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bannerIt’s Chicago’s Year of Public Art, so let’s get out and experience some of this creative art.

I was always aware that Chicago has a great tradition of making public art available to all, and its collection of public art is one of the defining characteristics of the city, but this special year gives another dimension to this.

2017 has been designated Year of Public Art Chicago, with a new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project. Managed by DCASE (Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), the 50×50 initiative will provide up to $1 million for new public arts projects.

Chicago has a long and rich history of public art, so why now? This initiative was

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The Picasso in Daley Plaza

inspired by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of 2 of Chicago’s most famous seminal public art works: The Picasso in Daley Plaza, and The Wall of Respect, which once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue on Chicago’s South Side.

DCASE manages the Chicago Public Art Collection, which includes 500+ works exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, such as police stations, libraries and CTA station. DCASE also administers the City’s Percent-for-Art Ordinance, which was established in 1978 and stipulates that 1.33% of the cost of constructing or renovating public buildings will be used for public art.

What an amazing concept. Go Chicago!

perilsThere will be many special exhibits and tours, but I was only in Chicago for 3 days this April, so could only track down a few of these special art works at this time.

Turns out that many of these famous public art works have an interesting story and history, starting with the Picasso. To co-incide with this Year of Public Art, the Chicago Cultural Center has a small exhibit called The Fame and Perils of Chicago’s Public Art. The introductory board tells us that, “Planning and creating public art can be a risky venture. Depending on how or what you count, the placement of art in Chicago’s public spaces has a 200-year long history. Sometimes the art is loved. Sometimes it is hated. To further complicate matters, times change—and so do the tastes of people.”

So…to start with Picasso’s “Untitled”.

frontcloserUntitled” by Pablo Picasso, on the Richard J Daley Civic Center Plaza, 50 W. Washington Street. In 1967 Pablo Picasso’s monumental sculpture was unveiled in Chicago’s Civic Center (now called the Richard J. Daley CivicCenter).

In 1963, imagining a work for the new Chicago Civic Plaza, architect William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill turned to Pablo Picasso. Using an introduction from English artist Roland Penrose, Hartmann contacted Picasso describing a “site for the most important piece of sculpture in the United States.” Picasso accepted and worked on plans for the largest work of his career, mostly with his vision of an abstract female figure, which he gave as a gift to the city.

This abstract design was not originally popular when the monument was erected in

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Newspaper picture with Banks superimposed

1967. In fact, as I learned from the small exhibit in the Chicago Cultural Center, many Chicagoans thought it was a giant portrait of the artist’s Afghan hound. An alderman from the City Council proposed replacing the Picasso with a giant statue of Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, and a local paper ran a story with a photo of Banks superimposed on that of the Picasso.

At the time of the opening of the Picasso, Mayor Richard J. Daley insightfully dedicated it with these words, “what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow.” That has proved true, and 50 years later it’s an iconic part of the city’s landscape, and much loved by locals and visitors. So much so, that Northwestern grad and vocal art advocate, Patricia Stratton, has written a book dedicated to the sculpture called “The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure”.

sideI find this work of Picasso’s very interesting: I can definitely see the Afghan hound in there, but also a female figure. What do you think?

Picasso’s work was Chicago’s first major pubic art work in the modern style, rather than historical effigies and memorials that had been traditional before. It inspired much private and public investment in art for the city center, including Marc Chagall’s mosaic “The Four Seasons” in 1974, which then inspired his “America Windows”. Other commissions included monuments by Joan Miro (1963), Jean Dubuffet (1969) and Alexander Calder (1974), among many others. And so a tradition was born.

 

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flamingo

snow

In December

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In fall

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From our hotel room

Timeless and graceful…A beautiful piece of art that stands out from its surroundings

In Chicago we usually stay at the Club Quarters Hotel on Adams Street, which we did again last weekend. The view from our hotel room was across to the Federal Plaza, with its intriguing red outdoor sculpture. We’ve taken photos of this many times before, at different times of the year, but this time, with the lighting and the snow, we saw it from a new angle and I decided to research it a bit more.

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Zoom from hotel room

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Reflection in Post Office windows

Chicago is a city famous for public art and for us this is one of the classics. Others (among many) are the Picasso (1967) in the Daley Plaza, with jungle-gym-like characteristics; Monument with Standing Beast, which is open to multiple interpretations, by Jean Dubuffet (1964) in front of the Thompson Center; and Cloud Gate, aka as The Bean, in Millennium Park.

This red sculpture is called Flamingo, and it does evoke a flamingo-like bird if you look closely. The artist is American Alexander Calder, and the sculpture was unveiled in October 1974 in the Federal Plaza in front of the kluczynski Federal Building, one of three Bauhaus-style federal buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. A model of Flamingo was unveiled at the Art Institute in April 1973, where it still resides.

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Model in Art Institute

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Looking through Post Office

It’s a painted-steel stabile (as opposed to a mobile), 53 feet tall, painted vermilion (now called “Calder red”), the bright color contrasting very nicely with the steel and glass office buildings around it. These modern rectangular buildings surround the square, so this abstract arching form is also a nice counter point, form-wise.

However, Flamingo is constructed from similar materials and shares certain design principles with the architecture, so it’s successfully integrated within the plaza. It’s an example of the constructivist movement, popular in Russia in the early 20th century. This refers to large sculptures that are made of smaller pieces joined together.

The sculpture is monumental but the open design allows viewers to walk underneath and around it, so we can experience it on a human scale too.

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Market day

mrket2On Tuesdays, in the season, there’s a farmers market on the square, which makes the Flamingo seem even more interesting.

A small-scale replica (one-tenth the original size) was installed in 1975 in the Loop post office right on the plaza. Calder created it specifically for the visually-impaired, as it is meant to be touched, and it is the same bright color.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) has created many sculptures for open spaces throughout the world. He is probably most famous as the originator of mobile sculptures or kinetic art, a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that move in response to touch or air currents. In contrast, Calder’s monumental stationary sculptures are called stabiles. He also produced wire figures, which are like drawings made in space. He was a prolific artist who worked with many art forms, large and small.

 

 

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In Bicycle Alley

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In Bicycle Alley

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Bicycle Alley

Urbana Murals: Transforming Urban Spaces

Walking around Urbana recently, I stopped to take pictures of some interesting murals that we’ve seen but never photographed before. They brighten up walls and bring a smile to one’s face.

A little research turned up some snippets of information on many of them. I find this fascinating, as it’s part of the history and culture of our town.

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Part of Bicycle Alley murals

The first series is in Bicycle Alley, a graffiti hallway between the Courier Café and Pizza M and Siam Terrace. It’s a series of large-scale murals by local artists, spearheaded by Langston Allston. Allston is a local artist and an alumnus of the University of Illinois. This was part of the 2013 Downtown Mural Project and much of the funding came from pledges on Kickstarter. It started as a homage to local history and bike culture, but it looks to me as though others have painted and glued various graffiti on top of the originals. The alley is now an outdoor bar/meeting place during the warmer weather. We’ve never tried it, but it looks like a fun place.

 

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Bicycle Alley

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Courier Cafe mural

Nearby is a large mural on the outside wall of the Courier Café (one of our favorite casual eating places in town). The Courier used to be the space of a former local newspaper and the owner of the Café, Allen Strong, has kept many of the old features. The artist is Glen C. Davies, who is illustrating a bit of history of this very location. The Courier is close to the site of the first settlement cabin in Urbana. It was William Tompkin’s cabin, built in 1822 along the Boneyard Creek, right behind the Courier building.

Davies has been in town since 1974 and at one time he delivered newspapers for the old courier2Courier newspaper, which went out of business on March 31, 1979.

The left hand side of the mural starts with the Big Grove (settlement area), moving across to the influence of agriculture and the railroads. We see Lincoln and his influence, and the portraits of four journalists whose careers started here — George Will, Gene Shalit, Bob Novak and Roger Ebert. Then it moves into current times with downtown Main Street, the university, and a bicyclist through town. It ends with an antique car, which symbolizes Allen Strong.

Glen C. Davies is also the artist of a smaller, but striking, mural near the Urbana Free Library.

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urbana Free Library mural

I couldn’t find any information on the dog mural, on a house on the corner of Race and Illinois Streets in Urbana—it’s eye-catching and cute, though.

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summerfield

Summer view to mountains

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Winter view

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Entrance to the farm stall

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Many creatures on the approach road

MOOIBERGE FARM STALL

This is always a good place to have lunch in the Stellenbosch winelands area as it’s easy to get to, the prices are very reasonable and it’s a lot of fun.

Mooiberge means “pretty mountains” in Afrikaans and the view out here certainly is that, as it’s right below the Helderberg Mountains.

 

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springbok

A Springbok (SA rugby team) and a Wallaby (Australian team)

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A Stormer (Cape rugby team)

On the R44 road between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, this landmark farm stall is hard to miss, as much of the property is “fenced” with a line of colorful art creatures/’sculptures’ (can we call them sculptures?) that the farm calls scarecrows and transportation creations. They are colorful, whimsical, and sometimes naughty scarecrows! Many of them are animals representing various sports teams, both South African and other countries. For many people, Mooiberge is “that farm with the crazy oversupply of scarecrows.” We wondered how it all began and in fact, the menu explains some of the history.

It started off in the 1950s as a farm stall selling strawberries, run by the Zetler family (Samuel and Josie Zetler and 5 sons), who later added sweet peppers too. As the roadside cart grew too small, they built a bricks and mortar stall that blossomed/mushroomed out into what we see today—a colorful, sprawling complex.

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Some of the crafts in the modern farm stall

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Cape gooseberries for sale

sauces

What about some Mama Africa’s hot sauce?

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Thirsty Scarecrow play area

Some might say it’s a kitschy produce market-cum-wine shop-cum-market for bottled goods (jams, sauces, olive oils for example), cakes, nuts, biltong, local crafts, wine barrels, fruits and vegetables. But, it’s undoubtedly a lot of fun. We once bought a bottle of wine for R25—one of their advertised specials. They seem to have many of the specials for various airlines.

It’s a great place to take kids in the strawberry season (November-January or February), as the strawberry picking is very popular. There’s a wonderful play area called the Thirsty Scarecrow, which the kids in our group loved on the last visit.

 

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oslide

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Caroline M, Rod M, and Anthea K enjoy lunch

Over the years we’ve been here many times to eat lunch and it’s always been great. In the winter, there’s obviously no strawberry picking and the rows of plants are all covered in plastic. But, it’s still a great lunch place, as it has a fun atmosphere because of the setting and very good food—a tasty meal, with very generous servings, of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

The outside deck where you can sit looks out over the kids play area and across the pepper/strawberry fields to the mountains, the whole view enlivened by the bright, quirky, animals (mostly) sculptures—which in general you’d say don’t fit into this (wine) environment, and yet they’ve become a local fixture and a tourist feature and attraction.

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Miss E at entrance to Farmers Kitchen

salad

One of their delicious salads

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Rod M has the lamb burger

The restaurant is called the Farmer’s Kitchen, which re-opened in September 2011 after new owner Kelly Zetler revamped it, to “French colonial meets rustic countryside comfort”. Its hours are 8:30am-5pm, and they specialize in breakfast, snack meals and lunch, with many dishes featuring strawberries in season.

At different times over the years, members of our party have tried many items on the menu. Some of the favorites are a huge lamb burger with Greek-style cucumber-yoghurt sauce; an avocado and chicken wrap; a bacon, brie and walnut pizza, served with salad; a parma ham and fresh fig salad; and a fresh salad with pomegranate and goat cheese. They also have very good meat and cheese platters. The house wine is Du Toitskloof sauvignon blanc and there is also beer, hard cider and all kinds of cold and hot drinks.

salad2

Another great salad

rugby

We look down at rugby player scarecrows from the restaurant

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More creatures

Also in the Mooiberge complex is the Thirsty Scarecrow Bistro-Pub, open Mon-Sun 11am-11:30pm.

Mooiberge the Farm Stall is open Mon-Sun 8:30am-6pm.

This should definitely be on the list for anyone visiting the Cape Town and Stellenbosch winelands.

tractor

Mooiberge’s first tractor

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Lourensford Wine Estate, nicknamed “Jewel of the Cape Winelands

One of our favorite Wine Estates, and very accessible

Founded in 1700, this lovely estate lies just below the Helderberg Mountains on the

slavebell

Slave bell

outskirts of the town of Somerset West (but is listed under the Stellenbosch wine route). It was once part of Adriaan van der Stel’s Vergelegen Estate nearby, so it’s steeped in history and heritage but nowadays it also uses ultra-modern wine technology. One of the historical pieces is the old Slave Bell, used in the past to summon the slaves when needed.

 

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Saying hallo to a Cape buffalo

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A metal horse

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Vine art

Lourensford has extensive, beautifully-tended gardens and a number of whimsical outdoor sculptures (some made of metal, some of huge old vines), all with the backdrop of mountains. It’s gorgeously “Cape”—in fact, I’ve almost never seen other wine areas anywhere else in the world that look quite as lovely as this. Some are more dramatic (Switzerland), others vaster (France), others on rivers (France, Germany). Maybe it’s the combination of setting and the Cape-Dutch architecture—green nature and white buildings. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and a great place to relax, soak in the outdoors, enjoy a tasty meal and taste world-class wines.

Lourensford is a very large estate that offers a lot for the visitor. There’s the Tasting Room with a mini cellar tour; the Millhouse Restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and a kids’ playground; a shop, a pottery shop, an art gallery and a coffee roasting company, which is a whole other tasting experience. Plus, there are trails and walks through the vines and up into the foothills (there are a couple of known leopards there)—in addition to rambling the Estate’s own gardens and emerald green lawns. They also cater for events—our nephew got married here and said the Estate people were pleasant to deal with.

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cafe

Coffee Roasting Company

coffeesignIt’s well worth a visit and we suggest you allocate many hours, as each part of the visit is very leisurely—don’t try to be in a rush.

Besides wine tasting, and eating in the restaurant (see next post), you should definitely visit the Coffee Roasting Company (open daily 9-5). They roast on site, giving the room that warm, smokey aroma of ground coffee. It sells coffee beans to go, as well as being a small café, with some pastries, and a few gift items, like teas, coffees, chocolates, preserves, a few souvenirs, and sometimes a lovely series of kids’ books called “In the Land of Kachoo”, about African animals.

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One family group

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Another family group

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Inside the Coffee Roasting Company

Many local people come to the Coffee Roasting Company just for the coffee, to buy bags of coffee specially roasted to go, or to sip and savor coffee in the sun under a vine trellis or other fruit trees. That’s what we did late one March, and it was a lovely outing for our multi-generational group. We did the same again this June.

There’s the Harvest Market on Sundays too.

The winelands have many markets and

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Lourensford hosts theirs on a Sunday from 9am to 3pm. It has a rustic setting at the edge of the lawns, where they’ve set up a set of wooden stands with a permanent roof structure, making it an all-weather market. You can find many different items—-from delicious foods like Lebanese hummus, to real Ginger Beer and fresh eggs, to colored glassware and aromatic coffees. Of course you can enjoy the Lourensford Wine, as well as the new Beer—ABRU—made on the premises by the Aleit Hospitality group. Come and relax and enjoy the live music and while away a Sunday in Somerset West.

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Coffee etc for sale

The estate is open daily and entrance into the grounds is free.

http://www.lourensford.co.za

 

 

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2many

These ear-rings are exquisite little works of art

2closerSouth African artists are well-known for making wonderful arts and crafts, some of the most famous probably being beautiful batik prints with African scenes and really intricate pieces (often animals) done in colorful beadwork. And of course, very life-like carvings of Africa’s wildlife animals and people’s faces in wood or stone.

Another pretty craft I’ve discovered in recent years is pin thread art, also called pin thread sculpture, and if you look closely you can see why—some of the pieces do look almost three-dimensional. This special technique is used mainly in jewellery, especially in ear-rings and pendants, and we see an amazing array of colors, sizes and geometric contours. The founder of this special art form is Aaron Ndaba, and his family—wonderfully creative, I’d say.

You can find these pieces at many African curio shops, notably “Out of Africa” (there’s a large branch at O.Tambo Airport in Johannesburg). I love the ear-rings and try to find a couple of new pairs each time we return to visit South Africa.

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IMG_3973I’ve written about various animal parades before and the colorful fiber-glass creatures dotted around different cities—see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/animals-on-parade/ .

So, we were very interested to find one at Gateway Shopping Mall in Umhlanga Rocks in IMG_3974South Africa. Umhlanga Rocks is on the Natal coast just north of Durban and is in Kwa Zulu Natal Province. This cow is from a collection Cow Parade South Africa that was held in aid of the Childhood Cancer Foundation. This colorful cow has a very clever name: KowZuluNatal, a play on Kwa Zulu Natal, and is decorated with themes and icons from Kwa Zulu Natal.

The artist is Sibulele Mtshabe, and the cow was sponsored by The Scoin Shop and the SA Gold Coin Exchange.

 

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