Public Art from around the Globe

I love public art so much that I started a Public Art Lovers group on Facebook. I invite you to join! It’s fun seeing murals and statues and fountains and the like from far flung places that I’ll most likely never get a chance to visit.

I’m lucky I have a tolerant husband. Often we’ll be driving around, and I’ll shout, “Public art! Get a picture!” And he’s usually willing to do so, as long as it won’t risk life and limb.

I genuinely believe that public art raises a civilization to the next level. A life well lived should be much more than simply a desperate search for food, shelter, and clothing. Art is self-expression, and a sign that the mind has the time and luxury to be creative. Art also makes you think. It expands your mind. Art also adds beauty to the world, and we could all use a little more of that.

One of the unexpected pleasures of the gaming app Pokemon Go is that you can make friends all around the world and receive digital postcards from them. Aside from the ubiquitous pictures of playgrounds and places of worship, you are also treated to a great deal of public art. So without further ado, here are some of the cool digital postcards I’ve received or sent of late. My apologies that I can’t tell you the locations of most of these works of art, but I hope, like me, you’ll delight in the fact that they exist somewhere in the world.

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Creativity under COVID-19

It seems that every cloud has a silver lining. Even though this quarantine has been an exercise in torture and an economic nightmare, I am seeing a worldwide artistic explosion as a result of it. Yay, us!

Just today a friend sent me a link to this facebook video. It’s the best, most creative COVID-19 song I’ve yet to hear. I’ve listened to it about 20 times now, and it always makes me smile. It makes me want to do a jig. Thank you, Dermot Ryan, wherever you are, for making the best of a bad situation.

I’ve also seen some amazing artwork that people have created using whatever happens to be at hand. I’ve seen photographs of someone skiing down a mountain, the mountain being a bed sheet, and the pictures taken as the person poses on the floor. I’ve seen people reproduce famous works of art using balogna and toilet plungers.

I’m enjoying the many games people are coming up with to entertain themselves and others. There are also some amazing facemask designs out there, as well as astonishing inventions and creative ways to help/connect with one another remotely. Humor, both dark and light, abounds.

For every hateful or idiotic act that this virus has inspired, it seems that there are 10 artistic creations. That gives me hope, and it makes me rather like humanity more than I have in quite some time. Keep up the good work, everybody!

Maybe we all just needed the time and space to let our imaginations run wild. Maybe we are taking extra care of our mental health through art therapy. Whatever the case may be, I’m enjoying all this creativity, despite the fact that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to enjoy anything else. Stay safe, everybody! We can do this.

220px-Ghost_Hug_chalk_writing_on_Hawthorne_during_Coronavirus_pandemic

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Women Painters of Washington Gallery

Normally, I plan to visit an art gallery. I’m therefore anticipating a feeling of delight and awe, and even a bit of envy, when presented with such talent. I’m emotionally prepared for those exquisite feelings.

But on this particular, pre-pandemic day, I wasn’t expecting to be treated to dozens of stunning works of art. I didn’t have the opportunity to look forward to it. I wasn’t braced for an influx of emotion.

The Women Painters of Washington Gallery snuck up on me. I had other business in the Columbia Center Building, Seattle’s tallest skyscraper. I planned to do that. I didn’t plan to do this. But there it was, on the third floor, beckoning to me, splashes of vibrant color peeking through the windows, an antidote to the evergrey of a Pacific Northwest winter.

“Hello,” I thought. “I wasn’t expecting to meet you. I didn’t even know you existed.”

This encounter happened at an opportune time. The gallery is only open Monday through Friday from 11am to 4pm. Otherwise I’d have had to content myself with pressing my nose against the glass. And admission to this treat for your senses is absolutely free.

I not only enjoyed the art in this gallery, but also the very premise of it. According to their exquisitely designed website, the Women Painters of Washington has a wonderful mission statement:

Women Painters of Washington empowers professional women artists to create, exhibit, and market their work while fostering art appreciation within their communities and beyond.

This group was founded in 1930 because, as I’m sure will come as no surprise to you, women artists face certain limitations when attempting to realize their artistic potential. What a fantastic idea. Three cheers for strength in numbers!

I encourage you to check out their website, where you can see dozens of works of art from the comfort of your own home. But if, like me, you think the website is of fabulous design, you really need to visit the gallery when this virus burns itself out. Its walls each contain a giant metal wheel which can roll along a metal track so that the placement and design of an exhibit can change with each passing display. I’ve never seen such a brilliant use of limited space.

What follows are pictures my husband took during our visit. Let me know what you think. And if you get a chance, stop by and visit one of Seattle’s best kept secrets!

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Hearing Double

Every once in a while, someone will create something so simple and brilliant that it just resonates with me. So it was with the song “Hearing Double” that I heard for the first time at a recent Jason Mraz concert.

Music is mathematical at its very core, but this song seems to raise the math to the very surface where it can’t be overlooked. I love that place where science and art intersect.

At the concert in Seattle, Jason introduced this song as the product of discovering that he and the voice inside his head were in love with the same person. What an interesting, creative concept. I love how different words are automatically emphasized, and how that very emphasis then emphasizes the feeling behind the words. I especially love how the song makes me laugh.

I urge you to listen to this song. Twice, even. And then tell me what you think, below.

Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz

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Let Me Solve Your Problem

I have this friend who is getting old and is convinced he’s going to die soon. He’s an artist, and he told me he wanted to distribute his art to the world before he makes his grand exit. He hates to think of it just sitting there, not being appreciated.

I instantly came up with an idea. I have been focused on my Little Free Library of late, and I’ve also blogged about Little Free Gardens. So, why not a Little Free Gallery? Construct a box, put it in an artsy/touristy part of town, fill it with your art, write on it, “Take some art, share some art” and away we go!

His art would be distributed, and other artists could put some of their stuff in as well. Even children could add their beautiful little scribbly contributions. Art for the common man. It sounds like a delightful idea to me! Visions of this really catching on and taking off.

Except I forgot who I was talking to. As much as I love this person, he doesn’t really want a solution. That would require action. He instantly threw up roadblocks, which I found easy to knock down.

Roadblock: I’m not really very sociable.

Solution: I could easily find you someone who would allow your little free gallery in front of their shop. Then all you’d have to do is put your art in there. You don’t have to sit by it.

Roadblock: I don’t need to get rich. I just need to spread my pictures to as many people as I can.

Solution: That’s why it’s called a Little FREE Gallery. You’d be giving your stuff away.

Roadblock: The library idea involves taking and putting back. A gallery wouldn’t be like that.

Solution: Who cares? But other artists could put their work in there too, if they wanted.

Roadblock: Still, it wouldn’t be sharing like a library is.

Solution: It would be sharing your artistic talent with the wider community. A lot of people love art, but most of us can’t afford it. This would be a great way to spread art to the world.

Roadblock: I like the idea of offering pictures at low prices without a store. Low price is important. Free stuff goes in the garbage can.

Frustrated response: Well, if there’s money involved, you’d need someone watching over it. And no one would give you a free space or a free box or contribute to it if it’s for money, so you’d have a much harder time.

Roadblock: I want someone who takes one of my pictures to take it seriously. If it’s a freebie, they can chuck it like a plastic bag.

Irritated response: You have to have faith. I also hope my library books actually get read, but there’s no guarantee. But if even one person reads something they wouldn’t have already read, I’m happy. Sometimes you just have to put positive energy out into the world and hope it makes an impact. You started off saying you just want to distribute your art to the world before you die. Now it sounds like you want to pursue profit. Those are different goals.

Roadblock: I’m an old guy who wants to get his work out in the world no matter what. I do not support schemes that have artists give out work for free. Artists need to make a living.

Resigned reponse: It’s not a scheme, it’s a public good. No artist would be forced to participate. It may be a fun way to put some small art works out there and get themselves some recognition. Oh, never mind.

______

I think what I need to take away from this conversation, the lesson that I need to learn (and will have to learn over and over and over again in my life), is that when someone presents me with a problem, they often aren’t really seeking advice. They’re just spewing words into the world with no real destination.The conversation should have gone like this:

Him: I want to get my art out into the world, no matter what.

Me: What a great idea. Good luck with that.

If I approached more conversations from that angle, I’d probably have fewer grey hairs and less acid reflux. But noooo…

problem-solved-jeff-jarvis

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Recyclart

Every once in a while I have to do something creative. I wish I could engage in artistic pursuits more often, because it makes me feel alive and whole. Every time I make something, I wonder why I let so much time pass between projects. The experience is so fulfilling. But, you know, there’s so little time…

I am in the middle of a project that I’ve been working on sporadically for a few months now, and I guarantee that I’ll be blogging about it when it’s done. But in the meantime, with a little help from Lyn, a friend I’ve made through this blog, I’ve stumbled upon an incredible website that I’ll definitely be consulting before all future endeavors. It’s called www.recyclart.org.

This website is a treasure trove of exciting ideas. On its home page, it describes itself as “Creative ideas based on repurposed, recycled, reused, reclaimed, upcycled and restored things!” I’m getting excited just by browsing. I especially love the idea of combining two of my passions: art and recycling. I suspect it’s going to be my source of inspiration for Christmas gifts for years to come.

The website itself is a cool set up, because not only can you search by categories, such as clothes, garden ideas, and home décor, but you can also search by materials. For example, I looked up projects that you can make out of old books, and I found instructions for making clocks, Christmas ornaments, origami wall art like the kind shown below, a stool, a floating book wall, and a bed frame. How cool is that?

From this site you can learn how to make a pendant lamp from lace doilies, furniture from pallets, planters from license plates, benches from truck tailgates. You can even make baskets out of old t-shirts.

Okay, I need to back away from my computer before I get so jazzed up that I commit myself to about a decade of creativity. I tell you what, though, I’ll never settle for something mundane and off the shelf again.

Recyclart

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High Desert Museum

The region around Bend, Oregon is called the high desert. That’s kind of ironic because the elevation is only about 4000 feet above sea level, and they get 11 inches of rain per year and 20 inches of snow per year on average. Still, the High Desert Museum is definitely worth a visit.

Upon entering this museum, I could tell that it was going to be a good one. The artwork alone was outstanding. Currently they’re featuring the work of April Coppini, and her charcoal depictions of area wildlife practically leap off the wall.

Inside, there was an exhibit about how water shapes the west, which was fascinating, as well as an exhibit about the history of the Native Americans of the area. And with a museum of this kind, there were multiple displays outdoors as well. The people who staff the living history portion were extremely friendly and more than happy to answer questions about pioneer life in the area. There was a cabin and a sawmill on the property, which were both fun to explore, and you could learn everything that you wanted to know about the flora and fauna of the region by reading the placards. There were a lot of gorgeous sculptures scattered about the grounds as well.

So this place turned out to be part museum and part art gallery, but it also was part zoo. There were three otters frolicking in their own little pond. They seemed quite happy and healthy, and were very fun to watch. There’s also a desertarium where you can check out snakes and spiders and lizards and turtles. After feeling as though I was being watched, I noticed several owls gazing down at me from tree branches. We also got to attend a couple talks where we were introduced to a skunk, a badger, a porcupine, and an absolutely stunning red tailed hawk.

We learned the difference between birds of prey and raptors. Any bird that hunts for creatures to eat is a bird of prey. That robin in your back yard that is eating a worm is a bird of prey. Raptors are also birds of prey, but they hunt mainly with their talons. It certainly makes you view the feathered world with even more respect.

All of their animals are rescues that couldn’t survive in the wild. We got to watch a bald eagle with a damaged wing, and I’ve never been so close to one of those majestic creatures in my life. I knew they were huge, but, wow… they’re huge.

I have to say that the High Desert Museum was one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. If you ever find yourself in the region, I highly recommend it. If you go, say hello to the bald eagle for me.

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A Capella Science

I love that delicious point where art and science intersect. I don’t encounter it nearly enough for my liking, so when I do, I savor it. It seems as though most minds go in one direction or the other. It’s a rare one that appreciates both. That why such minds, and their creations, are priceless. Leonardo da Vinci, with his art and inventions, springs to mind.

So imagine my delight when a friend (waving at Mor) turned me on to the A Capella Science guy on Youtube. Tim Blais just got his master’s degree in physics, and he also happens to have the voice of an angel, and from what I can tell, is a consummate videographer as well. Such creativity, such profound intelligence. All in one delightful package.

Among his many creations is a song about string theory to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody, a song about the saurian origin of birds to the tune of More Than Words, and a song about CRISPR to the tune of Mr. Sandman.

What I love most about Tim Blais is that I’m sure he’s getting people interested in science topics that they wouldn’t have previously explored. He’s making science cool. No. I take that back. Science was already cool. He’s just making a lot more of us realize it.

I think I can speak for all the creative nerds out there when I say, “Thanks, Tim!”

Tim Blais

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Nature Doesn’t Clash

I have a friend who is an artist, and when choosing his color palette for any given creation, he looks to nature for inspiration. He’ll take a leaf or a flower petal, for example, and put it under a microscope, and then use the colors he sees there. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

If you want the ultimate arbiter of good taste, nature is it. First of all, it’s been around a heck of a lot longer than we have. It knows how to play the game. It doesn’t like short-term trends. I can’t think of even one example of a natural thing that irritates my sensibilities. I definitely can’t say that about humans on an average day. (Nature wouldn’t be caught dead in sandals with knee socks.)

Nature also doesn’t wage war, shut down the government for selfish reasons, or pollute itself in the name of greed. It sees no need for firearms. If anyone were to support health care for all, it would be nature.

While nature can seem arbitrarily cruel, it definitely looks at the big picture and the long term. These are qualities that modern man seems to lack, to our everlasting peril. The more we ignore nature’s warnings, the more we will suffer. Nature is patient. Nature will win. The question is, will we be around to see it?

Painted Hills Oregon
Painted Hills, Oregon

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Public Art as a Yardstick

I love the fact that I’m now living in a city where public art is the norm. I often pass by sculptures and murals here in Seattle, and they never fail to make me smile. It’s always a pleasure to have a bit of beauty and humor or a dash of whimsy injected into one’s day. I love having my thoughts provoked and my perspectives challenged. And some of these sculptures kind of feel like a part of my family now.

I used to live in Jacksonville, Florida, where public art was rather thin on the ground. It was often viewed as too controversial, or not in keeping with family values. (Though I wonder if their statue of Andrew Jackson astride a stallion still stands? I bet it does.)

Some artists in Jacksonville have been known to go rogue, I think, out of sheer frustration. They’d paint any flat surface they could find. Sadly, they always seemed to be quickly shut down and/or painted over.

Allowing art in one’s city takes a certain level of political courage. (And I’m not talking about historical monuments and statues, here. That’s another debate entirely.) There will always be people who don’t like a particular piece, or they will misinterpret it. It is easier to offend than to delight or inspire, it seems. It’s a confident city council that allows self-deprecation and social commentary to be out in the open, for all to see. It’s a brave mayor that doesn’t see creativity as a threat.

I think one of the many factors one should consider when deciding where to live is the amount of public art in the city in question. That will tell you much about the quality of life that you will experience in that community. It will tell you a great deal about the maturity and emotional health of the municipality as well. These are considerations you should never overlook. The ability to express oneself is the hallmark of civilization.

Crane

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