The Shimmer Wall, Raleigh, NC

Raleigh, North Carolina is known as “the City of Oaks.”  The Shimmer Wall, on the west wall of the Raleigh Convention Center, honors the city’s nickname.

One of Raleigh’s most visible works of art since 2009, the Shimmer Wall is a massive 210′ by 44′ and is made up of over 79,000 4″ aluminum square “pixels” that move with the wind and cause a shimmering effect.  It’s quite mesmerizing to watch.

Shimmer Wall

At night, LED fixtures aid in the shimmering effect.  The colors of the lights change with the season.  It’s quite beautiful, whether you view it during the daytime, as  pictured above, or at night, when the colored lights turn it into something entirely different.

Walter Raleigh Statue, Raleigh, NC

Located just outside the Raleigh Convention Center, this statue of Walter Raleigh commemorates the namesake of North Carolina’s capital city and the founder of the Roanoke Colony, an expedition to the New World that would go into history as “the Lost Colony.”

Sir Walter Raleigh

Raleigh, born in 1552, was an Englishman and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.  He was also a bit of a skalawag.  He was awarded a charter to establish a colony in the newly discovered Americas, but never actually visited North America himself.  Instead, he founded the Roanoke Colony, which was established in what is now North Carolina, in 1585.  He never followed through with financial or logistical support and, by the time a second colony landed on Roanoke Island two years later, the colony had disappeared, with no sign of the original settlers to be found.

As I said, Raleigh was a bit of a skalawag.  He took part in a plot to overthrow Elizabeth’s successor, James I, and spent thirteen years emprisoned in the Tower of London.  In 1617, he was pardoned by the King and was granted permission to lead an expedition to South America in search of El Dorado, the mythical City of Gold.  During the expedition, Raleigh’s men attacked a Spanish outpost on the Orinoco River, a direct violation of a treaty between Spain and England.  To appease Spain, Raleigh was sentenced to death and was beheaded in 1618 at Westminster Palace.

He wasn’t exactly a shining example of what a great man could be, but we’re stuck with him, I guess.  He does cut a dashing figure, though.

To Be, Rather Than To Seem

North Carolina’s state motto is the latin “Esse Quam Videri,” which means “to be, rather than to seem.”  The motto appeals to me; I try to be honest in my dealings and do not attempt to come across as someone I’m not.  With me, what you see is what you get.  This huge 20-foot by 80-foot wall mural in Louisburg, North Carolina catches my eye every time I venture into the little town.

Created by Will Hinton, an artist and art professor at Louisburg College, the mural celebrates the state’s motto while adding some much needed color to downtown Louisburg.  The six-foot tall letters are made of shards of ceramic and china, while the bright colors of the background are the team colors of Franklin County’s three high schools- Bunn, Louisburg, and Franklinton.

Hinton has several other works at the Louisburg College Campus.  If you’d like to learn more about his work you can visit Hinton’s website here.

Esse Quam Videri

Coralia, Gerry Stecca, Wilmington, NC

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Wilmington, North Carolina.  While exploring our hotel, I came across this wonderful piece by artist Gerry Stecca.  On first glance it looks very natural, like a spray of flowers on the wall or perhaps a collection of wooden baskets.  Upon closer inspection, we found that this beautiful work of art is made of ordinary wooden clothespins!

Stecca has been using clothespins as the building blocks for his art since 2002, when he made a clothespin dress for a friend. Inspired by nature, his childhood love of Legos, and his interest in science, Stecca “sews” the clothespins together with galvanized wire to create beautiful works of art.  Stecca says that creating his art from the repetitive use of the clothespins allows him to enter a “meditative like state” where he forgets about time and sometimes even forgets to eat!

I love the natural feel of the work.  The variety of sizes and colors, as well as the seemingly random placement of the individual “baskets,” for want of better word, make it seem as if it just naturally grew.  I can’t imagine the number of hours it took for the artist to create this beautiful piece.

If you’d like to see more of Gerry Stecca’s art, please visit his website.

Coralia- Gerry Stecca

Straining to Be, Wilmington, NC

This beautiful sculpture is by Wilmington artist Paul Hill.  The piece, made of carbon steel and found objects, is located on Front Street in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Being both a lover of art and a dog person, I love the way Hill captures the shape and the attitude of a leashed dog.

But there’s more to the work than “just a dog.”  Hill uses animal imagery to depict, as his bio states, “the unpredictable human emotions and frustrations, that are daily being thrust into the lives of every person.”  We are all “straining to be” free from the constraints that leave us tethered to our current situations.

I also love the art-deco feel to the piece, an influence that Hill has acknowledged.  I can see similarities between Lee Lawrie’s famous art-deco statue of Atlas at Rockefeller Center in New York and Hill’s leashed dog, as Atlas strains to support the weight of the world and the dog pulls against the constraints of the leash that holds it back.  It’s a beautiful work of art that I find quite moving.

If you would like to see more of Paul Hill’s beautiful art, check out his website.

Straining To Be Free- Paul Hill

Southern Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof Off, Heather Hart

Part of African-American artist Heather Hart’s “Rooftop Oracles” series of temporary installation art, Southern Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof off is the fourth in the series.  An interactive work, it’s meant to be climbed on and in, and it’s especially popular with children.

Each of the four works in the series are life sized rooftops that look as if they were either dropped from the sky or is emerging from the earth.  Not surprisingly, the series gets its name from the Parliament-Funkadelic song “Mothership Connection.” Each work is unique.  With this work, Hart allowed museum staff and volunteers to paint the exterior in bright stripes.

It’s a popular, though temporary, addition to the Museum Park.

Southern Oracle

Standing Figure: Knife Edge, Henry Moore

Standing Figure: Knife Edge, by British sculptor Henry Moore, is yet another of the many great works of art on display at the North Carolina Art Museum in Raleigh.

While an abstraction of a human body, the nearly 12-foot tall bronze is based on the shape of a bird’s breastbone.  During the planning stages of the work Moore would pinch clay onto a bone to develop the shape of the sculpture. Once Moore was happy with the shape, a head and base was added.

I love the placement of this work.  The natural bone-like shape and the beautiful green patina of the bronze contrasts nicely with the clean angular lines of this space outside the West Building at the museum.

Standing Figure

Abstract Fish No. 4, James Prosek

This beautiful bronze sculpture is located in a reflecting pool in the North Carolina Art Museum’s North Garden.  While it’s an abstract work, there’s no doubt that it’s a fish, a subject that’s near and dear to the artist.

Prosek is an American artist, writer, and naturalist.  An avid fisherman, Prosek co-founded World Trout, a conservation effort to preserve native trout species worldwide.  His first book, Trout: An Illustrated History, was published while he was still a student at Yale University.  His paintings of fish are collected in several books, and his documentary about 17th century author and angler Izaak Walton won a Peabody Award in 2002.

If you’re a fisherman and would like to learn more, World Trout can be found at Patagonia.

Abstract Fish No. 4

Lunar Bird, Joan Miró

I love the North Carolina Art Museum.  There’s always something that I haven’t seen before, both inside and outside.  I took a walk around the West Building and discovered a sculpture that’s new to the museum.  Lunar Bird, by Spanish artist Joan Miró, is a wonderfully whimsical work of art on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

Miró’s work is, to my mind, magical.  While he never associated himself with a style, Miró is most often described as a surrealist, with French poet and co-founder of the surrealist movement, André Breton, describing Miró as “the most Surrealist of us all.”

Lunar Bird

The Three Shades, Auguste Rodin

This sculpture is my favorite work of art by Auguste Rodin.  Despite the dark inspiration behind the piece, I find it strikingly beautiful.

The Three Shades are a representation of the tortured souls of the damned, or shades, who stand at the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. The three identical figures point to an inscription that reads “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Originally created for Rodin’s monumental work, “The Gates of Hell,” several versions of the Three Shades were created, both in plaster and in bronze.  While the plaster versions of the work are quite beautiful, I think the dark patina of the bronze is more appropriate to the darkness of the subject.  This one is located in the Rodin Garden at the North Carolina Art Museum.

Three Shades