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

Rua do Quebra Costas, Coimbra

As a photographer I found the Portuguese streets fascinating.  They’re not like what we have in the United States, where everything is two or more lanes of automobile traffic.   In Portugal, many of the streets, especially in the old sections of town, were very narrow and primarily used for foot traffic rather than cars.  Keep in mind that many of these roads were around for centuries before the automobile was invented and they were built to last.  In America we’re constantly patching and repaving and widening our roads.  We’re a throwaway society and we don’t expect permanence from anything- even from our roads.

Combra’s Rua do Quebra Costas was a great example of the wonderful streets to be found in Portugal.  For centuries Rua do Quebra Costas was a primary means of ascent from the lower town to the upper town.  Nicknamed “the Backbreaker” for its steep ascent, the street begins at the Barbican Gate, one of the last remnants of the wall that protected Old Coimbra from attacks by the Moors, and ends in front of the Sé Velha (old cathedral).  Much of it is a series of steps which makes it impassible for automobile traffic.  That’s fine with me.  It’s a strenuous walk full of wonderful surprises along the way.

As you make the walk from bottom to top, look for two sculptures by artist André Alves, Fado de Coimbra, which celebrates the beautiful music of Coimbra, and Tricana de Coimbra, an homage to the women of the city, seen in the photo below.

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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

The Weight of the World

Here’s another photo that was better in black and white than in color.  Atlas, an art deco sculpture by artist Lee Lawry, has stood in front of Rockefeller Center in New York City since 1937.  In the original photo, the statue was a bit lost in all the tan of the building and the shadows creeping in from the left.

I like the black and white version much better.  The shape and details of the sculpture show much better, particularly the muscles as Atlas struggles to support the world on his shoulders.  I also think the the way  the windows and doorways reach upward while the angles of the buildings center their weight on the globe are an interesting contrast. Finally, I like the way the tree branch frames the top of the photo and brings a bit of nature into an otherwise man-made environment.

AtlasInNYC2