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model

Model of Zimmerman House at museum

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Front view

The Isadore J. and Lucille Zimmerman House, 1950

People who know and love the architecture and designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, in Illinois or elsewhere, will be delighted to find another of his amazing houses in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Zimmerman House is an example of his modest Usonian homes and the only Frank Lloyd Wright house open to the public in New England. Usonian is a term Wright coined to classify small, one-story homes intended for modest living. Today, Usonian homes are considered a precursor to the American ranch house.

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Entrance—even that big rock was part of the design

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Back view

We’d previously seen a Usonian house south of St Louis in Missouri; have been to Oak Park, Illinois, which has the largest concentration of Wright buildings in the world; and have toured the gorgeous Dana Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois. When we discovered there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Manchester, where we would be for half a day, we knew we had to try and see it. And we did.

Fortuitous, as this is a special year for Frank Lloyd Wright fans.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born 150 years ago and there will be many parties, exhibits and events at some of his buildings, and a major show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art called “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive.” It will run until October 1, 2017. Many consider Frank Lloyd Wright to be America’s best-known architect and both his innovative designs and his larger-than-life personality (and controversial personal life) continue to fascinate the public.

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backcloseralongbackOne of the reasons that this architect was so popular with the general public was that he did what he wanted in his own style, which was often more in line with popular taste than academic taste. For example, he loved to use color, pattern and ornamentation, similar to 19th century architects, and unlike the minimalism associated with modernism in architecture.

He did create fantastic buildings, with technical details way ahead of his time, even if he also offended some people by his insistence on the fact that he was always right—-down to the last detail about furniture, decorations in the houses, what could and could not be hung on his walls, how the gardens should be planted etc. When in one of his houses you get an intangible feeling of being in something special, of being in a space that feels exactly right, partly because all the dimensions and all the fittings were carefully calculated to fit into that space.

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Looking through one of the huge windows

His buildings remain must-see sights for his fans. About 380 Wright structures still stand and those that are open to the public often sell out tours well in advance. So, we were very lucky in May to easily get on a tour to the Zimmerman House in Manchester, NH. You have to take a tour from the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. A driver takes visitors in a small bus to the house and a knowledgeable guide takes you on the bus and through the house.

The Zimmerman House is an example of his Usonian style, so it’s smaller but the layout is still carefully planned and the attention to details is amazing as always.

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Steps from car port towards front entrance

The 1,600-square-foot brick home was created for Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman, a doctor and a nurse who requested a “small, spacious and simple house” from Wright, as they were dissatisfied with the “ultra-conservative” residential architecture of New England. Wright’s solution was “a classic Usonian” for which he designed the house, the gardens, the furniture, and all the interior details, such as cabinets and shelves, down to the dinnerware and even the mailbox. Wright once said, “a Usonian house is always hungry for ground, lives by it, becoming an integral feature of it.” Appropriately, the Zimmerman House appears to blend with the landscape, as it is specially angled on the plot, and uses floor-to-ceiling windows and natural materials to bring the outdoors in. The green of the garden and the brown of all the wood give a feeling of peace, harmony, and serenity. We are so happy that we were able to see another example of this very special kind of architecture.

Though not large, the built-in furniture, continuous concrete floor mat, large windows,

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Even the postbox was specially designed

and dramatic changes in ceiling height impart a sense of great spaciousness. The Zimmermans lived in the house for the next 36 years.

In 1979 the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Dr. and Mrs. Zimmerman left the property to the Currier Museum of Art in 1988. In 1990, the house and grounds were opened so that visitors could enjoy glimpses of a private world from the 1950s and 1960s, including the Zimmermans’ personal collection of modern art, pottery and sculpture.

Tours are Thursday through Monday at 11:15am, 1:15pm and 3:15pm. Tours are 90 minutes long.

No photos inside

Visitors must wear slip-ons over shoes inside the house.

No restrooms on the tour.

$25 for adults
$24 for seniors (65+)
$16 for students
$10 for children ages 7-17 (Children under age 7 are not permitted to tour the Zimmerman House).

$10 for Museum members

All Zimmerman House tours include general Museum admission.

Book online http://currier.org/education-programs/zimmerman-house-tours/

 

 

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Dinosaur footprint

boardDinosaur Footprints Reservation

Remember as a child, when you probably loved dinosaurs and were fascinated by those ancient creatures? Well, in Massachusetts there’s a special place where you can see their footsteps and imagine herds of dinosaurs roaming along the swampy river.

The fertile Connecticut River Valley in USA was once the haunt of dinosaurs and is the best place to find dinosaur footprints. Scientists believe it was a sub-tropical swamp around 200-190 million years ago. Today the area is especially known for its concentration of educational facilities.

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Dinosaur print

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Short trail leading down to the “Dinosaur rock”

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The large rock where visitors can see many dinosaur tracks

Of great geological interest are the fine-grained sedimentary rocks containing the tracks of dinosaurs that roamed the Connecticut River Valley approximately 200 million years ago. These footprints, pressed into the mud on the valley floor and baked by the sun, were later covered and preserved by additional layers of mud. Eventually they became layers of sedimentary rocks, primarily shale and sandstone. Today, these rocks reveal the fascinating story of the region’s prehistoric past. The creatures that once roamed this area were two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs, of different sizes, up to 15 feet long. Dinosaur tracks can be seen in their original formation in various locations.

We found the Dinosaur Footprints Reservation, an 8-acre wilderness reservation purchased for the public in 1935 by the Trustees of Reservations. The Reservation is just off Route-5 near Holyoke, Mass, and is open sunrise to sunset April 1-November 30. A short wood chip trail leads down, to a very large sandstone rock, from the small parking area, more a pull-off actually. It’s a very special place as it has more than 130 tracks in sandstone, apparently made by 3 different types of 2-legged dinosaur.

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Another dinosaur print

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Fossilized ripples

There are information boards about the history of the area and of the fossils in both English and Spanish and one of the boards tells us, “In the early 1970s, Yale University professor John Ostrom identified these tracks as being from three distinct, though related, dinosaurs. The largest prints (11-13 inches long) were from Eubronte giganteus, which stood 15 feet tall and had a 6-foot stride. The intermediate prints (6-8 inches) are from Anchisauripus sillimani, and the smallest (3-5 inches) from Grallator cuneatus. He also determined that almost all of the footprints were part of 28 distinct trackways, leading in very nearly the same direction. The tracks thus documented for the first time that dinosaurs were not always solitary but tended to travel as a ‘herd, pack, or flock’.”

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Dinosaur prints, and ripples

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Vera G, Heather D and Viv  by the Connecticut River

We try to imagine small herds of dinosaurs on the shore of a shallow tropical lake as we get a close-up look at their fossilized prints. Some tracks are more distinguishable than others at the small site that visitors can walk to here—a huge slab of sandstone. These tracks were unearthed when Route 5 was being constructed in the 1920s.

In the area are also many other fossils, of stromatolites, fish and plants, and of ripples in the sand.

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The Connecticut River has many sandstone ledges at this point

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Rod M and Heather D on the edge of the Connecticut River

The wide Connecticut River flows by very close to the reservation. It has many sandstone ledges that jut out into the water, also full of fossils that tell the long-ago story of this area.

If you want information about dinosaurs in this area, this seems to be a reasonable site, http://www.nashdinosaurtracks.com/first-dinosaur-tracks.php

 

 

 

 

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Viv M and Heather D

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If you look really hard you can see two people in canoes

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At this point the river is divided by an island

The Connecticut River is the longest river in New England. It is 410 miles long, the source at the Fourth Connecticut Lake near Chartierville, Quebec, and the mouth at Long Island Sound.

It is named after the Pequot word “quinetucket”, which means long tidal river. It runs through 4 states: New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It forms the eastern border of Vermont and the western border of New Hampshire but technically only flows in NH, which has legal claim to the riverbed all the way to the Vermont side. Interesting factoid!

It is wide and mostly slow-flowing due to many dams, so it is very popular with paddlers and canoes etc.

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The former railway bridge is part of the trail

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Our family group on the bridge

Near Northampton in Mass, where we were staying for a few days to visit family, we got to walk over the river as we walked a bit of the Norwottuck Branch of the Mass Central Rail Trail. It’s an 11-mile paved path that links Northampton, Hadley, Amherst and Bechertown along the former Central Massachusetts Railroad Company right-of-way. Passenger service on the railroad ended in 1932 and freight service in 1979.

The Rail Trail was opened in 1994, and our family in Northampton says it is very popular, for walking, jogging, inline skating and cycling. It is also wheelchair accessible.

We started at the Elwell Recreation Area on the edge of bridgeNorthampton and really enjoyed walking along the former railway bridge over the Connecticut River, wide at this point with an island in the middle. It’s a magnificent 1,492-foot iron bridge that parallels Calvin Coolidge Bridge nearby (for vehicles), named for the mayor of Northampton who would become the 30th president of the USA. Woods on both sides here make for a leafy peaceful haven.

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Trail directions

More Head Sculptures

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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.

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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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Harrisville library overlooks the mill pond

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A typical narrow lane

One of the pleasures in traveling is discovering places with local flavor and Harrisville has that in abundance, as we discovered in May.

Nestled in the Monadnock Highlands of southwestern New Hampshire is the tiny brick mill village of Harrisville, where yarn has been spun since 1794. It is about 15 minutes from the town of Keene, and about an hour from Manchester. Some houses cluster in the actual village, but many are strung out along narrow winding lanes through the woods, or around the edges of the many lakes and ponds.

 

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Houses on a lake

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View of Mt Monadnock

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Another view of Mt Monadnock

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Rod M and Veronita G at Silver Lake, a short walk from our hosts’ house

Mount Monadnock (3,165ft) looms above pastoral farmland and tiny villages, such as Harrisville. Hiking to the top of it for the spectacular views became popular in the 19th century and today it still is one of the most frequently-climbed mountains in the world. A monadnok is an isolated mountain, the remnants of ancient crystalline rock more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rock strata. Geographers used the name of Mount Monadnok to describe similar formations elsewhere.

The village of Harrisville was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It is recognized as the only 19th century textile village in America that survives in its original form, and some say it’s the most photographed village in the state.

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From the library we look across the mill pond to an old mill building, now Harrisville Designs

 

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Veronita G, Phil G and Claire G (Phil works in the Harrisville General Store)

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Harrisville General Store

Harrisville is a lovely little place and we were lucky to visit with extended family living there (the Gargan family), who were very happy to show us around and tell us about their special place.

For example, Harrisville General Store one of the oldest general stores in continuous use, is perched on a hill overlooking the mill complex. It opened in 1838, but in recent years was facing an uncertain future, due to competition from big-box stores. About 10 years ago, the preservation organization Historic Harrisville Inc. took over ownership and leased it out to new management and M’Lue Zahner and Laura Carden took over. The managers are

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Inside the store

Phil Gargan and Samantha Rule who are committed to selling and preparing fresh local produce. They make pies, soups, sandwiches and salads fresh daily (try their signature kale salad with feta and dried cranberries), have a great pastry selection and also prepare dinner menus to take home. I’m told we shouldn’t miss cider doughnuts and grass-fed burger too. Besides being a popular place for the local community, it’s become a tourist destination in its own right and people are willing to make the detour to visit it, www.harrisvillegeneralstore.com .

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Harrisville library

The library is in a gorgeous old building overlooking the mill pond. It too has become a place to socialize.

Bit of History:

Water power attracted settlers to various remote locations in NH beginning in the late 18th century. In 1794 the first of several mills was built across the Nubanusit River to harness the water-power necessary for carding fleece brought down from local hilltop farms to the village. The Harris family built many of the original mill buildings and houses for their family and workers. Hence the name of the village.

In the mid-1800s the Colony family bought out the Harris holdings and created Cheshire Mills. When that business closed in 1970, a group of citizens and preservationists joined together and formed a non-profit organization called Historic Harrisville Inc. (the same group that saved the General Store). It soon bought several of the main buildings to renovate and lease out to businesses.

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Harrisville Designs

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Some of the yarns for sale

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One of the looms made by Harrisville Designs

John J. Colony III was very much involved in this venture. He realized that, as the mill buildings were being cleared and machinery was being broken down and sold for scrap metal, textiles would disappear from the village. So he started Harrisville Designs in 1971 to keep the textile tradition alive and to create jobs in Harrisville to help the village economy. Harrisville Designs still makes high quality 100% natural yarns for knitting and weaving, plus they make wooden floor looms in several sizes and styles. We enjoyed looking around at all the goods for sale. They also offer many different workshops and classes, and it’s become a place for locals to socialize too.

Harrisville Lake, which has loons as well as other water birds, has a small beach with imported sand and a nice kids’ playground. Our family there assures us that the water does get quite warm enough to swim. In fact, one family member swims regularly in a small lake near their home on a side road.

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The lake where Claire G swims—she goes across to that rock on the far side

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Harrisville Congregational Church

All around New Hampshire we saw churches with a very typical style of architecture and Harrisville is no exception. Many New England churches gained their familiar front towers and steeples between 1720 and the American Revolution. They were often adapted from the published designs of Christopher Wren and James Gibbs. The Harrisville Congregational Church, the Harrisville Designs building and the old library, all around the mill pond, create a very attractive picture of an early rural mill town—and it’s especially lovely when all are reflected in the mill pond.

Nearby, is Aldworth Manor, an old Italian-style Manor house being renovated as a wedding venue.

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Aldworth Manor

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Blueberry bushes early in the season

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Fiddlehead fern fronds for sale

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Phil G looks for fiddlehead fern fronds in the woods near his home

New Hampshire is well known for maple syrup and for blueberries, and we saw plenty of maple sugar trees and blueberry bushes, although it was early in the season so the bushes had nothing on them yet. It was also the season for fiddlehead fern fronds, which are delicious just lightly sautéed in butter. We saw some for sale in grocery stores, but our host also went foraging out in the woods next to his home.

 

 

 

 

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Harrisville Inn

Where to stay:

Harrisville Inn, 797 Chesham Road, run by Maria Coviello a charming lady originally from the British Virgin Islands, www.HarrisvilleInn.com

Where to eat:

The Harrisville General Store (mentioned above) makes great food, fresh every day. Or drive to the nearby village of Jaffrey to the Kimball Farm Restaurant, which has soups, salads, all kinds of fish dishes and an amazing selection of icecreams. Open mid-April to Columbus Day, Kimballsignhttp://kimballfarm.com/jaffrey/ .

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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

Bronze Gentlemen in Chicago

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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