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treedaffs

Small weeping cherry tree by the car park

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weeping

Japan House

Sakura…cherry blossoms…weeping cherry trees. These signal spring in Japan, and here in Urbana, central Illinois, they are also a beautiful herald of spring.

We are very lucky here on our campus at the University of Illinois, as we have a Japan House, a cultural center run by the University to promote understanding of Japan, its culture and history. It’s a lovely traditional-style Japanese building, with a small enclosed garden to one side, complete with gurgling stream, stone lanterns and a quiet place to sit and meditate. The other side of the Japan House has a serene raked-stone garden and the whole overlooks a pond (complete with turtles and geese), encircled by a walkway, much loved by local residents.

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Start of the ‘tunnel’

A number of cherry trees are scattered around our university campus, but the most striking of them all are at the Japan House. There is one weeping cherry tree, a gorgeous tree with thickly clustered pink blossoms, right next to the building, and a couple of others near the small parking lot.

But, because of a generous donation by Dr Genshitsu Sen, we also have the Sen Cherry Tree Alee, the walkways approaching the Japan House. It was planted with cherry trees on both sides in 2008 and now the trees have grown big enough that it’s like walking through a tunnel. In Spring, we feel as though we are passing under a lacy white and delicate pink net, the blossoms on the cherry trees are so thiick. With the stone pagoda lanterns and the raked pebble garden in front of the wooden building, we can almost believe that we are in Japan.

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The plaque tells us that Dr Sen was a 15th-generation Grand Master Urasenke Tradition of Tea

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cherrylanternAs in Japan, it’s a ritual to go and view the cherry blossoms, to walk under them and be blessed if petals fall on you. Rod and I went last Sunday, as it’s close to our house and we can easily just walk there. It was a cool but sunny afternoon, and there were hundredss of others there, doing the same thing; ambling, ooh-ing and ahh-ing, taking photos, posing under the trees or amidst the drooping flower-laden branches. It’s a very special walk, and the collective feeling of happiness is palpable. Just to remind us of how wonderful Nature is, and how a walk in Nature (even in a somehwat urban environment) can really revitalize us.

(Thanks to Rod for the photos)cherrysky

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How’s that for a view!

Rustenberg—Gardens, a Labyrinth, and Wines

A Stunning Combo

Tranquil, beautiful, lush, green, pastoral are words that sprung to mind as we drove up, past pastures with cattle, small estate houses, and vineyards.

Rustenberg is a lovely wine estate in a really gorgeous setting up on a hill, overlooking vineyards, in the valley of the Simonsberg Mountains. It’s literally at the end of the road on one of the wine-route roads north out of Stellenbosch, but is well worth the drive.

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Gorgeous Cape-Dutch architecture

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Schoongezicht, the old Cape-Dutch homestead

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Part of the gardens

What do we find?—lots of pretty, white gabled Cape-Dutch buildings; an impressive, modern tasting room; and lovely gardens ringed with huge oak trees. The gardens have small ponds, a gazebo, flower beds, and the jewel—a labyrinth.

Founded in 1682, the estate has a long history and heritage. The Barlow family has owned it since 1941, and various generations have been very involved in all aspects of wine making there. (The Barlow family had made a fortune with an engineering supplies company established in the early 1900s, also buying and selling woolen goods and Caterpillar machinery, among other things. The company expanded into neighboring southern African countries too. The family had also owned Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West from 1941-1987, so were very involved with wine estates).

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pergola2The public Schoongezicht Garden, open every day, is next to the Cape Dutch homestead, Schoongezicht, which dates back to 1814. In 2001, Rozanne Barlow, wife of the current owner of Rustenberg Estate, decided to regenerate and restore the garden. She had walls constructed, and converted the 25-meter-long swimming pool into a lily pond, now home to many fish. The charming pergola, originally built by John X Merriman, is covered in climbing roses, clematis and other fragrant climbers. John X Merriman was a former owner of Rustenberg. He bought it in 1892 and helped to revitalize the estate and to promote tourism in this valley. One range of Rustenberg wines is called John X Merriman, in his honor.

The garden is essentially laid out in a formal style with four different areas linked by pathways, and because it’s so harmoniously done one doesn’t really realize that the garden is quite sizable—about a hectare. The garden is a plant-lover’s dream, best described as “English”, with roses, foxgloves, salvias, agapanthus, sedum, anemones, day lilies and many more. There is always something to catch the eye, no matter the season.

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A labyrinth is now part of the gardens

The surrounding landscape of vineyards, green pastures and the majestic Simonsberg labyrinthclosermountain backdrop all help to make this garden a magical place.

The garden is open to the public during the week from 09h30 – 16h30 and on Saturdays and Sundays until 15h00.

There’s also a private garden, the Rustenberg Garden, which is open once a year to the public on Rustenberg Day.

Making these gardens even more magical is the labyrinth.

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Outside the Tasting Room

As part of the garden make-over, Rozanne Barlow transformed the site where the old tennis court stood into an eleven-circuit Chartres-style labyrinth, laid out in half brick and river stone. Information boards explain the origin and symbolism of the French Chartres labyrinth. We walked a part of it and it is a contemplative experience. If we had more time (and no demanding kids!) it would be nice to try walking the whole thing.

After that it was fun to wander up to the tasting center to do wine tasting, which was great. The Tasting Room is in the old horse stables, which have been beautifully converted architecturally. We all thought it was a great wine-tasting experience. Our hostess lady was friendly and knowledgeable and we enjoyed chatting to her. The wines are world-class, from an excellent terroir—red clay-rich granite soils on a variety of slopes and elevations. No food is available here though.

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Tasting great Rustenberg wines

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winerose

An excellent rose wine

Wine tasting is R40 per person (waived if you buy some bottles). We did buy a bottle of Petit Verdot Rose (R75) to take back for dinner that night, and it was excellent. We also ordered some wines to be shipped back to USA, and you can also order them to be shipped to UK, I believe.

Wine Tasting and Sales open Mon-Fri 9-4:30, Sat 10-4 and Sunday 10-3. Every day, except Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday.

Where is it?

Lelie Road, Idas Valley, just north-east of Stellenbosch

winerousanne

An unusual Rousanne wine

www.rustenberg.co.za

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July 2016: MEADOWBROOK PARK in Urbana

The Landscape as it used to be in Illinois. Remember, Illinois’ nick-name (one of them) is the Prairie State, as hundreds of years ago much of the state was covered in tall-grass prairie.

We are lucky, as in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, there are many wonderful parks, but in our opinion this is Number #1.

Meadowbrook Park is a 130-acre park with a difference, beloved by the locals, including us! It has the usual facilities, like picnic areas and a large field for ball play. But, the kids’ play structures are different to usual playgrounds—super-sized, and made of wood.

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PA291402.JPGMore unusual are the large area of Restored Prairie, and the Wandell Sculpture Garden, a series of large-scale outdoor sculptures that line the three miles of walking trails and fit beautifully into their outdoor setting. The trails wander through and around a broad swathe of re-created tallgrass prairie, and organic and wildflower gardens, plus a large herb garden, and community garden plots. Each sculpture has a plaque with its name and the name of the sculptor, and it’s a lot of fun to wander along the paths and stop to admire the sculptures—some colorful, some whimsical, all interesting. The Celia and Willet Wandell Sculpture Garden opened in 1998, made possible by the Wandell family and donations from area businesses and local supporters. Some of the sculptures are owned by Urbana Park District as part of the permanent collection, and some are on a two-year loan from the artists.

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See the butterfly on the coneflower

Meadowbrook Park is lovely at any time of the year, but is really gorgeous now, at the height of summer. Tall, bright green grasses cover the fields across to the trees ringing the area. But the dominant color is not just green. Colorful wild flowers, massed, swaying slightly in the breeze, attract bees and birds. We watched a redwing blackbird perch atop a tall stalk with huge yellow flowers, nearby a small sparrow chirped on a bush with some other yellow flowers, a hummingbird hovered, and butterflies fluttered. White Queen Anne’s Lace, aptly named, polka-dots the green, along with pinkish Echinacea, bright blue cornflowers, and masses of purple and yellow, daisy-like wild flowers.

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Queen Anne’s Lace

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hummingbird

See the tiny hummingbird 

Sometimes you can hear a Chinese pheasant calling and watch for the deer, which are usually here, munching calmly, unworried by humans. A small brook runs through parts of the park and at times there have been beavers who’ve made a dam there.

If this kind of vegetation covered these prairies in days gone by, before the settlers came in and cleared it for farmland, the sight must have been truly awesome.

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P7210043.JPGPeople come to walk, to run, to roller-blade or ride bicylces. They walk dogs and push strollers and near the pavilions people can picnic.

Whenever we walk, other runners, walkers, cyclists and dog-walkers pass us. Everyone smiles and greets us, the spirit seems relaxed and friendly. We are soothed by the beauty and perfection of this piece of Nature we are privileged to share.

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rabbit

rabbit2Rabbits are one of my favorite animals and I love outdoor public art, so when the two are combined it’s a hit!

We found these one of the days when we were out hunting for the St Louis birthday cakes to celebrate St Louis 250 years of history.

See the blog about the St Louis cakes here:

https://mackie250stl.wordpress.com

This unusual seated rabbit sculpture is in Strauss Park, a small park on Grand, almost opposite the Fox Theater, St Louis.

 

First Night-Saint Louis commissioned this lovely piece of public art.

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backArtist Catherine Magel directed its creation in 2009 in a partnership between Craft Alliance and Grand Center, Inc., a local organization that promotes public art. Students from three different schools helped to create this 14-foot mosaic sculpture; Clyde C. Miller Career Academy, Metro High School, and Cardinal Ritter College Prep School. They each took part in a one-week intensive studio session, where they helped design the sculpture using ceramic objects, mirror, tile and glass.

Magel chose the rabbit because of its universal appeal and cultural significance, such as luck for the New Year, and fertility for creative ideas. The rabbit is seated in a type of yoga pose, it seems, with its hands/paws in a praying position. There are colored decorations dotted all over its body, some of known objects, some patterns, and some probably symbolic. It’s very thought-provoking, when one takes a closer look. If we think about world mythology and folklore involving rabbits and hares, there are many universal stories that can relate to our lives today.

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bustFacing the Fabulous Fox Theater, Strauss Park also has a bronze portrait bust of Leon R. Strauss (1928-1999), an urban pioneer and preservationist. It was created by Jesse Vonk in 1999.

As the plaque below the bust reads, “ His vision changed the face of St Louis. Strauss’ accomplishments included the restoration of the Fox Theater with his wife Mary and Fox associates, the development of Debaliviere Place and Kinsbury Square and a deep commitment to the Saint Louis Symphony.

This monument stands in Grand Center as a tribute by a grateful city to keep Leon Strauss forever close to its heart”.

Hence the name of the park.

 

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My granddaughter and I point out features of the sculpture

My granddaughter and I point out features of the sculpture

“Lady With a Green Blanket”

Found in Lake Eola Park, downtown Orlando, FL

Maria del Valle, executive director of Art Center South Florida, was quoted in a recent American Way magazine article about the New Face of Miami (new art centers, shows, murals). She said, “Art is a form of creativity, and creativity generates energy, and energy creates hope.

This really resonated with me, as I also believe that offering art to people makes their lives better in many ways. This is especially true for public art, and outdoor art that is available to all.

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My granddaughter asking questions

My granddaughter asking questions

So, in early January when we were wandering along the edge of Lake Eola in Orlando, this stunning piece of public art near the outdoor café really jumped out at us. My 5-year-old granddaughter dubbed it “The Lady with a Green Blanket” and I can see why. The reclining ‘lady’ has a very pretty face and her body is covered in growing greenery, which led to questions like, “why is she lying down?” and “why is she covered?” and “what’s she doing with her hands?”

We read the information board and find out it’s called “Muse of Discovery”, by Meg White, Stephensport, KY. It’s made of limestone and earthwork, and was gifted to the City of Orlando by Wayne M. Densch Charities, as part of the See Art Orlando Public Sculpture Program, 2013.

 

 

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facecloseThe artist invites the viewer to “ sit in the hand of the Muse and discover your hidden potential as she whispers to you”. I’m sure that would be an interesting experience, but it’s not possible right now, as the grass around the sculpture is resting for winter.

But, still the sculpture put a smile on our faces and got us pondering, so no matter if we couldn’t sit on the hand.

 

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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! https://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.

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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

 

 

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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

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The Five Brushstrokes

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