The Way, Alexander Liberman, 1980

We got a dusting of snow this morning, our first snowfall for the year, but it was hardly anything compared to what the boys are expecting to get later today. Both Boston and NYC are expecting on getting dumped on, with about a foot of snow. I am so jealous. Even though winter doesn’t officially arrive until next week, it feels like it has taken forever to get here, but now it feels like winter. Yesterday, we went to Laumeier for our walk. I brought the drone along, but after only a few minutes of standing in the cold, flying it, I was done. It was cold enough that you had to keep moving to stay warm. Not bringing gloves along didn’t help. It being so cold out kept the people away. The park felt empty at times. 

Face of the Earth #3, Vito Acconci, 1988

It is still cloudy now, but it is supposed to clear by sunset. Guarantying a cold night, but also an opportunity to view the Grand Conjunction, between Jupiter and Saturn. The 21st is the official date, when these two planets will be at their closest, but experts are saying that you should get out now and get an idea of what there will be to see. So, that’s the plan. Sneak a peek after sunset. Get the lay of the land, sort of speak and find a good place to watch them from. They’ll be bright. So, I’m not concerned about the city lights, but they will also be close to the horizon. Finding someplace with a good vantage point might take a night or two. Plus, there is no guaranty that the skies will be clear here on the 21st. We got to view these two giants last summer, when they were just beginning to come together. It would be great to repeat that adventure and this time see the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn at the same time.

Anne and I have been going back-and-forth with each other about the bird feeders. Traditionally, we place the feeders in the backyard. The birds seem to like them back there, causing me to have to refill their favorite feeder every day. This year, Anne wanted to colonize the front yard too. So, we put one feeder up front and left the other one in the back. First, we tried the less favorite feeder in the front and that went nowhere. Next, we tried their favorite and a few birds have visited, but after almost going on a week now it is still pretty much full. I tried to mansplain to her that we only have backyard birds, who don’t feel comfortable in the front, but she wasn’t buying it. I just worry about all those poor little birds who have to go hungry, because there is no suitable food for them in the backyard. She can be awfully stubborn at times.

Empire Flight

Empire Flight

Empire Flight

Empire Flight, 2013 by Bernard Williams is a mixed media installation at Laumeier Sculpture Park. It is part of the exhibition, The River Between Us. According to the artist, “the work speaks to a multitude of adventures around the Mississippi River and the great risks undertaken by so many.” In Empire, Williams takes on the sweep of American history. The work symbolizes risk, adventure, technological development and the pursuit of power. With the addition of the corporate logo inspired graphic decals painted on the surface, the sculpture acts as a receptacle for complex visual references to history and culture around the Mississippi River, alluding to important dates, locations and people. Applied to this sculpture, the year 1927 is an important date, referring to Charles Lindbergh’s success in completing the first non-stop transatlantic flight in his plane the Spirit of St. Louis, arriving safely in Paris on May 21, 1927.

Once Seen the Moving Panorama

The photographs with this post are from our visit to Laumeier Sculpture Park last weekend. They focus on the artwork, Once Seen (The Moving Panorama), by Matts Leiderstam. His work is a tribute to the 19th century American painter, John Banvard, whose specialty was the moving panorama, a precursor to our modern motion pictures. Banvard’s most famous artwork was a panorama of the Mississippi River. Eventually extended to a half-mile in length, Banvard’s historic panorama captured thirty-eight scenes along the river. It scrolled at the speed of an up bound river steamboat. Banvard made his fortune displaying this painting, both here and abroad.

Leiderstam’s viewfinder is intended to act as a scale model of Banvard’s theater. It offers a 360° view of Laumeier’s grounds. The viewfinder re-inscribes the artistic frame around the park’s manicured landscapes. In his art, Leiderstam searches for the traces of the discriminatory human manipulation that created these park lands. Leiderstam’s goal is to show how the artist is also responsible for reinforcing behaviors and assumptions by representing only what people want to see in their cultural landscape.

Banvard’s Mississippi panorama did not survive, but last year the Saint Louis Art Museum displayed a similar artwork by John J. Egan, Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley. While only a fraction of the other’s length, Egan’s panorama was a contemporary Banvard’s Mississippi panorama and likely an imitation. Just like today’s movies and TV shows, one artist success is soon copied by others.

I, Aye, Eye

Eye by Tony Tasset

This post is a bit of potpourri. It has no central theme, so you could call it scatter-brained, if you like. I prefer the description, eclectic and I hope it pleases.

Based upon a single Facebook comment, we can assume that Dave safely made it to Hong Kong. It is not much to go on, but unless someone has rather cleverly hacked his account we must take this as proof of life. I would like to hear more of how he is doing, but not at the cost of a four-figure cell phone bill. Stay tuned.

I filed a claim with my insurance company for damages from last month’s hail storm. I had already decided to ignore the baker’s dozen dents in the Prius, when our neighbor came to us last weekend. He explained that he and most of our surrounding neighbors have already contacted their insurance companies and arranged for their new roofs. Further, when he asked his adjuster, what does hail damage look like, the adjuster pointed to our roof and pointed out the damaged spots. I called my insurance company on Monday and started the process.

I would like to recommend “lex-i-con VALLEY” with Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo, a Slate podcast on language. Etymology, the study of historical linguistic change, especially as manifested in individual words, has always been a subject of interest for me. Discussions of words and language, when well done can be both informative and entertaining. However, when it is performed poorly, it can be as dry as dust. “Lex-i-xon” is now in the mist of a multi-episode investigation of gender in language. Come on guys, I can hear your eyeballs rolling back into your heads already. Hear me out.

Their latest podcast is about gendered pronouns, like, he, him, his versus she, her, hers. The fundamental question of this show is what to call people of unknown gender. He, him, his is the default, but in the 1970s a pair of female Harvard divinity students petitioned the university to start using gender neutral pronouns. Faculty pushback was immediate, one dean accused the two of pronoun envy and another labeled the pair, distaff theologians. A word of warning, explicit language is used on the show.

Tony Tasset’s “Eye” supplies the graphic for this post. It is part of the collection at Laumeier Sculpture Park. The following is Laumeier’s description of this work.

Through this gigantic, blue eyeball Tasset creates tension as the sculpture stares, larger than life, across the landscape and back at the viewer. Modeled after Tasset’s own eye, the never-blinking, constantly conscious piece watches over Laumeier day and night. The human eye is simultaneously unique, individual and emblematic. By focusing on a key part of the body, Tasset speaks to a commonality among us. It addresses how we engage and perceive each other while concurrently asserting a prophetic, perhaps even omniscient, presence.

I heard on the radio this morning, a young man’s shout out to his mother, “Mom you are the!” It’s a little late for Mothers Day, but as I say, better late than never.

Laumeier Art Fair

Laumeier Art Fair

On Sunday, Mothers Day, Anne and I went for a bicycle ride. This is a common Sunday activity for us. We ride on most weekend day. It being Mothers Day, our destination wasn’t all that unusual either. We rode to Laumeier Sculpture Park for the 25th anniversary of the Laumeier Art Fair. Anne has been visiting this art fair for most of its twenty-five years. In the beginning, I would watch the boys and Anne and Joanie would take-off for Laumeier. I feel a little bit guilty for usurping Joanie’s place, but Anne really wanted a ride. Besides, the boys have flown the coop.

This destination was a little bit outside my comfort zone. Not the sculpture park, but its environs. Don’t get me wrong, the park is located in a very tony neighborhood, but the road network that supports it, I found questionably bike friendly. I am frankly more comfortable cycling in the City of Saint Louis. Even with its ‘sketchy’ neighborhoods, it boast a road network that was designed and built for a million people and now supports only a third that number. Consequently, there are plenty of low traffic roads available to us cyclists. On the other hand, the county, in particular West County makes due with a rural road network that has been overgrown with urban sprawl. In the county, there are now fast traffic roads that string together islands of neighborhood bike friendly streets. 

With this backdrop, we sallied forth. Our itinerary included Maplewood, Webster and Kirkwood, all familiar destinations. Leaving Kirkwood, we began a process of navigation by successive approximation. We snaked through the bike friendly neighborhoods and limited our exposure on the fast traffic lanes using our iPhones. We would memorize the next few turns, hop on bikes, ride and repeat. It really was only a few extra miles, but such is my fear and prejudice about riding in the county that it felt like a major victory. We got 25 miles.

In the background above and again below is pictured Alexander Liberman’s “The Way”. It is bright red now, with a new coat of paint. It was constructed from eighteen salvaged steel oil tanks. “The Way” is the signature art work for Laumeier Sculpture Park. Below is the park’s description of this piece:

“The Way” has long stood as an acting symbol for the park, projecting in all directions like the guns of a giant battleship. This monumental work dominates the field; its scale is, in part, and meant to represent the awe-inspiring impact of classical Greek temples and mammoth Gothic-style cathedrals. The massive crumpled cylinders are welded together and placed to resemble a post and lintel architectural system. With numerous points of tension, this sacred pile of weighted geometry possesses shrine-like properties with humorous undertones, familiar to a failed game of Jenga. Discovered along the northeast coast, the eighteen salvaged steel oil tanks are a towering gateway built-in the modernist spirit. Cadmium-red was chosen for its symbolic qualities, representing beauty in Russian culture, and as a luminous abstract mixture that unifies all of the constructed parts of this work. Liberman’s carefully placed industrial columns offer layered symbolism that combines site with compositional elegance and bold enthusiasm of form.

The Laumeier Art Fair is small by some standards, but it boasts an excellent locale. The weather on Sunday was brilliantly perfect, not too hot, not too cold. I keyed on the photographic artists, because my brother, Chris, has begun to sell some of his photos. The stretched canvas framing technique that he has used, was very popular. Another framing technique in vogue was the triptych. A panoramic photograph would be subdivided into thirds, with the twist that the center section could stand on its own and was sold as such. There were no Mark Rothko prices, but close.

The Way, by Alexander Liberman