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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Sometimes photos work better in black and white than in color. This photo was taken somewhere along the Alaska Railroad during our trip from Denali to Anchorage. The color version wasn’t very memorable. The overcast sky and dark green of the foliage made monochromatic and, frankly, boring.
The black and white version is much better. Highlights in the sky above and the water below and the dark patches of black spruce give the photo a wide range of shades. Also, I think the mountains are much more interesting in black and white. I really like the contrasts between the snow and the exposed portions of the mountains.
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.