Sunday, July 27, 2008

Carnival Sign

All over the country, the summer night is alive with carousel music and the squeals of kids spinning round in the Tilt-a-Whirl. Popcorn and funnel cakes scent the air. The multicolored glow of the rides and games of chance invites us into a temporary world of fun. The Arlington County Fair is tiny. The only "livestock" are the racing pigs and the petting zoo. The hokey yet homey quality of our fair is a large part of its charm. I love the most old-fashioned versions of the brightly-lit signs at the fair. Who knows how many more summers on the road these old signs can endure? Eventually each one may be replaced by a snazzier, but less evocative new version I took this photo using the "Illustration" setting built into my Casio Z-850 camera. I love this camera! Instant gratification---no Photoshop necessary.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Door---Hotel Solvay

My garden has been taken over by bindweed, the wild cousin of morning glories. Removing the vines before they strangle the daylilies has given me plenty of time to examine their twining stems and think about what inspiration can be found in the growth pattern of plants we have decided to consider "weeds." This photo shows the double doors of the Hotel Solvay in Brussels, designed by Victor Horta. Aside from the sinuous lines of both wood and metal, I like the reflection of the trees, which stood in an orderly row directly across the street. Surely Monsieur Horta spent time examining vigorously growing vines, perhaps ones attempting to strangle the irises and lilies in his own garden.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


A telephone pole standing on a corner near the old brick Market in Charleston, SC has been transformed into a piece of folk art. It is a mosaic of chewing gum. How did this happen? Perhaps one person got in the habit of sticking gum on the pole. But how many wads of gum did it take before others noticed and began to follow suit? What was that crucial point, when gum-chewing passers-by noticed the design potential in the arrangement of gum and began making their own contributions? I like to imagine that the gum chewers give some thought to the ongoing design of the pole: "I am chewing blue gum today, so I'd better stick it over on the other side, away from those other two blue pieces." To me, this pole is a testament to our fundamental need to make art.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bhutanese Sand Painting

At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival the featured country has been Bhutan, which is in the Himalayas. Bhutan's government has instituted a program focusing on the Gross National Happiness of its sparse population. On the Mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, a magnificent Buddhist temple has been erected. Dragons, tigers and swirling florals cover every inch, inside and out. Sweet incense drifts from the interior, where monks chant, play music, and answer questions. Tents shelter Bhutanese weavers, painters and carvers. Altars are draped with brilliantly colored silks sewn into the patchwork block we know as Broken Dishes. On these sat colorful ceramics reminiscent of the many-armed Tree of Life candelabra found in Mexico. Some of the weavings made me think of striped Guatemalan cloth, others of Laotian textiles. A cluster of children learned to wrap yarn around two crossed sticks to make what Mexicans call an Ojo de Dios. Art is universal. Many cultures share techniques, colors and motifs. This image is my favorite: a sand painting that has been carefully crafted over the past two weeks, with the knowledge that it is an ephemeral artwork. It's a piece of "here and now" for both the artists and the viewers.