Bryant Stove and Doll Circus

I don’t have to tell my fellow New Englanders that this spring has been one of the wettest  on record. What to do on these dreary days?  Just read the title of this post and you’ll know we found the perfect outing.   From our starting point in Appleton Maine, we drove through Liberty and then Freedom to get to tiny Thorndike. As we pulled into Stove Pipe Alley (yup, that’s the listed address) and parked the car, it was pretty obvious we had arrived at our destination, The Bryant Stove Works and Doll Circus:IMG_20190514_094454This forlorn assemblage of stoves and dolls which flanked our parking space did nothing to prepare me for glories of what lay inside the Stove Works and Museum. We opened an unassuming door with a plastic-covered welcome sign, and entered a darkened structure that we could see, at the very least, was packed to the gills with dolls. Impressive!

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But wait! My friend, intrepid fellow traveler, and on this occasion, my guide, Abbie, asked “Are you ready?” She flipped on the light (and sound) switch and here’s what presented itself:

We entered the wondrous world of Joe and Bea Bryant’s Doll Circus.

In every nook and cranny there’s more spinning and clatter:

Dancing and merriment:

And dolls coming oh-so-creepily to life:

 

Somehow I garnered great satisfaction in seeing that Ken is the wallflower here–despite his well-developed pecs: (Hello, Ken–that’s not the only thing the gals are interested in… could you please button up your jacket–geez!)

In a rare departure from dancing dolls is this lovely ode to the Slinky:

All of this was assembled, designed and engineered by Joe (who sadly passed away in 2018) and Bea Bryant, owners of the Bryant Stove Works (Don’t worry, I’ll get to the Stove Works).

The Bryants very sensibly fled to Florida every winter to escape the harsher climes of northern New England. (I am not kidding, they lived in the town of Zephyrhills. What I really want to know is whether they chose the town for its name or whether the town chose them. By the way, if you click on the link for Zephyrhills, THE Official town website,  you will note that one of the three things “happening” in Zephyrhills this year is a traffic light relocation.)  Anyway, the Bryants settled in nicely to winters in Zephyrhills and they just needed a little project to while away their hours. (I mean, really what’s there to do when there’s no snow shoveling?) Then they met Henry Stark…

Joe Bryant found a kindred spirit and fellow engineering wizard in Zephyrhills resident, Henry  Stark, who became a good friend. I can picture Hank and Joe brainstorming the mechanisms for the Doll Circus in their Florida basements.

Stark’s mini mechanical marvels are now housed in Room Two of the Bryant Museum:

Here is Joe Bryant’s lovely write up and portrait of his friend, Hank:

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As we were  taking in the whirls and twirls of the Doll Museum and testing every one of Stark’s little engines, in walked Bea Bryant!

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Bea said, there’s more! Oh so much more! And she led the way through the next door into a humongous Quonset hut which housed the stove (!), antique car (!!), and music machine (!!!) museum.

First of all, I was so overwhelmed by the stoves I hardly took any pictures of them, but here’s enough to clue you in to what I had not known before: Back in the day, stoves were gorgeous pieces of sculptures:

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Bea was very rightly proud of the fact that one of their stoves was borrowed and used as a stage prop in the 2012 Spielberg film, “Lincoln“.

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And yes, antique cars are tucked in here and there, comfortably cohabitating with whatever creatures roam about.

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We could see that Bea’s pride and joy were the music machines which she both demonstrated:

and invited us to try our hand with the cranking.

 

The Bryants bought this magnificent Wurlitzer from a 98 year old gentleman in Connecticut. They towed it themselves back to Maine, completely restored it to working order, added a bubble machine and entered it in many a parade.

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The Wurlitzer in action:

There are player pianos:A_IMG_20190514_111035

with rolls and rolls of tunes. Multiply this image by ten and know that you are not going to have to repeat a tune no matter how dark and dreary your winter is.

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And adorable toy pianos. (really, you MUST click on this toy piano link–it’s a YouTube video of a VIRTUOSO toy pianist!)  Plink, plank, plunk:

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Not enough stuff for ya? Luckily for us, Bea had too much time on her hands while Joe and Hank were working out the complicated mechanics of carousels. So she took up button carding. (how did you and I not know that was a thing?)

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If you’re wondering where Bea got her work and fun ethic read the fine print above her father’s portrait:

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I don’t want to make you worry and fret, but Bea made it clear she is worrying and fretting about the fate of the Bryant Stove Works and Doll Circus now that Joe is gone. I just know some of you are heading up to Maine this summer, you might want to turn up Stove Pipe Alley and have a look around.

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Pourquoi pas?

Since the theme of these last couple of years has been TransAtlantic, I’m going to zip from this side of the pond where I’ve located the last few posts over to the other side, to the lovely and lightly trodden Sarthe department of the Pays de la Loire, France.  A few years ago I had mapped out a route through Pays de la Loire (the region where my mother was born) and Normandy visiting the myriad of outsider art sites along the way.  YES, there are many. And yes, I too have wondered why. Of all cultures, the French are known  the world over for being proper. And yet, AND YET, France has the highest concentration of wacky built environments. Sitting alongside their deep sense propriety is a simultaneous undercurrent of “pourquoi pas?”, maybe more commonly thought of as Joie de Vivre! I can hardly think of two more apt phrases to describe “Le Jardin Humoristique” that I visited in the Alençon suburb, Fyé.  This roadside environment had been on my bucket list since I found this book , “Bonjour aux Promeneurs”, in 1996. If ever there was a character beckoning to me from a book cover, this was my man!

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By the time I made it to Le Jardin Humoristique this jolly fellow felt like an old friend AND I saw, as I stepped  out of the car, he had gotten a face lift and had sprouted hair!

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Fernand Chartelain, a one time baker and subsequent farmer, built this roadside attraction in his retirement for his own and passerby’s amusement.  He sculpted a welcome sign, “Bonjours aux Promeneurs” and affixed it front and center to the modest fence that bordered his property on Route 138.

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Knowing that drivers would be jamming on their brakes he added admonitions such as “Be careful not to have an accident” and later more whimsical advice, “Only roll downhill”.

Chatelain drew his first inspiration from a dictionary illustration of a centaur.

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And the Mobile gas station logo of Pegassus:

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And the familiar children’s story, Babar.

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But as he grew more confident he let his imagination go wild, and wild was his imagination!

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Though most reports suggest Chatelain’s creations were enjoyed by the public, his work also suffered from periodic vandalism. But despair and discouragement were not in Chatelain’s wheelhouse. With the assistance of his wife, Marie Louise, he  repaired and re-painted, his work constantly evolving. Finally after 23 years creating his Jardin Humoristique, Chatelain was forced by age to abandon his work in 1988. For 20 years forces of nature took their toll on this whimsical roadside attraction until at nearly the last minute a group of art brut admirers formed “The Friends of Fernand Chatelain”  in 2005 and got to work to restore the sculptures. Though there have been detractors to the shockingly vibrant new paint applied to the reconstructed concrete surfaces, I really don’t think Monsieur Chatelain would have minded at all. In fact I’m quite certain he is broadly smiling from above or below.

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Houses

One more Newfoundland post. Best enjoyed on a slow, low-sunlight winter day. So here we go, convening with ghosts on The Rock…

When I left you last in Newfoundland I vowed to go back and spend time in the  two little settlements of Open Hall and Red Cliff on the north coast of Bonavista Penninsula. I had  driven past earlier and spotted beautiful heritage houses clinging to their souls as they succumbed to the elements.smaller_IMG_6590

This beauty revealed itself slowly and achingly as I walked around.

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curtains drawn one last time

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roof shingle blown onto the deck,  now disguised as lichen

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do not enter

I put my hands to each side of my face to interrupt the reflection as I leaned against the window, and OH!  I could see that really it wasn’t so long ago that this home had to be left behind.

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It is not so long ago that the “Cod Moratorium” changed Newfoundland’s economy forever. In 1992, in response to the ever dwindling and endangered population of cod in the waters surrounding Newfoundland, the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on cod fishing. Needless to say, with 35,000 people suddenly put out of work, the effects on the Newfoundland’s economy was devastating. Initially meant to last a couple of years, the moratorium has continued to this day with only minimal recovery in the cod population.

 

Sprinkled throughout the landscape are many beautiful fishermen’s houses which have been abandoned as people left to find a new life elsewhere.

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becoming transparent

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Exhaling

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revealing its layers

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washed in or left behind?

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Commiserating

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holding ground, but barely

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back to the wind

 

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dressing in layers, still shivering

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hauled up one last time

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Hanging in there in Summerville

 

Shuttered shops:

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with hand painted signs:

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and even a hand painted speed limit sign–now that’s a first for me:

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And whole towns disappeared:

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This is Bruce of Rugged Beauty Boat Tours showing us a snug harbor, once cheek by jowl with homes.

There is still a  town of Little Harbour. But it is washing away at about the same rate as its welcome sign. smaller_img_6890

 

But, wait! All is not lost. The indomitable spirit keeps springing up.

That Newfoundlanders have been able to maintain their spirit despite this assault to the cultural identity inspires me every time I go spend time there. We were happy to meet Peter Burt, who together with his partner Robin Crane found a new way to make a living from the sea with the production of (gourmet) salt!

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And the foodie movement has helped to rejuvenate the Bonavista Pennisula.

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The Boreal Diner–where we sampled fried dandelion flowers. YUM!

 

And always, always Newfoundlanders are quirky, spunky, funny!

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ever optimistic:

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excellent problem solvers:

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and did I say funny? Oh yes, I did!smaller_img_6881

 

Lest so many images of abandonment at the top of this post have left you bereft I will end with images lovingly cared for heritage homes and sheds on the Bonavista Penninsula.

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Adieu Newfoundland. Til next time!

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Heart Achingly Beautiful

Enthusiasts of this blog who live in the Boston area should head over to the National Center for Afro-American Artists, an underappreciated museum in Roxbury. smaller_img_20190106_140917Hurry, over, in fact, because the beautiful objects on display in the current exhibition, “Inmate Ingenutiy: The Cell Solace Collection” are scheduled to depart the museum at the end of January 2019.

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The twenty or so exquisitely crafted handbags, boxes, and other vaguely utilitarian objects are on loan from Roxbury collector, Antonio Inniss who first saw one of these creations as a boy when family members received two bags as gifts from an incarcerated friend.

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His enthusiasm for these objects encouraged more gifts of bags to Antoinio Inniss. Eventually his appreciation evolved into a passion and his passion evolved into a collection. The works shown here span from the 1930’s to the 1970’s.

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Look closely at the lyrical abstract patterns to discover the source of the materials:

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Cigarette wrappers and cartons!

When smoking was banned in prisons, stamps found their way into the craft:

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There’s more to see–but I’m telling you–just GO!

OK, now in the “ya never know when you’ll meet someone interesting” department:

As we were oohing and aahing over the weaves and patterns, into the gallery popped a man with a sparkle in his eye who offered up some insight into the collection. I could tell he knew a thing or two not just about the about the museum, but about LIFE. It was Ras Ben Tau, who has been Artist in Residence (and museum caretaker) at the Center for Afro-American Artists for over 30 years! I asked if we could see his work and he happily brought us downstairs to see several of his creations which ranged from metal work:

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to abstract painting:smaller_img_20190106_134510_1

to this magnificent portrait of Haile  Selassie:

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We learned many things from Ras Ben Tau, including the existence of PurBlack, which I assumed, when peering into his little jar, was a paint pigment. True to its name I had never seen a blacker black!  I thought I was being shown the richest black known to man, a wonderous, light absorbing material to coat a canvas or sculpture. But no! Ben scooped out about a 1/4 teaspoon and swirled it into his teacup to drink. And as he sipped he recounted the most amazing stories of PurBlack’s restorative powers along with his own story of near death experiences and rebirths. One sniff of PurBlack (a rare mineral pitch found on trees in the Himalayas!) was enough to convince me of its powers.

Before leaving we stopped in to visit the museum’s extraordinary burial chamber of Nubian King Aspelta, on permanent loan from Boston’s MFA:

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thus nicely cementing our feeling that we had stumbled onto magic at the Center for Afro-American Art on what had started out as a dreary day in January.

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This beautiful head of Boston sculptor John Wilson greets visitors to the Center for Afro-American Artists in Roxbury, MA

 

Siren Call, Part 2

I know, Part 2 was a long time coming, but on this dank and dreary November day, what better place to visit than Newfoundland (again!) where art  is made from a gray day.

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Walk the paths of Keels and you’ll surely discover the poetic sculpture of John Hofstetter, tucked here and there, in and of the landscape.

The little settlement of Keels (around 60 year round residents) is just down the road from Duntara where I spent two weeks last summer at Two Rooms Artist Residency.

Before this summer I had never heard of Keels, but interestingly enough I had already seen Keels on the big screen  the previous year in one of my recent  favorite movies, “Maudie”.  “Maudie” is a wonderful accounting of the true life Nova Scotia folk artist, Maude Dowley Lewis. When the first rugged scenes rolled onto the screen I turned to my husband and said, “That’s not Nova Scotia. That’s Newfoundland! ”

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Indeed, when the film makers went looking for a setting that would feel like Marshaltown, Nova Scotia of the 1930’s they turned to lovely, unspoiled Keels.  So when I pulled into Keels I saw a familiar site– the general store which had played a major role in the movie.

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The store, shuttered prior to the filming, has now been rejuvenated and re-opened by Selby Mesh who has nicely combined the movie props with everyday essentials. Hannah, my art partner, and I set about shopping for our dinner. We got right to dinner planning:

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When we brought our supplies (including that lone bag of dates on the upper right–what a find!) to the cashier, she studied us very carefully and asked, “You’re not by chance, Hannah and Jessica, are you?” How did she know???? She turned and pointed to the bulletin board where we found our mug shots hanging.  Nice!

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Turns out Keels has a lot to offer beyond the charming general store.  Folks drive a LONG way to order up Clayton’s hand cut fries at his cheerful Chip Truck. Never mind that our fingers were freezing as we sat in the 40 degree (sorry, Canada–that’s Fahrenheit) drizzle—mmm, mmm, mmm! Those fries were GOOD! smaller_IMG_6592

As we finished up, Clayton invited us to tour his lovingly restored home, one of the crown jewels in Keels.

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Clayton’s hand-sponged and stenciled ceiling.

 

Besides the renown of Clayton’s Chip truck, Keels is “famous” for its Devil’s Footprints.

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Long, long ago Satan emerged from the sea and walked through Keels. His cloven hoof prints can be followed along the shore.

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We took Satan’s path  and found astonishing geology along the coast. Underfoot and forming walls to our sides were richly textured surfaces of slate.

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Our slate trail grew narrower and narrower til it ended at a “V” at the edge of the sea.

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I think we found the crevice from which Satan emerged!

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And who knew? Slate comes in gray AND RED!

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Lured by Keel’s craggy landscape I came back the next day to try my first  “Float”. I had been assembling a big Tyvek map in my studio shed in Duntara.  I had just lifted the Newfoundland section of the map  and levitated it over the rest of its watery surroundings.Maker:L,Date:2017-9-15,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E:Y

Now I wanted to let it be carried by the real tides–its fate up to the whims of the ocean, as Newfoundland’s fate has always been.

My tentative first attempt with a test section was encouragingly successful.

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The Tyvek floated perfectly! The ink didn’t run! It didn’t need to be a attached by strings!

So back to the shed I went to fetch a larger section. I had fretted over this work and here it was floating in this beautiful austerity–visual poetry! The map undulated in the gently lapping water like a jellyfish.

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How would it take to the surf?

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Well… like Newfoundland itself:  Fragile but scrappy and RESILIENT!

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Siren Call of Newfoundland

Before I bid farewell to summer I am crawling back onto my blogging wagon (oh it is easy to slip off the back side of that wagon!)  to recount how this summer unfolded its beautiful self for me.

I first visited Newfoundland in 2014 and vowed to return every year .  So far I’ve been doing pretty well keeping that vow.

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I knew I wanted to find a way to spend more significant time in Newfoundland beyond what the usual scope of a tourist trip affords so I started digging into the possibility of an artist residency. I stumbled upon the Kickstarter video for the Two Rooms Residency on  the Bonavista Penninsula the year after their campaign successfully wrapped up and they were beginning their first season. I checked in periodically on Two Rooms via FB and started formulating a Newfoundland project that I hoped to propose for my own residency there.  This past fall I sent my application in, held my breath through the winter and Hurray, Hurrah! I got an email from Director Catherine Beaudette inviting me to be an Artist in Residence at Two Rooms!

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Each time I have visited I have been struck by Newfoundlanders’ sardonic take on the world, a very particular blend of pragmatism, irony, and humor. They have had a long history of bearing up under the crushing weight of their circumstances. This residency would afford me the opportunity to plumb the questions closest to my heart. How do we proceed in this confusing mess of our beautiful world? How do we as global citizens face adversarial shifts without communities losing cultural integrity and individuals losing their souls?

At Two Rooms I began a new body of work which I refer to as “Float”. It’s an ongoing project with twists and turns. I aim to reflect the coupled traits of fragility and resilience that I feel so strongly in Newfoundland.

But, oh! A trip to Newfoundland is not all seriousness. So I hummed my way through the spring in anticipation of the fun to be had. I threw myself into readying my vegetable garden for my June absence. Newfoundland icebergs here I come!

Here’s what awaited us (I shared my residency with fellow Quirk traveler, Hannah Verlin, who had the good sense, unlike me, to pack Long Johns) on the Bonavista Penninsula:

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We wound our way up the west coast of the  Bonavista Peninsula to the village of Duntara and soon spotted the lovely tri-colored heritage home I recognized from the two Rooms Facebook page.

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Locked with a padlock! Hmmm, time to dig out the printed out directions. Ah! this was the Two Rooms gallery. We needed to head over to Bog Lane, and there we’d find the mustard colored house with the names of the Kickstarter backers calligraphied on the side–our home for the next two weeks.

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Even more exciting for me was the perfect red fisherman’s shed across the street that would serve as my studio.

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Over the next fourteen days I assembled and draped this sometimes cozy, sometimes drafty space with a segmented map that stretched from the North Pole to Boston.

 

And then I started to play around with the map which you will see in subsequent posts.

When the weather was good we set aside half the day for exploring. If you are a regular follower of this blog you know that besides seeking out natural beauty (there is no shortage of that is Newfoundland!) I am always on the look out for offbeat surprises. Turns out our closest neighboring communities were all we needed for deep satisfaction in both departments.  Choosing our first day’s destination solely on its appealing name we headed out to Tickle Cove vowing to take in the sites of Open Hall and Red Cliff on our way back. We parked our car beside the beckoning boardwalk at the top of this post but chose the equally alluring path in the opposite direction

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through an otherworldly landscape

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that led to a tiny soulful cemetery.

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But the best surprise of the day lay at the base of the path, not far from our parked car. Whoa–what are all those colors?!

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As we were gingerly walked around this marvel out rolled the artist, Molly Turbin, coming from her house to fetch firewood. We needn’t have worried about trespassing. Molly immediately lit up at the prospect of visitors and we were soon posing with her on Quilt Rock

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and following her powerful wheelchair up the steep path to her home.

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And Oh! Molly’s home! Stuffed to the gills with family photos and her painted treasures:

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We were treated to steaming cups of sweet tea and muffins while Molly told us the origin story of Quilt Rock. Like most Newfoundlanders of her generation, Molly’s life had revolved around the fishing industry. When she lost her leg as a result of an  industrial accident at the fish plant, Molly could feel herself slipping into a dark place. She set herself a goal to remain positive and  conceived of an ambitious project that would give her days purpose and brightness. Pulling herself in and out of her wheelchair to scramble over the thinly covered ledge in her back yard, Molly began scraping away the sod to reveal her “canvas”.  Her painting project is never done, Molly explained to us. Every year she repaints the Quilt which an ever-changing palette. She also repaints all the figures that line the walks to her home. Her playful juxtapositions and wacky color choices left Hannah and me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

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We took Molly’s advice and followed her gnomes back to the road

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and scampered up these lovely steps

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to see Tickle Cove’s most famous site, the Sea Arch, where we met this Mennonite missionary and his family.

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Well, even with the long daylight hours of June we ran out of time for the boardwalk around the town lake and  for the intriguing sites we passed along the way  in Red Hall and Open Cliff.  Next outing, next blog post. Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Forest

For my third visit to Bread and Puppet in Glover Vermont last summer, I was lucky enough to have my son along. We had just finished poking around the “Cheap Art” bus

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and were headed back to our car ready to call it a day, when we saw Bread and Puppet founder, Peter Schumann crossing the street. Our chance to say hello and tell him in person how much we love his work!

 

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He graciously set down his wheelbarrow and asked us whether we’d been to the Memory Forest.  “Come along,” he said. “It’s a special place.”  We persuaded him to let young, strapping Isaiah take up the wheelbarrow laden with little cement figures and down the path and into the woods we went.

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I kept pace with Peter and his grandson so I could benefit from the most wondrous telling of Jack and the Beanstalk that Peter was concocting for his grandson. It is not hard to understand why hundreds of puppeteers over the last 4 decades have spent their summers laboring for free on Bread and Puppet productions. I can see that a chance to hang out with Peter Schumann would make for a magical summer. (Here’s the link to apply for a summer apprenticeship. )

We made our way through the impeccably straight pines and suddenly we saw what appeared to be a little village.BreadAndPuppet-shrunk332

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This is the Memory Forest, where each puppeteer who has passed on from this world is honored. “Every Wednesday”, Peter explained, “we gather to tell stories of one of these puppeteers. We will never forget them. Look around. Each one has a place here.”

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This memorial tells the poignant story of puppeteer Andy Trompetter, who, as a baby, was left in the care of a Dutch resistance group in 1942. Both his parents died in concentration camps.  Andy was kept in hiding until 1945. After the liberation he was found by his aunt and uncle who raised him as their son.

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Peter got to work unloading the wheelbarrow and added the little figures to one of memorials. When he was done he bid us farewell, saying, “Make sure you visit the Paper Maché Cathedral before you go!” A cathedral? How did we miss that? “It’s back behind the Museum, ” Peter explained. So off we went, stopping on the way to admire the amphitheater (a former gravel pit)  where the outdoor performances of Bread and Puppet are held each weekend in the summer. We vowed to come back next summer!

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If you’re a Vermont school bus and you’ve been very, very good, you might just come back for a second life at Bread and Puppet!

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We made a pit stop on the way over to the Paper Maché Cathedral, appreciative of the excellent illustrated instructions on the side of the loo.

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The exterior of the Paper Maché Cathedral is magnificent enough–but wait til you step inside…

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As we cracked open the door the shaft of light illuminated the hundreds of figures dancing on the walls and ceiling:

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We’d be in good company  if a rainy day forced the performance inside.

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This panoramic image does justice to the concept of this space as a cathedral.

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Hallelujah to Peter Schumann!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread and Puppet

The directions to get to the Bread and Puppet Museum in Glover, Vermont from nearby Barton were simple enough.  Still I managed to take a wrong turn which I noticed only after I had my first Bread and Puppet sighting:BreadAndPuppet-shrunk1

BreadAndPuppet-shrunk3Even without the identifier painted above the windshield, I would have recognized a Bread and Puppet bus anywhere. In this case the bus was in for a little TLC at the local mechanic. Wrong turn or not I knew I couldn’t be too far away. I turned myself 180 degrees around and headed properly towards Glover. My little unplanned detours took me past some lovely hand painted signage–something I’m always on the lookout for.

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and this very enticing motel

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with seven rooms to choose from.   (I’d like the Aardvark’s Attic please!)

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I know if I don’t stick this excellent, excellent sign I saw in  Lyndonville now I’m going to miss the opportunity to show it to you altogether.

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OK, on to Glover! On this, the first of three visits to Bread and Puppet, I pulled into the uncongested parking lot

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I slipped right in beside the B and P vehicle that was not paying a visit to the mechanic:

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crossed the street to the BIG barn

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adorned with the signature Bread and Puppet signage

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and found a hive of activity in the yard. It was the Friday before the last Sunday performance of the season and there was still paper-mache-ing to be done!

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I chatted awhile with this fellow and headed up the wooden stairs to the upper floor of the barn which houses five decades of puppets from Bread and Puppet performances around the globe. I’ve visited the museum four times now, but each time when  I reach the top of the stairs and catch my first site of the collection it takes my breath away.

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Here I am in the converted dairy barn, given to Bread and Puppet visionary , Peter Schumann and his wife Elka,  by Elka’s parents, the last farmers on this property in Glover, Vermont. The barn,  now known as the Bread and Puppet Museum, houses, as Peter describes his creations, “the retired warriors from the battles against the tides.” There is no shortage of causes that Peter and his ever-changing cast of puppeteers have taken on over the decades and so the barn is stuffed to overflowing with every manner of puppet who has fought the good fight. Every inch of floor except the central walkway,

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every inch of the walls,

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and every plank between the ceiling rafters is covered.

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One recognizes familiar heroes here and there.    Our founding fathers:

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(Our memory of elementary school history lessons is jogged by proper museum signage)

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I see an understandably doleful Abe Lincoln:BreadAndPuppet-shrunk119

And over there, isn’t that Oscar Romero?!?!

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We are awed by the mythical beings of gigantic proportions

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several soaring to the rafters to look down upon the little folk populating the earth at  their feet.

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there are deities, demons and demigogues

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There are victims and perpetrators.

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and grandmothers who have seen it all

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Laborers:

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Bureaucrats:

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Royalty (Let them eat cake”) :

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Impresarios (or perhaps our elected officials):

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And beasts–let us not forget the noble beasts:

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And reminders here are there of the impermanence of the collection:

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Suspended through-out the museum are globes which simply cannot contain and sustain the burden assigned to our humble sphere, Earth.

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There are little drawings lined up like storyboards.

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This one, a one word poem:

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And everywhere, everywhere images of fire:

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Contained in the Bread and Puppet Museum:

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I return to Bread and Puppet in October and have a happy encounter with Peter Schumann. With Peter leading the way I will visit the Memory Forest and Paper Mache Cathedral in my next post…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northeast Kingdom Part 2

As promised, there’s more, much more, to see in Glover, Vermont. I’m continuing down the road from the Museum of Everyday Life to my day’s destination: a visit to the Bread and Puppet Museum. But first: sustenance! A beacon in the form of a of an inner tire dressed as a doughnut beckons.

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I have found The Red Sky Trading Company where there is oh so much more than donuts and coffee for sale!

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Decidedly NOT on Rte 66, but if you drive through Glover Vermont you can’t miss the Red Sky Trading Company.

Here’s my caffeine.  I help myself as it’s made very clear–there are no clerks at Red Sky.

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I am, however,  offered a hand at the door:

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and am drawn forward to the room with the polka dot floor.

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where there’s so much on offer and so much to READ:

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Any more questions?

This knife display would feel right at home in the Museum of Everyday Life:

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Oh–I do have a question: can I buy just the rack?

In the middle of everything I find this lost boy:

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I snag a very nice pail for the garden.

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OK, time to pay up.

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Next stop, I promise: Bread and Puppet Museum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyday Life in the Northeast Kingdom

In need of a salve for your soul in these depressing times?  Zip, zip, take a trip to the Northeast Kingdom. Fellow New Englanders know this means heading up to the tip top of Vermont to hug the Canadian border (which will feel good in and of itself). You’ll feel FAR, FAR away from urban madness and start to wonder just why it is that you MUST live in a city.

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My son and I pondered the reason why  eggs would be cheaper on Wednesday. We spent the better part of an hour discussing the possibilities.

 

OK, I said zip, zip, but if you’re reading this soon after I’ve posted it, in November, Vermont’s “bleak season” wait til summer or fall, which is when these trips were made.

I had the good fortune of being called up to the Northeast Kingdom this summer to mount an exhibition at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury. I packed my car and drove up there on the most auspicious of dates: the solar eclipse. After  a seamless day of installation (interrupted by a dash up the hill to the Fairbanks Museum for the eclipse viewing party), Catamount gallery director extraordinaire, Katherine French said, “Come let’s have dinner and then I’m going to take you to a little museum I  think you’ll like.” Given that we were finishing up as the sun was setting, I was a little doubtful that she could make good on her enticing promise. What museum would be open after 7PM? “You’ll see”, she said.  I was still worried as our lovely, leisurely dinner pushed past the hour that ANY museum would still be open. “Ok, let’s go!” And off into the starry night we drove further north and west to Glover. We pulled off the road onto a pitch black driveway. Ha! We had arrived at The Museum of Everyday Life.

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I knew right then and there I was going to have to return the next day to photograph in daylight. Here’s what I hadn’t been able to see as we approached at night:

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Katherine fumbled for the lights just inside the entrance

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and we found ourselves in the Raymond Roussel Vestibule

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where there was a nice little introductory assemblage of quotidian objects which set the stage for what lay ahead.

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Even though I have made a career of celebrating the cast away  stuff of our over stuffed world I was unprepared for the depths that are plumbed in the six or so exhibits in the Museum of Everyday Life. The museum is the brainchild of Intensive Care RN and Crankie enthusiast, Clare Dolan, who I had the pleasure of meeting the next morning when I came back for my daylight photos. She was racing around her yard mowing at a faster pace than I’ve ever witnessed.

“Let me go ahead'” Katherine French said as she opened the (beautifully adorned) door that lead from the vestibule to the museum and found the next set of lights.

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We were greeted by a curious and pleasing little tinkle of bells which continued tinkling  for our entire visit,  a sonic version of the starry night outside.

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You can’t be a reader of this blog and not know that I was utterly enthralled.

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Pencils to toothbrushes

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If you’re going to feature toothbrushes, you gotta throw in Toothpaste.

Toothbrushes to safety pins

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Safety pins to matches

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Violin, made by a musical prisoner,  entirely out of wooden matchsticks

Matchsticks to—wait for it—DUST! By far my favorite exhibit! I thought I had intimate knowledge of dust. (I can practically name the individual dust bunnies that live under my bed). But, no, apparently until now I had only the barest sprinkling of knowledge. Here is a bit of the  stupendous Dust display with accompanying label information:

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“Hanging for 10 years directly above the kitchen stove in the Chicken Hut in Brooklyn, This ornament is crusted in layers of grease-adhered dusts of all kinds. On loan courtesy of Gregory Henderson”

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“Cosmic dust from NASA’s ultra clean Cosmic Dust Laboratory, established in 1981 to handle particles one tenth the diameter of a human hair. The Laboratory curates thousands of cosmic dust particles… Cosmic dust grains…contain material in the same condition as when the solar system began to form…” And being NASA, the explanatory label went on for another three paragraphs.

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I was clever enough to photograph the label, so you can read it yourself.

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same ilk as the Chicken Hut grease/dust encrusted kitchen ornament above, this is a single paddle from a fan blade.

After seeing this exhibit your response will either be to vacuum the minute you get home, or never vacuum again! I just checked under the bed. The bunnies have multiplied, well, like rabbits. I am feeding them and they are happy.

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I reached the back of the museum and finally discovered the source of the tinkling bells. This were the very last display in the Bells and Whistles exhibit:

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I was too enchanted to remember the video function on my cell phone, and I really think it would be a spoiler to explain how this tinkling at the back of the museum was precipitated by turning on the lights at the front. I am sure by now you are clicking on your calendars and mapping out your visit. You’ll see for yourself.

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Stay here if you go: Rodgers Family Farm, Glover

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And get up just before sunrise to walk to  the beaver pond just a quarter mile down the road. I don’t like getting up that early either, but it was worth it!

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PS I foolishly thought I would cover every magical thing I saw during my three visits this summer and fall to Glover and environs, but I’ve barely scratched the surface. Stay tuned for Bread and Puppet, Red Sky, and other marvels in the Northeast Kingdom.