Monday, May 26, 2014

Thinking About Art

Recently I watched “The Monuments Men”, a movie that I recommend although this isn’t a review. This is more of a mulling or pondering of the rationale the main characters used for their mission in light of how the world has changed since WWII.

For those who aren’t familiar with the movie the plot (based on real life) involves a group of art specialists who set out to save the art that has been stolen by the Nazis in their advance through Europe. They volunteer to serve in a special unit to find, identify and retrieve great works of art as the Germans retreat after D-Day. The rationale for the mission is that the art represents the culture of the invaded countries and if it is lost or destroyed it will mean the destruction of the culture. As the lead character puts it, people can be killed but new generations will be born and the culture lives on through the art, thus it is important to preserve the art.

As the Germans gathered up the art in their retreat they stored it in mines and it takes the protagonists some time to learn where it is. The rest of the army is too busy fighting to provide more than minimal assistance and pays little attention when the Monuments Men do succeed. The only discovery they make that gets attention is a cache of gold in one of the mines. That gets everyone’s attention including the media. Over the course of their self assigned mission the Monuments Men save and return millions of pieces of art, paintings, sculpture, etc. In the process they lost two of their unit plus two members of the team from allied forces. In the final scenes, Frank Stokes, the leader of the unit is reviewing the mission for his superiors and is asked “Was it worth it?”. He responds that it was.

After the movie I wondered about his premise in terms of the modern world. In prewar Europe I can see where it could be argued that the art and architecture was the embodiment of the culture in which it existed. In today’s global society I’m not sure that still applies. Yes, there are remnants of that old culture but it is rapidly fading and art is more an expression of the individual artist than of the culture and values of the society in which the artist works. Would any art curator today risk life and limb to salvage Damien Hirst’s pickled shark on the pretext that it represented our culture? Or how about Raffaello D’Andrea’s robotic chair? I wonder.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Back in the Adirondacks

It's been a while (last fall) since I've been down to the Adirondacks to do some photography. Sunday I drove to Old Forge to take in the last day of Paddlefest. The event was disappointing on two counts. One, the weather was distinctly chilly. There were only a handful of people brave enough to try out the paddle boards and boats. Second, there were even fewer canoes than last year. The vast majority of craft were standup paddle boards and every sort of kayak you can imagine. The guys from Slipstream Watercraft had their superlight canoes there (as little as 9½#). Those were interesting but not suitable for my uses.

I did a bit of photography along the way. The waterfall above is right alongside Rt 28. The stream comes out of a large culvert a bit up stream and then runs parallel to the highway for a bit. There is a bit of guardrail in the picture at the very top. I probably shouldn't confess that. I should just let you all think I hiked several miles to reach this place. I will be doing that later this summer (hiking) but not on this trip.

I also drove down to Thendara to check out the RR station there. I was last there when they were just gathering old RR cars to restore. I made some photos of the station, which is architecturally interesting, and a box car that was there.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Spring At Last

Real spring at last. Until the first wildflowers emerge it is not spring. It is lingering winter. The first wildflower of the year around here is always Bloodroot, so called because if you pick it the sap from its stem is blood red. But you should never pick them because they are an endangered flower and easily killed. As for the past few years these photos were taken along the Stone Valley Trail  (East side) on the Colton end.

Bloodroot is an unusual flower having two stems, one with the leaf and another with the bloom. When they first come up the leaf is curled protectively around the flower bud, then the leaf opens followed by the bloom. The blooms don't last long and aren't very big, averaging a bit over an inch across when fully open. If you go in search of them remember to take only photographs and leave only footprints. Also be careful where you leave footprints. Remember that other flowers are trying to emerge from beneath the leaves covering the forest floor.

Although I like to photograph single flowers they are generally social like this group at the base of a tree.

Please do not repost without permission. To share these photos refer your friends to the URL for this page. Thank you and happy spring to all, at least in the northern hemisphere.