Category: Art

The NYC Subway

A very unlikely venue for some dog art.

In my travels around for items about dogs I came across this one.  It’s not your usual item. For it features dog art at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood.

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This NYC subway station has gone to the dogs

With more than a little help from William Wegman’s Weimaraners
By MATT HICKMAN
December 24, 2018.

William Wegman’s iconic Weimaraner portraits have been rendered into stunning mosaic art in a somewhat unlikely Manhattan venue. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

Dogs aren’t that unusual of a sight in the bowels of the New York City subway system.

There are service dogs and law enforcement dogs; dogs being transported in tote bags, baskets, backpacks and baby carriages; dogs swaddled beneath heavy winter jackets; very small dogs that come scurrying from the darkest corners of the platform towards … oh wait.
What you don’t see beneath the streets of New York are dogs depicted in public art. This has all changed with the unveiling of “Stationary Figures,” a collection of 11 glass mosaic pooch portraits now on permanent display at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

No doubt a number of straphangers passing through 23rd Street station, which services the F and M trains and was closed for several months earlier this year while undergoing a major revamping, will find that the pooches in question look familiar — maybe a bit like the average New York commuter: stoic, alert, borderline restless. But it’s mostly because the mosaics, fabricated in stunning detail by Mayer of Munich, are based on images created by none other than Mr. Weimaraner himself, William Wegman.

That’s one nattily attired Weimaraner. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

Although Wegman’s subjects have varied over his lauded career as a photographer, painter and video artist, he’s best known for whimsical compositions that depict his beloved pet Weimaraners in humanlike poses (and sometimes donning wigs and costumes). It all began in the 1970s with Wegman’s first true four-legged muse, the leggy and camera-loving Man Ray. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, however, that Wegman’s second Weimaraner, Fay Ray, achieved true art world stardom. Fay’s descendants — they include Battina, Crooky, Chundo, Chip, Bobbin, Candy and Penny — have all also modeled for their human.

Wegman’s pet Weimaraners — a German hunting breed dating back to the early 19th century — have the distinction of appearing in the permanent collections of numerous top art museums and being a regular feature on “Sesame Street.” That’s no small feat for an extended family of very good boys and girls.

The dogs depicted in “Stationary Figures” are Flo and her brother, Topper — Wegman’s ninth and 10th Weimaraners, respectively. As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which commissioned the portraits as part of its MTA Arts & Design program, explains: “The portraits highlight Wegman’s deadpan humor by juxtaposing Flo and Topper in poses that suggest the way customers group themselves with waiting for a train at the platform. In some portraits, they’re dressed in human clothes and others they’re in their natural state.”

The floppy-eared Grey Ghosts of 23rd Street. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

In addition to showcasing the work of a world-renowned artist (and local Chelsea resident) in an unexpected venue, “Stationary Figures” is meant to bring joy to — and lower the blood pressure of — harried commuters passing through 23rd Street station, which ranks amongst the 50th busiest in the Big Apple. After all, who wouldn’t crack a smile when chancing across a mosaic portrait of a handsome pooch, especially when said handsome pooch is gussied up in a bright red rain slicker and matching cap?

As Mark Byrnes points out for CityLab, this isn’t the first time Wegman’s dogs have brightened up an American subway station. In 2005, two Weimaraners, both outfitted in NASA spacesuits, became permanent fixtures as circular murals above exits at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C.

Very good dogs, very poor service

It goes without saying that New York City subway stations, while teeming with various forms of microbial life, have never exactly been known as hotbeds of contemporary art and design.

That, however, began to change with the long-anticipated January 2017 opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line, which features eye-catching new works by Chuck Close, Vik Muniz, Sarah Sze and Jean Shin spread out across four different stations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Gov. Andrew Cuomo heralded the Second Avenue line’s secondary function as subterranean contemporary gallery (price tag: $4.5 million) as the “the largest permanent public art installation in New York history.”

A very good boy in plaId. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

And this is all fine and good — great in fact. The more public art in the subways, the better — especially when it involves local artists of international renown, dapper-looking dogs and an ample dose of wit. Flo and Topper are the best thing to hit the 23rd Station since, well, forever.

Critics, however, have been left wondering as to when significant, tangible improvements to the MTA’s declining service will finally be instituted. And this is especially true with new fare hikes on the horizon.

As is the case with the 23rd Street station, which also received new benches, lighting, tile work, countdown clocks and digital screens as part of its extensive overhaul, what does it matter if the platforms and other public areas look fantastic but the trains aren’t running efficiently? (Byrnes points out that accessibility, or a lack thereof, also remains a major issue at 23rd Street station.)

Next stop Herald Square. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

The MTA needs to do more than outfit stations with delightful distractions to keep straphangers — who mainly just want to get from point A to point B in a minimal amount of time with minimal headache — happy. While mosaics, murals and the like do act as a sort of soothing balm and improve the user experience, public art is ultimately best enjoyed while also not on the verges of tears because three completely packed F trains have gone by and you’re running 30 minutes late.

As for Wegman, described by the New York Post as a “frequent subway commuter,” he doesn’t offer any specific thoughts as to how the MTA can also improve its service.

“I really like what they’re doing as far as making it look better,” he tells the Post. “But how to make them run better, that’s out of my area.”

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Now I can’t really comment any more as the odds of me being on the New York Subway are slim to none. Plus, it’s many years since I travelled on the British Underground.

But that doesn’t stop me from applauding this. Both the authorities for permitting it to happen and especially to William Wegman for such beautiful and outstanding work.

No other reason than this is beautiful

Beautiful nature.

Feast your eyes on this.

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Woodland animals leap from the screen in Finnish photographer’s work

By JACQUELINE GULLEDGE
January 1, 2019

The red fox is one of Saarinen’s favorite subjects. (Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

When most people think of Finland, they likely imagine a country of sprawling forests and winter wonderlands where everyone is content and has a respectful relationship with wildlife.

Helsinki University student and photographer Ossi Saarinen has lived in Finland his whole life, and his work reveals his passion for nature and animals.

“I’ve always been interested in animals. Somehow I find their behavior all very interesting,” Saarinen, 22, tells MNN. “Even being in the nature without seeing any animals is very enjoyable for me.”

Saarinen has been interested in nature since he was a little boy, but it wasn’t until he started taking photos of a family of foxes in 2015 that he realized this love of animals could frame his life’s work.

“When I was just starting my photographing career I met a fox family with four tiny cubs. I managed to get some photos and in one of them, it looks like they’re all walking towards the camera. It’s my favorite not only because I like it as a photo but also because it was the day when my career really started and I felt like it was something I wanted to do in the future as well.”

Since then, Saarinen has honed his craft into a beautiful collection of photographs featuring different wild animals in their natural habitats. What sets his work apart is the sense you get of just how much he loves animals.

“I try to show the emotions and feelings of the animals and that way also make the people watching the photos to feel something.”

Not only is the raw beauty of animals captured in his images, but they also shine a spotlight on the gorgeous Finnish setting. Saarinen wants people to know how Finnish people take care of the land and respect it.

“Finnish nature looks almost like untouched, which is very rare thing in developed countries. It’s clean, full of different kinds of plants and animals. It has four beautiful seasons over the year. Even if you live in the center of our biggest city, Helsinki, you don’t have to go far away to see beautiful nature and animals. Actually most of my animal photos are taken less than 10 km from the center of Helsinki.”

(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

“I like to tell and show people how clean and beautiful the nature here is. How it can look when people really take care of it.”

You can see more of his photography below, follow him on Instagram or check out his website, where his photos are available for purchase.

(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)
(Photo: Ossi Saarinen)

Are you a fan of all things Nordic? If so, join us at Nordic by Nature, a Facebook group dedicated to exploring the best of Nordic culture, nature and more.

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Taken from here.

Beautiful!

That Winter Solstice

Good people, this is mid-Winter.

(Northern Hemisphere only.)

OK, not in the sense of weather because the worse is yet to come I’m sure. But in terms of the movement of the Planet Earth in its orbit around the Sun. And that’s what matters!

This is a really ancient moment as the following article published in The Conversation explains in much more detail.

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What winter solstice rituals tell us about indigenous people

By    Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, The University of Montana

December 13th, 2018.

On the day of winter solstice, many Native American communities will hold religious ceremonies or community events.

The winter solstice is the day of the year when the Northern Hemisphere has the fewest hours of sunlight and the Southern Hemisphere has the most. For indigenous peoples, it has been a time to honor their ancient sun deity. They passed their knowledge down to successive generations through complex stories and ritual practices.

As a scholar of the environmental and Native American religion, I believe, there is much to learn from ancient religious practices.

Ancient architecture

For decades, scholars have studied the astronomical observations that ancient indigenous people made and sought to understand their meaning.

One such place was at Cahokia, near the Mississippi River in what is now Illinois across from St. Louis.

The Cahokia mounds. Doug Kerr, CC BY-SA

In Cahokia, indigenous people built numerous temple pyramids or mounds, similar to the structures built by the Aztecs in Mexico, over a thousand years ago. Among their constructions, what most stands out is an intriguing structure made up of wooden posts arranged in a circle, known today as “Woodhenge.”

To understand the purpose of Woodhenge, scientists watched the sun rise from this structure on winter solstice. What they found was telling: The sun aligned with both Woodhenge and the top of a temple mound – a temple built on top of a pyramid with a flat top – in the distance. They also found that the sun aligns with a different temple mound on summer solstice.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the people of Cahokia venerated the sun as a deity. Scholars believe that ancient indigenous societies observed the solar system carefully and wove that knowledge into their architecture.

Scientists have speculated that the Cahokia held rituals to honor the sun as a giver of life and for the new agricultural year.

Complex understandings

Zuni Pueblo is a contemporary example of indigenous people with an agricultural society in western New Mexico. They grow corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and more. Each year they hold annual harvest festivals and numerous religious ceremonies, including at the winter solstice.

At the time of the winter solstice they hold a multiday celebration, known as the Shalako festival. The days for the celebration are selected by the religious leaders. The Zuni are intensely private, and most events are not for public viewing.

But what is shared with the public is near the end of the ceremony, when six Zuni men dress up and embody the spirit of giant bird deities. These men carry the Zuni prayers for rain “to all the corners of the earth.” The Zuni deities are believed to provide “blessings” and “balance” for the coming seasons and agricultural year.

As religion scholar Tisa Wenger writes, “The Zuni believe their ceremonies are necessary not just for the well-being of the tribe but for “the entire world.”

Winter games

Not all indigenous peoples ritualized the winter solstice with a ceremony. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t find other ways to celebrate.

The Blackfeet tribe in Montana, where I am a member, historically kept a calendar of astronomical events. They marked the time of the winter solstice and the “return” of the sun or “Naatosi” on its annual journey. They also faced their tipis – or portable conical tents – east toward the rising sun.

They rarely held large religious gatherings in the winter. Instead the Blackfeet viewed the time of the winter solstice as a time for games and community dances. As a child, my grandmother enjoyed attending community dances at the time of the winter solstice. She remembered that each community held their own gatherings, with unique drumming, singing and dance styles.

Later, in my own research, I learned that the Blackfeet moved their dances and ceremonies during the early reservation years from times on their religious calendar to times acceptable to the U.S. government. The dances held at the time of the solstice were moved to Christmas Day or to New Year’s Eve.

The solstice. Divad, from Wikimedia Commons

Today, my family still spends the darkest days of winter playing card games and attending the local community dances, much like my grandmother did.

Although some winter solstice traditions have changed over time, they are still a reminder of indigenous peoples understanding of the intricate workings of the solar system. Or as the Zuni Pueblo’s rituals for all peoples of the earth demonstrate – of an ancient understanding of the interconnectedness of the world.

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Let me pick up on the last sentence: “Or as the Zuni Pueblo’s rituals for all peoples of the earth demonstrate – of an ancient understanding of the interconnectedness of the world.”

We are all of us interconnected across the world. We have been for a very long time.

The importance of understanding this, truly understanding this, is critical to our future.

Why don’t we do this?

The day of the dogs.

I saw this on the BBC News site back in November and had been meaning to share it with you before now. But it’s still highly relevant.

Do no more than go straight into the article.

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Nepal festival celebrates ‘day of the dogs’

The Nepalese festival Kukur Tihar celebrates dogs by blessing them with a red mark on their forehead

Every dog has its day, and for canines in Nepal that phrase could not be more literal.

The five-day Nepalese Hindu festival of Tihar started this week and the second day is known as Kukur Tihar or “day of the dogs”.

Dogs are celebrated and blessed with a Tika – a red mark applied to their forehead.

The animals are also given flowers, garlands and offered food as part of the festival.

Scooby the Japanese Spitz enjoyed being decorated with garlands of fresh marigold flowers

Hindus believe that dog is the messenger of Yamaraj – the God of death – and by keeping the dogs in good humour they will be able to appease Yamaraj himself.

Sumnima Maudas said Kukur Tihar is one of her “favourite Nepalese festivals” and added the day was all about her chihuahua Sanu

The festival, which shares some traditions with Diwali in India, also celebrates cows and crows.

Dog owner Umid Pokharel celebrated with his labrador Frieza but said “worshipping them for a day is not enough”

It is not just beloved pets who are involved in the celebrations. Stray dogs are honoured on the day too.

Kelsang Ongmu Tamang’s cat Missy joined in with the tradition as well as dogs Sweetie and Milly

Treats given to dogs during Kukur Tihar can range from meat, milk, eggs and good quality dog food.

Pappu the pug has been enjoying the food element of the festival

Tihar is also called Deepavali or the festival of lights.

Throughout this festival, people in Nepal clean their houses and courtyards; light up lamps and pray to Laxmi – the Goddess of Wealth – urging her to visit their houses and bless them.

Daisy Pie certainly looked pleased to be the centre of attention

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Just beautiful!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Sixty-Seven

These are just mouth-wateringly beautiful.

Margaret K. from down in Australia sent me the link to these photographs.

I should add the words that precede the photos.

Many people think of Finland as the land of cold weather and darkness. However, Ossi Saarinen (previously here and here), a Finnish photographer, believes that the country is much more than just that, and he shows another surprisingly enchanting side of his motherland.

Ossi brings delightful feelings through his photos of spectacular Finnish nature, especially the untouched forests covering almost three-quarters of the whole country. And within these peaceful and ancient forests, wild animals roam freely and enjoy their lives at their best.

Finnish animals appear to be very mysterious, fascinating and charming just like they’ve stepped out from fairy tales. Ossi does not skip the chances to capture the beauty of Finnish wildlife either. He believes that every encounter between the animals and humans becomes an unforgettably amazing experience (Well, let’s not talk about the encounter with a bear).

Now, let’s enjoy the fairy tale’s atmosphere in his photos

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Oh my! Beautiful beyond words!