Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chicago's Chinatown





Meet Lemingo aka Deno.
Rap-artist /writer..
Student, studying engineering..

Yesterday, as I was taking some pictures of the Nine Dragon Wall, I heard a voice..
Wait..wait..wait....[and then some mumble I couldn't follow]..
I asked what?
Why don't you take a picture like this..
And then quickly added..No! I'm just kidding..
I was like, Of course you are kidding, but why don't I really take your photos..
I took just 4-5 shots, and here it is.. Meet Deno!
And Deno, since I never took any contact, please email me if you see this!





And that's a perfect segway to talk about Chinatown.. I've earlier covered Chinatown and yesterday I added a few more places of interest in Chinatown.. [And I'm still working on adding more..]

Check out.. [click on the link]..
# Chicago's Chinatown..
# Chinatown Gateway..
# Nine Dragon Wall..
# Pui Tak Bldg. [formerly On Leong Bldg.]..
# Chinese Christian Union Church..
# Chinatown Square..
# Mural "Chinese in America"..
# Chinatown Square Zodiacs..
# Ping Tom Memorial Park..
# St. Therese Church ..

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lakefront Sculpture Exhibit

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Barring a few, most pieces of public art are not popular tourist destinations, but are enjoyed by denizens of the local communities. Just as people embellish their houses with decorative arts, so they adorn their communities with sculptures, fountains, murals and paintings. There is always a sense of civic pride associated with well maintained neighborhoods..
But public art always has a price-tag!
And someone has to pick up the tab!

Anyone strolling through the north Lakefront area, would come across many sculptures and monuments. Some of these are permanent installations and some temporary. Today I'm talking about temporary exhibits, specifically, the 20 large-scale sculptures on display throughout the 43rd and 44th Wards. These are a part of Lakefront Sculpture Exhibit. The display is from spring of one year to spring of the next year. The theme changes each year. Every piece is available for auction at the conclusion of the show.
And who picks up the tab for such large-scale public art displays?

The answer from their website click here..
The Lakefront Sculpture Exhibit [LSE] is a privately funded, not-for-profit corporation. Sponsors from the community contribute financially, serve on the jury and attend related events. Their commitment to providing our neighborhood with this unique form of beautification makes this event possible every year and we could not do this without their support...

I think they are doing a very commendable job!! There is very little awareness about the behind-the-scene people, who make it happen. The Lincoln Park Lake View Art Initiative is a partnership of 43rd Ward Alderman Vi Daley and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, with the City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs, Public Art Program.
Lead sponsors include the Chicago Cubs, General Iron, Saint Joseph Hospital, A. Finkl & Sons, the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce and the Wrightwood Neighbors Association.

I would also like to bring out another wonderful aspect, their detailed website. It has photographs of the various art-works and the artists, and few words on the inspiration behind art-work, location and information on sponsors. Very impressive!

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Case-in-point, take this installation..
Foxgloves and Fists..
The LSE website has it's image as well as the artist's image and details like..
6’ x 2.25’
Steel, Fiberglass with Ceramic and Glass
Artist: Nicole Beck
Sponsor: Newsweb Corporation
Location: Stockton Drive and Webster..
“Foxgloves and Fists” is one of the most attractive depictions of man's continuing fight with nature. Foxgloves (digitalis purpurea) are toxic to man, yet their beauty is what draws us. Fists wrap around the brightly colored mosaic. On the top of the column, the foxgloves are reflected in the sunlight. The mosaic tiles and brightly painted fists incorporate and reflect the colors of the gardens...

That's all the information most people look for, name, artist, description, location, sponsor, inspiration, year.. The website details it all! And this is just one example. Anyone can trace all their art-installations from the time the Lakefront Sculpture Exhibit began in the year 2002. I always enjoy an art installation more if I know what the artist had on mind..
So kudos for the well-maintained website!

And if anyone argues that in this age of internet it's easy to find out information on net, I totally disagree..

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Take these two images, both on the Magnificent Mile..
I have spent so much time, trying to find out information on these [temporary] installations, apparently in the year, 2007.. But I could not find much..
- Flora inspired fashion dressing forms in the Gardens of The Magnificent Mile, produced by the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association [GNMAA]. Just three years later, in 2010, when I want to see the various installations on what seems to be a fun topic, I can't find any image! What a bummer!
- Sculptural bicycles?? What's the story behind these?? What was the theme?? I wish there was more information on these..
So here's a request to GNMAA to maintain a better website and document the various art installations they sponsor! Just a few hours work and the information will be preserved forever!

Images displayed of Lakefront Sculpture Exhibit..
# Bridge.. By Jennifer Dickson..
# Boeing .. By Michael Gruza..
# Foxgloves and Fists.. By Nicole Beck

For more information:
# Lakefront Sculpture Exhibit
# Lakefront Sculptor Exhibit..

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Native American representation in the public art square of Chicago

The series I started on the topic..
"Native American representation in the public art square of Chicago".
will continue..
I have many things on my mind to write about,
and many questions that require more time to work on..
So it will be an ongoing endeavour..

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Native American representation in the public art square of Chicago - IV











Sometimes small clues can lead to interesting discoveries. There are very few art work on the theme of Native Americans, but looking at these very few that exist, one animal stands out - dogs.
- Native Americans had lived here for more than 10,000 years before European explorers arrived. And before the Europeans arrived, the only animal that Native Americans had domesticated was dog. There are images of Native Americans with horses. But the first horses came to America, the "New World", aboard ships from Spain in the 15th century. The wild mustangs of the American West, were descendants of the Spanish horses..
- Interestingly, dogs were common to all the Native American tribes..
- It is not exactly clear when dogs were domesticated, but it is believed that about 14,000 years ago, people had domesticated dogs. All Native American dogs were descendants of wolf-ancestry.
- Many believe that the true Native American dogs have been driven to extinction.

Dogs became an integral part in the lives of Native Americans and were used for obvious reasons..
- hunting.. There are evidences to suggest selective breeding of dogs that showed good hunting traits, like speed, stamina and strength.
- "beast of burden". Dogs were used to haul fire woods and kills from hunting, on wooden frame called travois..
- protection and guarding..
- Sometimes dogs were used as food, on special occasions...
- And of course dogs were used as loyal and devoted companions.. the importance of their companionship is reflected in the caring way in which dogs were buried, near or with humans. "They were carefully placed in a curled or sideways position, as if they were asleep - A testament to the friendship that dogs offered in life"..



I have had this photo of a wolf-dog for a long time. Any dog with wolf heritage within the last five years is a wolf-dog.. Although true Native American dogs are believed to be extinct, this is close to what they might have looked. Many states forbid the ownership, breeding or importation of wolf-dogs.

I had never thought I would be writing about dogs, but here it is.. a small post devoted to not only man's best friend, but to one of the oldest friends of mankind..

Images shown above:
# Indian Alarm..
# Plaque in honor of LaSalle & Henry Tonti on the Michigan Avenue bridge..
# Relief sculpture at 333 N Michigan Bldg...

References:
Prehistoric American Dogs..

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Totem Poles in Chicago..


Totem Poles..
Totem poles, an art form closely associated with the Native Americans. Totems were erected to commemorate births, deaths, and victories and sometimes to display wealth. A totem can be the symbol of a tribe, clan, family or an individual. Each pole is different and represent human, animal and supernatural images to tell their stories. Totem poles were carved on large trees, usually cedar. There were complex rules and rituals regarding their carvings. These were common in the Indigenous cultures of Pacific Northwest Coast.

Few totem poles can be found in Chicago..
- "Kwanusila" totem pole in the Lincoln Park. Although it's "contemporary" and was completed [relatively recently] in 1986, it's a replica of the original in 1929 [still not that old], which is now in Vancouver, Canada.
- "Big Beaver" totem pole in the campus of Field Museum of Natural History.. Also contemporary!



Big Beaver ...
Totem pole by Norman Tait
Nisga's carver, Kincolith, British Columbia..
This 55-foot totem pole tells a traditional story [or Addizookan] of carver Norman Tait's family.
For more, click here..

Kwanusila, The Thunderbird..
Kwagulth Indian totem pole..
Sculptor:Tony Hunt, the chief of the Kwagulth tribe in British Columbia..
The existing totem pole installed in 1956. It is a replacement of the original toem pole that stood at the site since 1929.
Location: Lincoln Park at Addison Street..
just east of Lake Shore Drive in the Lake View neighborhood..
For more, click here..

RELATED LINKS..
# Big Beaver..
# Kwanusila, The Thunderbird ..
# Totem Poles in Chicago..

Monday, March 15, 2010

Native American representation in the public art square of Chicago - II



Continued from the previous post.. Native American representation in the public art square of Chicago..

My last post I ended with "The Sun Vow", a work by the renowned sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil and this post, I begin with him. He is famous for his portrayal of Native Americans subjects, with ethnographic accuracy, meticulously detailed cloths, crafts, and regalia and their cultural themes..

MacNeil's works were greatly inspired by a landmark event in Chicago, the World's Columbian Exposition [WCE] in 1893, specifically it's ethnographic displays. These were organized by Frederic Ward Putnam. With a budget of $100,000, Putnam wanted to “make an important contribution to science” with “a perfect exhibition of the past and present peoples of America”. The Anthropology Hall, featuring 50,000 objects from all over the world. [The collection eventually served as the foundation of the Field Museum].. Apart from the Hall, there were ethnological displays at the Midway Plaisance, featuring native villages. One of the major attractions was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. MacNeil used to observe the Buffalo Bill's troupe performances and sketched the ceremonies and rituals of Native Indians. Inspired by the culture of Native Indians, he made subsequent trips to the southwest to see the Indians in their element. When he went back to Europe, he put into bronze several myths and dances of the Indian tribes he visited while in the states, which are some of the best sculptures on Native American themes.

Obviously, MacNeil was just one of the persons influenced by the WCE's ethnological displays. It had shaped waves of nostalgia for the "lost past" of the Native Americans. Even after the fair was over, it's influence stayed on.. artists, ethnographers, writers, patrons, and institutions explored, documented, and preserved different aspects of the West: archaeological facts, ethnographic records, myths, and spirituality. Chicago, the geographic gateway to the American West, became the hub of a redefined artistic frontier - a window on the West..

To add to the contribution of the WCE was the fact that the census figure of 1890 showed a radical decline in the Native American population. There was a concern about the extinction of Native Americans..

So the decade of 1890's saw a huge surge in the art works related to the life and culture of Native Americans.





Coming back to the "representation of Native Americans" theme in Chicago, a beautiful collection of relief sculptures and mosaics can be seen at the Marquette Building. Although not strictly "Public Art", but anyone can see the bronze works above the outside entrance doors and can walk into the lobby and see beautiful bronze portraits and Tiffany mosaics. I think it's imperative that I bring up the Marquette Building in talking about the Native American representation in the art scene in Chicago...
- Although, the building is named after Jacques Marquette, who along with Joliet are believed to be the first white men to pass through the Chicago River, September 1673.. However the portrayal of Native Americans seem to be in an understanding way. Rather than demonizing them as savages, Native Americans are portrayed as defenders of their territory..
- Talking about the mission of Marquette-Joliet expedition; Father Marquette was a missionary who wanted to spread Christianity to the Indians and Louis Joliet's wanted to make a fortune through fur trading with the Indians. Religion and trade were the two most significant missions that that led to frequent wars and peace treaties with the Native Americans..
- The building houses the works of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, an essential name when talking about the accurate portrayal of Native Americans.
- It involves the work of J.A.Holzer, who was the chief designer and art director for Tiffany & Co.. Even the makers of luxury items like Tiffany indulged in the themes of Native Americans..
- The building manager Owen F. Aldis, had completed an amateur translation of Father Marquette's journey. That explains the name of the building and the artwork selected for the building. The building was completed in 1895, in the decade that was characterized with increased interest in the life of Native Americans..
I think, these are good enough reasons to bring the name of Marquette Building in representing the Native American culture in Chicago.. And while at the Marquette building, worth noting are the some of the cultural aspects of Native Indian life, like the Calumets..





Calumet:
Sculptor: Edward Kemeys
Location: Relief on the doors of Marquette Building..
Calumets, or so called Indian "peace pipes" were used to smoke tobacco. Tobacco is indigenous to North America and has been in use, since long before Columbus discovered America. In fact pipe smoking took on a ritual and religious importance in many tribes.



Tiffany mosaic by J.A Holzer, illustrating the Illinois chief gave the visitors [Marquette and Joliet] a calumet..

The brozes below, are by Hermon Atkins MacNeil. It from the time when Marquette and Joliet reached south to the Arkansas village. The Native Indians came out with bows and arrows, tomahawks and shields to defend their territory.. All the while Father Marquette held the calumet high in the air. Finally an old man recognized the calumet and thereafter the conflict was over and the Frenchmen were taken to Arkansas, the chief village of the tribe.









Native American clothing and regalia..
in Tiffany by J. A. Holzer.. Perhaps the first time a glowing series of pictures were attempted in glass mosaics..



















It's two-floor lobby has twenty-two bronze portraits of people from the life of Father Marquette, eleven on each floor. Most of these are of Native Indians..
The first floor portraits..
De Manthet, Big Snake, Joliet, Talon, Noon Day, Marquette, Chicagou, Little Panther, Tonty, Shaubena and La Taupine..
The second floor portraits..
Keokuk, Black Hawk, De l'Hut, Brown Moose, Chassagoac, La Salle, Nika, War Eagle, Fontenac, Hairy Bear and Waubonsie..

To continue..

For more on..
# Marquette Building.. click here..
References:
# Anthropology and the World’s Columbian Exposition
# Window on the west
# Worlds Columbian Exposition Collection

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Native American representation in the public art square of Chicago - I
















Click on any image for an enlarged view..

As I was reading a passage in the Chicago History Museum..
some questions crossed through my mind ..
First the passage..
By the time European explorers arrived, Native Americans had lived here for more than 10,000 years. These new arrivals found several Indian groups moving through or living in Chicago region including the Miami, Illinois, Ottawa and Potawatomie. Many of these tribes intermarried and inhabited the same territory, they called Checagou, the Miami and Illinois word for the wild onion plant that grew in the marshes along the Lake..

As I was reading this, I was wondering how much of the public art scene in Chicago represents the Native Americans, who lived here for more than 10,000 years, before the "explorers" arrived??

Public Art, although is wide-ranging, always has a regional component to it. It strengthens civic pride thorough identification with it's history and culture. But history is mostly bloody.. And.. History is always written by the winners.. especially true, when we are talking about the Native Americans. And they were the losers. But we have come in terms with our past, or have we? Reminds me of the controversy over the use of term "Fort Dearborn massacre", which now is being termed as the "Battle of Fort Dearborn"..

I don't know where I am going with this. But I do want to document the representation of Native American culture & history in the public art scene of Chicago.. I don't know where this will lead to, but worth a try.. Well, the best method is to learn as you go, so let the chips fall where they may.. Although I am quite aware of some controversial aspects, especially the Fort Dearborn massacre/battle debate, click here..



Let me begin with this sculpture.. The Indian Alarm..
By John J. Boyle.
Completed in 1884..
This sculpture is said to be one of the earliest work in Chicago to realistically portray and feature American Indians. It shows an Ottawa Indian family on the move, halting as if alert to some imminent danger..
For more on "The Indian Alarm".. click here..
Ref: Early Chicago.. click here



Another beautiful piece I've seen is "The Sun Vow", at the Art Institute of Chicago.
By Hermon Atkins MacNeil
Modeled-1898, Cast-1901..

The context of this sculpture is explained in the Metropolitan Museum of Art website ..click here..
Before a boy on the threshold of manhood could be accepted as a warrior of his tribe, he must shoot an arrow directly into the sun. If the chieftain judging the boy's prowess was so blinded by the sun's rays that he could not follow the flight of the arrow, it was said to have gone "out of sight," and the youth had passed the test...
MacNeil heightened the visual impact of his composition by choosing to capture the moment when the arrow has just been released..The two Native Americans here, have been identified as Sioux.
For more on "The Sun Vow".. click here..

To continue..

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lincoln Park [Indian Alarm - by John J. Boyle]





Indian Alarm..
Sculptor: John J. Boyle
Completed: 1884
The only information I could get on this was on the website.."Early Chicago" which describes it as..
Ottawa Indian family on the move, halting as if alert to some imminent danger..

















The granite tablets at the base depict scenes from Ottawa life..
- The Peace Pipe
- The Corn Dance
- Forestry
- The Hunt