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Posts Tagged ‘sculpture’

Photo: Deb Nystrom.
The Minnesota State Fair crowns a “Princess Kay of the Milky Way” every year, and for 50 years, Linda Christensen has been sculpting her head in butter.

OK, no laughing. A regular attraction of the Minnesota State Fair, which I visited when I lived in Minneapolis, is one that celebrates the dairy industry. It includes a pageant to select the year’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way. And for 50 years, Princess Kay and her attendants have had their heads sculpted in butter by Linda Christensen.

Cathy Free writes at the Washington Post, “Photos and paintings can be lovely, but if you really want to impress, get your likeness chiseled into a 90-pound block of butter.

“Every year at the Minnesota State Fair, a dozen young dairy pageant finalists are sculpted live as part of a spectacle, a tradition that dates back to 1965. The butter busts began as a way to bring attention to Minnesota’s dairy industry and have remained a draw since, as thousands of visitors show up every August to watch the painstaking artistry while a winner is named Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

“ ‘It would be hard to find a person in Minnesota who doesn’t know about Princess Kay of the Milky Way,’ said sculptor Linda Christensen, 79, about the contest naming a state dairy ambassador.

“For almost 50 years, Christensen has been the principal artist to create the busts. She uses a kitchen knife she calls ‘Old Faithful’ to carve the faces into salted butter. Each one takes about six hours.

“Now, after churning out more than 500 princess butter heads over nearly five decades, Christensen has decided to retire her knife. She turned her last 90-pound block into a creamy masterpiece at the fairgrounds last month from her glass-enclosed studio.

‘You learn to get used to working in a rotating glass booth with everyone watching you,’ she said. ‘You have to bundle up, because the temperature is set at 39 degrees. There probably aren’t a lot of artists who’d like to work with cold butter, but I really enjoyed it.’ …

“State fairs in Iowa and Illinois are famous for showcasing cows crafted from butter, but Christensen said she doesn’t know other artists who regularly sculpt the likenesses of live dairy models year after year. She said she admires the women she sculpts, most of whom come from dairy farming families.

“ ‘As kids, they knew what it was like to get up at 4:30 to help with the farm chores before catching the bus to school,’ she said. ‘They’re tough.’ …

“The Princess Kay of the Milky Way contest is not based on looks. It is a goodwill ambassador program focused on leadership skills and ‘promoting the goodness of dairy products,’ according to the Minnesota Dairy Princess Handbook. … The princess is selected based on how well judges think she will promote Minnesota’s dairy industry at trade shows and community events. Women who live or work on dairy farms are encouraged to compete in county contests every year, with the finalists advancing to the Minnesota State Fair.

“The top dozen ended up in Christensen’s see-through butter booth as she chiseled their likenesses into edible works of art.

“The princess is selected based on how well judges think she will promote Minnesota’s dairy industry at trade shows and community events. Women who live or work on dairy farms are encouraged to compete in county contests every year, with the finalists advancing to the Minnesota State Fair. …

“Christensen began the niche portraits in 1972 when the American Dairy Association of Minnesota (now known as Midwest Dairy) was looking for a new artist to make giant princess butter heads at the state fairgrounds in Falcon Heights, outside of St. Paul.

“Christensen had recently graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and was recommended by one of her instructors to make sculptures of the pageant’s finalists. Christensen worked as an art teacher at the time, but she thought two weeks of butter sculpting would be a fun way to make extra money, she said. She didn’t imagine she’d remain for nearly 50 years. …

“The Princess Kay of the Milky Way pageant — named in the 1950s by the winner of a public contest — wouldn’t have been the same without Christensen’s sculpting talent, said Molly Pelzer, the CEO of Midwest Dairy.

“ ‘Linda’s butter sculptures have helped solidify [the pageant’s] iconic place in Minnesota culture,’ she said.

“Past winners have included Kristi Pettis Osterlund, who in 1996 was crowned as the 43rd Princess Kay of the Milky Way. She took her butter bust home to Winthrop, Minn., where it was kept frozen in a meat locker until the last month of her reign. She then decided to melt down her likeness and serve it to her community to slather on corn on the cob. …

“She and her mother fired up the largest slow-cooker they could find, cut the butter head into big chunks and melted it one batch at a time, she said.

“ ‘I remember cringing when my mom took a butcher knife to the head,’ she said. ‘That was a little emotional for me. But it was such a fun and memorable party. I’ll bet we easily had six or seven quarts of melted butter.’

“Donna Schmidt Moenning, a Princess Kay finalist in 1980, opted for a different approach. Moenning shared the back half of her butter bust with friends and neighbors in Marietta, Minn., for baking projects. But then she froze the face portion. It’s still sitting in her deep freeze, next to the pork chops, she said.” More at the Post, here.

And at CBS, here, you can see three sisters posing with the butter sculptures they have preserved. Jeni Haler says, “We’re a generation of butter heads. My mom was a butter head. And I have two older sisters that were also butter heads.”

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Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA.
The giant head is grafted onto the hull of a boat and made up of a steel framework and cement. Forgotten after a Glasgow festival in the 1980s, it was sought out by sculptor Richard Groom’s family after his death.

Artworks may be forgotten when no one connected to the artist thinks they are worth keeping track of. It wasn’t until mourners at the funeral of UK sculptor Richard Groom told family members how well they remembered the giant floating head he once made that the family decided to find out what happened to it. Libby Brooks has the story at the Guardian.

“Bobbing in the water in the Canting Basin, by the shiny crescent of the Glasgow Science Centre, the Floating Head remains impassive as a seagull lands on its broad forehead. The seven-metre-long, 26-tonne buoyant sculpture could be a refugee from Easter Island, brought to the Clyde by the tide, only to have a bird peck at the moss covering its cheek and chin like a lopsided beard.

“In fact, it was commissioned from the artist Richard Groom as the centrepiece of Glasgow’s 1988 Garden festival, but then lost for decades – forgotten and unclaimed in a boatyard until a dogged relocation and restoration project brought it back to the spot where it started, three decades later.

“It was a conversation at the artist’s funeral in 2019 that inspired his family to seek out the sculpture.

“His brother Andy Groom said: ‘Myself and my family were so touched at Richard’s funeral where so many of his friends and colleagues commented on all of his work, especially the Floating Head. It became apparent very quickly we had to find it, fix it, float it.’

“Working with the Sculpture Placement Group (SPG), an organisation that aims to bring sculpture to different audiences, the family discovered the head had been stored at the Clyde Boat Yard for more than a decade after being rescued from another dock site where it was about to be bulldozed.

‘We had no idea whatsoever where it was,’ said Groom. ‘It was listed as abandoned on the banks of the Clyde, so I started phoning round scrap and storage yards asking: do you happen to know where a 30ft concrete head might be?’

“The head, which is grafted on to the hull of a boat and made up of a steel framework with a concrete render, was then partially restored – some graffiti was removed, but the natural weathering, and the encroaching moss, remains.

“Kate Robertson, the co-director of the SPG, said: ‘People still remember the Garden festival as a big highlight, they were aware of the focus on Glasgow and the visitors, and it also marked a turning point for the city from post-industrial to a cultural destination.’ … The Garden festival site began the redevelopment of the once booming dry docks that had become a symbol of an industry in permanent decline.

“With an official launch later this month, the head will feature at Glasgow Doors Open Days festival, forming part of a sculpture trail through Govan, while Groom’s family and the SPG seek a permanent mooring. …

“ ‘The scale of it is quite intimidating,’ Robertson said. ‘The best way to see the possibilities there are for the sculpture is to bring it out into public view again.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

Although I don’t know what ideas the artist himself intended to emphasize with the floating head at the festival, it certainly brings home to me that Glasgow is a city on the water. Fort Point Channel features floating art, too (for example, here). It reminds viewers not only that much of Boston was salvaged from the ocean, but that rising seas want it back.

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Photo: Washed Ashore.
Rosa, the bald eagle, was created by Washed Ashore volunteers collaborating nationwide despite the pandemic. Washed Ashore is a nonprofit that repurposes ocean plastic to make art and raise awareness.

Having read about Washed Ashore at the New York Times before the pandemic, I wondered how these plastic-waste-fighting artists managed to keep going during lockdown. I should have known: nothing can stop them.

Founder Angela Haseltine Pozzi showed her mettle in an early March 2020 interview with Alex V. Cipolle: “Angela Haseltine Pozzi stands shoulder to shoulder with Cosmo, a six-foot-tall tufted puffin, on a cliff overlooking the blustery Oregon coast. It is January and the deadly king tides have come to Coquille Point, making the shoreline look like a churning root-beer float.

“Cosmo endures the weather just fine, as he is composed of plastic that has washed ashore — flip-flops, bottle caps, toy wheels, cigarette lighters — all mounted to a stainless-steel frame and bolted to concrete. The puffin is a sculpture from Ms. Haseltine Pozzi’s art and education nonprofit, Washed Ashore, whose tagline is ‘Art to Save the Sea.’

‘We’ve cleaned up 26 tons off the beaches, Ms. Haseltine Pozzi said, ‘which isn’t a dent in the actual pollution issue, but we’re doing something by raising awareness and waking people up.’ …

“Washed Ashore has taken those 26 tons of garbage, all debris that washed up on the Oregon coast (the majority within 100 miles of Bandon), and built 70 large-scale sculptures and counting, including Octavia the Octopus, Edward the Leatherback Turtle and Daisy the Polar Bear. …

“[The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] estimates that eight million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. Marine animals become entangled in it or ingest pieces they mistake for food, such as the whale that recently washed ashore in Scotland with 220 pounds of debris in its belly — the same weight in plastic an American throws away annually.”

So having read about Haseltine Pozzi’s efforts to draw attention to this travesty through art, I wondered what happened to Washed Ashore during the pandemic. Surely, there would have been no more of Pozzi’s in-person workshops, workshops where Washed Ashore invites “the Buddhists and the Baptists, and the rednecks and the hippies, and the Republicans and the Democrats, and they all sit around the table and they all work together.”

The nonprofit’s excellent blog has that piece of the story.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic led to a national lockdown of indoor spaces in early 2020, the Washed Ashore gallery and art studios were affected much like everyone else. Volunteer activity ceased, exhibits were closed, and workshops were emptied. Washed Ashore relies heavily on a steady stream of volunteers to collect and sort debris and build parts of sculptures, accompanying our full-time staff of artists and helpers. But overnight, our doors were closed and volunteers sent home.

“Knowing the problems of plastic ocean pollution were too great to ignore, Washed Ashore looked to find a creative way to continue our mission to create ‘Art to Save the Sea’ and finding a way to still work together, but differently. …

“And so we got to work, calling on supporters and putting together a plan to unite us as the pandemic kept us all apart. [We] opened our determined efforts nationwide with a goal to work together and create a new sculpture, a symbol of unity.

“What better symbol of hope and unity for the people of the United States than a giant American Bald Eagle, the symbol of our democracy?

“The project was named ‘Come Soar With Us,’ by our Executive Director Katie Dougherty, and our team got to work putting together detailed plastic debris construction kits and instructions and mailing them out across America to over 1,550 volunteers across seven states. Their tireless participation stretched well over eight months, creating the feathers for what would be become Rosa’s impressive wingspan. …

“During a time when so much was halted, the momentum and collaboration from creating Rosa with all of our staff and volunteers was inspiring and has given our team an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment. … You can see Rosa in person at Norfolk Botanical Garden in Norfolk, Virginia, from August 21 – November 4, 2021.”

More at the Washed Ashore blog, here, and at the New York Times, here.

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The Journey Junkies blog doesn’t seem to have a Reblog button, but I have their permission to share this post about an unusual garden in India.

They write: “The Nek Chand Rock Gardens had been on our radar for a long time before we finally made it there. Located in the city of Chandigarh, at the foot of the Himalayas, the gardens are one of India’s hidden gems. In fact, they largely undiscovered by foreign tourists. Indeed, on our visit, we were the only foreigners enjoying the gardens. Interestingly, although they are largely overlooked by visitors from overseas, the gardens are the second most visited tourist attraction in the country after the Taj Mahal. Around 5000 visitors a day enter the gates of the gardens to experience Nek Chand’s captivating wonderland.

“Although the gardens themselves are incredible, the story of the Nek Chand Rock Gardens is even more so. Nek Chand was born in 1924 in Pakistan and moved to India during partition in 1947. Two years later he joined the Highway Department in Chandigarh as part of the Refugee Employment Programme. In 1951, he secured a position as a road inspector at Chandigarh Public Works Department. His job was to supervise the construction of a re-vitalisation of the road system in the city. …

“It was Nek Chand’s job to supervise the re-vitalisation of the road system in the 1950’s. However, Nek Chand was a man with a vision. It was during this period, that he started to collect unwanted materials that had been discarded throughout the area. These were items that had been abandoned when the city was being re-built, as well as objects that had been thrown away by residents. He searched for rocks, broken crockery, coloured glass, along with tiles and whatever else he could find. With these materials, he secretly built a sculpture garden hidden on government land. It started small, just a patch of land, with stones bordering the area, together with a few sculptures. However, before long, the garden had expanded significantly and various courtyards were added.”

More here.

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Photos: Bedrock Gardens

I’m excited that the now-public garden of our friends Jill Nooney and Bob Munger in Lee, New Hampshire, is opening up again after a long hiatus. If you live anywhere near southeast New Hampshire, you are in for a treat when you enter the magical world of Bedrock Gardens.

Although they originally created the wonderland for their family and friends and to display Nooney’s monumental sculptures, Bedrock Gardens is now a nonprofit entity open to all.

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Here is what Robin Sweetser at New Hampshire Home magazine had to say about it recently.

“This year, Bedrock Gardens in Lee is opening for its first full season as a public garden. Owners Jill Nooney and Bob Munger decided in 2007 that, for their garden not to fall into disrepair when they could no longer care for it, they would have to take action to preserve it.

‘The pleasure others derived from the garden — paired with the fact we can’t take it with us — propelled us to try and turn the garden into one open to the public,’ Nooney says.

“Bedrock was already a popular garden destination. ‘Way back in 1998, we started opening the garden two weekends a year as a stage to showcase my outdoor sculptures,’ Nooney says. …

“ ‘For several years, we were open one weekend a month, and when we went to two weekends a month, we had more than five thousand visitors!’ Munger says.

“The most impressive water feature on the property is a two-hundred-foot-long channel dubbed ‘the Wiggle-Waggle’ for the way it curves across the property. …

“The garden has been created on land that was originally a farm dating from 1740. When Nooney and Munger bought the property in 1980, the land had been neglected for about forty years. The couple spent their first years there clearing overgrown fields of poison ivy, saplings and brush.

“Actual landscaping began in 1987; then Nooney and Munger added a ¾-acre pond in 1991. The soil excavated from the pond was used to build a berm alongside busy Route 125 to buffer the road noise and block the sight of traffic. Selective cutting of trees opened up the property even more, and two miles of trails made the wooded areas accessible. …

“Nooney believes that a garden needs to have destinations. At Bedrock, there are twenty-three garden areas linked with paths to form a journey with comfortable spots along the way to sit and enjoy the sights. There are many axis views that draw visitors through the garden. One is nine-hundred-feet long, …

“Becoming a public garden has been a long process; attaining nonprofit status for the Friends of Bedrock Gardens was one of the first hurdles to overcome, taking ten years. ‘The mission of the Friends group is to take over and run the garden,’ Nooney says. The Friends group also established a governing board and brought in John Forti as founding executive director. …

“Forti recently returned to New Hampshire after three years as horticulture director at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Area folks know him from his years as curator of historic landscapes at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth and co-founder of the Seacoast Slow Food chapter. ‘His knowledge of plants, the region and its people, in addition to his magnetic personality, make him the perfect person for the job,’ Nooney says….

“ ‘We are just starting to explore how we can add plantings like a fernery, and a children’s garden space that will offer fun and meaningful lessons for families with our own unique twist,’ Forti says. … ‘Above all, I look forward to helping us grow as a land-based cultural oasis and gathering place for the community to find calm and inspiration in a harried and fractious world.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Evy Mages
Detail from a massive sculpture of a black Last Supper discovered by a demolition crew in the Columbia Heights section of Washington, DC.

Oh, my! Imagine the wonder of the demolition crew that uncovered this artwork in a former church! I wish reporter Andrew Beaujon at the Washingtonian had tracked them down and interviewed them for their immediate thoughts.

Here’s his story.

“Joy Zinoman got an unexpected phone call [in early October]. Demolition had just begun inside a former church in Columbia Heights that she’s turning into the new home of the Studio Acting Conservatory. Now the boss of the the crew working was on the line to tell the Studio Theatre founder about a remarkable discovery his guys made: An enormous frieze of the Last Supper that was hidden behind drywall for more than a decade.

“The building on Holmead Place, Northwest, had been slated to become condos before the conservatory bought it earlier this year. It was built in 1980, city records say, to house New Home Baptist Church, which moved to Landover, Maryland, in the 1990s. After that it became a building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A signature on the lower right of the sculpture  leaves no doubt at which point it joined the building’s history: ‘All rights reserved 1982 Akili Ron Anderson.’ …

“New Home trustee board chairman Willie L. Morris told Post reporter Esther Iverem, ‘It was very important to us that we have a black artist. All the other Last Supper pictures we’d seen were always in a white framework.’ …

“Anderson now teaches at Howard University and some of his artwork is easier to see, particularly his work Sankofa at the east and west entrances of the Columbia Heights Metro Station as well as stained glass at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel and the Prince George’s County Courthouse.

“The fact that the participants in the Last Supper are black reflects a movement among African American artists, beginning in the late 1960s, to make the art in places of worship look like the people inside them. ‘I think it’s important for black children sitting in churches all over this country on Sunday morning to look up at the windows, look up at images and see themselves and believe that they can ascend to heaven, too,’ Anderson told Iverem in 1993.

“It’s not clear when the 232 square feet of religious art was covered by drywall. City records show that an inspector reviewed some ‘Close-in (concealment)-Walls Construction’ in 2003. Anderson says he undertook the artwork when he worked at Duke Ellington School of the Arts and had a coworker who attended New Home. ‘Most of the time I was in there by myself,’ he says.

‘It actually got to be something of a spiritual experience for me.’ …

“When you first view the frieze in person, as I did Friday, you’re likely to gasp: It’s difficult to convey just how large and impressive this sculpture is.

“Acting studios are supposed to be bare, and Zinoman, who likens this piece to the Sistine Chapel, really hopes it won’t end up behind a curtain at her conservatory. … She’s hoping a museum might wish to take it. Removing it from the wall will not be easy and will require a lot of skill and experience (and presumably money) to do properly. ‘All I want is for it to be in a place where people can see it,’ Zinoman says. ‘I think it’s a great work.’ ”

You can tell that a lot of love went into this frieze. If it does end up behind a curtain, at least it will still be available to visitors. If you know of any venue that could afford to move it and make it available to the public, please get in touch with the Studio Acting Conservatory, 202.232.0714.

More at the Washingtonian, here. Lots of great photos.

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Astronaut-honoring butter sculpture at the Ohio State Fair. Butter sculptures are traditional at many Midwest state fairs.

How I remember the kooky state-fair butter sculptures I saw when I lived in Minnesota! This year, to honor the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, there was a particularly unusual one at the Ohio state fair.

Elizabeth Howell wrote at Space.com in July, “The Ohio State Fair is buttering up its visitors with a sculpture series to celebrate the big moon-landing anniversary 50 years ago.

“The sculptures are of the Apollo 11 moon crew – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – as well as a separate buttery interpretation of Armstrong in his spacesuit by the lunar module, Eagle. There’s also a butter cow and calf standing beside the Apollo 11 patch. This took more than 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) of butter to create. …

“Said Jenny Hubble, senior vice president of communications for the American Dairy Association Mideast, [the sculpture] pays special tribute to Armstrong, who is originally from Wapakoneta, Ohio. …

“In between gazing at the yellow sculptures of the crew, visitors will have a choice of many dairy foods, including ice cream, milkshakes, cheese sandwiches — and of course, milk.

“While the butter connection seems at first to be a stretch, Armstrong did buy a dairy farm in Ohio after leaving NASA in 1971, two years after his epic first steps on the moon, according to a 2012 article in the Independent.” More.

According to Wikipedia, “Butter sculptures often depict animals, people, buildings and other objects. They are best known as attractions at state fairs in the United States as lifesize cows and people. … Butter carving was an ancient craft in Tibet, Babylon, Roman Britain and elsewhere. The earliest documented butter sculptures date from Europe in 1536, where they were used on banquet tables. The earliest pieces in the modern sense as public art date from ca. 1870s America, created by Caroline Shawk Brooks, a farm woman from Helena, Arkansas. The heyday of butter sculpturing was about 1890-1930, but butter sculptures are still a popular attraction at agricultural fairs, banquet tables and as decorative butter patties.”

Butter Art: Caroline Shawk Brooks, 19th century Arkansas farm woman
“Dreaming Iolanthe” depicts Yolande, Duchess of Lorraine, the heroine of Henrik Hertz’s play
King René’s Daughter. Says Wikipedia, “It was this 1876 masterpiece that ignited popular interest in butter sculpting as a public art form. The bowl was kept cool with ice underneath it.”
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Photo: Eye Ubiquitous/Rex/Shutterstock
“It is not in dispute that the shark is not in harmony with its surroundings,” a planning inspector wrote in 1992.

This is not a story about a real shark, although sharks are often on my mind as warming seas move the dangerous kinds to the northern beaches that my family frequents. There is certainly plenty to say about real sharks — both about avoiding the places that their food congregates (seals, for example) and about protecting them to live in the wild. (My 4-year-old granddaughter will tell anyone willing to listen that shark fin soup is bad.)

But this story is about shark art.

Aamna Mohdin writes at the Guardian, “One April evening in 1986, Bill Heine was sitting on the steps opposite his newly purchased terraced house in Oxford, drinking a glass of wine, when he turned to his friend and asked a simple question: ‘Can you do something to liven it up?’

“His friend, the sculptor John Buckley, provided an answer in the shape of an eight-metre (25ft) shark which would sit on his roof, perpetually appearing as though it had just crashed into the house from the sky. The fibreglass fish, which became known as the Headington Shark after the Oxford suburb, led Heine, a local journalist and businessman who died last week, into a six-year legal battle with the local council.

“The process turned a relatively unremarkable street into a beloved local landmark and resulted in one of the most notable triumphs of British eccentricity over petty bureaucracy. …

“ ‘You could see the Americans were taking off from Heyford outside of Oxford to bomb Gaddafi in Libya,’ Buckley said. Both Buckley and Heine wanted to make a powerful statement about the barbarity of war and the feeling of vulnerability and utter helplessness when disaster struck. …

“The artist started on the work immediately after his discussion with Heine. He worked with a group of volunteers – largely students and other anti-war activists – to build an artificial roof to hold the shark outside his studio. He didn’t tell any of them where he planned to put the sculpture. …

“ ‘The crane just dropped it straight in and it went in beautifully as the postman was passing,’ Buckley said. ‘That first morning was amazing. By Sunday, it was worldwide and its been like that for 30-odd years.’

“Oxford city council immediately opposed the installation of the shark. At first, they said it was dangerous to the public, but engineers and inspectors pronounced it structurally safe.

“Heine, an American who moved to the UK to study at Oxford University in the 1960s, then submitted a planning application, which was rejected by the council. He appealed to the environment secretary, then Michael Heseltine. …

“Heseltine’s planning inspector, Peter Macdonald, investigated and ultimately came out in favour of keeping the sculpture, with an official ruling that has gained legendary status among town planners for its defence of art.

“ ‘In this case it is not in dispute that the shark is not in harmony with its surroundings, but then it is not intended to be in harmony with them,’ wrote Macdonald in his official ruling. ‘The council is understandably concerned about precedent here.

‘The first concern is simple: proliferation with sharks (and heaven knows what else) crashing through roofs all over the city. This fear is exaggerated.

” ‘In the five years since the shark was erected, no other examples have occurred … any system of control must make some small place for the dynamic, the unexpected, the downright quirky. I therefore recommend that the Headington Shark be allowed to remain.’ …

“After Heine died [in March], tributes came flooding in from many locals, including city councillors.

“[Patrick Gray, an economist who lived his whole life in Oxford], described Heine as a ‘colourful character’ who inspired people. He said: ‘We once had a 12-year-old boy visit from America. He was miserable and unhappy when he arrived, so we took him to see the house. He left with a very big smile on his face.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here. And be sure to check out the shark-girl sculpture in Buffalo, NY, which blog KerryCan old me about. Pretty funny.

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Photo: Calvin Nicholls
Wilson’s Bird of Paradise rendered in paper.

Some people seem to make a beeline straight from childhood to the work that will define them. People like Mozart, for example. Others have a long, circuitous route to greatness. Malvolio weighs in on the puzzle in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Pat Leonard writes at Living Bird that Calvin Nicholls came to his amazingly great art a bit by accident.

“The daily commute to his attic studio is short and steep. The road to success for Canadian artist Calvin Nicholls has been much longer. He’s spent the last 30 years perfecting an unusual art form that is all about light, shadow, shape—and illusion. Nicholls is a paper sculptor who creates fantastically detailed birds and other animals that seem to leap, lean, or flutter straight out of their frames. His career evolved from drawing, model-making, sculpting, photography, and periodic doses of serendipity.

“ ‘It’s so clear in my mind—it was 1983,’ says Nicholls. ‘I had my own graphic design studio in Toronto. I met a fellow who was manipulating paper to produce areas of highlight and shadow to create the feeling of depth in two dimensions. We worked on a restaurant menu concept together and I could see the potential in this technique. I got playing with paper sculpture myself and it was just so much fun.’

“At first, Nicholls created his sculptures as a method for creating his final product, a photograph that could surprise viewers by seeming three dimensional. The technique turned out to be a hit when Nicholls introduced it to some of his clients. He showed photographic prints of his work in an art show in Ontario in 1990, but he also wound up selling sculptures of a Snowy Owl and Mallard as well.

“ ‘I was focused on the prints and trying to make two dimensions look like three,’ Nicholls says. ‘Then clients would say, so where’s the artwork? And I thought, yikes—I never even thought about displaying the artwork! I still marvel that I didn’t know then that the original artwork could be as interesting as the illusion created in the prints with sophisticated studio lighting.’

“Switching focus to the original artwork meant reducing the depth of his sculptures so they could be framed and so the jumble of foam core supports and toothpicks underneath didn’t show when the piece was viewed from an angle. It took a lot of time and experimentation. But the end result is an uncanny illusion of depth from layers of paper that are only about an inch thick. …

‘What makes the sculptures work is thinking about anatomy and how [feathers] flow a certain way on the musculoskeletal structure,’ says Nicholls. ‘I have to get a sense of the skeleton and the muscles and what they do in certain gestures.’ ”

Read more and see the great pictures at Living Bird, here.

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Photo: Aventura Mall
Louise Bourgeois’s Eye Benches are among the impressive works of art at Miami’s Aventura Mall.

When Suzanne was a toddler, I loved going to the mall, Eastview Mall in Victor, New York, so she could run around. Even today, I may go to a mall for my walk when the weather is bad. But on the whole, I avoid the typically oppressive atmosphere of malls. This one in Miami would have to be an exception. It’s a real art gallery.

Alexandra Peers writes at Architectural Digest, “About a dozen years ago, [real-estate developer Jackie Soffer] began buying artworks for the 2.8-million square-foot Aventura Mall, one of the largest in America. …

“A few malls have art, a very few have good art, but almost none have the button-pushers and immersive installations that the Aventura Mall features. Artists on view include pioneers or buzzy contemporary players like Louise Bourgeois, Wendell Castle, Lawrence Weiner, Julian Opie, and Daniel Arsham. There’s a 93-foot-long slide by artist Carsten Höller, who had another one in London’s Tate Modern museum.

“At first glance, it all seems highly unlikely, but — much like Steve Wynn’s groundbreaking Bellagio Hotel, which signaled to a certain set that the luxury property in Las Vegas had Picassos — the art immediately and wordlessly brands the shopping center.

” ‘Mall has slightly negative connotations,’ Soffer notes, but in Aventura, given its size, longevity (it opened in 1983 and has expanded repeatedly since), and events program, it means to be ‘a real community center.’ Plus, the art is an audience attraction — and great selfie bait.

“[Soffer] concedes that there’s also a popular and much-photographed ‘Love’ sculpture on New York’s Sixth Avenue, near the Museum of Modern Art. But she brags happily, ‘That’s red and blue. Ours is a red, blue, and green artist’s proof!’

“Not all the mall’s retail-art mash-ups go smoothly, of course. One October, sculptures by Ugo Rondinone, a series of Easter Island–style heads atop a plinth of weathered wood, were installed in a gloomy corridor. A few weeks later, a store tenant asked when the Halloween decorations were being taken down. He found them ‘scary,’ given their tucked-away locale. It was a classic case of bad placement, laughs Soffer, who adds that the works have been moved to a wide-open area and are quite popular now. …

“Perhaps the biggest surprise of having the art collection in the mall, says Soffer, has been the unexpected number of adults, rather than kids, who want to take pictures with the pieces. An outdoor fountain of spouting bronze gorillas and animals by The Haas Brothers is, if anything, even more popular when bad weather forces the mall to turn off the water—because fans can get much closer to the figures.”

See more of the art here.

Photo: Leo Diaz/ Aventura Mall
Carsten Höller’s Aventura Slide Tower.

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I finally got to this year’s Art Ramble in Concord’s Hapgood Wright Town Forest — site-specific creations from the Umbrella artists planted among fallen logs and leaves.

There were quite a few other visitors on the cold, sunny day. One couple shared a laugh about their madly yapping dog, who had been spooked by the recumbent figure of Thoreau in the woods. Another couple discussed with me the best way to avoid a shadow on the chicken-and-egg-sculpture. And a friendly woman who was a United Church of Christ minister and artist herself joined me for half the walk. We helped each other spot pieces that blended in so much with the surroundings that at first, when you saw a descriptive sign but no art, you would think the work had already been removed.

I particularly liked the tiny people — one hermit in contemplation under a root, others peeking out of the bark or cavorting on a dead log.

A man with a top hat and frog face was standing next to the pond — a Slavic water spirit and trickster that I am happy to know about.

My favorite this year was the spirit emerging from the earth at the base of a tree. At first I thought, Caliban, but then looked at his gentle face.

My report on the 2016 Art Ramble is here, and the one on the 2017 Art Ramble is here.

If you live in Massachusetts or are visiting Walden Pond, which is nearby, the Art Ramble is up until Nov. 30 this year. It will make you feel like creating some art yourself — especially with leaves and sticks and mud.

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Photo: Glenn Castellano
A design by Meredith Bergmann of suffragists Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the first Central Park statue depicting real women.

Other than fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland, females have not been represented among Central Park’s statues. A new sculpture, of suffragists Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, is the first step in changing the all-male array of historical figures in the park.

Nadja Sayej reports at the Guardian, “In 1995, the artist Meredith Bergmann was working on a film set in Central Park when she noticed something was off.

“ ‘I noticed then there were no statues of women,’ said Bergmann. ‘There was a wonderful Alice in Wonderland sculpture, but there were no sculptures of actual women of note and accomplishment.’

“Now, 23 years later, Bergmann has created the winning design for a bronze statue of New York suffragists Elizabeth C Stanton and Susan B Anthony, who fought for women’s right to vote. Bergmann’s creation will be erected in Central Park on 26 August 2020, coinciding with the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment ‘Votes for Women.’ …

“There are only five public statues of real women in New York City (excluding fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose), while there are 145 sculptures of men, including statues of William Shakespeare and Ludwig van Beethoven, who are both in Central Park.

“ ‘We are happy to have broken the bronze ceiling to create the first statue of real women in the 164-year history of Central Park,’ said Pam Elam, the president of the Monumental Women campaign, which is backing the statue. …

“The statue has a long scroll that snakes from a desk down to a ballot box, which is meant to represent the change they made to the 19th amendment – but it doesn’t stop there. The scroll will detail the voices of over 20 other women, including Ida B Wells-Barnett and Sojourner Truth, with quotes written chronologically from 1848 to 2020. …

“While the quotes are currently kept under wraps, a few potential teasers have been posted on the group’s Instagram account. For example, Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman, once said: ‘You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining, you make progress by implementing ideas,’ while Maya Angelou once said: ‘We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.’ …

“[Says] Elam, ‘Women’s history is such a treasure chest of inspirational stories, it gives us courage to keep fighting for women’s rights and achieve equality in our lives. We want to get their stories out there for people to be energized by their contributions.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

I’m in New York this week to be with my sister as she winds up six weeks of radiation and chemo. If I see any statues of women, I’ll be sure to share a picture.

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Photo: Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Starting August 11, five “fog sculptures” by artist Fujiko Nakaya will grace the string of Boston parks known as the Emerald Necklace until the end of October. Nakaya uses a system of pumps, pressurized hoses, and ultrafine nozzles to create her sculptures.

You can make art from almost anything, but you need an artist’s imagination to see the possibilities. I notice that in my grandchildren, who take on creative projects that seem impossible to dull adults — like making a necklace with a heavy rock and some paper. In this story, artist Fujika Nakaya saw the possibilities of fog.

As Graham Ambrose reports at the Boston Globe, “The Emerald Necklace, Boston’s 7-mile pendant of parks built in the 19th century, will soon have a new adornment: a string of artworks made from water vapor.

“This summer, artist Fujiko Nakaya will debut ‘fog sculptures’ at five sites along the Necklace. The immersive sculptures — wafting clouds of machine-made mist — will be viewable from dawn to dusk between Aug. 11 and Oct. 31. …

“Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston hailed the project, calling the Emerald Necklace ‘a crown jewel in the City of Boston’ in a statement to the Globe. ‘Similar to the intent of the Emerald Necklace, art has a connecting power, bringing together people from all different backgrounds and all different places.’ …

“Nakaya, born in Japan in 1933, calls fog ‘the most generous of mediums.’ Since 1969 she has built more than 80 fog sculptures across four continents, transforming open spaces into dreamlike landscapes with custom-designed installations. …

Fog is living and dying. It condenses and evaporates simultaneously, with dynamism and vulnerability. It is a positive and negative,” Nakaya told the Globe. …

“To create her sculptures, which emit fog in controlled intervals, Nakaya uses a patented system of pumps, pressurized hoses, and ultrafine nozzles. Computer software receives weather data and alters fog flow to suit wind speeds, dew point, temperature, and humidity.”

Read about the dramatic origins of the sponsoring conservancy at the Boston Globe, here. The Emerald Necklace was the work of landscape visionary Frederick Law Olmsted, who also created designs for New York’s Central Park, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and more.

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Photo: NJ Advance Media
Rodin sculpture of Napoleon turns up in a New Jersey town hall. Drew University grad student Mallory Mortillaro did the legwork to authenticate it. She is pictured here with Rodin expert Jérôme Le Blay.

Sometimes lost treasures actually get found. In this story, a bust by famed sculptor Auguste Rodin turned up in a New Jersey town hall, thanks to a determined grad student.

Justin Zaremba wrote about the discovery at NJ Advance Media.

“The art world lost track of acclaimed sculptor Auguste Rodin’s bust of Napoleon in the 1930s, but it’s apparently been on display for the past 85 years in the most unlikely of places — the council chambers in Madison [New Jersey] Borough Hall. …

” ‘Napoléon Enveloppé Dans Son Rêve’ (‘Napoleon Wrapped in his Dream’) was ‘long rumored’ to be Rodin’s work but the borough and the Hartley Dodge Foundation, which owns the sculpture, didn’t know for certain until about two years ago … [when] Drew University graduate student Mallory Mortillaro was hired by the foundation to go through the various art pieces at the Hartley Dodge Memorial Building.

“The bust was able to hide for so long, he said, because it weighs 700 pounds and requires about five people to move it and its attached pedestal. Rodin’s signature had been hidden from view for decades because that side of the sculpture was pushed against the wall. …

“The building and the artworks inside it were deeded over to Madison by Ethel Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge in the 1930s as a memorial to her son, Marcellus Hartley Dodge Jr., who died in a car accident at the age of 22. The foundation’s sole focus is on preserving the art and architecture of the building. …

“Mortillaro began her detective work by researching every book on Rodin she could find, doing online searches, visiting the Rockefeller archives and contacting officials in the art world.

“Mortillaro, now a teacher at Lawton C. Johnson Middle School in Summit, pursued the case despite receiving the brush off from various art experts.

” ‘No one was being very receptive,’ she said.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

“Mortillaro got in touch with the world’s leading Rodin expert, Jérôme Le Blay, formerly of the Rodin Museum in Paris. …

“According to Mortillaro, when Le Blay walked into the council chambers he turned and said ‘Hello my friend, so is this where you have been hiding?’ …

“The bust had originally been conceived and begun in 1904 at the behest of New York collector John W. Simpson in 1904, but the commission wasn’t completed. Four years later, Thomas Fortune Ryan saw the unfinished piece in Rodin’s studio and acquired it. Rodin completed the piece in 1910. …

“[Hartley Dodge Foundation trustee Nicholas] Platt said the borough and the foundation kept the bust’s identity hidden until now because the insurance company wouldn’t insure the piece for its value and allow them to have the bust open to the public. That’s why for a limited time, it’ll be open to the public — though protected by security — before it leaves the Garden State.

“Platt estimated the piece was worth anywhere from ‘the mid-millions to the 10 million’ range depending on the market.”

The bust will go out on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a year.

More here.

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