Last weekend we were on our way to the Lexington Barbecue Festival and decided to make a quick stop. Being way out in the country, there wasn’t a lot of options, so when we saw a sign for a Starbucks, we figured it might be one of the only chances we had, so we followed the sign.
We pulled into the parking lot of Furnitureland South, a furniture market that calls itself “the World’s Largest Home Furnishings Showplace.” The first thing you notice is the Starbucks sign. Just kidding. The first thing that catches your eye is the 85-foot-tall highboy dresser that makes up a good part of the front of the building.
It’s huge. It’s impressive. And it looks just like a real highboy, except, as I said, huge. So we stopped, took a few photos of the monstrous piece of furniture, and picked up a couple coffees to go.
A little serendipity goes a long way, and our quick decision to make a stop at the coffee shop was an interesting 10-minute detour from our trip.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My wife and I were fortunate to be able to travel to the Yukon Territory in May 2016. The territory is beautiful. These two photographs were taken about five hours apart on the same day. They show the wonderful variety of landscapes in the territory.
The first photo was taken along the Klondike Highway and shows the beautiful colors associated with the new growth of Spring.
The second was taken from the return trip on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad and shows the snowy wilderness that most of us probably associate with the Yukon Territory.
To put this in perspective, the distance from Skagway, Alaska, where our day started, to Carcross, YT, where we boarded the train for the return trip, is about 65 miles. Within about five hours and sixty five miles we experienced these two landscapes. The world is an interesting place.
Johns Hopkins Glacier is one of many glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Named by geophysicist Harry Fielding Reid for his Alma-mater, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. While most of the glaciers in Glacier Bay are receding, Johns Hopkins is one of the few that is advancing and actively calving.
Interestingly, climate change has a strange effect in Glacier Bay. We’re used to thinking of rising water levels associated with the melting of the ice caps, but in Glacier Bay the land is actually rising. This is because as the glaciers recede, the weight of the ice that has been pushing down lessens and the earth, like a sponge, is springing back and rising slightly.
Glacier Bay is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit. It’s rugged landscapes are stunning. The bay is protected by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Not far from downtown Asheville, the River Arts District is an old warehouse district that has been reclaimed by the art community. Chockful of artists studios and great restaurants like Summit Coffee and 12 Bones, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy the buildings which have been turned into works of art by the artists who now use RAD as their base. We visited on a beautiful August day in 2018. Here’s a sample of the wonderful wall art that makes RAD special.