Monday, May 31, 2010

Sedona, Arizona: ‘Ride the road of no return’

Vacatin Hot Spot 2010: Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona, are this year's three-generation vaction destination pick.
Words alone cannot adequately describe this part of the country. Exhilarating nature! Scary excitement! Spiritual renewal! The sun and the moon! Incredible historic stories of wisdom and strength! The wild animals, birds and flora! And of course, art! All are surrounded by azure blue skies and clean air.
There's excitement and fun for everyone, regardless of age. The only prerequisites: a passion for God's natural wonders and new experiences as well as a thirst for knowledge of the past.
We spent a week that went by too fast and left many experiences undone. So I'll recreate our trip here and mention some of the many things we did not have time for.
Following my own advice to other travelers, we narrowed down our destination to Sedona and Flagstaff. Drive time and distances were minimal as too much time spent in a closed and sometimes crowded vehicle, even a SUV or RV, can result in boredom and crankiness. Too much time in a vehicle also prevents you from soaking in the atmosphere and marvels of nature.
An easy ride from Phoenix, the road to Sedona curves sharply up and down through mountains and valleys. The red and white cliffs present a mesmerizing panorama. The red rock cliffs are temples of nature and God's handiwork. The mesas (some of which can reached by jeep) have recognizable shapes and descriptive names: Snoopy, Elephant Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Steamboat Rock (a great walking stop point), Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock and Chimney Rock.
For over 350 million years, erosion sculpted these red rock masterpieces. One of our guides (a geologist) said that in another 25 million years, these cliffs will be no more, eroded by wind, rain and air pollution.
redrocks053110_optOur first stop on the way to Sedona was the Montezuma Castle. A short, easy walking trail took us to the Sinagua Cliff dwellings. A five-story, 20-room dwelling had been carved into the mountainside in the 12th century. In a nearby "apartment", there were 45 rooms. The Castle is about 100 feet above level ground and a creek, which supplied water for a thriving agriculture and hunting community. Rope ladders were used to get to the dwellings and prevented enemies from getting to the living quarters.
The Sinaguas, a prehistoric culture, flourished in the Verde Valley for centuries. No one knows why they moved away.
Our destination: Sedona has been named USA Weekend's No. 1 Most Beautiful Place in America. The area was the inspiration for many of the original Walt Disney and early Western movies. The famed red rock monoliths sit in the 1.8 million acre Coconino National Forest and are unchanged from my last visit in 2002. "Nature's palette" aptly describes the area. While nature has remained as awesome as ever, there are notable changes. More companies offer day trips in the Sedona area as well as to the Grand Canyon. Also, Sedona has become a spiritual center in the southwest and a mecca for psychic healers, aura readers and kinetic energy vortex experts.
Highlights of Sedona were a visit to a unique energy vortex spot that is privately owned and the exclusive Broken Arrow Pink Jeep ride up and down the red rocks.
The location of the Amitabha Stupa was chosen for its energy vortex of Enlightened Presence, which is supposed to radiate waves of compassion to all beings. The 36-foot high Buddhist Stupa (statue) is surrounded by towering red rocks. This Stupa is supposed to be especially powerful because Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light, responds to the prayers of all who call upon him.
Our guide for this visit was Shane Niewol, one of the owners of Angels of Enlightenment, a unique spiritual center located in the heart of Sedona. Following tradition, we walked around the Stupa three times, and each said private mantras (prayers or wishes). The objective is to find spiritual peace. After walking around I did feel more at peace.
We then sat down under a canopy to get out of the sun and to embrace the energy in the area. And, believe it or not, my own energy was discernible. Shane's hands hovered over mine. My left wrist area became very hot, and my right thumb tingled. Shane, in essence, amplified the energy flowing through my body, and I felt the change.
When we returned to the center, I had a private aura reading and received a 17-page analysis of the energies that my body emit. Quite interesting.
pinkjeep053110_optAfter lunch at an outdoor cafe overlooking a valley, we rode around the area surrounding Sedona in a tram, with a geologist as our guide. The stark rugged beauty of the red cliffs is so different from green New Jersey. There is also a free shuttle bus that runs up and down the main highways and downtown areas.Next on the agenda was the Pink Jeep's Broken Arrow trip — a must for all generations. The open bright pink jeeps have cushioned seats, which made the sometimes scary ride actually comfortable. Specially carved into the mountains (and exclusively maintained by the Pink Jeep company), the road took us upward at 45 to 60 degree angles and dropped down again at as much as a 90 degree angle on the "Road of No Return." Magnificent canyon walls surround high mesas such as Submarine Rock and Chicken Point, where we stepped out of the jeep, walked around the mesa, soaked up the vistas and took pictures.
After the pink jeep ride, we were a glutton for more adventure and took an ancient ruins tour out to a 700-year-old Sinagua cliff dwelling. A winding dirt path went upward several hundred feet. The area was once a trading center. But now the only sounds heard were a gurgling brook and the twill of birds. There is one question that remains unanswered in reference to these ruins and those at Montezuma Castle. Where are the dead buried? There is no evidence of burial grounds at either site, and no one seems to know the answer.
Another must-visit spot in Sedona is the Exposures International Gallery, one of many along the main highway into town. Exposures has a mind boggling array of unique fine art and jewelry.
Most bronzes have very detailed figures, with defined facial
expressions and clothing one can see waving in the wind. Exposures has a number of "unfinished" bronzes that have clean straight lines. The essence is in the shapes, rather than fine details. Powerful oils of Indians and eye catching desert scenes, wood wall sculptures, glass mosaic pictures, colorful glass sculptures, and intriguing pottery are among the thousands of items displayed.
Outside is a garden that has both bronzes and kinetic wind sculptures. I would have taken home three adorable bronze bears, but the cost is $18,000 for each one. While the bear sculptures are costly, many of the art pieces and jewelry are only a few hundred dollars.
In between the must-do activities, one can stroll up and down the main street which has dozens of souvenir shops, with some great turquoise jewelry, and restaurants. Nearby the Tlaquepague Arts & Crafts Village has dozens of galleries and shops as well as award winning restaurants. It is adjacent to the Los Abrigados resort, which is on the main highway and where we stayed.
The full impact of nature's beauty and forms can only be seen on a hot air balloon or helicopter ride, which allow a 360-degree palette. The area boasts of many nature and outdoor activities, from hiking trails with designated difficulty levels and lengths to bicycling, fishing, boating, birding, golf, tennis, horseback riding, and camping amidst tall trees and gurgling brooks. A winery and casino are nearby.

Toronto sculptors win big in Oslo

The winning sculpture, titled Where the starting point is crazy minimal, the outcome is often highly original, is by Toronto-based artist collective Blue Republic (Anna Passakas and Radoslaw Kudlinski).
It’s Smurf blue and contains a bug-eyed gnome, a caterpillar monster, a giant head – and it’s won Oslo’s Peer Gynt sculpture competition for Toronto-based artists Anna Passakas and Radoslaw Kudlinski 

When it was announced this spring that the Toronto-based collective Blue Republic had installed a giant, permanent sculpture in Oslo – the winner of the Peer Gynt International Sculpture Competition – the first question zipping around the Canadian art world was simple: How permanent can it be?
Blue Republic, comprised of the Polish-Canadian couple Anna Passakas and Radoslaw Kudlinski, are best known for working with found materials to create delicate, and decidedly impermanent, sculptural installations.
Their most recent touring exhibition, Nostalgia for the Present, a kind of magical metropolis made from spindles, cardboard, and Styrofoam, looked fragile enough to be knocked flat by an asthmatic toddler with a head cold. What were these masters of the temporal doing making monumental, sculpture-park works, timeless wonders to outlast glaciers (not to mention the Oslo winters)?
“It was a challenge,” Passakas admits, “and we also had to consider things like sharp edges and pointy parts, because at the unveiling kids were climbing all over it. But we like a challenge, and it was good for us to consider questions we had not had to think about as much in the past.”
As the title of the competition reveals, the sculpture is based on Henrik Ibsen’s five-act verse play of the same name, a strange fantasy work itself based on a popular, stranger Norwegian fairy tale – one involving brownies (the elfin kind, not the cookie-selling kind), nixies, “troll-urchins” (a perhaps redundant term), gnomes, fairy kings, dewy dairy maids and a giant worm monster called a Boyg. Ibsen gives good source material.
Combing through the play, Blue Republic discovered that the themes – heroism, pagan versus Christian heritages, and nationalism – were hardly unfamiliar to them as Polish expatriates.
“We read the Ibsen play, studied it first, because that was the theme of the commission,” Kudlinski recalls, “but, of course, we already knew some of it, from our own childhoods, and also the nature of the story was not strange to us – it’s a very European kind of story, with monsters and mysterious woods. We didn’t feel that we were out of place working with this story that Norwegians hold so dear, or that we were in any way appropriating anything.”
Nor did the Norwegian judges and Oslo civic authorities, who chose Blue Republic’s proposal over more than 200 international submissions. The staggered jury process, boiling the submissions down to six contenders, took over a year to complete.
The result, titled Where the starting point is crazy minimal, the outcome is often highly original, is an eerie, 2.1-by-3.4-metre work of public art that does not immediately register as public art. The family-friendly tone that pervades most civic art enterprises is thankfully not present – if anything, the sculpture probably scares small children. The melting, slithering colossus is neither cute (cuteness is the scourge of too many contemporary public art commissions), nor does it mimic traditional, solemn martial art, the man-on-a-horse school. To be blunt, it’s just weird. Wonderfully weird.
Looking more than a little like a half-finished disembowelment frozen in bronze (Smurf blue bronze, granted), the sculpture contains a fiendish, bug-eyed gnome, a satanic, morphing caterpillar monster, and a pair of lizard legs with a giant head stuck on top. Peer Gynt makes an appearance, brandishing a rough stick, but even he appears to be sinking into quicksand, or, perhaps, the burden of his own legacy.
A literal translation of a classic text this sculpture is decidedly not.
“Because it was an international competition, we didn’t worry about not being Scandinavian while we were interpreting this very Scandinavian story. We felt it was open to anybody, and so the interpretation was open,” Passakas says.
But why blue? And why a cartoonish blue?
“We had the sculpture cast in bronze, but bronze has so many connotations,” Kudlinski says, “you know, town square war memorials. So we painted it, but the blue is not a trademark ‘Blue Republic blue’ – we wanted a colour that would stand out in the snows of Oslo, that would look striking next to brilliant white, but that was also a Nordic colour, because Peer Gynt is a very Nordic story, and we are Canadians and share that polar world view with the Norwegians.”
“Orange or yellow would not have worked, we needed something like ice, like the climate. Also, the blue looks very nice next to the bright green grass that is all around it in the summer, which we didn’t really notice until it was installed.”
After such a lengthy process, would they do another large public commission?
“Of course!” Passakas exclaims. “The way we work – we think, we talk, we argue, then we make something – it’s the same process, big or small. Our work is very different from this commission, but this was a great pleasure, and we just went wild. But I think with this we learned more about how we work as a team, and that’s always good, and, more so, how to work with restrictions.”
“It’s a departure for us,” Kudlinski admits, “a figurative work. But how does that fit in our career? Honestly, I don’t care! Ha!”
“And the Norwegians treated us like celebrities,” Passakas concludes with a wry grin. “Not something Canadian artists get every day.”
If you are not going to Norway, Blue Republic will be showing new work at Georgia Scherman Projects in Toronto, from July 8 (

Submersion in subversion

Sex, knitting, potatoes and a Korean Godzilla - Bucharest’s international arts festival sneaks intothe capital’s museums, colleges and garages

Scorned by City Hall and Government, Bucharest’s biannual arts festival has maximised its near-zero funding to allow international artists to undertake cerebral and surreal ventures in obscure public spaces.
Politics tops the agenda this year, with art as lecture, documentary, satire and protest, including attempts to show how the failure of financial structures undermines society.
On the surface, works which resemble a biological experiment, crafts workshop or travel guide disguise subversive intentions.
Potatoes grow in jars in Sweden’s Asa Sonjasdotter’s ‘Small Potatoes Make Big Noise’, where she nurtures hybrids from different areas of Romania - a fascinating allegory of regional differences in a country where near-famine is still within the memory of Romanians over 30.
Meanwhile Sabrina Gschwandtner’s mixed media ‘Wartime Knitting Circle 2007-2010’ reveals the relationship between protest, conflict and knitting - including gloves patterned with the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq, woven images of women making sticky bombs using a woolen exterior and directions on how to make socks for amputees.
‘Workarounds’ is a fascinating series of graphics which act as a ‘guidebook’ on how to survive in the West Bank. Compiled by Danes Lise Skou and Nis Romer, with students from the International Academy of Art Palestine, the images reveal how to cope in the heat, where to source drink and which roadside plants to eat, when trapped in queues at Israeli checkpoints.
Local artist Stefan Constantinescu reimagines Romania’s Communist past as a series of Socialist Realist style oil paintings of gymnasts, dancing children and obedient school-pupils – their lives clean, clear and regimented, but desensitised and lifeless.
But the main focus is on video art, such as diaries set to images and visual lectures, especially using archives from the Cold War. Swedish artist Magnas Bartas’s ‘Madame and Little boy’ introduces South Korean film actress Choi Eun-Hee, who was abducted by North Korea and forced to star a number of propagandist crowd-pleasers, including a Godzilla-style monster flick.
But when artists try to grapple with abuses in world economics, the result can be hopelessly academic. Zachary Formwalt’s ‘In place of capital’ shows similarities in development between photography and the Royal Exchange in London and Goldin+Senneby’s ‘Untitled’ is an essay, read aloud in an empty room, about price derivatives.
The Biennale succeeds when flipping spaces into a platform for art – such as a former bank, the corridors of the Institute of Political Research and a broken-down garage, fringed by ivy with a stray puppy in the courtyard.
But anyone hoping for gratuitous sexual imagery in a gallery dedicated to paleontology will be disappointed.
American Kaucylia Brooke’s 32 photos of inter-racial and same-sexual partnerships, ‘Tit for Twat: Can we talk? 1993-2010’ was censored by the Museum of Geology, where photos of female body parts reduced the staff to tears, causing the museum administrator to eject the pics from the premises.
Fear of a Stalinist coup of the Romanian cultural consciousness starting in the museum may be overstated - as still hanging in the building next to a table charting the Triassic to Cretaceous time periods is a photo montage of drag queens.

Sculptures in Turkey's Cappadocia visible from space

As part of his intercontinental art project, 'Rhythms of Life,' famous Australian sculptor Andrew Rogers' exhibition, 'Time and Space,' opened in Cappadocia over the weekend. The sculptures at the exhibition, created using 11,000 tons of stones and visible from 450 meters above the earth, were completed over three years with the help of 230 people
Sculptures in Turkey's Cappadocia visible from space

Bringing new meaning to the art of building monuments, an Australian sculptor opened a new park in Cappadocia on the weekend containing stone sculptures so large they are visible from space.
“Time and Space,” the Turkish leg of Andrew Rogers’ larger “Rhythms of Life” art project, which includes works on five different continents, is the first such contemporary land art park in the world of its magnitude.
His park in Cappadocia’s town of Göreme comprises 10 structures with more than 10,500 tons of stone and walls extending nearly seven kilometers.
The exhibition opened at Sculpture Park (Heykel Park) in Cappadocia with a weekend concert by the Borusan Philharmonic Orchestra.
Rogers, who is known as the “man who whispers to the universe with stones,” began forming Sculpture Park with works that that include “A Day on Earth” and “Time and Space” in 2007.
Using 11,000 tons of stones for his nine-meter high sculptures, Rogers completed the park in three years with the help of 230 people. The park covers an area of seven kilometers and can be seen from a height 450 kilometers.
In the opening ceremony, the deputy undersecretary of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Özgür Özarslan, said it was very important for Turkish culture and art that the huge sculptures were made in the region.
“I believe that these magnificent works will establish a bridge between the past and the future,” he said.
Australian Ambassador to Ankara Peter Doyle said the sculptures would also be a tool for the development of Turkish-Australian relations.
Rogers said all of his sculptures were a monument of “Time and Space” that expressed the common values of human beings. He said he first visited Cappadocia 27 years ago and chose the region because he was struck by its natural and historical beauty.
“I attach a lot of importance to natural and historical tissue in places where I work. This is why I pay attention to reflecting the features of the region. Stones that I use in my sculptures are convenient for the fabric of the area. This is a very important factor,” he said.
“Technology has developed in the world and caused people to get away from nature. But there is life in our land and we should protect it for future generations. Concentration is very important in this work. Since we worked with the people of the region, these sculptures have increased in value because they are a bridge between their past and the future,” said Rogers.
Following the opening speeches, Göreme Mayor Nuri Cıngıl presented a plaque of gratitude to Rogers.
World’s largest example of contemporary land art
Rogers is the creator of the world’s largest examples of contemporary land art. The “Rhythms of Life” project was begun in 1998 and now comprises 40 massive stone structures across 12 countries on five continents and has involved over 5,000 people.
Some stone structures cover as much as 40,000 square meters. As well as Cappadocia, they are situated in Israel, Chile, Sri Lanka, Australia, China, Iceland, India, Nepal, Slovakia and the United States.
The “Rhythms of Life” sculptures are optimistic metaphors for the eternal cycle of life and regeneration, expressive and suggestive of human striving and introspection. The sculptures embrace a wide cultural vision that links memory and various symbols derived from ancient rock carvings, paintings and legends in each region.
They also punctuate time and extend history into the distant future while delving into the depths of our heritage in pursuit of the spiritual.

Artistic students earn high praise

Art in its many forms from paintings to textiles, drama to music was celebrated at a special evening at Fearns Community Sports College and won high praise from a former arts teacher.
Students from Year 11 got to show their parents the fruits of their labours over two GCSE years.
Fearns Celebration of ArtArtistic talent: Charlotte Walsh admires
Lisa Thorpe's wedding dress
"I am delighted with the high standard of work Fearns' pupils have achieved this year," said head of expressive arts Charlotte Walsh.
"The celebration showcased the work completed in art and design, textiles, 3D design, also drama and included performances from students that studied drama and music.
"We had an exhibition of work in the foyer and reception area and throughout the art rooms with drama in the theatre and musical accompaniment while guests viewed the work and enjoyed a buffet.
"Traditionally the standard of artwork produced at Fearns has always been high and this year is no different. This is demonstrated in over 100 individual exhibitions that display a great variety of media, concept and creativity."
Local artist and teacher Bill Ingham attended to support his granddaughter 16-year-old Rosie Wilkinson. His daughter Deborah said: "My father said he was really impressed with the standard of work and I think they have all done very well."
Miss Walsh said lessons were supported by lots of after-school activities and the pupils had shown a real pride and creativity in their GCSE work.
Fearns Celebration of ArtWell done: Charlie Codd with older daughter
Elizabeth, 16, and younger daughter Grace, 10
Parents praised the initiative and while she admired her daughter Elizabeth Codd's work Sarah said: "I am more used to seeing Elizabeth's work on the floor, it is great to see it on the wall. I think it is an excellent exhibition and a brilliant idea to invite parents to come and have a look around."
A stunning wedding dress created by 16-year-old Lisa Thorpe greeted visitors walking through the foyer. Lisa also won a fashion design competition with Burnley College last year.
Miss Walsh praised the achievements of all the pupils involved within the expressive and performing arts courses, with particular acknowledgement to the exceptional exhibitions created by Sophie Brown, Elizabeth Codd, Anna Stott, Rebecca Swindells and Jessica Hargreaves.

Art leaps from the boardroom to the streets

Savvy real estate developers are embracing mandatory municipal art programs as opportunities to add value and character to their properties.
These programs vary, but all focus on having developers give back to the communities in which they do business.
Although about 30 Canadian cities have public art programs in place, most are for public lands and buildings, said Jane Perdue, the City of Toronto’s public art co-ordinator, adding that fewer than a dozen cities have programs for commercial buildings.
Toronto and Halifax both require that a minimum of 1 per cent of the construction budget of a commercial building over a certain size go to public art or other public benefits such as affordable housing.
Vancouver’s program requires that $1.81 per square foot on projects 100,000 square feet or greater go to public art or other public amenities.
Calgary and Regina have density bonus programs. Downtown developers can add square footage to the cities’ height and other restrictions in exchange for putting money into public art or other amenities.

Bryan Newson started Vancouver’s public art program in 1990 to create art “that expresses the spirit, values, visions and poetry of place that collectively define Vancouver.”
While no one piece of work can completely define a city, he says the collection as a whole distinguishes Vancouver from other centres.
Passersby have been rubbernecking at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel since it opened in downtown Vancouver last fall. British artist and designer Liam Gillick has wrapped a repeated line of text – “lying on top of a building the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street” – around the building’s south and east sides.
The stainless steel, 61-centimetre-tall letters are erected, with no spacing between the words, on an extension of the floor plate from floors five through 22. The text turns silver in sunlight and pewter on cloudy days.
“Everyone stares at the building,” said its developer, Ian Gillespie, president of Westbank Projects Corp. “Like it or not, they look at it. We wanted to use the building as a giant canvas, and Liam had the same idea.”
Mr. Gillick, now based in New York, frequently uses text in his work. He came up with the phrase “lying on top of a building …” several years ago and had been waiting for an occasion to use it.
“I needed something to compete with Jim Cheng’s strong architecture,” he said.
Mr. Gillespie doubled the $767,000 required by the city to go into public art on this installation. “We spent well over $1.5-million,” he said. “But it adds that much more value to the building.”
Cadillac Fairview Corp. purchased works by Canadian artists John Brown, Harold Klunder and David Urban for the ground floor walls of the RBC Centre that opened in Toronto last year. It commissioned three other Canadians – Edward Burtynsky, Douglas Coupland and Jeannie Thib – to create works for the site. It’s now shopping for a sculpture.
“We wanted to showcase recognized Canadian artists,” said Wayne Barwise, senior-vice president, office development, for Cadillac Fairview in Toronto. “These are significant investments for us.”
Mr. Barwise is delighted to sees people pondering the works in the RBC Centre. “Public art has to be located where it can be accessed by the community,” he said, “not in a fifth-floor boardroom.”
Toronto encourages developers to reserve 10 per cent of the cost of a public art project for maintenance. “They own the work so they need to conserve it,” Ms. Perdue said.
Smart developers know art adds character and identity to their property. “Art enhances the quality of our buildings and the elegance of our lobbies,” said Sabrina Kanner, Brookfield Properties Corp.’s New York-based senior vice-president, design and construction.

Brookfield’s Bay Adelaide Centre unveiled Straight Flush, U.S. artist James Turrell’s $3-million light installation, when the building opened in downtown Toronto last July. Shifting tapestries of light on five glass panels transform the south lobby into an art space that can be viewed through the windows by passersby in the financial district outside.
Bringing public art to a city lets developers participate in something larger than themselves, said Karen Mills, the Toronto public art manager who co-ordinated the installations at the Bay Adelaide Centre and the RBC Centre. “Public art helps a city grow in character and in sophistication.”
Ironically, Ottawa doesn’t have a public art program for commercial buildings. Art commissioned for the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans was funded under Ottawa’s 1-per-cent policy for public buildings because the centre is a public-private partnership, owned by Forum Equity Partners and operated by the City of Ottawa.
The Shenkman, which opened last year, showcases Ottawa artist Adrian Göllner’s glass facade that wraps around its south and west sides, the colours of the panels shifting with the changing light.
It’s also the home of Montreal sculptor Maskull Lasserre’s Resonance, an upright piano and a stool partially carved out of a limestone boulder, in the outdoor plaza.

“It’s important for governments to back public art with policies that encourage funding,” says Christine Tremblay, executive director of the Ottawa East Art Council who spearheaded the Shenkman’s creation.
“The art is for the people. Orleans residents walk by the Shenkman, skateboarders launch from the concrete stage under Resonance, and you often see a mom and child resting on the stool.”
What the artists say
Creating public art isn’t for every artist. The process is collaborative and involves compromises.
“It means learning about budgets, engineering, construction, safety measures and insurance,” said Mr. Newson, manager of the City of Vancouver’s public art program. “There are more meetings than artists anticipate, and many egos at the table.”
But there are different ways of engaging artists, noted Ms. Perdue, Toronto’s public art co-ordinator. “The artist may contribute the ideas, but the actual work can be fabricated by a company.”
Mr. Gillick came up with the ideas for the text art on Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, and they were manufactured by Westbank Project. “It was better to work with a company that knew how to get things done in Vancouver,” said Mr. Gillick, who’s based in New York, “than to ship something in. You’re up against a nightmare schedule. If you get the timing wrong, you’re in big trouble.”
Some artists appreciate the wide exposure public art gives them. “You’re out there, connecting with lots of people,” said Vancouver-based Mr. Coupland, whose giant Scrabble board, A History of the Fur Trade in Canada, is the focal point in Toronto’s RBC Centre’s main lobby. “Public art is for everyone to see.”
“An artist can’t get a much higher profile,” added Adrian Göllner, whose work is in the Canadian Embassy in Berlin.
“At best, your work becomes a landmark,” he added, referring to Harbinger, his barrel-shaped light installation on the roof of the Met Tower, the 43-story condominium at 21 Carlton St. in Toronto.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” said Maskull Lasserre, creator of Resonance, the outdoor work at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans, Ont. “A work in a gallery is seen by people who go there to see art. But when you plunk a work down in a public space, it’s an opportunity to slip something new into people’s lives. They aren’t primed for art and they’re fully susceptible to the experience.”

Artist Louise Bourgeois dies in NYC at 98

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2007 file photo, French-born artist Louise Bourgeois' sculpture of a giant spider, Maman 1999, stands outside the Tate Modern in London. The sculpture, one of a series of six, is more than nine metres high and made of bronze, stainless steel and marble. Her studio's managing director says artist Louise Bourgeois has died in New York City, after a lengthy career of exploring women's deepest feelings on birth, sexuality and death. She was 98. Wendy Williams of Louise Bourgeois Studio says the sculptor died at Beth Israel Medical Center on Monday, May 31, 2010 two days after suffering a heart attack.

NEW YORK — Artist Louise Bourgeois, whose sculptures exploring women's deepest feelings on birth, sexuality and death were highly influential on younger artists, died Monday, her studio's managing director said. She was 98.
Bourgeois had continued creating artwork — her latest pieces were finished just last week — before suffering a heart attack Saturday night, said the studio director, Wendy Williams. The artist died at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, where she lived.
Working in a wide variety of materials, she tackled themes relating to male and female bodies and emotions of anger, betrayal, even murder. Her work reflected influences of surrealism, primitivism and the early modernist sculptors such as Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi.
"I really want to worry people, to bother people," she told The Washington Post in 1984. "They say they are bothered by the double genitalia in my new work. Well, I have been bothered by it my whole life. I once said to my children, `It's only physiological, you know, the sex drive.' That was a lie. It's much more than that."
Bourgeois' work was almost unknown to the wider art world until she was 70, when New York's Museum of Modern Art presented a solo show of her career in 1982.
"This is not a show that is easy to digest," New York Times critic Grace Glueck wrote. "The reward is an intense encounter with an artist who explores her psyche at considerable risk."
In his book "American Visions," Time art critic Robert Hughes called her "the mother of American feminist identity art. ... Bourgeois's influence on young artists has been enormous."
He noted the key difference in her use of sexual imagery: She explores "femaleness from within, as distinct from the familiar male conventions of looking at it from the outside, from the eyeline of another gender. ... Surrealist fascination with the female body becomes, so to speak, turned inside out."
Among the honors coming to her were a National Medal of Arts, awarded by President Clinton in 1997. In October, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
In 2001, thousands of tourists saw her work "Spiders" when it was exhibited on the plaza at Rockefeller Center for 2 1/2 months as part of a Public Art Fund program to promote outdoor exhibits in New York.
It featured a 30-foot-high spider, "Maman," carrying a basket of eggs, flanked by two smaller spiders. ("Maman" means "Mama" in French.)
In 2007-08, an elaborate retrospective of her career, from the 1940s onward, was displayed at the Tate Modern in London, the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Meanwhile, younger artists cited her as an inspiration.
"I orbited Bourgeois," conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, known for her piquant use of words as art in projections and electronic displays, wrote to Williams after learning of Bourgeois' death.
In many interviews, Bourgeois cited a childhood trauma as the source of much of the emotion in her work: her father's affair with a woman hired as an English tutor for young Louise.
"You see, I always hated that woman," she told The Washington Post. "... My work is often about murder."
In "Dangerous Passage," from 1997, Bourgeois drew upon memories of her childhood, strewing a cage with symbolic objects: an antique child's swing on one side; broken bones on the other.
Her room-size 1991 sculpture "Twosome" combined a flashing red light, two steel cylinders and a motor that propels the smaller cylinder in an out of the larger one. The materials suggested a machine, but the movement evokes sexuality, or birth.
In 2007, she depicted the effects of aging on her own body in a series of 11 large panels called "Extreme Tension."
In an e-mail exchange in early 2008, The Associated Press asked Bourgeois what advice she would give young artists just starting out.
"Tell your own story, and you will be interesting," she responded. "Don't get the green disease of envy. Don't be fooled by success and money. Don't let anything come between you and your work."
Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911; her parents ran a business restoring antique tapestries. In her early years, she studied at the Academie des Beaux-Arts and other schools and studios.
She moved to New York in 1938 after marrying the American art historian Robert Goldwater and became an American citizen in 1955. A professor of art history at New York University, Goldwater was also director of the Museum of Primitive Art, established in 1957, and wrote a key book on the topic, "Primitivism in Modern Art."
While Bourgeois work shows the influence of primitive artists, she was quick to note that her work was not primitive.
"My husband said 15 years ago that primitive art is no longer being made," she told The Washington Post in 1984. "The primitive condition has vanished. These are recent works. Look at it this way — a totem pole is just a decorated tree. My work is a confessional."
Her husband died in 1973. She is survived by two sons, Alain and Jean-Louis, as well as two grandchildren and a great-grandchild. A third son, Michel, died in 1990, Williams said.
A private funeral is planned for family members.

Arnhem Land art could be world's oldest

'40,000 years old' ... the rock art found in Arnhem Land that specialist Robert Gunn believes depicts the long-extinct genyornis. '40,000 years old' ... the rock art found in Arnhem Land that specialist Robert Gunn believes depicts the long-extinct genyornis. Photo: Robert Gunn
ROCK art found in central Arnhem Land could be among the oldest examples of rock painting in the world - if the birds depicted prove to be what scientists think they are.
A rock art specialist, Robert Gunn, said he suspected the paintings depicted the long-extinct genyornis.
Verification of the age of the paintings would more than double the potential age of painted rock art in Australia, he said.
The genyornis, a flightless bird which stood three times the height of an emu, was one of many megafauna to became extinct when humans began burning the continent for hunting and land-clearing 40,000 years ago.
Mr Gunn, a Victorian private consultant employed by an Aboriginal group, the Jawoyn Association, to assess the rock art, said rock once attached to the site of the paintings was yet to be dated. But he said key to dating the work would be confirming the species depicted.
He said the thick, rounded beak of the painted birds was a characteristic of the genyornis.
''When we first started recording it, I assumed it was an emu but when we got up to the beak I realised it was not an emu beak. It's more like a parrot beak,'' he said.
The painted birds, the largest of which is a metre in height, also feature a crop or a muscular pouch near the throat which forms part of the digestive tract and short, very solid legs.
Bert Roberts, director of the University of Wollongong's centre for archaeological science, said if the image was of a genyornis it would date the paintings as at least 40,000 years old, making it one of the oldest examples of rock art in the world.
''It would slightly predate some of the oldest reliably dated rock art of parts of Europe, which go back 30,000 years,'' he said.

IANS Art of Living has presence in 150 countries

The Art of Living, founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on whose life an attack was allegedly made Sunday evening at his ashram near the Karnataka capital, has a presence in 150 countries.
Born in Shimoga district in 1956, the spiritual guru was said to be a precocious child. At the age of four, he was reciting parts of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna's discourse at the war front to Arjun, the hero of epic Mahabharata. He was also interested in meditation.
In 1973, when he was 17 years old, he had graduated with degrees in both Vedic literature and physics.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar founded the art of Living in 1982, after a ten-day period of silence in 1981 during which he developed the Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique. Sudarshan Kriya is the centre-piece of Art of Living.
'The Sudarshan Kriya came like an inspiration. After I came out of the silence, I started teaching whatever I knew and people had great experiences,' the guru said about the technique.
He set up Art of Living as an international non-profit educational and humanitarian organisation. It has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar set up the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) in 1997 to coordinate sustainable development projects, foster human values and coordinate conflict resolution in association with AoL.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a frequent traveller, visiting around 40 countries a year on peace and relief missions. He been to conflict zones in Sri Lanka, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and in countries hit by the 2004 tsunami.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tintin comic auction rakes in $1.57m

A porter displays a book by Herge at the auction of rare Tintin memorabilia. A porter displays a book by Herge at the auction of rare Tintin memorabilia. Photo: AP
Devotees of the Tintin comic books have flocked to a special sale in Paris of drawings and sculptures of the intrepid boy reporter, and objects left by his creator the Belgian author Herge.
The sale brought in €1.08 million ($A1.57 million).
The Tintin adventures were written and illustrated from 1929 until his death in 1983 by Georges Prosper Remi, whose pen name Herge is the French pronunciation of his initials reversed, RG.
The highlight of the auction was an original two-page spread of the 1939 comic King Ottokar's Sceptre, which sold for €243,750 ($A354,494), a record for this particular work, according to organisers the Piasa auction house.
"The client is a private Belgian collector. Tintin always returns to Belgium," said Alain Van Neygher, an agent for the purchaser.
A bronze statue of Tintin and his faithful fox terrier Milou by Nat Neujean, the first to sculpt the characters much-loved by European readers, went for €125,000, a world record for this artist.
A Parisian gallery owner, Francis Slomka, who specialises in original works by comic strip artists, bought the 1.8 metre (nearly six feet) tall statue to display in a gallery in Brussels.
"I think the Belgians will be happy with the return of their heroes. Tintin is so magical! Reread them (the comics) and you will always discover new things," Slomka said.
A drawing entitled "Tintin and the shellfish" that Herge made in 1947 for a friend's 50th birthday sold for €131,250.
"We had a wonderful surprise with this drawing that a lot of people found to be exceptional," Piasa chief executive Alain Cadiou said.
"Many of the buyers come from Belgium. There are also some Anglos and Spaniards, but the rest are essentially from the world of French-Belgian collectors," he said of the Tintin treasure hunters.
The 230 lots up for auction included objects belonging to the author such as scarves, crayon boxes and paperweights.
Another auction of Herge's work is set for October 9 at the Cheverny chateau in central France, which was the author's inspiration for his imaginary village and chateau of Moulinsart.

Ottawa's weekend marathon record-breaking

A world record and an Ottawa marathon record were broken Sunday in a race weekend that pumped millions of dollars into the city's economy.
"We had a very strong complement of elite runners this year for the 10K and marathon distances," said John Halvorsen, president of Run Ottawa. "Four elite marathoners finished in times under the previous course record of 2:10:35, with three finishing in the 2:09 range."
A record-breaking number of participants lined the city's streets in the Ottawa Race Weekend, which is the biggest running event in Canada.
Almost 40,000 people took part in the event, which draws some of the world's fastest runners.
Event organizers said it's not just the thousands of dollars in prize money that attracts runners, it's also the chance to compete against the best.
Manny Rodrigues, the organizer responsible for recruiting runners to the race, said the event becomes more popular each year, making his job easier.
"This year, for the men's marathon we're going to have about 15 people who want to break 2:08, which is a phenomenal time," said Rodrigues. "These are world-class runners, who can go anywhere they want and command appearance fees. The fact that they're coming to Ottawa is [because] we're really trying to make a statement here and they felt that they can [race] here."
Many of the athletes ran for the race weekend's official local charity, the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, which raised a total of $904,521, said a marathon news release.
Organizers estimate friends, family and participants who attended the event injected about $25 million into Ottawa's economy.

Full marathon

Arata Fujiwara of Japan set an Ottawa marathon record with a time of 2:09:33 in the men's full marathon. The previous record time was 2:10:35, set in 2007.
Merima Mohammed of Ethiopia won first in the women's full marathon with a time of 2:28:19.
Stephen Drew of Kitchener, Ont., was the top Canadian male in 2:21:46. Krista Duchesne of Brantford, Ont., won the women's national title in 2:39:07. Each took home $5,000 for winning the Canadian championship.
Rick Ball of Orillia, Ont., set a marathon world record by an amputee athlete with a time of 2:57:48. The previous best was 3:01:50, set in 2009.

Half marathon

Lawton Redmon of South Burlin, Vt., finished first in the men's with a time of 1:10:11.
Karine Lefebvre of Lac-Beauport, Que., finished first in the women's with a time of 1:20:11.


Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia finished first in the men's 10k race on Saturday with a time of 28:08.
Dire Tune, also from Ethiopia, finished first in the 10k women's race with a time of 32:11.

Sued by Beyonce Knowles to disturbances in a suburb of Hollywood

Beyonce Knowles faces legal action from a Hollywood Hills resident, who claims that her private life was interrupted when the R & B superstar filmed a new video in their quiet neighborhood. Philip Markowitz filed a lawsuit against Beyonce and her producer Kleiner & Company on Friday, May 28 about her new promo “Why Do not You Love Me.
She alleges she was suddenly awakened at 7 am on 26 March when the film crew arrived in the exclusive community of Mount Olympus in the Hollywood Hills and “the neighborhood was invaded.” Markowitz says she was prevented from leaving her property and each time she lefterhouse, met with staff members to block their entry video.
According to court documents filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles, she faced the people of the staff about the problem and as a result, “We lose several business calls while we are talking quietly on her street.” The documents passed to the state, “Markowitz demanded compensation for the violation of her property and the inconvenience and delays that had suffered”, but said it could not be paid because it was a “a low-budget video.
Markowitz is suing on grounds of private nuisance and trespass, and is demanding unspecified damages, according to TMZ.

Female Rapper SANTA Delivers The Goods And Makes A Major Impact

Female rapper Santa is quickly making a name for herself in the world of Hip Hop. She is currently heating up the streets with her "Queen of New York" Mixtape. Additionally, The breakout Rapstress has rolled out one of the biggest hit records in years with her sizzling single, "Art of Seduction." The song is already one of the most requested breakthrough singles at the New York based 106.3FM.

"Art of Seduction" is a critical success and it has received a great amount of attention from notable mixshows and websites such as All Hip The single is averaging close to 1,000 radio plays a week within the U.S., and it jumped from #19 to #4 on the Urban Music Chart in less than a week.

"Art of Seduction" shows off Santa's unadulterated candor. It features Santa's trademark lyrical dexterity and riveting street flair.

Moreover, In recent months SANTA has created a major buzz by being featured on All Hip, Vlad and Yo Additionally, SANTA has been ripping up venues with her dynamic stage presence. She's been described as "The Beyonce of Hip Hop."

SANTA's critically acclaimed album entitled "The Delivery" is available world wide via online distribution on I-Tunes and Amazon.

"The album 'The Delivery' captures the true essence of Hip Hop. There are catchy hooks, quality production and plenty of food for thought on the LP. Overall it's just good heartfelt music," raves Robert Wright, co founder of the A&R Power Summit.

"As an artist I've matured and there's a lot of vision behind my music. I'm about motivating people to do what's in their hearts. Everyone that helped in making the album is hungry and highly motivated," proclaims SANTA.

Currently, SANTA and her team are in the process of setting up a tour hitting all major US cities and bringing a new wave of Hip-Hop with an old school vibe. Follow SANTA through her trials and tribulations as she embarks on her journey to greatness.

South Dakota artist creates unique murals of school mascots

ABERDEEN -- Artist Dave Fuller of Parker is leaving his mark across South Dakota, one gymnasium at a time.
Fuller has spent the past eight years painting murals, mostly on the walls of gymnasiums involving high school mascots. His striking displays of huge art can be found in schools such as Marion, Brookings, Harrisburg, Lennox, Sioux Falls Lincoln, Vermillion, Garretson and Canton.
"I am getting a lot of requests, more than I can handle," said Fuller, who is in Aberdeen this week with his team for the State B golf tournament. "It is a good summer business, but I can only do a couple each summer. I always want to spend as much time as possible with my children (6-year-old son, Davin, and 5-year-old daughter, Terryn). They are such a blessing and what I live for."
Fuller got his start with murals at Parker High School, where he teaches and coaches.
"The Parker Booster Club asked me if I wanted to do a mural for them, and it turned out pretty good."
Growing up in Armour, Fuller was a sports star on the famous athletic teams from that community in the 1970s. He continued his basketball career at Dakota Wesleyan, where he also played some football and golf.
Along the way, the 51-year-old Fuller always had his passion for art in his back pocket.
"We didn't have art at Armour, but I have always loved to draw and paint. I am pretty much self-taught. I read as many books and watched as many videos as possible about art."
He used to be more into wildlife paintings.
"Sometimes, one of those paintings took as long as it does to paint a mural. Murals are fun because you have a huge canvas presented to you. I want my murals to be unique. I like large graphics, 3-D lettering done in various colors and forms and aggressive-looking mascots."
His art is probably seen by more people than any other artist in South Dakota.
"It is fun to go back to see the murals in the different school gyms at games," he said. "It has been a really neat experience."

The Cosmos and the Culture Converge at a Science Festival

A black hole rolls toward New York. 
Has the Large Hadron Collider finally done its worst?
Not by a long shot. This particular embodiment of cosmic hunger, in which space closes in on itself and time dies, heralds not the end of the world but only the beginning of the World Science Festival, the annual New York mash-up of science, art and culture. This black hole is the central menace in “Icarus at the Edge of Time,” a new musical work by Philip Glass based on a story by Brian Greene, the Columbia University physicist and festival co-founder. The world premiere of “Icarus,” complete with 62-pieces from the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, images from the London artists Al and Al, and John Lithgow narrating, will anchor a gala celebrating science on Wednesday night at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center.
Yo-Yo Ma, among others, will be performing, but the star of the star-lovers will be Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge University cosmologist who has done more than anyone else to explore, at least metaphorically, the nature of black holes. “Hawking so fully embodies what the festival is all about — courageous exploration of the unknown,” Dr. Greene said.
The festival runs through Sunday with 40 events in about 20 locations around Manhattan and — new this year — Brooklyn. It begins on Tuesday morning with the unveiling in Battery Park of a full-scale model of NASA’s 80-foot-long James Webb Space Telescope, designed to be launched in 2014 to prowl the early years of the universe; it will be in place all week. Subsequent events include dance performances, panel discussions about the nature of reality and about animal intelligence, and group star-gazing along the Hudson River. One event sure to resonate because of recent headlines from the Gulf of Mexico features Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau, and the marine biologist Sylvia Earle, explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society, discussing the past and future of ocean exploration. Others will explore inner space. In “Strangers in the Mirror,” for example, Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and author who is pretty much a walking, talking science festival unto himself, and the painter Chuck Close, famous for his large-scale portraits, discuss their common malady — an inability to recognize faces, including their own in a mirror.
The festival culminates in a daylong science street fair in Washington Square Park on Sunday and a repeat of “Icarus” in the Skirball Center at New York University.
This is the third annual World Science Festival, which was founded by Dr. Greene and his wife, Tracy Day, a former television producer, to reunite “those long-lost lovers,” science and art, in the words of Alan Alda, the actor and science buff who is their close co-conspirator. Already, however, the routine seems part of the fabric of the civic cosmos: bright red chairs, professional media-savvy moderators to stir the talk and steer it over rough spots, generous helpings of jazzy graphics and music, and long lines out the door.
Buoyed by what it refers to as its “founding benefactors” — the Simons Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation — the festival has an annual budget of about $5 million, Dr. Greene said. This year the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the prime contractor for the Webb telescope, is a principal sponsor.
As the presence of Dr. Hawking suggests, this year’s festival has a decidedly cosmic flavor. The Webb telescope model will preside over a star-gazing party hosted by, among others, John Grunsfeld, the former NASA astronaut and Hubble Space Telescope repairman, on Friday night. Telescopes will be available, or you can bring your own. Meanwhile throughout the week visitors to the Broad Street Ballroom in Lower Manhattan can hear what black holes might sound like as they are being formed. Astronomers hope to record them with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, a vast expanse of lasers and mirrors set up in Washington State and Louisiana to measure the twitching and pulsing of space-time in response to cosmic catastrophes.
And of course there is the new cosmic “Icarus.” Dr. Greene said that the impetus for the updated version of the story, about a young man who flies too close to the Sun and so plummets to his death, came from his children’s love of adventure stories, and his own feelings as a child about the fate of the original Icarus. “To pay with your life for going against what you’re told to do — never liked it,” he said in an e-mail message.
In the new version the young Icarus is trapped on a spaceship in the middle of a multigenerational trip to another star. When the ship has to detour around an uncharted black hole, Icarus, a genius pilot and navigator, decides to go take a close look at it. He has carefully plotted a trajectory to avoid falling into the hole, but has neglected to take into account an important effect of gravity on time: a watch appears to move more slowly inside a strong gravitational field than outside it. Icarus avoids falling into the black hole, but when he runs thousands of years have gone by in what to him were a few minutes. The spaceship, with his father and everything else he ever knew, is long gone.
Dr. Green originally envisioned his reimagining of the Icarus myth as a performance piece à la “Peter and the Wolf,” but ended up turning it into a book, which was published by Knopf in 2008 with Hubble photos. Now it has been reworked with a score by Mr. Glass, script by Dr. Green and the playwright David Henry Hwang, and visuals by Al and Al, the artists and filmmakers Al Holmes and Al Taylor of London.
The work was commissioned and co-produced by the World Science Festival and the Southbank Center in London, where it will be performed later this year as part of the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society.
Several festival programs will be streamed online. Ms. Day said that this was a way for the festival to reach across the nation and the world without becoming larger or more expensive. “We don’t want to expand our footprint,” she said. “We’re big enough.”

Martha Walker: Drawing with Metal

Martha Walker is a sculptor based in Brooklyn, NY, but like many residents of Gotham she has a connection to South Florida.  The artist went to Miami Beach High School, and graduated from there in 1971.
“In those days,” said Walker from her home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, “Miami was a decrepit old folks home.  In those days, we couldn’t wait to get out.  It’s amazing that is has become such a hot spot in the past 20 years.”
When asked if she took art classes in high school, Walker surprisingly responded no.  While interested in art she did not take any classes in the field until her senior year.  Her art teacher was immediately impressed with her work.  One day he told her she had to go to an interview with recruiters from the Pratt Institute in New York.

“I actually worked through high school, and I didn’t think I could afford art school.  Resentfully,” she added with a laugh given how art has become her career, “I went to this Pratt interview.  I was resentful because I had to spend $20, in those days, to have them review my portfolio and transcripts.”
The recruiters, however, were very impressed.  Pratt awarded her a partial scholarship.  Once in New York, as a freshman, she felt intimidated by other young artists who had more of a structured background than she did, artistically.  The museums in New York intrigued her, especially the sculptures.  Walker claimed sculpture as her major the next year.
“There are a number of ways to create sculpture,” said Walker.  “Carving, modeling, casting from a wax model, and direct metal, in which you weld sheets, or pipes together.”
She was immediately intrigued by this final approach to sculpture as it allowed her to “draw with metal.”
She has a further connection to South Florida, other than her love of Key West, and high school.  The Boca Resort recently installed two of her metal sculptures in a new wing of the hotel.  “Birth,” is a 7 foot tall piece in the lobby, as in many of her pieces there is an aquatic, microbiological feel to the pebbled steel.  Walker is able to make the solidity of metal seem to take on a fluidity of an amoeba or a jellyfish.
She is quite in demand.  When the resort asked for another piece, she had to decline, as it was already housed in a museum.  However, she promised them a similar piece.  “Venus,” is reminiscent of the center of a flower.  The technical ability of her blowtorch renders the steel basket-like, with an air of whimsy to it that recalls a Tim Burton creation.
Her work has also been featured on Gossip Girl.  This was after someone involved with the show’s creative team saw some of her work on a website.
“What was really interesting, to me, is that one of the characters on the show visited the gallery and took pictures of my sculpture on the show,” she added fondly.
In addition to the Boca Resort, and having her work on national television, she is also represented by the Elaine Baker Gallery of Boca, which discovered Walker’s work there via an annex they have at the resort.
“Elaine Baker tracked me down and has since shipped down “T’kiyyah,” that is the sound the Shofar makes,” Walker added.  “While I am not religious, I am culturally Jewish and love the feminine look of the shofar.”
The shofar is a horn, traditionally made of a ram’s horn.  It has a serpentine curviness to it.  However, Walker captures the shape of the sound, not the horn itself.  There is something reminiscent of an ear in this piece, as if it is not only the sound, but the heard sound.
“Sculpture, said Walker, “as most artistic fields is dominated by men.  Part of it is the physicality, women can be intimidated by sculpture, when it comes to the use of tools that have been traditionally associated with men.  Yet, I think carpentry is very similar to sowing, because it’s a lot of measuring, sowing, and cutting.  Art is sort of where and what you allow yourself in terms of what you can or cannot do.”
This is true of Walker’s life, as well.  In the 1980s she and her partner were the first gay couple to be married at their synagogue in Brooklyn, and in 1985 they were one of the first couples to conceive using artificial insemination.  She now has two children, a 25- year-old son, a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and a daughter who at 16 leads up her school’s gay straight alliance.  Her children, she says, are both straight but they feel that “our community is their community.”
Of her rarified spirit, and commitment to her craft, despite sculpture being a male dominated field: “I once spoke to a class of kids about bigotry.  Sometimes you have no idea when you are being discriminated against.  No one will call you a dyke or a faggot,” she said, “but they might feel it.  So, for that reason I find that it’s best not to focus on it.  If you focus on what people say you can’t do, it can push you back.  Some times you need blinders to do what you want to accomplish.”

Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

“Picasso: Peace and Freedom” opens at Tate Liverpool (UK)

Source: Lee P Ruddin (5-30-10)
Exhibitions are dependent upon the loans available to galleries at the time. And Tate Liverpool is no different. Yet one omission from its summer blockbuster, Picasso: Peace and Freedom, renders what was a hugely anticipated show a huge anticlimax.

This is not to say that the exhibition does not bring together important paintings and sculptures or a large number of posters and documents, though. Indeed without the generosity and support of a large number of lenders – including those from Lichtenstein and Czech Republic as well as those in London and Cologne – an exhibition of the scale envisioned by co-curators Lynda Morris and Christoph Grunenberg would not have been possible. The Charnel House, the pièce de résistance of the Tate exhibition, is a case in point. Thanks to Ann Temkin of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the iconic painting is returning to the UK for the first time in half a century.

It must be said, however, that the curators assume too much historical knowledge on behalf of gallery-goers. The exhibition guides you fairly well through Picasso’s role in the Peace Movement during the Cold War: from 1944 when the Spanish-born modernist joined the French Communist Party (PCF) until his death in 1973. But for all the talk of the Communist poster-boy becoming its poster-designer, we are told nothing about how the selfish playboy of the 1920s metamorphosized into the selfless peacenik of the 1940s.

The Charnel House was based on a short documentary film about a Spanish Republican family who were killed in their kitchen and acts as a memorial to those killed in France during the Nazi Occupation and under the Vichy Government. Yet you need to purchase the overpriced accompanying guide to learn about the influence of Francisco Goya’s Ravages of War (from his series The Disasters of War of 1810 to 1814) or discover that Picasso’s 1944-5 work “is a clear continuation of the themes and style of Guernica 1937.”

His masterpiece shone light on the fascist slaughter at the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and was the point at which, says Simon Schama in his 2006 BBC series The Power of Art, “Picasso … got politics” and his Cubism a “conscience.” Picasso’s pacifist painting might have gone almost unnoticed at the 1937 Paris World Fair, as journalist Alastair Sooke reminds us in his 2010 BBC series Modern Masters. But this is no reason to not include a tapestry replica (like the 20ft long one at Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, for instance, on loan from the United Nations building in New York), since it would have contextualised what Picasso stood for.

Professor Morris and Dr Grunenberg say as much in the opening chapter of the 224-page edited catalogue: “It was the Spanish Civil War that contributed decisively to the politicisation of Picasso.” It is certainly true that the exhilaration experienced in the summer of 1944 with the Liberation of Paris acted as a catalyst for Picasso’s decision to join the Party later that fall. Yet any re-examination of the political nature of Picasso’s post-war art should include Guernica alongside, say, the little-studied material labelled “Political Correspondence sent to Picasso” on loan from the artist’s papers held by the Picasso Archive at the Musée National Picasso in Paris.

According to the Tate website, the exhibition reveals a “fascinating new insight into the artist’s life as a tireless political activist and campaigner for peace.” Yet Picasso’s engagement with politics was examined, analysed and chronicled a decade ago.

If you are interested in Picasso’s commitment to the Communist Party and the Soviet cause more generally, then, my advice would be to purchase a copy of Gertie Utley’s Pablo Picasso: The Communist Years (2000). The artist’s political activism is recorded here and, according to one reviewer, makes “sense of a very murky period”. Morris, professor at Norwich University College of the Arts, may have approached Grunenberg, Director of Tate Liverpool, a decade ago with the idea for the exhibition, but Utley poured over the voluminous boxes of uncatalogued correspondence in the archives of Paris’s Musée two decades ago as a PhD student at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.

Talking of the mastermind behind the exhibition, however, it must be said that Morris mounts nothing if not a spirited defence of Picasso as a principled politico. One reviewer goes as far as to say Picasso: Peace and Freedom is “almost an apologia.”

Picasso’s commitment to the struggle against capitalism is understandable yet you cannot help question his silence in the face of Josef Stalin’s crimes; refusing to obey Communist calls for Socialist Realism and representing Stalin as something other than “the eternal father of the people” in Les Lettres Françaises was as loud as it got. I wonder, though, how a man who prided himself on being an anti-fascist would feel about the news that comrade Stalin blocked two attempts to kill Adolf Hitler in an effort to gain more influence in Eastern Europe. Pretty idiotic, I would say. But then again, Lenin did describe Soviet sympathisers in the West as “useful idiots” and, according to one reviewer, “few were more idiotic or more useful to the Soviet cause than Pablo Picasso.”

The artist once quipped: “I am proud to say that I’ve never looked upon painting as an art intended for mere pleasure or amusement.” This explains why I was neither pleasured nor amused by what was on show.

Picasso: Peace and Freedom is on display at Tate Liverpool from May 21 till August 30.

Superheroes In Art: Meet Tom Whalen

Tired of those same old movie posters? Check these out and hear from the artist behind them in my interview.
If you are like me, I get tired of the same old movie poster getting thrown out for every big blockbuster. It usually comprises of some combination of orange/blue background along with a composition of head shots or a upshot of the main character(s). Now, to be fair, not all posters are that way but there is a large portion that are. Well, these are very different and in my opinion, outstanding. Tom Whalen is a professional illustrator and designer. He has come up with a unique spin on the movie poster format. I got the opportunity to contact him and learn a little about his style and thoughts. Not all of these are the movie poster style but are in a similar format.

Bryan Kritz: Tell me a little about yourself.

Tom Whalen: I fell in love with comics in my grandmother's candy store. I'd spend countless hours on Sunday afternoons reading them there. She'd put aside certain ones for me...GI Joe, Transformers, and especially The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. I used those as a bible of sorts, drawing all of the colorful heroes and villains of the Marvel U. that i was just being exposed to. I'd anxiously await each successive issue.

From there, my love of drawing led me to study illustration, typography and design at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. In the 13 years or so since I've graduated, I've tried my best to merge those three into one cohesive style.

BK: How did you get started doing the posters ?

TW: Like many comic fans, I started creating them as fan art. Once I started posting them online, I got a bit of notice and started to get some private commissions of some of my favorite characters; Iron Man, Gamera, Batman, Optimus Prime. I am truly thankful to have clients who love the same stuff that I do!

BK: What draws you to this particular style and how would you describe it?

TW: I guess I'd have to call it "modern vintage". At least that's what some of the blogs that post my work have coined it. Works for me.

BK: A lot of your work is inspired by pop culture, what draws you towards that?

TW: Like the readers of this site, I have a true passion for pop culture. I feel truly blessed to be able to express that passion through my illustrations.

BK: What is your technique?

TW: As far as my technique, i begin just about all of my projects with a fairly tight pencil sketch. from there, i scan the image out of my sketchbook and use it as a template as i work in Adobe Illustrator. All of my final work is vector based.

BK: Do you do any work for the comic book industry?

TW: I've not done any official work in the comics industry, but I recently did a custom illustration for WiReD Italy of the Mark VI armor from "Iron Man 2". Such an honor to work on that. I would relish the chance to do some work for a major publisher. (Anyone listening?)

I'd love to put up as many as possible but here are a few more non-CBM ones as well

700-Hour Silent Opera Reaches Finale at MoMA

Marina Abramovic in the MoMA atrium. In her performance piece “The Artist Is Present,” visitors sit in a chair silently facing her.

At 5 p.m. Monday the longest piece of performance art on record, and certainly the one with the largest audience, comes to an end. Since her retrospective opened at the Museum of Modern Art on March 14, the artist Marina Abramovic has been sitting, six days a week, seven hours a day in a plain chair, under bright klieg lights, in MoMA’s towering atrium. When she leaves that chair Monday for the last time, she will have clocked 700 hours of sitting.

During that time her routine seldom varied. Every day she took her place just before the museum doors opened and left it after they closed. Her wardrobe was consistent: a sort of concert gown with a long train, in one of three colors (red, blue and white).
Always her hair, in a braided plait, was pulled forward over her left shoulder. Always her skin was an odd pasty white, as if the blood had drained away. Her pose rarely changed: her body slightly bent forward, she stared silently and intently straight ahead.
There was one variable, a big one: her audience.
Visitors to the museum were invited, first come first served, to sit in a chair facing her and silently return her gaze. The chair has rarely, if ever, been empty. Close to 1,400 people have occupied it, some for only a minute or two, a few for an entire day.
Sitting with Ms. Abramovic has been the hot event of the spring art season. Celebrities — Bjork, Marisa Tomei, Isabella Rossellini, Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright — did a stint. Young performance artists seized a moment in the limelight. One appeared in his own version of an Abramovic gown to propose marriage. Certain repeat sitters became mini-celebrities, though long-time waiters on line stared daggers at those who sat too long.
Thanks to the Internet many people saw all of this without being there. A daily live feed on MoMA’s Web site,, has had close to 800,000 hits. A Flickr site with head shots of every sitter has been accessed close to 600,000 times. Yet foot traffic has been heavy. By the museum’s estimate, half a million people have visited all or part of the Abramovic retrospective, “The Artist Is Present,” of which the atrium piece is a small part.
The rest of the show, installed on the museum’s sixth floor, is a problem. It is made up primarily of videos and photographs of the artist’s performances over nearly 40 years, beginning when she was a student in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where she was born in 1946.
Her solo work from the early 1970s was hair-raisingly nervy. She stabbed herself, took knockout drugs, played with fire. For one piece she stood silent in a gallery for six hours, having announced that visitors could do anything they wanted to her physically. At one point a man held a gun to her neck. Her eyes filled with tears, but she didn’t flinch.
In 1976 she started collaborating with the German artist Uwe Laysiepen, known as Ulay. Some of their performances were punishing athletic events, as they slammed their bodies together or into walls. Others were almost aggressively passive. For a piece called “Imponderabilia” they stood facing each other, nude, in a narrow doorway in a museum. Anyone wanting to go from one gallery to another had no choice but to squeeze awkwardly and intimately between them.
Ms. Abramovic restaged “Imponderabilia,” along with some other works, for the MoMA show using actors. And although the nudity caused a buzz, the restaging fell flat. Two elements that originally defined performance art as a medium, unpredictability and ephemerality, were missing. Without them you get misrepresented history and bad theater.
Evidently Ms. Abramovic doesn’t agree. In 2005, at the Guggenheim Museum, she restaged vintage performance pieces by other artists (Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys) with herself in the leading roles. She recently established the Marina Abramovic Institute for Preservation of Performance Art, to be housed in upstate New York.
In the near future she will be collaborating with the director Robert Wilson on a stage work based on her life. By the sound of it, this project will mark her furthest departure yet from old-school performance art and into the realm of closely scripted theater. What it will have, however, is her charismatic personal presence, and that means a lot. That presence is probably the most important ingredient missing from the restagings. It is what makes the atrium performance compelling. For better and worse, it has carried Ms. Abramovic’s career.
One of her lifelong heroes is the opera singer Maria Callas, to whom she can bear a striking physical resemblance. Callas was a disciplined, risk-oriented musician, made vulnerable by a voice that began to disintegrate early. Increasingly, as she aged, every performance became an ordeal, an invitation to failure. Her willingness to face failure became the prevailing drama of her life. It was a drama of survival, and her fans had a part in it: she needed them to need her, so they did.
That’s that classic diva dynamic. And what we’re seeing in the MoMA atrium is basically a 700-hour silent opera. Ms. Abramovic, with her extravagant costume, her bent shoulders and her mournful gaze, is the prima donna. Visitors are cast as rapt audience, commenting chorus, supporting soloists. Unpredictability is in the air: Will she make it through the day? Will she faint from pain? Will she cancel at the last minute?
When I dropped by last week, one sitter, a repeater, sat across from Ms. Abramovic with his hands clasped to his chest, like a tenor about to burst into song or a worshiper transported in prayer. Perfect. That Ms. Abramovic will be collaborating with Mr. Wilson, a once-radical creator of epic experimental works and now best known for his ritualistic productions of Puccini and Wagner, is also perfect.
Of restagings I remain an unbeliever. Of Ms. Abramovic’s recent overblown solo pieces, seen in video in the sixth-floor installation, I’m not a fan. But the atrium performance works because she is simply, persistently, uncomfortably there. As of 5 p.m., she won’t be, though. The klieg lights will dim. The audience will move on. Something big will be gone, and being gone will be part of the bigness.

Miami Art Museum eligible to receive $100 million in public funds Read more:

Miami Art Museum eligible to receive $100 million in public funds

In another key step toward downtown's urban revival, the Miami Art Museum is eligible to receive $100 million in county bond proceeds, removing the biggest hurdle to start construction on the facility's long-sought new home in Miami.
MAM has ``met all the conditions'' for receipt of the public funds, Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess wrote Friday. Most of the bond money, approved by voters in a 2004 referendum, has been withheld until museum officials first raised more than $30 million in private pledges to build the museum.
``This is the day we've been waiting for, this is a very exciting day for us,'' said Aaron Podhurst, MAM's chairman, who has led the effort over the past decade to win private and public funds to build the new facility.
There are details that must be ironed out, including getting approval from city leaders for $2 million to clear and remediate the 29-acre park that will include the art museum. And county commissioners can weigh in before bonds are sold to fund construction.
Nevertheless, Podhurst said groundbreaking is planned for this fall, with the art museum to be completed by the end of 2012.
Designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the $200 million museum is to rise along Biscayne Bay in Miami's Bicentennial Park -- which will be renamed Museum Park and redesigned under the auspices of New York planning firm Cooper Robertson & Partners. The city park is also planned to house the new home for the Miami Science Museum, designed by London's Grimshaw Architects.
The $275 million science museum is not as far along. Construction is at least a year away, and museum officials have yet to show they've generated sufficient private pledges to be eligible for public funding.
The museums and park are viewed as essential components of Miami's city center renewal, providing another anchor to an area that includes the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, American Airlines Arena and a slew of new residential and commercial projects.
The Port Tunnel, which is set to break ground this week and will connect I-395 and the Port of Miami, is also considered a boon for downtown because it will remove large trucks from city streets.
For several years there have been lingering questions about when the art museum would gather enough firm private pledges to be eligible for public construction dollars and when the county -- in the middle of a budget crunch -- would release the balance of the bond proceeds.
The public money is from the county's $2.9 billion Building Better Communities general obligation bond program, which is earmarked for everything from renovating local libraries and renourishing beaches to providing $100 million for the art museum and $175 million for the science museum -- the two new museums are the largest projects on the list.
With voters overwhelmingly approving the bond program in November 2004, art museum supporters often remind critics that public funding for the new facility passed a county-wide vote.
Yet, the bond program monies are to be distributed over 15 to 20 years, raising the question of what projects get funded first and what comes later. And, the art museum had to show it had $31 million in solid pledges before getting all $100 million in public dollars to pay for the facility slated to cost $131 million.
Earlier this year, MAM chair Podhurst said the museum had $44.8 million in pledges, surpassing the benchmark. All told, MAM is charged with raising $100 million in private funds in order to have a $69 million operating endowment.
Podhurst has also pushed for county funding now by arguing that construction prices have dropped significantly and the project would provide needed jobs.
But in April, when a preliminary list of $380 million in Building Better Communities projects for the next four years was released, it did not include MAM -- raising the fear that museum donors might withdraw pledges if the public construction dollars were not made available for several more years.
Now that has changed. Burgess, in his May 28 letter to Podhurst, said he will ``recommend funding for the balance of the Miami Art Museum project'' starting this fall and running through the next three bond sales; $19.5 million has already been sold for the art museum, so about $80 million is to be funded from the future bond sales.
Burgess wrote that his recommendations have been approved by County Mayor Carlos Alvarez.
The county manager, who did not return calls for comment, stipulates in the letter money will be provided to MAM on a ``reimbursement basis'' -- meaning that the art museum will not receive a lump sum, but get the funds as it pays construction bills.

The art of warfare

Your country needs you, Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, famously declared at the start of the First World War in a 1914 recruitment drive poster. Designed by Alfred Leete, the poster proved a huge propaganda success, thanks to Kitchener, his impressive waxed moustache and pointing finger.
Although it ranks as the most famous British wartime poster, it is only one of a huge range of propaganda pieces being sought by investors. First World War posters that could be bought for about £150 a decade ago now sell for upwards of £400.
Second World War examples, previously attractive only to specialist collectors, are also enjoying wider appeal and a bumper rise in prices.
Roy Butler
Confident: Roy Butler says the wartime posters do not seem to date
Roy Butler, 87, partner at military auctioneer Wallis & Wallis in Lewes, East Sussex, believes the continued strength of the images is behind the new demand.

'The generation with connections to the First World War are dying out while Second World War art work is becoming more appreciated,' he says.

'The iconic posters still look fresh, modern and don't seem to date. They are not only fabulous pieces of art, but of huge historic importance.'

A key part of the visual appeal of these posters is that the propaganda is usually positive, with a wholesome image and a heartfelt patriotic message.

For example, Come And Help With The Victory Harvest was valued at £300 when it appeared in a set of four earlier this month at Wallis & Wallis, but sold for £1,176.

Another well-known poster from the Second World War showing a woman holding a pitchfork and calling out to Join The Women's Land Army, sold in a pair at the same auction for £2,235 after they were valued at £1,000.

The price of the poster was high due to its rarity value - it was a relatively unscathed A1-sized piece - as well as its historic role in female emancipation. The art is not always signed but some great designers were behind the most valuable pieces.

Abram Games, who worked for the Ministry of Information, had a bold and almost surrealist style that inspired others. His most famous examples include the Second World War Grow Your Own Food poster series, which now sell for £500 or more each.

Another Games poster was the controversial Join The ATS. It was aimed at recruiting women into the Auxiliary Territorial Service, but was slammed in Parliament for 'being too glamorous'.

Cyril Kenneth Bird, whose pen name was Fougasse, designed the Careless Talk Costs Lives posters that now fetch £250. Other artists who are popular with collectors include Lewitt-Him, which refers to Polish-born George Him and Jan Le Witt.

The condition of the poster is crucial but buyers should be aware that the most iconic pieces are not necessarily the most valuable because they were printed in abundance. Richard Slocombe, art curator at the Imperial War Museum, says: 'We are facing a new age of austerity and the patriotic upbeat qualities of posters produced in wartime Britain are striking a chord among many investors.

'Despite some propaganda posters having sinister images of fear and hate, the British have tended to prefer to use optimism and humour to keep up national morale.'

A popular poster telling people to Keep Calm And Carry On is a copy of a 1939 propaganda poster that was never printed until it was discovered in 2000.

Butler says: 'Unfortunately, the market is flooded with fakes and investors should only deal with a reputable dealer to ensure they do not get their fingers burnt.

'A tell-tale sign is no white border as it may mean an authorised reproduction label at the bottom has been cut off. Old posters also tend to have a certain amount of yellowing, even if they have been well looked after.'

Wallis & Wallis, 01273 480 208,, will hold its next auction on June 8; Imperial War Museum, 020 7416 5320,

The Presidio in San Francisco installs animal habitat art project

ca-presidio30 Habitat for Anna's Hummingbird is based on an ornithological diagram for California's hummingbird population that represents the bird's annual cycle of breeding, migration, and molt through a series of staggered arcs. Chadwick Studio, a product design firm based in Los Angeles, has reinterpreted that design as a three-dimensional circular planter supporting both native and non-native flowering plants.

A pair of professional arborists, licensed to climb and care for trees, were perched high in the branches of a 110-foot Monterey cypress in the Presidio park of San Francisco. Secured by harnesses and a web of rock-climbing ropes used for rappelling down the trunk, they were awaiting instructions from the ground.

"Could you try the limb below your right foot?" said their boss, landscape designer Peter Good.

"Is there any way to get the nest to stand more vertically?" asked gallerist Cheryl Haines.

It took a team of four people a full day to do what birds do so naturally: find a good and safe place to build their nests.

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Only in this case the goal was visibility from the ground for the sake of park visitors, as well as safety for any nest residents.

For the bird "nests" being placed in the tree were actually manmade art objects: nine exquisitely patterned blue-and-white porcelain vessels designed by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei as part of a larger public art project developed by Haines through her nonprofit foundation For-Site.

For the project, Haines invited a number of artists, architects and designers to create habitats for the animals of the Presidio, a 1,491-acre national park that used to be a military base. Of 25 proposals, she chose 11 to produce.

"The participants designed homes for animals, much as an architect designs a house for a client," says Haines, now watching the third of Ai Weiwei's porcelain nests—envisioned as a shelter for the Western screech owl—positioned in the tree.

The total project cost around $900,000, she said, with For-Site raising all funds through private donors. "It's meant to be a gift to the park and everyone who uses it," she says. Yes, she says, animals included.

The realized works are wildly different in look and feel, ranging from a pyramid-shaped fox den made by the Danish architects CEBRA out of surplus Presidio cypress to a flowering amphitheater-shaped feeder for Anna's Hummingbirds courtesy of L.A. designer Don Chadwick.

L.A. architects Taalman Koch created another—more modern, even futuristic--home for the tiny screech owl in the form of a multifaceted dome made out of aluminum, while L.A. artist/designer Fritz Haeg made a wooden tower for a handful of species, from snakes to bats, to inhabit.

Another highlight, quite literally, is a set of 10 bright yellow steel chairs that Jensen Architects of San Francisco planted in and around a meadow to pay homage to the blue heron. The chairs can be used for bird-watching or bird-perching, and droppings are already visible.

These projects, installed at various spots towards the northern base of the Presidio this month, will be up until May 2011. You can pick up a map at the exhibition pavilion for a self-guided tour that runs about three miles. The pavilion, designed by Ogrydziak/Prillinger out of recycled shipping containers, also has a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Presidio Trust, a government agency that oversees the park, bills it "the first site-specific art exhibition" to take place in a national park. "It's the first we've identified," adds Michael Boland, planning director for the Trust. (He clearly does not count Andy Goldsworthy's soaring wooden spire, the first project that For-Site realized in the Presidio, as an "exhibition.")

"There's a long history of artists like Ansel Adams or Albert Bierstadt who interpreted national parks through their photographs or paintings," Boland says, "But there isn't so much when you look at artists interpreting national parks using sculptural interventions or site-specific projects."

Boland said the new project is meant to highlight the park's "incredible biodiversity," noting that some 300 species of native plants, 200 species of birds and 60 species of bees make their home in the park—"not just in the wild areas but in the more developed regions as well."

Whether the animals will make themselves at home in the artworks is an open question. Some of the projects, like Ai Weiwei's nests, "are intended perhaps to coax an animal who no longer lives here back into residency," says Haines. "Others are for actual animals that live here, what Fritz Haeg calls 'the animal client.'"

Haeg, the category-defying artist, architect, gardener, urbanist and educator, explains what he means by the term. "I have an architecture background, and I put on my architect hat when I design things for animals," he says.

"They don't happen to have money and they don't happen to have language—so our communication is mediated by wildlife experts. But animals are equal partners in our cities."

For the Presidio, he created a hollowed-out wooden tower (like a dead tree or "snag") where species from the California slender salamander to the pygmy nuthatch songbird to the coast garter snake could squat. He worked with Haines to place his tower near a parking lot so it could serve a more urban animal population.

An earlier prototype was shown in 2008 in Portland in the Reed College art gallery, but this version was built with thicker-grade wood and weatherproofed to survive the rainy season.

"This is the first time the Snag Tower will be outside," Haeg says. "And I'm excited to see what happens." He does not, however, plan to closely monitor the animal occupants or activity.

"I'm not interested in numbers, that's what distinguishes this from advocacy-oriented wildlife projects. I'm more interested in capturing people's imagination with architecture they can build themselves on their own property."

Reached by phone in China, Ai Weiwei also spoke of the imagination. He said that he's always had a thing for owls, dating back to his first sculpture in 1976—a ceramic owl. (He says there is no connection, however, between his new owl's nests and his so-called Bird's Nest, the Olympic Stadium that he helped to design in Beijing.)

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"I've always been fascinated by this animal who is supposed to sleep with one eye open and one closed. In China the owl is traditionally connected to the world of the dead, the world we cannot see and experience."

He decided to use the classical form of a Ming Dynasty blue-and-white patterned porcelain vessel as the nest, adding a hole to serve as an entrance on one side, because of its level of sophistication.

"These objects are superbly crafted for the Imperial Court," he says. "I thought it would be very nice to put them in nature because they're so artificial."

To install the "nests" without digging into the bark of the cypress tree, For-Site hired a metalworker to make a rather minimal stainless steel holster with two cuffs to hold each vessel. Nylon straps secured to the back of the holster were belted around the tree trunk or limbs.

"We had to make sure that artworks would not upset the plant or animal life in the park," says Haines. "We also didn't want to attract animals through artificial means—no feeding and no lighting."

The L.A. architects Taalman Koch kept this in mind while designing their project: a geodesic dome for the screech owl, perched some 15 feet high on a tripod. Linda Taalman, who works with her husband Alan Koch, says their point of departure was researching the tiny bird on the Audubon magazine web site.

"Owls are such interesting creatures because they don't build their own nests," says Linda Taalman. "They're the perfect client for an architect because they need someone else to design the space."

The geodesic dome they built consists of mass-produced laser-cut and folded aluminum panels, not entirely unlike the architects' celebrated "itHouse" for human clients. "The dome is also pre-engineered system, and its material is also aluminum," Taalman notes.

Still, the architects did tailor their home for the screech owl, devising a sizable dome "to give this little creature a more dramatic presence," with a wooden structure inside it to create a cozier living space. They provided ventilation and draining.

And they wrapped the aluminum poles supporting the dome in hemp so that should a baby bird fall out of the dome, it could climb back up as if it were climbing a tree. (Yes, the architects have a young daughter.)

In some ways, then, the owl dome certainly seems like a more practical structure than Ai Weiwei's porcelain owl habitat. But what are the chances a screech owl, whose trills have not been heard in the Presidio for nearly a decade, will actually find its way here?

"There's a hopefulness to our project," Taalman says. "Maybe another bird will move into it, but we really have our fingers crossed that the screech owl will actually find it somehow."

She mentions maybe listing the bird home on a rental property web site she likes. "What is the equivalent of the Internet for owls? We'd like to get the word out."