Creating an Ocean, One Blue Tile at a Time

In the middle of the fields in the Perche region of France, just 30 kilometers west of Chartres lies an oasis of blue,

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a whole ocean tucked away behind the walls surrounding the modest home in the village of Harponvilliers, of nonagenarian,  Renée Bodin.IMG_3818

Renée Bodin,  who calls herself “Hurfane” (a name she derived by combining the first three letters of her father’s name and the first four letters of her mother’s name), spent most of her life  in Paris as a Classics language teacher.  In 1978 she purchased this house as a summer residence:

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In 1980 she began her mosaic work, but, still being a teacher, her work was limited to weekends and school vacation. When Hurfane retired from teaching in 1992 she threw herself full time into the transformation of her property.  Hurfane feels she’s been working on this oeuvre her whole life as she began envisioning the creation as a child. 

We felt lucky to be welcomed for a visit to Hurfane’s mosaic masterpiece as we had arrived at the “Jardins de la Feuilleraie” a the very begining of April, before the official start of the visitor season.  We sheepishly knocked of the door of this tidy but ordinary looking house and patiently waited, wondering if anyone was home.   A tiny, shy-looking woman opened the door and we immediately began apologizing for arriving unannounced and before the start of the visitor season, but, we explained, we had traveled a long way and hoped we might be allowed to have a peak. “Yes, yes, you may, but really, it’s not ready–it’s a mess”, she answered. Of course we said” We don’t mind!” and she ushered us in.  As we walked about, Hurfane darted ahead of us, picking up fallen leaves, which was clearly the “mess” she had been referring to. But really, what’s a few fallen leaves among artists? The grounds were pristine! The first area Hurfane led us to was  her rose-colored garden in which the imagery is a folksy mix of animals, flowers and peasant life.

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All very lovely, but nothing prepared us for the vast mosaic masterpiece at the back side of the house. It was as if Hurfane’s vision had catapulted itself from human’s puny little concerns  to the vastness of earth’s surfaces and finally to the infinite universe. IMG_3790

Here she explained were the elements of the universe: the sea, the stars, the heavens. IMG_3820

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Hurfane had attempted to capture Time itself, but she explained, “Time runs away and is lost forever.” IMG_3803

“They made fun of me when I first began this work–a woman attempting masonry. But really, I found that working with cement was no different than working with flour to make a cake.” And so Hurfane persisted, one tile at a time for forty years. The universe is not quite finished, but almost. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonavista Biennial

Summer ended on a perfect pitch with an August trip to  Newfoundland.  We were greeted with a miraculous (for Newfoundland) string of sunny days and found “the Rock” covered in an amazing array of berries, most of which we’d never heard of before we started traveling to Newfoundland, and most of which can be eaten raw or made into famous Newfoundland jams.

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These are Crackerberries. The trails were paved with them.

Though berries would be enough of a reason to go to Newfoundland in August or September, it was the chance to see the Bonavista Biennial which drew me up this time.

Here is the Godmother of the  Bonavista Biennial, Catherine Beaudette,

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who also is the founder of the 2 Rooms Artist Residency where I had the delicious pleasure of working last summer. Catherine had shown me the catalog for the first iteration of the Biennial (2017) and I knew I wanted to catch the Biennial the next time around.  I thought it was very brave of Catherine to name the first Biennial a BIENNIAL because that meant she HAD to rally for this enormous effort even before she saw how the first one shaped up. But rally she did, with a whole troupe of volunteers, to bring world class art to Newfoundland. One of the things that makes the Newfoundland Biennial so special is that geographically and culturally relevant work is installed up and down the Bonavista Pennisula in predominantly untraditional venues: a chapel, a breakwater, a root cellar!!!  All this art is interspersed with the quirky pleasures that Newfoundland has to offer: strolling miles of board-walked trails ringing most every town and village,

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following the Devil’s Footprints in Keels,

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convening with puffins, and did I already say counting root cellars?  There are over 100 of them in Elliston, which proudly calls itself of Root Cellar Capital of the World, a claim, I for one, am not going to dispute.

With my down-loaded Biennial map in hand we started our scavenger hunt in little Duntara (not far from the devil’s playground in Keels) where I had done my artist residency last year. In the evocative space of 2 Rooms, a beautiful heritage house that Catherine bought several years back and rescued from it’s likely trajectory into demise,

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we found our first installation: the work of  Jason Holley.

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Holley’s chains are both powerful and vulnerable. They look for all the world that they are painted metal, but on very close examination one discovers their fragility, as each link is hand crafted in clay.

Just the walk up the steps to the second floor of 2 Rooms made me squirm with pleasure. The souls of this heritage home are curated by layer upon layer of paint and wallpaper lovingly left clinging to the walls.

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Catherine Beaudette called forth these souls with her Crib

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and accompanying watercolors whose palettes echoed the surrounding paint chips.

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After a reminiscing walk around Duntara, we headed to Bonavista, the largest town on the peninsula, to see Anna Hepler’s installation, “Mooring” which filled the salt storage warehouse of the historic Ryan Premises. I loved that this big, bold, voluminous ship hull cum whale rib-cage was constructed of re-purposed cardboard boxes which no doubt, like ships criss-crossing the Atlantic, had found their way to Newfoundland’s shores via eCommerce.

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We tried to find Robert Hengeveld’s outdoor installation in Bonavista and discovered his lived sized house frame had moved! Very fitting for Newfoundland which has suffered the heartbreak of resettlement (a program which began in the 1950’s and continues today, in which the government pays residents of “outports” to abandon their heritage property and move to more populated communities).

We found Hengeveld’s house beautifully sited in Upper Amherst Cove.

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We took the short cut across the peninsula which means driving though the boggy, forested, whole-lot-of-beautiful-nothing landscape and were reminded why we love Newfoundland so much. First, we passed this sign:

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Then this:

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Then this:

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We arrived in the little community of Catalina to see the work on exhibit at the Salt Fish Plant. Drawing on a typically meticulous boat-builder’s approach to craftsmanship (as opposed to Hepler’s DYI approach) was the work of Ian Carr-Harris. Carr-Harris presented an exquisitely built model of the ship Theoris, the ship that carried Theseus on his quest to vanquish the Minotaur. I’ll let you read here why Carr-Harris has entitled this work “A Paradox”.

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Showing alongside Carr-Harris was the equally well-crafted sculpture of Yvonne Lammerich, a forced perspective model of Champlain’s fort in Quebec.

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We drove on to Port Union, one of my favorite Bonavista Peninsula towns (you just gotta love the birthplace of Newfoundland’s first labor union, no? In fact, Port Union is the ONLY union-built town in north America!!) Besides the wonderful interpretive center at the Fisherman’s Protective Union Factory and home of Fisherman’s Advocate Newspaper (back when newspapers were the heart and soul of democratic ideals. Hey! Why aren’t there more newspaper museums?!?)

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One can easily spend all day in Port Union hiking the magnificent shoreline trail (top photo in post), hunting the water’s edge at low tide for the world’s oldest fossils–560 million years old.  (Yup! Don’t doubt me on this one)

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Across the street from the Fisherman’s Protective Union Interpretive Center lies a long block of row houses which used to house the office managers at the fish plant and newspaper press. Newfoundland 2019 small_IMG_20190823_182727

On one end of the row sits the newly established Union House Arts. In the gallery of Union House Arts we saw the work of Meghan Price, who recorded the surfaces of erratic boulders, then carefully stitched her papers together to create alluringly ephemeral “rock” sculptures.

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Besides these erratics,  Meghan Price also spent a couple weeks in Port Union drawing on trail marker imagery to create kites.

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I too am drawn to the cryptic trail markers.

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Behind Port Union’s main street with its hopeful renovations lies the less lucky boarding houses of Fishermen Protective Union’s workmen and their families.

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But wait! What’s that pink shimmering at the end of this sagging row?

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Ah!  Artist Robyn Love has stitched and hung  drapery which wafts protectively in the breeze enshrouding what used to be someone’s home.

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In Port Rexton, just south of Port Union, we saw entirely different work of Meghan Price in the old post office. You had to look really, really hard at these geologic layers to discern that they were made from sliced up New Balance sneakers.Newfoundland 2019 small_IMG_20190824_130822

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Finally we headed to Elliston for a long hike where we were rewarded with huge patches of Newfoundland’s most prized berry, the bakeapple, AND an escort of spouting and  breaching whales. On our way to the trail we stopped at the lovely St. Mary’s Church

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photo credit: Brian Ricks

 to see the work of collaborating artists Jane Walker and Barb Hunt.

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photo credit: Brian Ricks

Ringing the interior of the chapel with the ubiquitous artificial funerary flower petals, Hunt and Walker have spelled out (in Morse Code) “This slow loss reminds us to move”.  It’s a quiet, mournful piece, but not without a touch of Newfoundland wit.

Still counting root cellars in Elliston we headed over to the puffin viewing site

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and right there at the start of the path are two well preserved root cellars with the telltale Bonavista Biennial placard announcing we’ve found another  art installation site.

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Leaving the door cracked a bit to adjust our eyes to the dark we reached out for the cord dangling from the ceiling, waved the wand about and presto! Drawings appeared on the phosphorescent rocks gathered by artist Sean Patrick O’Brien.

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Oddly satisfying. When we finished our rock/light drawings we stood outside the door for a while to watch others’ responses and ended up serving as art ambassadors, encouraging parents to let their kids in. One by one we heard them exclaim, ‘Wow! Cool!” No need for didactic art criticism here! That’s what I love about the Bonavista Art Biennial.

Enough of this high brow stuff. You can’t go to Newfoundland without having a good chuckle. There is a reason why I do so many Newfoundland posts in a blog I’ve entitled “Quirk”.  What can I say–Newfoundland is a quirky place! Our first helping of quirk offered itself up on night two of our Newfoundland stay on the less touristed Eastport Penninsula, just north of the Bonavista Penninsula.

Newfoundland 2019 small_IMG_20190819_083033 We poured over the recipes to see if there was something new we could try. There was no shortage of options. We did NOT try:

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Luckily for us our host came by with some freshly caught cod and not seal flippers.

Fancy Rice Salad might have been a good accompaniment but, alas, we had not picked up Dream Whip on the way in.

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Instead we joined our lovely hosts, Linda and Cyril for a sunset boat ride, where we passed around a chocolate bar.

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and then finished off the night laying on our backs in the mosquito-less yard watching shooting stars. Better than Sex-in-a-Pan!

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:

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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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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…