wondered what the heck’s going on with all these photographs. I’ll explain. For one thing we’re still sort of fresh back from our vacation and I’ve downloaded all 942 pictures on my computer’s hard drive–added to the other 1579 already there! “Yeesh! Enough already” I distinctly heard PC sigh. (I’m just kidding. A little. I don’t really know how many pictures are in either place. I can’t count that high.) Long story short, I paid–yes, actually PAID–for a “pro” account at so that I could upload everything there and organize it, because I knew I had to do something.

While I’m trying to accomplish all that, I keep popping by and catching up on my blog favs, and see Grannymar (check blogroll on the sidebar) taking photographs like crazy and actually getting good at “seeing” the picture she wants to capture. So now I carry my little camera in my bag and take pictures of buildings, ivy climbing buildings, ants, woodchips–most anything that doesn’t get out of the way real fast like those cute little baby Gambel quails I’ve been chasing and terrorizing for days now so I could show them to you. I think you can see the problem of storing all those pictures.

So I’m giving you fair warning. In order to accomplish this humongous, or as yankees imitating southerners would say (I never heard a real southerner say it!), bodacious job, it makes it more fun to post a few now and then and write something about them. I hope you don’t get too bored, because I might, but I’ve gotta get this done. My PC’s hard drive will be so relieved.

Above is a statue of a basketball player named Malone in front of Energy Solutions which is the home of the Utah Jazz NBA team in SLC. I really don’t know, it could be Stockton, as well. I don’t know one from the other, but my guess is that it’s Malone because the famous sportscaster quip was Stockton to Malone, as Stockton would pass the ball to Malone who would then sink it in the basket.

They were a formidable team apparently. It was getting dark (after 8 o’clock in the evening) and we were walking to the car after attending the Obon Festival (a Japanese ceremonial celebration dedicated to remembering their deceased relatives) and I like the way the statue looked silhouetted against the sky so I took a picture.


Here are a few of the folk dancers in colorful costumes. One of these days I hope to get those little Quail biddies. In the meantime, I hope you’ll bear with me because sure as tootin’ I’ll be back with more later. And after it’s all done, I don’t know where I’ll go then. We’ll just have to wait and see. At least now you know what’s going on.