Reflections on public art on the 50th anniversay of MLK’s “I have a Dream”

MLK memorialToday is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and it’s caused me to reflect on how different artists have portrayed the man and his words.

Last summer we were lucky be able to visit the MLK memorial in Washington DC. It’s a massive public art installation (look at the tiny people in the lower right-hand corner of the photo) by Chinese sculptor sculptor Lei Yixin. The figure of King is moving out of a “mountain of stone” and is at the center of the wall of inscriptions of his quotes. So many wonderful quotes!

On the other side of the sculpture, another quote is currently being removed by the sculptor. Not because of something offensive, but because many people considered the quote was taken out of context. There have been times I’ve written and said words that I wished I hadn’t, but can you image trying to erase words written in stone?!

MLK memorial wall

This summer we visited the MLK memorial in the Yerba Buena Gardens across the street from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The gardens are a beautiful spot of nature and art in the middle of a busy city.

YerbaBuenaGardensUnfortunately the MLK memorial fountain, a 50′ high waterfall over Sierra granite and shimmering glass, was close for repairs.

They probably they were working like crazy to get ready for today, but you could still walk behind and see the civil rights photos and inscriptions behind where the water should be falling. Here’s what the waterfalls normally look like, and also a lot of other fantastic features inside the Gardens.

The fountains were designed by sculptor Houston Conwill, Poet Estella Majoza and Architect Joseph De Pace. In the sculptor’s words: The Memorial is “a sacred space … meant to be experienced as a cultural pilgrimage and a journey of transformation,” and poems are translated into the languages of San Francisco’s 13 international sister cities.

San Francisco MLK memorial

This summer, my husband and sculptor Russ RuBert has been working on his own tribute to King. A few dark nights, he has projected images and video of King on historic silos in downtown Springfield’s IDEA Commons near the ideaXfactory. These silos are 170-feet wide and massively tall, so you can imagine the impact of the images on this scale.

Russ RuBert - MLK projections on silo

Seen by only a few people in real life, he posted photographs of the projections on Facebook which inspired the organizers of today’s Unity March to invite Russ to help them project images and video on a large canvas installed in Park Central Square. This evening event will kick off a full year of a focus on civil rights for our city. It’s a step in the right direction, and I hope that it will also lead to commissions for more permanent public art here created by artists to tribute people, themes, and ideas as significant as other cities have done.

Although the “I Have a Dream” speech has been copyrighted and sold, the City of Springfield got permission from the King family to project the entire 15-minute speech. After I watch that tonight, I’ll probably have more to say on this topic!

You can see more images of the silo projections on the ideaXfactory website.

Russ RuBert - MLK projections on silo

 

Stranger in the City

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I like to explore and photograph art in other cities, then try to write up some kind of original blog post about unexpected finds, like these in Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, and Kansas City. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to do this in my home town — guess the old cliche of something being too close to notice is too true.

Last month I heard about a blogger who recently moved here from LA and after talking with the husband, I got inspired to put on my stranger in a strange land glasses and walk around town. Partly this was motivated because I’ve been trying to document public art in our region and get it listed on our Springfield Public Art blog.

But as these things go, the quest took on a life of its own. In attempts to profile public art works in their best light, I started visiting different city and park sites many times at different times of day and night. Getting out of my car and walking side roads I hadn’t traveled before was also a great excuse to get outside and soak up the wonderful October-November weather and brilliant turning of the leaves.

Since winter is just around the corner, there was an urgency to capture as much on camera as I could before the grass and leaves were completely gone — and the project became a little like a trophy hunt. And though most of the photos I was trying to get were rather didactic, I couldn’t help but stop along the way for other photos of lonely spots, unusual or forgotten things, and as my friend Christine says, “all things absurd, ironic and delightful.”

Here’s a few of my detour photos in the gallery below. Click to see larger.

As my collection of photographs has swollen out of control, I’ve been learning to use Aperture to organize photos – a very handy program indeed!  I’ve also been learning to geo-tag them and have gotten immersed in the world of Google maps and Google Earth — but that’s a whole other topic I’ll have to finish writing about tomorrow.

How do you make a really big ice cube?

I enjoy telling people that I work in an old peanut butter factory, next door to a paper cup factory, and down the street from a donut factory. So it should be no surprise that I was thrilled to receive an invitation to a party in an old ice house in Brick City.

An ice house, I found out is a place were they used to cut up, store, and redistribute big blocks of ice that were brought down on the railroad from frozen lakes up north before there were such things as electricity, refrigerators, and deep-freezers. Hence the old-fashioned term “ice box” was a wooden cabinet where you put a block of ice below your food to keep it fresh.

For the open house of Marlin Company in their new digs, massive blocks of ice stood like sentinels at doorways and in the front lobby of the third floor of this massive old building. Blocks of ice with words in them.

Begging the question, I don’t know how to make such good-looking ice cubes, but here are a few photos. Not only did they look good, the quotes inside had inspiring themes such as “Build upon a grand Idea, and nothing can tear it down,” and “Creativity is the currency of Tomorrow.”

Marlin Company is a creative agency, and some of the people who work there are also artists. And they support local artists in a big way. The front lobby is full of art.

Here’s some of my friend Stephanie Cramer’s work in situ. I didn’t really know it was hers until I had to walk across the room because I fell in love with that blue bird — and saw her name on the tag.

The big gear coffee table? Made from a gear out of the old elevator shaft of the ice house by Michael Stelzer, president of Marlin Company who creates hand-forged sculpture in an old barn in his spare time.

The flowers were done by the Flower Merchant over on Campbell. Some of the arrangements looked almost like alien beings, and the main centerpiece like a formation of moon and the planets swirling around our solar system. And since Marlin’s specialty is working with national food companies, of course all the food was art!

Click on a thumbnail below to see larger images and captions:

Have Extension Cord, will travel

bench_desk.jpg Welcome to my temporary office. Please have a seat, if you don’t mind a small child-sized chair.

I have to admit that I travel with ridiculous amounts of gadgets and electronics. But the most important thing I’ve learned is to also bring an extension cord.

It’s much more fun to work in galleries than hotels. Give me some gallery space, and I’ll usually just slowly take over whatever is open. The gallery where Russ was installing his 3D Neonscapes was especially nice because they had pocket doors in the walls that could be opened to create a window view of the outside. Gotta remember that feng shui even if it’s only for a day!

bench_desk2.jpg

While it can be difficult to find an empty table, I can usually find a bench to work at. I don’t mind working on benches since I’m happy being low to the ground. But the cooler was hard and cold to sit on, so since we were driving home every night, I brought these toddler-sized chairs from the studio so I could sit in style.

I got them at a church basement yard sale for cheap — and they’ve been wonderful. Strong, sturdy, better than a step stool for reaching the top of my design wall, and good for company when the company is pint-sized. So if you ever see anything like this at a garage sale, snatch them up quick!

What was I working on? Downloading and editing photos, posting them on websites, writing press releases. Got a lot of work done and what’s best, out of my normal box and surrounded by creative and energetic people has gotten my brain whirring. The opening reception was really good, will try to post some more photos tomorrow.

Modern Materials and friends

knitting_pamdora.jpg

Last weekend at the opening of Modern Materials: The Art of the Quilt was a real treat. The [Artspace] at Untitled gallery was my kind of space — mix of old and new and art galore. Flavored largely by the art collection of eye of [Artspace] Founder Laura Warriner, the gallery sits on the edge of hopping Bricktown and only three blocks from the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

The show has brilliant piece by top artists working in the quilt medium today, people who are really pushing the boundaries and taking changes. Curator Jill Rumoshosky Werner who did the humongous “Knitted” piece above did a great job of curating the show. Love looking at PaMdora throught the knitting weave….hmm, maybe I could talk Jill into doing some kind of installation collaboration someday!

knitting_pamdora2.jpgJill and the gallery staff all treated the visiting artists like royalty — they published a snazzy catalog of the show (and free! through a grant), let us have the run of the second floor for things like cooking up Elia Woods’ home-grown eggs into huge omelets, organized an artists’ panel discussion, and mud-painting on cloth demo.

mm-longtable.jpg My talk went pretty well. Instead of going up on the Oklahoma Memorial and local art studios tour (which I was really sorry to miss), I sat at this crazy long table, tweaking my talk and keynote presentation. Actually I had a blast sorting through 20+ years of photos, organizing some 400 into a talk I mentally titled “RuBert Studios: Creativity, Art, and Building Artists’ Communities through Volunteerism and the Internet.”

The images alternated between my husband Russ RuBert‘s work, my work and our studio, and showed how they all influence each other. I flip through images pretty quick, some like how my quilts come together are almost like animations. But still, I ran over the allotted hour by 15 minutes. No one seemed to mind too much though.

The best part was meeting and getting to know the other artists and the cool people in Oklahoma City who are doing some really exciting art collaborations. The gallery videotaped my talk, panel discussions and workshop, and did pod-cast recordings interviews with all the artists. So we’re looking forward to see that on their new website, I’ll let you know when that’s online.

eliawoods.jpg

Here’s Elia Woods holding her home-grown eggs standing by her quilt “All Paths Lead to Home.” One of my favorites in the show, but challenged even my open defination of a quilt. Doesn’t matter though, it’s also sculpture which is a great achievement. Wish I could say more now about the show — I also spoke about some of my impressions and explorations of the Modern Materials show on Saturday night. But since we’re already knee-deep installing Russ’s show that opens this Friday, I’ll have to save that for some other time.

In the meantime, check out all the photos I posted on Flickr about the show, gallery, artists and weekend activities.

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Pictured above, left to right: Angela Moll, Elia Woods, [Artspace] at Untitled Founder Laura Warriner, Pam RuBert, Susan Else, Theresa M. Heaton, and curator Jill Rumoshosky Werner.