If the world is a fair place…

If the world is a fair place…, Raqs Media Collective, 2015

Yesterday, we walked in Laumeier Sculpture Park, a county park with an artistic bent. We had just parked the car and were about to embark upon the park’s Art Hike Trail, when an older woman asked Anne, if she felt safe walking in the woods by herself. I should point out that I was standing next to my wife at the time. Maybe half sensing my presence the woman asked again, you have walked in there alone? Anne answered in the affirmative as much to answer the woman’s implied challenge as to answer her question. The woman had two dogs with her on leashes, one small and the other medium sized. She said that she had had a large dog and when she had that dog with her, she had felt safe while walking alone in the woods and wished that she could do it again. Anne again reassured the older woman that she would be fine and we bade her farewell.

23 Hour Surveillance

Almost as soon as we had entered the woods, we came upon this sign. It was so banal in appearance that I had to give it a double take. We tried to rationalize the missing hour, before deciding that it was a joke, but it segued so well from our earlier conversation that it seemed almost prescient. This art trail follows for less than a mile, a spring fed stream that in wetter times flows through about a third of the park’s acreage. We had last walked in March, just as the pandemic was reaching its first crescendo. I remember that as a scary time then, especially while walking in these woods, with its narrow path that did not permit six feet separations. There were few people in the woods then, the fewer the better, if you ask me, but every new individual or party entailed a dance of avoidance.

Since then, the county has embarked upon a trail improvement project that has widened the trail enough to drive their dump trucks up and down it and pave it with crushed limestone. Unfortunately, they are only about halfway done and when we reached their barricade, we had to turnaround. Still, it already looks way more Covid safe than the way it was, but I don’t believe that the virus was the source of that woman’s fears. The park is located in one of the tonier parts of the county, certainly not a bad neighborhood. While most people keep to the park’s central lawn that runs the park’s length, there were plenty of people about.

The sculpture park is primarily outdoors, but does include a museum that is now temporarily closed. This museum is housed in an 1816 mansion, making it one of the oldest buildings in the county. One of the newer art installations in the park is a collection of forty laser cut stainless-steel bands encircling tree trunks along the art trail. These bands write out responses to the sentence, “If the world is a fair place…” that were crowd sourced and range from the deliciously innocent, “then free ice cream for kids,” to the cynical “then I’m shocked,” to the surreal, “then all coins will dance.” Reading them as they curve around their tree can prove difficult and often entails scrambling into the bush.

Keith

Cargo Ship Keith

One of the many mysteries in life for me are the giant tubes astride the deck of the cargo ship Keith. Even the ship’s name, Keith, is a bit of a curiosity. Most boats that are named after a person generally use their full name, including the middle initial and sometimes even an honorific to boot. To address a ship, an ocean going vessel, on a first name basis is fine, if you are a crewmember or somehow associated with the boat, but to introduce it as if it were some one name celebrity seems presumptuous in the least, in my opinion.

Keith, by Chuck Close, 1970

Another Keith, is the equally titanic portrait by the artist Chuck Close. A thing for this artist, large canvas, super high definition, photorealistic, these portraits emblematic of his painting style. As is his propensity to name these works by the first name of the subject. I’ve always admired photorealism, it’s attention to detail, the painstaking demands of this approach. I am reminded of the struggles embodied in the old folk song, John Henry, the steel driving man. One man, giving his heart out in an endeavor to outpace a machine, progress and time. 

Anyway, what about those huge tubes? We frequently see salties hauling wind turbine blades, like these tubes they are racked and stacked on deck, but I don’t think that these tubes are part of any turbine. I think that they contain something that is the real cargo, making the Keith a container ship, in an oddball sense. The tubes are of different lengths, which I also find odd. The tubes look purpose built for the Keith. The boat is new, launched just last year. Its photo on various maritime registry websites shows the ship carrying these tubes. I wonder if the tubes contain some sort of bulk cargo, like a liquid or a gas? It’s a mystery.