Tag Archives: Art

Look what I found

My favorite type of art is found-object sculpture. In a country where the average America tosses five pounds of trash per person per day into its landfills, according to a 2010 Yale University research study, you’ve got to appreciate when a clever artist turns garbage into an objet d’art. Recycling at its finest.

As I waited to board a plane recently, I looked up and noticed this beautiful wall piece.

saxophone art

saxophone closeup

Closeup of Salty Peanuts.

This assemblage by artist Mildred Howard is created from 130 real saxophones, according to the SFO Museum. Above and below the saxophones are the opening bars of jazz great Dizzy Gillespie’s famous composition, “Salt Peanuts.”


Get it? A sculpture called Salty Peanuts in an airport? An environment where peanuts is practically a food group (or, at least, it was before the modern era of food allergies).

“The artwork is not only an homage to Gillespie,” SFO Museum writes on its website, “it is also an acknowledgement of the importance of jazz in San Francisco’s cultural history.”

Even better is a found-object sculpture that is actually functional, like this menu board outside the Bull & Bear restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria, Orlando.

bull and bear menu

Look closely at the stand. It’s made of cutlery and kitchen implements. And how about that palm tree in the corner? Clearly, the trunk is made of wine corks (and the coconuts are made of champagne corks). The leaves? Forks. Forks!

But perhaps the cleverest found-object sculpture I saw recently were these robot portraits hanging above the bathrooms in Alexis Baking Company in Napa (if you don’t stop in for the art, drop by for the Huevos Rancheros — served on crispy corn tortillas with black beans and topped with perfectly poached eggs and fresh pico de gallo, they’re the best I’ve ever consumed).

bathroom art

She-Robot and He-Robot are made of old computer motherboards plus kids’ shoes and back scratchers and other paraphernalia. If you’re in too much a hurry to look up when you’re trying to determine which bathroom to enter, check out those little signs on the doors: A donut and a cream-filled eclair.

Well, it’s funny to those of us who are gender-conforming anyway. Touché, Alexis Baking Co.

There was also a surprise inside the ladies’ room (a good one).

bathroom mirror

That image above the vanity is actually a freehand-cut mirror reflecting the painted sidewall.

So every woman who washes her hands after a meal gets a nice piece of pie for dessert. Perfect.



Art in the old west

art opening

Maybe not everyone’s first choice on a Saturday night would be to attend an art opening, but just the thought of mingling with other art lovers while sipping a glass of wine and listening to live piano music in the background thrilled me.

It wasn’t my Beloved’s first choice either, but he indulged me on the promise of ice cream treat on the way home.

Window Dressing

Window dressing at the downtown show.

Even if art openings aren’t your thing, maybe you’ll appreciate a quick peek at the show that opened last week at the Yuma Art Center. Minus the wine and ice cream.

Among the works I took in was the microscopic photography of Robert Schaal. His portion of the show was titled “Hidden Beauty,” and indeed he revealed the unseen loveliness that surrounds us.

Agave Rising

Agave Rising by Robert Schaal

artistBecause it was an opening instead of simply an art show, I got to meet the artists behind the works. Schaal told me he places slices of household items–an agave plant, in the case above–on a microscope slide, adjusts the lighting to his liking and takes a picture. He then chooses the crop and orientation and names it. Many of his pieces look like otherworldly landscapes. It’s hard to remember one’s looking at a microscopic slice of something.

I appreciated the abstract nature of the prints, but the concrete thinker in me appreciated the exhibit didactics.

Here are a few more pieces:

The Red Tear and Desert Evening

The Red Tear and Desert Evening

The Pinwheel

The Pinwheel

Two other artists also showed works at the opening. I found them less cerebral, but interesting nonetheless.

Hector D. Llamas offered “Las Damas de Llamas,” a blend of futurism and traditional Mexican culture.

where secrets turn into dreams

Where Secrets Turn Into Dreams by Hector D. Llamas

And Tyler Voorhees showed “Tall Tales,” sort of a surrealistic approach to western art.


Draw by Tyler Voorhees

TV sigI appreciated Voorhees’ sense of humor, evident in his exhaustive exhibit didactics and even in his signature which embraces his initials. He told me the control buttons on the TV represent his children.

The show represented dichotomy: microscopic landscapes, modern tradition, Old West surrealism. So often, Saturday night is a one-note soiree, but this art offered the flip side of things.

Glory be

While the secular world recovered from a Thanksgiving dinner-induced food coma and then leapt loopily into Black Friday-Small Business Saturday-Cyber Monday (which for many overeager online retailers began on Friday), Christians rang in a new year.

Today is the first Sunday of the liturgical year which is to say the First Sunday in Advent.

Advent is the run-up to Christmas, a liminal season of expectation. But to describe it only as a time of waiting sells Advent short, just as the days between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25 are more than simply an out-of-breath sprint to be endured.

For me, it’s not this time of year without spending some time in church. Sitting (and standing and singing and praying) through a worship service slows down time.

This is not a post about why you should go to church. That’s your call. This is a post about why I go to church. For me, Advent is the best time of year to spend some time in church, to be observant to the reason for the season. Christmas is all crowds and traditional-in-the-extreme music (let’s just say I’m not a fan of “Silent Night, Holy Night”). Lent, too, is a run-up season, preparing Christians for Easter, but Lent and Easter are solemn. The messages are heavy on crucifixion and death (yes, and rising again, I know, but rising from the tomb).

Advent, though, is news about pregnancy and babies and angels and birthdays. (That Advent also coincides with the countdown to my own birthday is just happy coincidence.)

I went to Mass last night for the first time in years, maybe even a decade. It was a beautiful quiet service in an enormous church where hundreds of people were doing the same thing I was — celebrating the new church year. I was reminded how lovely is the ritual of Mass, so familiar and universal.

I was once Catholic, but when I got divorced, I reverted to my origin religion, Lutheran. A week ago, I read the scripture lessons for the last time at the Lutheran church where I am a member. I resigned my position as reader in anticipation of moving away. Coincidentally, it was also the last Sunday of the church year.


I kind of felt like I was throwing off the bonds of responsibility and the old year and the old way of worshiping all at once. Celebrating the new Christian year for me meant Mass in a big, beautiful church. Which is how I found myself last night in church I’d never been in before soaking up Bible readings about waiting and preparation and expectation.

It is the perfect message on which to meditate for a woman waiting (and waiting) to sell her house.

Advent is not an empty time, I was reminded. It is a season of fullness. Because preparing is just as meaningful as celebrating. Anticipation should be as joy-filled as the hullabaloo for which we’re waiting.

Pondering Advent and the imminent celebration of the birth of Christ, I was reminded of a scene I appreciated earlier this year.


This is the Nativity Façade at the Sagrada Familia, aka the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain. The church was designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. The structure is so elaborate, it has been under construction since 1882 and remains incomplete. This is the entryway to the church, and I snapped this picture when I had the opportunity to tour it in June. As you might expect, the Nativity Façade is dedicated to the birth of Jesus.

A single figure is itself a fantastic sculpture, and here there are hundreds of them. But let’s look at the central point of interest there, right above the two doorways of entry.


You can see Jesus surrounded by his mother Mary and Joseph. Check out those two faces peeking around the corners — an oxen and a donkey. Kind of cute, if you ask me. Carved into stone above Joseph’s head are the words “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (you can read Deo clearly in this closeup). That’s Latin for “Glory to God in the highest.”

This sculptured wall is the entryway to the church (inside is entirely amazing experience in itself). But before you even get inside to see it (and, presumably, participate in Mass), this enormous highly detailed art greets you. You could spend days gazing at each sculpture, taking in the meaning, and you’re still outside the building.

That’s Advent. Days of detail, building up to the threshold of Christmas.

Don’t wish it away. Soak it in.

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening

I spied a recently adopted fire hydrant in my fair village earlier this month. Check this out:


James Drive


Didn’t know you can adopt and paint a fire hydrant? Well, in Hampshire you can. Check out the original post with photos of other painted hydrants in town here.

In this town, bugs and butterfly graffiti is as close as we get to public art. The bees look happy anyway.

Insiders: Know where the title for today’s post came from? Let’s just say it has Superstar status.

Saturday afternoon to-do list

The best use of a Saturday afternoon is reading a book, preferably as the sun streams through a nearby window or better yet, brightly overhead.

luxury reading

Woman Reading by Robert James Gordon

My appointment calendar for 2016 is The Reading Woman, filled with pictures of great works of art of women reading. (Yes, I still use a printed calendar because I’m a paperphile and digital schedules don’t have pretty pictures.) I’d like to think I look like Gordon’s woman when I’m reading, all dressed up and bejeweled, wearing a jaunty hat.

But most Saturdays, I’m more like this woman of a Mentha painting …


Maid Reading in a Library by Edouard John Mentha

I’m immersed in frilly description and ponderous plot. But I should be cleaning.

Hampshire hydrant art suggests more than just municipal upright water pipes

Woe to the lowly fire hydrant, mostly ignored or regarded as invoking a parking restriction. Unless it’s your house that’s on fire, and then its magnificence is evident.

You can adopt a dog. You can adopt a baby. Heck, you can even adopt a new lifestyle. But did you know you can adopt a fire hydrant?

Well, in Hampshire, Ill., you can.

Along with the responsibility to maintain the area around the hydrant and clear it of snow in the wintertime, the hydrant supporter earns the right to paint his or her hydrant, says Mike Reid, village trustee.

Modeling a program on Geneva’s Art On Fire program, Reid plans to get traction for hydrant adoption by hosting a contest next year and offering prizes to hydrant artists. “You can paint it any way you want to as long as you get the artwork approved, maintain the design for at least a year and avoid anything obscene,” Reid told me. Oh, and this is a painting project, not a sculptural one; artists cannot affix anything in any way, shape or form to their hydrants. Rust-preventative paint is required (i.e., Rust-oleum).

Talented artists in this little village already have taken to the streets. Here’s my art review of their work:

Kathi Drive

Kathi Drive

It’s not a passel of artists without a Photorealist in the bunch (an art style where the illusion of reality is created through paint). What’s a fire hydrant if not good ‘ol true red? Note the attention to detail: the artist on Kathi Drive left the chain in its natural rust color. Not sure what alien transmissions that little mesh hat is designed to ward off.

White Oak Realist hydrant

White Oak Street

Not to be outdone, this White Oak Street artist choose a more traditional Realism approach. If Rust-oleum doesn’t list this shade as Fire Engine Red, I don’t know what is. Careful inspection of this photo reveals even bits of grass around this hydrant are red.

White Oak Street

White Oak Street

A little ways down White Oak Street, another artist went the route of Precisionism, an American movement whose focus was modern industry and urban landscapes. R2D2 fans, take note.

Centennial Drive

Centennial Drive

Animation art in the Pop Art movement clearly inspired this Centennial Drive artist. Here’s looking at you, Carl the Minion.

Warner Street

Warner Street

On Warner Street, the artists (self identified as Reid and his wife) adopted the Painterly style. Note how the dalmatian’s spots celebrate the use of paint through evident brushwork and texture.

I’m waiting for some artist to employ Impressionism (think Monet and the art of light) or Abstract Expressionism (Jackson Pollack anyone?) in their design. Or even better? Let’s see some Dadaism (oh, don’t be absurd).

Want to adopt a hydrant in Hampshire? Lt. Jeanne Maki at the Hampshire Fire Protection District to claim your hydrant and learn program details.

Other Minnesota Transplant musings about Hampshire:

Does this work of art make my front door look like a lush?

Oh, my god, has it been three years already?!

Yes, it’s been three years since we painted the dining room (and the living room and the kitchen).


Time flies when you’re … um … not painting every wall on the main floor of your house.

In any case, when I showed off the before-and-after pictures of the dining room following that transformation, I left out the north wall, which has looked pretty much like this for three years:

entry way before

A little naked. It’s an expanse deserving of something dramatic, so my Beloved and I have looked for that Something Dramatic for a while now (I still can’t believe it’s been three years of dithering–I could have had a Mona Lisa commissioned, painted and paid for in that time). For a while, we were looking for something gnarly (as in literally gnarled) or possibly a unique piece of driftwood.

No dice.

This week, my Beloved painted the front door. What possessed him to do this, I don’t know, but I can attest it was not me who put it on his Honey Do list. It used to be a sort of tired pine green. Now it’s a lovely shade of Pinot Noir.

He apparently also got tired of waiting for the perfect Something Dramatic to show up unbidden at our front door so he went trolling on the internet to find something to adorn the spot above the church bench. He found Something Dramatic, and it arrived at our front door today:

entry way after

I think it’s cool. If you stare at it long enough, it feels like you’re traveling through the galaxy in hyperdrive.

Hey, wine has an other worldly lure. Maybe we should have gone with Pinot Noir three years ago.

Close-up view from the edge of the universe.

Close-up view from the edge of the universe.