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Approaching the Des Moines Botanical Garden

Approaching the Des Moines Botanical Garden

 

Spectral Liberation

Spectral Liberation

 

rainbowAt the Des Moines Botanical Garden recently we were fascinated by an eye-catching large outdoor sculpture at the entrance. Rainbow-colored, the curved metal struts were evocative of a large whale skeleton perhaps, or a flower with lots of petals in layers, or a series of interlocking “Ws”. It was installed in 1984 but has recently been renovated and returned to its spot here.

Called Spectral Liberation”, this colorful stainless steel masterpiece was created by internationally known sculptor Christiane Martens, and donated to the Garden by Leonard and Eileen Newman. Martens sculpted it in honor of Des Moines resident and civic leader Connie Belin, whose favorite icon was a rainbow.

The appearance of the steel changes with the light

The appearance of the steel changes with the light

The arched struts are polished metal on one side and painted on 2 sides in bright bold colors. It’s geometry in motion, because, depending on the light and where you stand, the colors change as does the illusion of what the sculpture “is”. The Des Moines Botanical Gardens are celebrating its return and are highlighting some of the colors in other ways, such as by asking visitors to find the orange colors of the Firecracker plant and the rich blues of the Blue Butterfly flower.

Entrance to the Garden, at 909 Robert D Ray Drive, is $5 adults, $4 seniors/military, $3 students, well worth a couple of hours. It’s open 10am-5pm daily. The setting is pretty too, alongside the Des Moines River, with a river walk and pathways.

 

 

Molecular * in Meadowbrook Park

Molecular Reflection in Meadowbrook Park

We soon realized that one of the attractive outdoor sculptures in Meadowbrook Park (Molecular Reflection, 1997) in our hometown or Urbana, IL, is also by the same sculptor. As are one in the Urbana Free Library, called Expanding Impulse (2007), and one in the Beckman Institute’s patio on the U of I campus, called Tsunami Ascending (1990). So, we determined to learn more.

Vera G and I by Molecular Reflection

Vera G and I by Molecular Reflection

Christiane Martens stands by one of her small pieces outside her home in Urbana

Christiane Martens stands by one of her small pieces outside her home in Urbana

We discovered that Martens lives in Urbana, and by a stroke of good fortune we were able to arrange a meeting with her in her Urbana home. She graciously spent over an hour with us, and was very happy to talk about her work and to show us some of the smaller pieces she has in her home and garden, plus many models for the larger installations around the world. Her house is full of light, as she installed skylights in all rooms. She has a small studio in the extensive basement but she now does her major work in a rented studio space.

She’s a soft-spoken lady, a little diffident but also quietly confident, with a soft German accent still (she came to the USA in 1968 from Germany). She taught German then and studied art, and went on to become a professor in the Art Department at the U of I from 1981. She told us that as a school student her favorite subjects were always art and mathematics, and her interest in these melds wonderfully in her sculpted work. We saw a number of her design sketches—all meticulously diagrammed and marked down to the last millimeter, just like an architectural or engineering design. She does paint, but prefers working with metals of different kinds, especially welded steel and stainless steel. She says that she can “think in steel.” She uses the color red a lot but also has works with the bare metal exposed to the elements. The outdoor sculptures are constantly transformed by sun, shade and weather outdoors.

Chrisiane Martens by one of her small "lacy" sculptures in her basement

Chrisiane Martens by one of her small “lacy” sculptures in her basement

An intricate, delicate piece mounted on Martens' wall

An intricate, delicate piece mounted on Martens’ wall

Martens has always been interested in the stars and astronomy, which she is now studying formally since she retired from the U of I. This interest is reflected in much of her work, with orbs, orbits, celestial bodies etc. Even her earliest works showed this interest, before she really knew much about the subject. Some of her smaller works are a curving mesh of almost lacy metal tendrils. She is also passionate about the earth and conservation and some of her pieces are a strong statement on the damage humankind is doing to the earth and nature. Some of these pieces use nests, eggs, and feathers. She also feels strongly about the danger of guns and what guns are doing to our society and this too is reflected in a couple of smaller works that we saw.

Martens is first and foremost a public artist, as she believes all people should be able to share and enjoy. Luckily, as a teacher, she has passed on this philosophy to many of her students.

Some of the monumental works that she seems most proud of are: the one in Alaska (Denali, at University of Alaska, Fairbanks); the one in Sioux Falls, North Dakota (Centripeton, 1977); and the one in the Hakone Open Air Museum, Japan, called Nocturnal Orbits. For this, in 1993 she received the prize for excellence at the Fujisanke Biennale, the largest international competition for contemporary outdoor sculpture.

We felt honored to meet this very talented lady, who still has many projects planned.

Martens' house contains many of her amazingly imaginative works

Martens’ house contains many of her amazingly imaginative works

Another small "orbital'-style sculpture in her living room

Another small “orbital’-style sculpture in her living room

 

Three of Plensa's Heads. From R to L: Ines, Laura, Paula

Three of Plensa’s Heads. From R to L: Ines, Laura, Paula

Crown Fountain early evening. One of 1000 Chicagoan faces

Crown Fountain early evening. One of 1000 Chicagoan faces

In celebration of its 10th anniversary (opened 2004), Millennium Park in Chicago presents an exhibition of sculpture by Jaume Plensa. On display through December 2015.

Born 1955 in Catalonia, Spain, the artist and sculptor Jaume Plensa lives and works in Barcelona. He has presented more than 35 projects and solo exhibitions around the world, in cities such as Calgary, Dubai, London, Liverpool, New York, Nice, Seattle and Tokyo, among others. And even in Des Moines, Iowa, where we were fascinated by his Nomade! http://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/symbolic-head-sculpture-with-multiple-meanings/

Because we’d seen Nomade recently we were happy to find more works by this talented artist.

Chicagoans are already familiar with Plensa as he designed and made the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park, one of the park’s most prominent and popular attractions. The fountain, which opened in July 2004, is composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet (15 m) tall and they use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display digital videos on the faces that appear and disappear.

fountain2

 

Paula

Paula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking into my Dreams, Awilda

Looking into my Dreams, Awilda

Now, he has another installation in Millennium Park—4 huge heads, called 1004 Portraits, on display through December 2015. This new exhibition of outdoor art features four monumental portraits of young girls complementing the story of the 1000 LED portraits of Chicago residents that illuminate the Crown Fountain.

The first sculpture is called Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda. It’s made of resin and marble dust and stands 39 feet tall at the entrance to the Park on Michigan Ave and Madison Street. The aim is that the sculpture’s surreal and majestic presence will bridge the energy and distractions of city life with the tranquility of the Park, and encourage visitors to stop and contemplate.

The other 3 sculptures are in the South Boeing Gallery, overlooking the fountains. They are cast iron and stand 20 feet tall—Paula (north), Laura (middle) and Ines (south). They are very solid-looking but also have a hologram-like quality. These serene, dreamlike portraits offer a counterbalance to the children’s noisy play in the fountains below (in the warmer weather).

This exhibition is on loan from the artist and Richard Gray Gallery and is sponsored and funded by multiple sources.

Rod M stands in front of Ines

Rod M stands in front of Ines

 

 

Coming to the end of this 3-part series commemorating 650 years at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University.

The tour starts in the gorgeous old library

The tour starts in the gorgeous old library

Our guide discusses some old instruments

Our guide discusses some old instruments

The Collegium Maius Museum: We watched the 11am clock show and at that time bought a ticket for the next English museum tour at 1pm. You have to go on a guided tour in a small group, which is offered a few times a day. Our tickets were 12 Polish Zloty (PLN) each (senior discount), about $3.75; normal adult price is 16 PLN (about $5) and children 6 PLN. See Part B next post for the tour.

It was a great tour, which took about an hour and a half, although the allotted time was one hour. Our guide was excellent, fluent in English and a really remarkable fount of knowledge and information about her topic, which is very broad—anything and everything to do with this university, all the contents of all the rooms, the people and artists involved etc. Our group asked many questions and she was able to answer pretty much all of them in detail. Security was tight getting in, and then a guard followed the group and closed doors behind the group as the people exited each room.

Universities in those days were closely linked to religion and this is still very Catholic in tradition. Religion dictated what they could do. Originally the professors were celibate and lived and ate together like monks, showing the importance of religion. Later, they could marry and live outside the university.

The communal dining room

The communal dining room

They started with three core areas: theology, philosophy and law. Then they added medicine and physical sciences.

It’s a really beautiful building with gorgeous rooms, mostly upstairs, such as the Library and the Green Room. This is an incredible collection of old university artefacts (furniture etc), plus many instruments. The Library houses a great collection of old books in neo-Baroque bookcases. The nobility of that time played a large role in donating money that allowed the university to be built and for it to buy all these things. On the tour, our guide named many of the benefactors over the years.

Many famous names are linked to the university but (for us) Copernicus is the greatest—with his link to astronomy and cartography 100 years before Galileo. He knew about the earth being round, and about planets travelling in ellipses even. He had 4 brothers who all studied here too. His Polish parents moved to Scandinavia, but the boys came back here to study because the university had the reputation in astronomy and the right equipment—the earliest is from the Moors in 1064. In the small Copernicus Room the guide pointed out discs, globes and other instruments that Copernicus would have used. Much of his original paperwork is now in Sweden at the Uppsala University Library.

The Green Room

The Green Room

 

Chopin's piano

Chopin’s piano

Many famous Poles studied here and achieved great things in the world of science, arts, and literature. For example, Marie Curie and Chopin. Chopin’s piano is there in the Green Room, the one on which he actually gave a concert.

We went on the tour to see the museum but actually much of the space is still used, which is amazing. The Senate meets monthly in the Library; they eat in the Stuba Communis (dining room), which is still used for ceremonial meetings (such as signing agreements with other institutions). Built in 1430, it still has 3 tables in a horseshoe shape; and they use the ornate Aula, or Jagellonian Hall, for university award ceremonies—it’s the oldest and one of the most beautiful lecture rooms of the university.

 

 

The ornate Aula Hall

The ornate Aula Hall

There are many things of note. The museum has the first globe, which shows North America, but in the wrong place, right at the South Pole! Globes were always done in pairs—celestial and terrestrial. One set had universities and intellectual centers marked. And one globe even had Madagascar marked.

A celestial globe from 1480

A celestial globe from 1480

A collection of clocks, of measuring instruments—like weights and measures—and of old telescopes reminded us of the collections in Arts and Metiers in Paris. There are some priceless treasures and we can understand why security is tight.

They also have a wonderful collection of tapestries, art works, painted ceilings, portraits of people related to the university, some stained-glass windows that would have been lost if not saved here, and some wooden madonnas.

We also saw the original charters of the university. First, the Latin model where students elected the rector and then the French model where the professors elected the rector.

In fact, there is so much in there that’s it’s difficult to assimilate in one visit.

This tour got us thinking about the role of universities and teaching/knowledge in our modern world. It’s a great tradition for universities to follow intellectual pursuits and to try and preserve both knowledge and artefacts. Passing on knowledge and learning is so important and that’s one role of universities. We wonder about the future; with all the digital age stuff, will we lose track of what’s real and not, and of the actual truth. With all these online courses, universities are losing control of passing on the knowledge. Is it potentially the start of the end of the importance of universities? We sure hope not!

An old globe

An old globe

Old astrolabe

Old astrolabe

 

 

The Jagiellonian University Courtyard

 

Part of the beautiful courtyard, with the clock straight ahead

Part of the beautiful courtyard, with the clock straight ahead

The doors open and the clock procession is about to begin

The doors open and the clock procession is about to begin

The courtyard is one of the most beautiful in Krakow, and the clock is outstanding. The clock is set in motion every day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. A parade of large colorful figures comes out and moves around, representing people related to the university’s history. Large groups of tourists arrive for each “performance”, which is a lot of fun.

Crowds gather

Crowds gather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the historical figures in the clock procession

Some of the historical figures in the clock procession

The information board tells us: The first clock here was from somewhere before 1465. The present clock has been restored 4 times in the history of Collegium Maius. Destroyed by fire in 1492, it was rebuilt thanks to efforts of the Academy and Queen Elizabeth of Austria. The next restoration was thanks to a donation by Maciej of Miechow, a professor and benefactor of the Krakow Academy. The current clock began working in October 1999. Now a computer system sets in motion a procession of historical figures marching to two different melodies: an extract of “court music” taken from the tablature of John of Lubin, dating from the middle of the 16th century; and an instrumental version of the academic song Gaudeamus Igitur.

The figures in the procession are people connected with the history of the Krakow academy: the beadle, Queen Jagwega, King Ladislaus Jagiello, St John of Kety, Hugon Kollataj, and Rector Stanislaus of Skalbmierz. These figures were made in the late 1950s by Ladislaus Kozyra, a folk sculptor.

figures

I watch the clock procession from a small balcony

I watch the clock procession from a small balcony

We watched the 11am clock show and at that time bought a ticket for the next English museum tour at 1pm. You have to go on a guided tour in a small group, which is offered a few times a day (see following post)

650 Years in Krakow, Poland

Crowds gather in the courtyard to watch the animated clock procession

Crowds gather in the courtyard to watch the animated clock procession

The gorgeous Library is part of the museum tour

The gorgeous Library is part of the museum tour

Krakow’s Collegium Maius (Major College), in Jagiellonian University

This University Museum is classy…and old. A Must-See in Krakow

We spent a day doing all this, and found it fascinating.

The oldest existing building of the Jagiellonian University is the Collegium Maius, situated at the corner of St. Anne’s Street and Jagiellonska Street. The university was established under the name of Studium Generale by Kazimierz Wielki in 1364 and is one of the oldest universities in Europe. This year they are celebrating its 650th year, an amazing number, indeed a very long span of learning to celebrate. It’s the second oldest university in central Europe, after Prague (1348). The first universities were in Italy, in Bologna (1088) and Padua (early 1200s); and England, in Oxford (1096-1167) and Cambridge (1209).

Rod admires the basement cafe

Rod admires the basement cafe

The niches and nooks & crannies in the cafe are artistically decorated

The niches and nooks & crannies in the cafe are artistically decorated

There are two main reasons to visit the Collegium Maius: the courtyard, which has a free animated clock procession three times a day; and the University Museum. A third reason to visit is the Café U Pecherza coffee shop/snack bar in the rather labyrinthine basement. It’s attractively decorated with colorful paintings of musical instruments and other musical themes—and serves great coffee! Here are a couple of photos of that.

In two separate following posts, I’ll tell about the clock/courtyard, and the museum, so the posts are not too long with all that information!

The cafe's menu

The cafe’s menu

Ordering our coffee

Ordering our coffee

I stand at the entrance to IMA

I stand at the entrance to IMA

We wonder what this long circular "curtain" is

We wonder what this long circular “curtain” is

A Room, by Sopheap Pich, Cambodian, b 1971

Installed 2014. Made of bamboo, aluminum, plastic, polyethylene braided line, and Teflon floss.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art’s large entrance hall is often home to a temporary art installation and we were lucky to see this unusual creation. Long strips of various materials cascade down in a circle from the ceiling and at first we wonder what on earth it is. Turns out that visitors can part the strips and enter the circle or inner space, called A Room.

A Room was specially created for the IMA, and is a rare opportunity for people to touch and experience Pich’s work from the inside looking out. When inside, the light coming through the slats suggests the light in a bamboo forest.

A Room fits perfectly into the circular entrance hall

A Room fits perfectly into the circular entrance hall

The artist used lengths of bamboo as well as artificial strips. The bamboo is all from Cambodia and was prepared by hand in his studio. Photographs on the information board show him and his workers preparing and laying out all the strips.

This is a really interesting installation, as it is huge and colorful and yet very symbolic in a way—a room within a room, a place to stop and think about where we are and to imagine we are in some other place. We loved the way the different strands of materials shimmer and seem to change color as the light changes.

Sopheap Pich works and teaches in his studio in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He likes to work with natural materials like bamboo and rattan, which are easily available near his studio. Many of his sculptures use parallel lines woven in an open grid, which allows air and light to pass through, giving access to both interior and exterior and creating intricate shadows that change with the light.

Inside A Room, looking out to another room and to the outdoors

Inside A Room, looking out to another room and to the outdoors

 

Entering A Room in afternoon light

Entering A Room in afternoon light

 

Entrance to the museum

Entrance to the museum

LOVE

LOVE

LOVE and BRUSHSTROKES

The Indianapolis Museum of Art offers visitors a feast for the senses, both inside and outdoors. The Sutphin Mall is the park-like area in front of the museum entrance. Right by the entrance is the interesting Sutphin Fountain, and at the far end is LOVE by Robert Indiana. This iconic sculpture is world famous (remember a postage stamp based on it?), and has been welcoming visitors to the museum since 1975.

The Mall often hosts temporary sculptures too, and right now it has Five Brushstrokes, by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), painted aluminum, designed 1983-84. As the information board tells us , ” …enlarged and boldly colored brushstrokes dance jubilantly in the air, with the tallest form soaring to 40 feet….Here, instead of taking popular motifs from comic culture, Lichtenstein chose the brushstroke as his subject matter. His monumental sculptures satirize the spontaneous splashes of paint associated with Abstract Expressionist artists such as jackson Pollack. This grand but playful commentary on painting offers a meaningful connection to other masterpieces the Museum displays indoors.”

A lot of fun, and the day were we there, the weather co-operated perfectly!fountain

5brushstrokes

The Five Brushstrokes

valeriu dg barbu

© valeriu barbu

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