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!!!!