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Part 2: The Flag at Fort McHenry

bannertrail

flagtoday

Flag flying at the fort the day we were there

flagplaque copyVisiting Fort McHenry Part 2: The Flag 

Another important part of this history is the story of the flag, the different flag sizes, and new flags flying at the fort.

The Star-Spangled Banner flag of Francis Scott Key’s song was created during the people of Baltimore’s preparations to defend their city.

Major George Armistead, commander at Fort McHenry, commissioned the flag a year before the British attack. Armistead was a seasoned soldier who had participated in the American capture of Fort George on the Niagara River in 1813. He was aware of Fort McHenry’s vital strategic and symbolic importance, so he asked for a flag so large “that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”

In the summer of 1813 a local seamstress, Mary Young Pickersgill, received the flaginsidecommission to make an “American ensign” measuring 30 x 42 feet and using “finest quality bunting.” It was a major undertaking; her daughter, nieces, and possibly an enslaved servant, helped Mary. The flag was so large that they had to assemble it on the floor of a brewery near Mary’s workshop.

Her total fee of $574.44 was a very large sum of money at that time and included the production of a smaller flag, which may have been the “storm flag” flown during the night of the British bombardment in 1814. The huge flag was only hoisted early the next morning after the rain ended, as a signal that the fort was still standing. (I will write later about visiting the house where Mary Pickersgill lived, the so-called Flag House.

flagtodaysignAn information board titled “O’er the Ramparts We Watch” tells us Which Flag Flies Today. It says, “The fort’s walls are called ramparts. An American flag flies over Fort McHenry 24 hours a day by Presidential Proclamation. The size of the flag varies. On clear days with the right amount of wind, a full-size replica of the Star-Spangled Banner measuring 30 x 42 feet with 15 stars and 15 stripes waves. The fort also flies smaller versions of this flag. On rainy days and at night, a small, modern 50-star American flag is flown.

In 1948, a proclamation issued by President Harry S. Truman stated that “as a perpetual

Vflag copy

Copy of original flag in the fort museum, and statue of Francis Scott Key

symbol of our patriotism, the flag of the United States shall hereafter be displayed at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine at all times during the day and night, except when the weather is inclement.” At night the flag is illuminated by lights powered by solar panels.”

The original 30 x 42 feet flag is now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. However, because of its delicate nature, it is kept under very low light and no photography is possible. But, we did go and see it.

 

 

flagDC

Entrance to the original flag exhibit in Washington DC

flag

The 15-star, 15-stripe flag at Fort McHenry

Also linked to American flags: as states were added to the United States so too were stars added to the flag. In 1818, Congress proclaimed that one star for each new state would be added on the 4th of July following the state’s admission to the union and there would be thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.

 

So, new flags were produced and each time that flag was first flown here at Fort McHenry.

As we walked back to catch the bus, we noted

Illinois

Illinois, admitted December 3, 1818

metal plaques set into the sidewalk along the edge of the entrance road, with the names of US states. We believe that there is one for each state, commemorating when the state entered the union. We couldn’t find them all, but did find Illinois!

Next is Part 3 on the History of the Fort.

 

 

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NH

Untitled (Portrait) by Nikki Rosato

I recently wrote about the amazing creations made by cutting paper that we saw in an exhibition in the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH. It is Untitled (Portrait) 2016, by Nikki Rosato, American born 1986

One I omitted to add, and perhaps one of the most interesting is that of a head. It is interesting on two main counts: first, because of the material from which it is made and what that symbolizes; and secondly because it reminds us very much of another head, much larger, but just as symbolic (see further down). At first glance, they have a similar look, even though the size and the materials are different.

This one in the Deep Cuts exhibit is a three-dimensional bust made from cut road maps. The illustrations on the map look similar to parts of the human body: roads are like arteries and topographical lines form ridges and wrinkles. In this piece the artist tried to evoke the affiliations that people have with place and how places have shaped his or her development. This bust is a portrayal of the artist’s partner made from maps of New England and the surrounding areas that are significant to him.

This piece is part of a section called Altering Atlases. As the board explains, “For centuries cultures have created maps and atlases to define, categorize, and navigate their way through the world. Although many now rely heavily on GPS, the paper map remains an important, sometimes lifesaving tool for any adventurer (especially when we lose signal).

Maps symbolize not just geographies, but also the people who inhabit the landscapes and the geopolitical borders that divide and define them. Some artists alter these representations by cutting and abrading the paper on which they are printed in order to explore the politics of place and the relationship of humans to their natural and built environments…

What a great concept! As world travelers who usually use paper maps, we find this interpretation fascinating, because it’s true that people are also defined by place.

DesM

Nomads by Jaume Plensa

The other head this reminded us of is by Jaume Plensa (Spanish, born 1956), and I wrote about it here:

https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/symbolic-head-sculpture-with-multiple-meanings/

This head, called Nomade (2007), is huge and is painted stainless steel. The head and torso are made of letters from the Latin alphabet. His idea is that when letters are combined they produce words, thoughts and language, just as a person alone has limited potential but when people join together in a group or society they become stronger. It is in the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Garden in Des Moines, Iowa.

SeoulInterestingly, we’ve experienced another head that is somewhat similar to these two. It is one of three head sculptures in the concourse of the Bongeunsa subway station in Seoul. I haven’t been able to find out any information about the artist or date etc.

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museum We happened on an amazing exhibit at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. The museum itself was a wonderful unexpected find, as we didn’t originally plan on spending time in Manchester (except to fly in and out).

We went to the Currier on our recent visit to New Hampshire as we wanted to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman House, and the only way to do that is to take a guided tour from the museum. We had time to look around the museum a little after lunch in their attractive Winter Garden Café (which is actually indoors), and decided on the special exhibit called Deep Cuts, Contemporary Paper Cutting.

cafeentrance

The beautiful doorway into the museum from the Garden Cafe

It was on from February 25-May 21, 2017, so sadly it is no longer there. Hopefully, because it was so interesting and popular, it will move to another museum for more people to see it.

The exhibit is on paper cutting and we entered with all the wrong expectations: We imagined the traditional Chinese paper cuttings, or perhaps cut-paper portrait silhouettes, as we have seen in Paris at Place du Tertre in Montmartre.

But no, this is way more than that. These contemporary artists reconsider, redefine and even subvert the centuries-old art of paper cutting. They slice, shred and abrade paper using blades, scissors, lasers, and even belt sanders. The range of materials is mind-boggling—from handmade artisan paper, to office stationery, books, wallpaper, currency notes, and shopping bags.

Since its invention around two thousand years ago, paper has become a commonplace material, permeating practically every aspect of our lives. In this exhibit we see how paper can be transformed from ordinary to extraordinary, from practical to thought-provoking; for example, some explore political or social topics.

Some of the artists use traditional techniques, but with new subjects. Others have made sculptural objects that challenge the flatness and fragility of paper. Others have cut printed paper to create works that explore the information and power normally linked with text. A bank note is very powerful and artists may cut it to make a statement. This also hints at a recent shift towards digital banking.

Some artists dissect documents, newspapers or books to question the information printed on them. By reforming them into something else, the artists show how intended meanings can change.

This lovely “picture” is an example of that, but I don’t have the artist information about it.

text picture

Another theme is how a growing focus on recyclable paper products is affecting paper’s role in our economies and society.

Of all the pieces we saw, we randomly chose 5 to showcase here. The others were all fascinating, but for some it was difficult to get the detailed information on them.

Currency collage, called The World is Yours, 2006, by C. K. Wilde, American (born 1972). As the board tells us, “This world map is composed of pieces of currency from many countries. Paper money affords a wide palette of color and design while also carrying the political weight of the various world democracies, monarchies, dictatorships, and other government. This map further suggests that global wealth is controlled by a handful of people, often including those whose faces appear on the currency. In Wilde’s work, cutting up money can be seen as a disruption of power and wealth.”

currencymap

World map made of cut bank notes

Male Pelvis, 2012, by Lisa Nilsson, American (born 1963). This is a mulberry paper collage, and is a true-to-life anatomical cross section using intricate paper filigree. It uses Japanese mulberry paper and the gilded edges of old books.

malepelvis

Rainbow, 2017, by Li Hongbo, Chinese (born 1974). Li Hongbo uses the honeycomb technique used in traditional Chinese paper gourd making to produce striking, large-scale installations with deep symbolic meanings. As the board tells us, “The artist has cut hundreds of colorful pieces in the shape of firearms and bullets. Unfurled, the threatening silhouettes transform into beautiful flower-like sculptures. The installation evokes the fine line between war and peace, and between violence and understanding, showing that one simple act can have a transformative effect. His chosen material and subject matter are related through their shared history: the Chinese invented paper but they also invented gunpowder. For an American audience, his sculptures are inevitable and poignant evocation of the epidemic of gun violence.”

rainbow

 

rainbow2

Untitled (NY Yellow), 2009, by Jane South, British (born 1965) .Made of hand-cut paper, ink, acrylic and bass wood. As the board tells us, “Jane South fabricates bewildering cut-paper constructions that seem both real and imaginary; mechanical and artistic. Complex cut elements, as well as drawings on the paper’s surface, create a web of actual and illusionistic shadows, mixing fiction and reality.”

NYYellow

Biophony of Spring, 2017, by Fred H C Liang, Chinese (born 1964). This is made from cut Arjowiggin paper. Liang makes “drawings in space” by cutting out multiple shapes that he weaves together and balances to make one large rhythmic mass. He combines traditional Chinese paper cutting with contemporary art, creating non-representational work. The name of this one “refers to the collective sound made by all living organisms in a given environment, a natural symphony.”

Biophony

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men2More Public Art in Chicago

As I was walking recently  to the Chicago Cultural Center from our hotel I happened on this outdoor sculpture, one I have not seen before. It was apparently officially installed about two years ago.

Living World Series, Gentlemen, bronze on cast bronze plinth, by Ju Ming (1938-) from Taiwan. He trained as a woodcarver, but went on to an international career creating works in many materials. These figures are in bronze, but do have a look of wood carvings, I think.

On the plinth are a group of square, pedantic-looking men in suits and ties, some with menhats, or with bags and briefcases, and umbrellas.

This is on the AMA Plaza, next to the IBM Building housing the Langham Hotel on the north side of the river.

It’s an unusual  sculpture, and many people who walk by stop to take pictures.

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mural2

First section of the mural

mural

I’d say she’s a suffragette!

 mural3More Murals: Northampton, Mass 

We found this vast mural in the parking lot opposite Woodstar Coffee Shop, Northampton, Mass.

Too big to capture in one shot, it tells a fascinating story if you look at it carefully.

The title is The History of Women in Northampton from 1600-1980. The title seems very appropriate in many ways, as Northampton is the home of Smith College, a prestigious women’s college, also known as the college where women’s basketball was first played in 1892.

Information on the mural:

The History of Women in Northampton from 1600-1980mural4

Copyright Hestia Art Collective

Linda Bond, Mariah Fee, Susan Pontious, Rochelle Shicoff, Wednesday Sorokin

Restored 1986

Updated and restored in 2003

On a side note, two other firsts for this area: Nearby, in Holyoke, William G. Morgan invented the game of volleyball for men. It was in 1895 when he took the position as physical director at Holyoke. The newly-created game of basketball (created in Springfield, Mass), very popular with young people, was too strenuous for the local businessmen, so he decided to create a new sport. From basketball he took the ball. From tennis the net, and the use of hands from handball. From baseball he took the concept of innings. The game has evolved and changed since then, as has the ball. It soon became very popular worldwide.

It started as a competitive women’s sport in the 1920s, and at Mt Holyoke College in the 1970s.

Fun factoids!

 

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CCposter

Exhibits at Chicago’s Cultural Center

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Poster about the Wall of Respect

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Old photo of the Wall of Respect

As mentioned earlier, this year is Chicago’s Year of Public Art and the 50×50 Initiative, sparked by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of 2 famous public art works in the city: Picasso’s “Untitled” (see previous post), and The Wall of Respect.

The Wall of Respect is no longer in its original position but a special exhibition on it is in the Chicago Cultural Center until July 30th. The exhibition, called Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power, is in the Chicago Rooms, 2nd Floor North in the Cultural Center (corner of Michigan, Randolph and Washington).

wallcolor

How the wall looked

Blues

The Blues panel

Jazz

The Jazz panel

Curated by Romi Crawford, Abdul Alkalimat and Rebecca Zorach, and students in the Department of Art History, this exhibition chronicles how the Organization for Black American Culture designed and produced this first mural for, and within, Chicago’s Black South Side communities. It features 7 sections with the images of leading black icons (called heroes), ranging from Sarah Vaughan and John Coltrane to Marcus Garvey and Ossie Davis. Two of the panels are devoted to musicians—one for Blues, one for Jazz—not surprising, as Chicago has always been a hub for music, notably Blues and Jazz with many famous black artists.

roofpillar

Using photographs and documents relating to the Wall of Respect and other murals, this exhibition explores the mural movement in Chicago in its historical context, investigating how race and class have intersected with the spatial politics of the city.

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Story of the Wall of Respect

heroestoday

Who is your hero today?

In 1967, the Organization of Black American Culture painted this huge mural “guerrilla-style” on the wall of a decaying building on the South Side of Chicago at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue. They called it the Wall of Respect. This mural, which grew out of the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s, was controversial from the start and only survived a few years—but in that time it inspired a community movement that went on to paint vivid colors on walls across the city and beyond. The Wall of Respect received national acclaim when it was unveiled in 1967.

Just outside the exhibit rooms, the center has strips of colored paper. They invite people today to write down the names of their heroes and make a long paper chain—a Heroes Chain. Would be a fun project for school kids, I think.

Muddymural

Muddy2Not far away on the side of a building opposite Macy’s is a huge colored mural of Muddy Waters. I couldn’t find any information on that. Any ideas, anyone?

Somewhat linked to this topic is another exhibition at the Cultural Center: that of Eugene Eda’s Doors for Malcolm X College (see future post)

 

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MS

Satoshi and Max enjoy the meal

Maxcook

Max helps cook the meat and vegetables

Sapporo is well-known for special Ghengis Khan grilled lamb meals and the principle places are run by big beer halls. The two main ones are at Sapporo Beer Garden, which I wrote about before (https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/japan-a-hokkaido-special-dish/ ) and the other is at the Kirin Beer Hall. Both Sapporo and Kirin are very popular Japanese beers.

VR

Another marvelous meal!

On our final night in Sapporo this last trip, Satoshi booked us into the Premier Hotel. It’s in the Suskino area of town, where a lot of the nightlife is, so lots of neon lights, and really busy especially on a Saturday evening

For dinner that evening we went our for a Ghengis Khan meal again, somehow fitting, as we had Ghengis on our first evening in the city. The Kirin Beer Hall was within walking distance of the Premier Hotel, so very convenient.

Satoshi and Max took Rod and I and once again we had a lovely evening together and a

meat

The grill is set down in the center of the table

great meal. Here, the grills are set out differently: they are set down a bit in the center of the tables. But, otherwise the concept is very similar: first, put on bibs to protect clothes, then cook plenty of vegetables and pieces of thinly sliced meat on the grill, using large tongs. Wash it down with plenty of beer and/or wine.

We also had a smoked hokke fish as a snack first. Over the years, Rod and I have come to really like hokke and Satoshi wanted us to have it “one last time”. Delicious and much appreciated.

hokke

Hooke is great

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