Tag Archives: sculpture

…in the Garden, #2

Double click to see a larger size image
Double click to see a larger size image

As promised, today I’m sharing part two of my fascination with this sculpture of Adam and Eve in the garden.  But first, let me clear up a misconception that someone had: this is not a sculpture by Michelangelo…I was just using him as a lead in to the story yesterday because I may just be his biggest fan when it comes to sculpture and the Sistine Ceiling.  I didn’t know who the creator of this art was until after I loaded this post and a friend (thanks, Joe!) found it!  It is the work of the late Francesco Fabi-Altini.

If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see that it is taken from the back side of the sculpture.  As I was standing in front of the statue, I noticed that there was a part of a snake that was carved into the rock near the feet of Eve.  It was the tail end of the snake, not the front.  (You can see it coming around from the front near Eve’s feet).  So, I followed the body of the snake around the back of the statue and there was the serpent…apple in mouth, reaching up to tempt the first woman.  (Not being sexist here – that’s how the story is recorded…that Eve was deceived, but Adam knowingly did what he knew to be wrong – which I think is the greater failure!)

She’s not looking at the serpent, but the apple is just about to brush her knee.  Had she already seen the serpent and was saying something to Adam (see yesterday’s post where she seemed to be almost whispering in his ear – and he seemed glum and pensive)?  You can almost imagine that her hand that is on Adam’s back, is about to slip down to receive the fruit, take a bite and offer it to Adam.

The next picture is a closer image of the snake:

Double click for a larger image...
Double click for a larger image…

As I said yesterday, I could have sat and stared at this statue and contemplate all that was transpiring for several hours.  The expressions on the faces (see yesterday’s post) and the drama that is playing out here was incredible.

Again, kudos to the artist!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Phuoc Binh, the capital of Phuoc Long Province, about 60 miles north of Saigon, fell to the North Vietnamese. Phuoc Binh was the first provincial capital taken by the communists since the fall of Quang Tri on May 1, 1972.

Two days later, the North Vietnamese took the last of the South Vietnamese positions in the region, gaining control of the entire province. The South Vietnamese Air Force lost 20 planes defending the province. Presidents Nixon and Ford had promised South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu that the United States would come to the aid of South Vietnam if the North Vietnamese launched a major offensive in violation of the Paris Peace Accords. However, the United States did nothing when Phuoc Binh fell to the communists. In fact, the passive response of the United States convinced North Vietnam that the Americans would not soon return to Vietnam, and encouraged the Politburo in Hanoi to launch a new attack in the hopes of creating ripe conditions for a general uprising in South Vietnam by 1976.

When the North Vietnamese launched the new offensive in early 1975, the South Vietnamese forces, demoralized by the failure of the United States to come to their aid, were defeated in just 55 days. North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the presidential palace on April 30 and South Vietnam surrendered fully to the communists.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The Penan nomads who live on the island Borneo (southwest of the Philippines) maintain that women do not have a soul until their wedding day.

…in the Garden, #1

Double click to see the image in a larger size
Double click to see the image in a larger size

Of all the different types of art, perhaps the one that moves me the most is that of sculpture.  I’m not talking about the modern art sculptures which typically don’t do a thing for me, but about the more classical style of sculpture as practiced by Michelangelo (for example).  In fact, I believe that Michelangelo was perhaps the greatest sculptor who has ever lived.  Think of it for a minute: what kind of talent does it take to take a hammer and chisel to a cold, hard block of marble and create a David, Pieta, Moses or any of his other incredible works of art?  The detail is incredible: blood vessels, musculature, hair…the smoothness of the skin – and he did it all without high speed drills, lasers, electronic buffers, etc.  It blows me away.  I’ve never seen his work in person…only in pictures or replicas.  How I’d love to go to Italy and see them first hand!

I remember reading once about a conversation Michelangelo had with someone who asked him how he came up with the ideas for his sculptures, and his response was something like this: “I don’t.  I see what is capture inside the stone and all I do is carve away the excess and set it free.”  Wow….

In the garden at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, CA, there are numerous sculptures.  Some are rather crudely done, but one really captured my attention and you’ll see photos of it today and tomorrow.  Today is a detail of the heads of two people: Adam and Eve.  The sculpture sits in a garden, rather forlorn.  What is happening in this sculpture?  Well, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out!  But I’ll tell you this: whoever created it presented the concept of Adam and Eve, and this particular moment in their story – in a way that I’d never seen before.  I could have stayed and studied this sculpture for several hours, I believe.

For today, however, simply look at their faces and study them.  Try to imagine what each is thinking, how they’re feeling and what is happening in this piece of art.

Come back tomorrow to see what captured my attention!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  On January 5, 1933, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge, as workers started excavating 3.25 million cubic feet of dirt for the structure’s huge anchorages.

Following the Gold Rush boom that began in 1849, speculators realized the land north of San Francisco Bay would increase in value in direct proportion to its accessibility to the city (they were right – it is some extremely expensive real estate today!) Soon, a plan was hatched to build a bridge that would span the Golden Gate, a narrow, 400-foot deep strait that serves as the mouth of the San Francisco Bay, connecting the San Francisco Peninsula with the southern end of Marin County.

Although the idea went back as far as 1869, the proposal took root in 1916. A former engineering student, James Wilkins, working as a journalist with the San Francisco Bulletin, called for a suspension bridge with a center span of 3,000 feet, nearly twice the length of any in existence. Wilkins’ idea was estimated to cost an astounding $100 million. So, San Francisco’s city engineer, Michael M. O’Shaughnessy (he’s also credited with coming up with the name Golden Gate Bridge), began asking bridge engineers whether they could do it for less.

Engineer and poet Joseph Strauss, a 5-foot tall Cincinnati-born Chicagoan, said he could.

Eventually, O’Shaughnessy and Strauss concluded they could build a pure suspension bridge within a practical range of $25-30 million with a main span at least 4,000 feet. The construction plan still faced opposition, including litigation, from many sources. By the time most of the obstacles were cleared, the Great Depression of 1929 had begun, limiting financing options, so officials convinced voters to support $35 million in bonded indebtedness, citing the jobs that would be created for the project. However, the bonds couldn’t be sold until 1932, when San-Francisco based Bank of America agreed to buy the entire project in order to help the local economy.

The Golden Gate Bridge officially opened on May 27, 1937, the longest bridge span in the world at the time. The first public crossing had taken place the day before, when 200,000 people walked, ran and even roller skated over the new bridge.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  On Valentine’s Day 2010, 39,897 people in Mexico City broke the record for the world’s largest group kiss.

Hoping Against Hope

Double-or-triple click to see a larger version of the photo.

It has been a rough past couple of months, not just for our family and friends, but for the world.  Personally, we traversed the country back to CA for a period of time and it was rather much of an upheaval for various reasons.

Then our daughter’s best friend since their days in high school went into the hospital in the desperate need of replacement lungs due to what appears to have been the result of black mold hidden inside the walls of their home.  As she was waiting for the lungs, she had heart trouble…then was dropped from the transplant list, then re-instated in need of both heart AND lungs.  She finally got them, but right afterwards the heart stopped working…and not too long thereafter, when it became clear it wasn’t going to re-start, she died at 32 years young, leaving an adoring husband and two little ones (4 and 2).

There have been more shootings and there is instability in the Ukraine and again in Iraq.  I read today that the Taliban just chopped off the fingers of those who recently voted in Iraq in retaliation.  And it all makes me sick.

On Saturday, we needed a break and went to Jack London Square in Oakland, CA.  In the locale is a statue that caught my attention and is the subject of today’s photo.

It is part of the The International Cheemah Monument Project, which involves placing either 18-foot tall bronze monuments in public places worldwide to create an inspiring bridge between cultures.

The Cheemah Monuments celebrate cultural diversity, world unity and care for the earth.  To date, three have been placed — in Germany, Spain, and the United States.

Speaking at the State of the World Forum in San Francisco, a gathering of 700 leaders from 120 countries, the Osprey Orielle Lake, the sculptor, said the purpose of the statues is to remind us of the need, and hope, for healing the divisive conflicts in the world today.

She went on: “The statue, Cheemah, endeavors to bring a message of hope and beauty to all of us. Cheemah is a symbol of light that illuminates the best in humanity.  When each of us gives our best we can create solutions so needed in our time. Cheemah carries the fire torch of hope and peace adorned with medallions of the world’s hemispheres. These medallions represent our wondrous earth.

“Upon the torch there is a ring of five colors representing all the different peoples of the world.  The majestic golden-colored eagle represents the sun with its far-reaching wings that touch us all, like the rays of the sun.”

I wish that a statue could bring about all that kind of change.  If it could, I’d become a sculptor.  Alas, while I like the idea, I believe it takes a lot more than sculpture to heal all that is wrong with this world.  And as usual, that kind of change starts with each of us.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln calls for help in protecting Washington, D.C.

Throughout June, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was moving. He had pulled his army from its position along the Rappahannock around Fredericksburg, and set it on the road to Pennsylvania. Lee and the Confederate leadership decided to try a second invasion of the North to take pressure off Virginia and to seize the initiative against the Army of the Potomac. The first invasion, in September 1862, failed when the Federals fought Lee’s army to a standstill at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland.

Lee later divided his army and sent the regiments toward the Shenandoah Valley, using the Blue Ridge Mountains as a screen. After the Confederates took Winchester, Virginia, on June 14, they were situated on the Potomac River, seemingly in a position to move on Washington, D.C.  Lincoln did not know it, but Lee had no intention of attacking Washington. All Lincoln knew was that the Rebel army was moving en masse and that Union troops could not be certain as to the Confederates’ location.

On June 15, Lincoln put out an emergency call for 100,000 troops from the state militias of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia. Although the troops were not needed, and the call could not be fulfilled in such a short time, it was an indication of how little the Union authorities knew of Lee’s movements and how vulnerable they thought the Federal capital was.

In slightly more than two weeks’ time, the two armies would collide in a tiny Pennsylvania hamlet named Gettysburg, and the tide of war would turn in the Union’s favor.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The human brain consists of approximately 100 billion neurons (which is as many cells as there are stars in the Milky Way). Each neuron has somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 synapses, equaling about 1 quadrillion synapses. If all the neurons in the human brain were lined up, they would stretch 600 miles. As a comparison, an octopus has 300,000 neurons, a honeybee has 950,000, and a jellyfish has no brain at all.

Splendor in the Grass

Just a little while ago, after I ate dinner, I went out into the back yard on a treasure hunt.  I took the tools of my treasure-hunting trade with me: a garbage back, a rake and a scoop.  What kind of treasure was I looking for?  Dog doo.  Not exactly what many would consider treasure.  It’s not that fun of an event, but it’s better than getting it on your shoes and tracking it (and the smell) around with you wherever you go!

Fortunately, some things that are found in the grass are much more pleasant, and certainly less odiferous, than dog doo.  Such is the case in the back of the Sheraton in Mumbai.  I already shared one photo a while back of a statue that was partially submerged in the swimming pool.  Today is another statue that decorates the outside of the hotel just before you get to the pool.

I liked this sculpture.  It was simple, yet elegant.  She looks like the kind of person one might like to meet.  She appears fresh, as if she’s just been washed by rainfall (which, in fact, she had been.)  I never got her name, and no, I didn’t ask for her phone number.  I just let her sit and enjoy the evening as it cooled down and the breeze blew in from the Arabian Sea.

At ease on the lawn…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1909, Cleveland Indian’s shortstop Neal Ball, recorded the first ever unassisted triple play in major league baseball history in a game against Boston.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: there are about 3000 hot dog vendors in New York City.

Mystique of Feminine Beauty

It is very interesting to me how different cultures and different times think about beauty – especially that of the feminine nature (let’s face it, us guys aren’t beautiful!)  At the Michael Carlos Museum at Emory University, various ideals of feminine beauty were on display through the sculpture and paintings from around the world.

For example, in the middle American cultures (Mayan, etc.), one would be very hard pressed to tell a female statue from a male one without two or three key anatomical differences.  It seemed to me that all of their art depicted people as being about the size of a 55-gallon drum…not very attractive at all.  Yet for some reason, that’s how they made their art.

The Egyptians, of course, seem to have liked their women rather thin.  At least that’s how they portrayed them in the paintings and sculptures.  Think of Queen Nefertiti with her long, thin neck and the women in the tomb paintings.

The Greeks and Romans had their own way of capturing and trying to express feminine beauty as well.  Today’s photo is of a bust that was in the museum.  If my memory serves me, it is the bust of a priestess of some sort.  What caught my eye about her was the way her hair wound in intricate, tight curls.  As a general rule, I’m not that into curls, but it made for an interesting sculpture and for a lot of hard work by the sculptor, I’m sure!

Whatever one’s tastes may be, the female form has captivated artisans of all sorts and in all times.  I understand perfectly!

A Roman sculpture of feminine beauty...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1981, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison teamed up to record a musical tribute to John Lennon.  The result was “All Those Years Ago” when went to #2 on the pop music charts for 3 weeks.  It was recorded on Harrison’s own Dark Horse label.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: as a child, Queen Victoria was trained to keep her chin up.  A sprig of holly was placed under her collar to remind her!

Snails Playing Trumpets

OK, I admit it.  Much of what passes as art these days doesn’t impress me at all.  Now, let’s talk about Michelangelo – that guy was an arteest!!!  Oh, that the guy, what was his name again??? DaVinci, I think…he was not bad, but I still like Michelangelo better.  Sometimes, all it seems one has to do is gather up enough of something and slap a label on it and a price tag of $5,000 – $100,000 and they and others will call it art.  It’s been made evident when people collect urine and put it in a bottle and call it something like “Tears of the Angels”, or get a bunch of toilet paper and wad it all up and call it something like “Confusion” and  you can sell it for a fortune!

But, on occasion, I run across some art/sculpture from a modern artist that I think is really cool.  Each year, the Arts Alliance of Cloverdale sponsors a sculpture competition.  Sometimes I think it’s good, but sometimes I really don’t like a certain piece of art.  I have to say, though, that this year I really liked nearly all of the pieces that are on display in the area of the city plaza.  I featured one on Friday night’s post (click https://twolfgcd.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/bones/ to see that picture and story.)  Today, I’m sharing another one that I liked.

This piece of art took a lot of patience and work to create!  The bottom two parts are wire frame, with wire wrapped around and around and around to give it a basket-like appearance.  If you click on the picture a couple times to enlarge it, you’ll be able to see that you can see through the upper section and detect the color of the grass behind it.  It was really neat!

But, as I said, the bottom two parts look something like a snail to me (especially the very bottom part.)  When I thought about this picture, the top part that sticks up could be either a snail’s “foot”, but then I thought that maybe the artist’s intent was for it to be a snail playing a trumpet! I’m curious: what do you think it is?

Actually, I’m pretty sure that the artist didn’t intent either of those things – I have no idea what was in her/his mind, but it was attractive and obviously took a lot of work.  I liked the semi-translucent appearance because of the way the wire was round about the frame, too.  So, from this art critic, it gets a thumb and a half up!!!

A snail playing a trumpet?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1956, making his second appearance on Milton Berle’s ‘Texaco Star Theatre”, Elvis Presley sand “Heartbreak Hotel”, his number one hit.  The television critics were not impressed and roundly panned him, saying that his performance looked like “the mating dance of an Aborigine.”

On a more sober note, on this day in 1968, Bobby Kennedy was celebrating his victory in the California presidential primary when he was shot in the head and killed.  I’ll never forget it: I had been listening to the Dodger game on the radio (in Antioch, CA, nonetheless!) and had fallen asleep.  When I woke up, the radio was still on and the news of the shooting was being relayed.  What a shocker and tragedy it was!

TRIVIAL FOR TODAY: the famous Rosetta Stone was found in 1799 near the small Egyptian town of Rosetta.  It proved to be the needed key to unlock the hieroglyphic writing of the ancient Egyptians.  That’s where the name for the language training series that you see on TV came from!  (By the way, when I went to London on a business trip once, I got to go to the British Museum and headed straight to the Egyptian section as Egyptian history has always captivated me…I turned a corner and passed through a door and right there, to my left, was the ROSETTA STONE!  I about fell over!!!!  I was close enough to reach out and touch it…but I’m sure I would have been promptly escorted out of the building if I’d done so!!!)



Bones.  They are what give you a framework for all your muscle, ligaments, tendons.  If we didn’t have bones, we would be like an amoeba – a rather shapeless blog, that when pushed from one direction in another one, we’d “flow”!  Your skeleton is what allows your body to bear weight.  While muscles power movement and enable you to lift things, the skeleton is what ultimately provides the support.

You already knew that, though, didn’t you?  Well, I had to have some kind of introduction for my picture tonight, so hopefully you’ll forgive me for that lame introduction!  Well, here’s some stuff that you probably didn’t know.  Your skeleton accounts for 30-40% (half of that being water) of your total body weight.  The largest bone in your body is the femur (upper leg bone), and the smallest is the stapes bone in your middle ear.  Your skeleton also protects most of your inner organs (brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc.)  At birth, a newborn has over 300 bones in their body (although the number can vary from individual to individual, and Wikipedia lists both “over 300” and “over 270” as being correct for infants, but by the time they are an adult, they will be down to about 206 (again, there is some variation from person to person). All six functions of the skeleton are: support, movement, protection, blood cell production, storage and endocrine regulation.

OK…enough of that!  On to today’s picture.  Why am I writing about bones?  Because the city of Cloverdale has unveiled the most recent sculptures for this year’s sculpture contest.  I went down in the rain this evening to shoot pictures of the ones I liked…and this was my favorite!  Now you know why I’m writing about bones….

HDR image of a skeleton in Cloverdale Plaza

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1940, the evacuation of 335,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk was completed when an amazingly courageous flotilla of military and private water craft combined to evacuate the trapped soldiers and avoid a horrible slaughter.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: a turkey should not be carved until it has been out of the oven for 30 minutes.  This allows the internal cooking caused by the high internal temperatures to complete.  The internal juices will have stopped running, making it much easier to carve into neat, clean slices.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain, Georgia has a long and colorful (though not always proud) history.  It was originally settled in the early 1800’s and as New Gibraltar for the large stone mountain that dominates the landscape for miles around.  The name was later changed to Stone Mountain (but I must admit New Gibraltar has a lovely ring to it!). The “mountain” itself is only 1686 feet high, but towers 825 feet over the surrounding landscape.

Some of the less glorious history had to do with a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1900’s that was centered in the Stone Mountain area.  It was mentioned by name in Martin Luther King’s incredible I Have a Dream speech where he spoke of freedom ringing from Stone Mountain to everywhere else in the country/world.

Stone Mountain is now famous for many things, including the world’s largest bas relief sculpture , the Confederate Memorial Carving depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and their favorite horses  “Blackjack”, “Traveller” and “Little Sorrel”, respectively. The entire carved surface measures 3 acres (12,000 m2), about the size of three football fields. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet (120 m) above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet (58 m), and is recessed 42 feet (13 m) into the mountain. The deepest point of the carving is at Lee’s elbow, which is 12 feet (3.7 m) to the mountain’s surface.

The carving was conceived by Mrs. C. Helen Plane, a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  The Venable family, owners of the mountain, deeded the north face of the mountain to the UDC in 1916. The UDC was given 12 years to complete a sizable Civil War monument.  Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to do the carving.

Borglum abandoned the project in 1923 (but later gained fame as the carver of Mount Rushmore.)  American sculptor Augustus Lukeman continued until 1928, when further work stopped for thirty years.

In 1958, at the urging of Governor Marvin Griffin, the Georgia legislature approved a measure to purchase Stone Mountain for $1,125,000. In 1963, Walker Hancock was selected to complete the carving, and work began in 1964. The carving was completed by Roy Faulkner, on March 3, 1972.

Stone Mountain was the setting for the 1915 revival of the Ku Klux Klan. The mountain was the site of annual Klan rallies from 1931 until 1981.

In eveningtime during the summer the mountain hosts the Laser Show Spectacular, which uses popular and classic music to entertain park guests with a large fireworks and laser light display. The American Civil War is acknowledged, but the strength of a reunited country concludes the message, with Sandi Patti singing the Star Spangled Banner. There are still old favorites included with the show, “Devil Went down to Georgia”, “Celestial Soda Pop”, and “Trilogy”. There have been several additions to the show for its 25th anniversary.

Here’s a picture I took today when we visited the site.  To give you perspective (in addition to what is listed above), from the top of Robert E. Lee’s head to where his sword disappears into the mountain is 90 feet.  A full-grown 6-foot man can fit in the open mouth of any of the horses.  I shot this using HDR techniques because it was an overcast day and it was harder to pick out the detail in a single shot…


Stone Mountain: World's Largest Bas-Relief Sculpture

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: In 1972, after 36 years in publication, “LIFE” magazine’s last weekly issue went to the newsstands.  It was claimed that LIFE had “redefined photojournalism while showing America its own face.”  The first issue featured a newborn baby and a doctor with the heading, “LIFE Begins.”


TRIVIA FOR TODAY: No matter when a race horse is born, on New Year’s Day it is considered to be one year older.  No one knows why or how this tradition came to be!