“Let the little children come to me …”

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“… and do not hinder them,

for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”

 

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Each Memorial Day my wife and I visit a local cemetery. Cemeteries are beautiful places. On Memorial Day we can expect to see families laying flowers upon graves or adult children sitting on the grass alongside a headstone, deep in thought. 

Newport is an old river town down the hill from where I live in Woodbury, MN. Newport Cemetery is on a steep hill facing west. Its residents have been there for decades, some since the Civil War. I imagine it was a peaceful place a hundred years ago. Now Highway 61 is at the foot of the hill, sending up rushing traffic sounds. On the other side from 61 is the Dantesque Koch refinery. But beyond that is the winding Mississippi and the western bluffs. I wonder if the Newport cemetery planners knew that the local Indians also buried their dead on the westerward-facing Mississippi bluffs. There’s something about the West and the setting sun. Even the Egyptiuans buried thier dead facing the west.

It was an overcast day, but saturated in vernal color. The cemetery has many lilacs planted about, and the grass and nearby woods offered rich springtime scent.

 

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William points to where he rests.

 

The children’s graves are always the most touching. The parents of these young children made sure they have their toys.

 

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The cemetery is on a steep hill.

 

Almost all the graves have mementos.

 

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Did the mother die in childbirth? There are no dates or names. This unusual solitary stone has the child’s name above it.

 

Here are the rest of the photos on my Flickr account

 

 

 

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An Afternoon At The Minneapolis Institute Of Arts

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Diana confronts the pregnant Callisto (Titian)

 

I went to see the Titian exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute Of Arts on a cold March afternoon. Titian was one of the first Italian painters to use oil instead of fresco or tempura. The painter is known for his mastery of color (‘Titian red’) and the way he often taunted the sensibilities of the establishment. The exhibit paintings were five hundred years old, an though they looked in good condition to me, our docent said they had been restored many times. The pigments had faded over the centuries, though they still looked richly-colored to me.

We left the exhibit and explored other paintings on the second floor before it was time to get home. I love the place. As we headed out the door, I made I note to come back again in summer and spend an entire day there.

 

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Rodin bronzes in the Impressionist galleries

 

Warhol, Close from the Moderns

 

Art students from the nearby Minneapolis College of Art And Design (MCAD); a magnificent Chihuly chandelier

 

Chinese horses. The MIA has many antiquities from Asia.

 

 

 

Ease your winter-weary soul

Visit the 2011 Minneapolis Home and Garden Show

 

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A scene from Natural Landscape Minnesota, Inc’s display garden

 

It’s March in Minnesota. There’s only a few weeks of Serious Winter left. Rather than sit home and endure the home stretch of grey and cold, why not visit a garden show? Each year I take a Friday afternoon off and head to the annual  Minneapolis Home and Garden Show. Just walking into the big convention hall brings summer to you; the whiff of flowers and hot dogs is a powerful winter antidote.

Fellow garden nut Karen and I strolled up and down the aisles. We went straight to the garden displays. There I met Jim, the owner of Natural Landscape Minnesota. He had the best display, of conifers, waterfalls and stone. He told me about the way hexangonal basalt columns were formed billions of years ago. There were several columns for sale there. Jim is also sculptor of stone; he has several pieces of his work, most were already sold.

I may have to visit Jim this summer.

 

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Two ancient works. One, Jim’s creation, is 3.6 billion years old. The other is slightly less old.

 


Magnolia ‘Ann’ is a smoky purple must-have at Linders’ display. I’m going to have to find room for it at my place. The pink rhododenron is a Finnish hybrid, hardy in MN.

 

Karen and I spent a half day browsing the garden booths. I got some ideas for outside projects including an easy way to make a beautiful fire ring for my back yard this summer. We snacked on free samples. I should have tried the frozen wine, but I passed it over for some homemade caramels.

There are all sorts of ideas for the house and yard, so go, fill your head with anti-winter thoughts and visit the Home and Garden Show. It’s open through Sunday, March 6, 2011.

 

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Checking out plant porn in the MN Horticultural Society booth. Lots of heavy breathing.


 

 

 

 

The Quietest Place in Minneapolis

A Visit to Lakewood Cemetery

 

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Minneapolis nobility left many statues and elaborate tombstones. Here is the section for the Loring family.

Today we drove across town to a tranquil park in south Minneapolis to check out the Lakeview Chapel. We were suprised to find such an expansive, park-like cemetery. Lakewood Cemetery is over a century old, yet it remains an ‘active’ cemetery with room  to serve the dead for decades to come. It’s a real gem — I have lived in the Cities for nearly thirty years and had no idea such a place was hidden in a bustling neighborhod. The park is shaded and carefully tended with not a sign of vandalism or neglect. I understand people hold weddings at Lakewood. As odd as that sounds, after walking under the trees, I can understand why.

We wandered on foot on a warm July afternoon, darting between the shadows of arching oaks. We covered a mere fraction of the total area. I  hope to go back again.


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The Lakewood Chapel

We found out the Chapel is closed on Sundays. How strange!

Its external architecture is inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. We’ve been to that grand place, so we were looking forward to see how Lakewood compared. I can tell you it has the same shaped domes, but there are no minarettes. No doubt the staid Minneapolitans of 1900 would have nothing too ‘sultanate.’

 

There are a lot of statues about the place. Several, especially of the children, were decorated with flowers. One little girl had a rosary dangling at her side.

 

We wandered into areas dedicated to people who died in service. Pictured above are statues from the Civil War and fallen firemen areas. The section along the outside street perimenter has dead politicians (Hubert Humphrey, Rudy Perpich and Wellstone, among others)

 

Lakewood is all about symbolism. The place offers ‘symbolism tours’ which I really hope to take on my return visit. I could see many masonic symbols on headstones. There were dozens of stone urns, some draped entirely or partially covered, symbolizing old age and sorrow. The Lily-of-the-Valley, pictured above, means life and happiness. And an intact rose in full bloom indicates a person in their prime is buried there, perhaps a young parent.

 

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Erastus died in 1882. He was eleven days old.

It’s always sad to see the graves of children. Lakewood has a ‘Babyland.’ I chose not to go there.

 

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We wrapped up our afternoon by stepping into the silent and cool mausoleum. There is some beautiful stained glass and mosaic work inside, a surprise and delight for a modern building. Angels and saints provide the only color to the somber interior.

 

Want to see more of my pictures? Click here.

 

 

 

 

 

“Every Place You Are, You Have Arrived”

A vist to a sylvan sculpture garden

 

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On a glorious June afternoon we went to the Caponi Art Park in Eagan, Minnesota. The park is the decades-long creative effort of Anthony Caponi, retired art professor from Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. With just a wheelbarrow, shovel and rake, he cleared forty acres of rough land and built his house. Over the years he worked deeper into the forest with his tools, planting new trees as he went. An art professor who favors modern sculpture in stone and metal, he moved many of his creations to the park after he made them. He’s still there, nearly nine decades old, flying along in his golf cart. We saw him rounding a curve, the sun in his snow-white hair.

After he retired in 1991, he opened his park to the people of the Twin Cities, and in partnership with the City Of Eagan, joined his land to more forest. His ‘Art Park’ now includes a learning center, an exhibition center and an open-air ‘Theater In The Woods.’ The Park is open to the public and is free. Children and leashed pets are welcome.

I’ll admit this was one of the most memorable days of my life: the perfect weather, the delightful park, and my companion of nearly thirty years, Denise, at my side.

Caponi didn’t create mere retaining walls into the hillsides. He created sculpture. Here are a few segments of his ‘Pompeii’ scenes, embeded into a hill. Brass, stone and concrete.

 

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Caponi’s park is made of found metal and stone. The paths are paved from last century’s granite cobbles discarded by the city of Saint Paul. Here is a fence of salavaged rebar from a demolished bridge. Caponi straightened it, cut it and welded it into place.

 

The park is lovlier than many city parks. As a fan of anything green, I appreciated the detail to native plants. I could tell many of the ancient birches were planted by Caponi as a younger man. Basswood and every species of native oak, some of ruinous old age, arched overhead. I also noticed the place was pretty clean of alien, invasive buckthorn.

There are curved paths everywhere. Round a corner and you will find a Caponi sculpture or two. Or Caponi himself.

 

Above are a few photos of the many sculptures there. Some were titled, and some were not. I loaded higher resolution photos and titles of these and others to my Flickr account.

 

 

 

 

Bestelle dein Haus …

 

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Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live (Isiah 38:1)

 

Last Memorial Day I visited the original Salem Lutheran Church cemetary. It’s one of the oldest traces of European settlement here in Woodbury, Minnesota. Two waves of German settlers arrived in the area before statehood, sometime during the mid-1800s. One was Methodist and the other Lutheran.

 

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The older tombstones are entirely in German. The marble headstones are crumbling, but the granite ones look new.


I have no family or friends at this cemetary, but I decided to visit after spotting it from the road last year. The original church is long gone and the tiny congregation has moved further into town. The cemetary is still tended by the handful of decendents who remain in the area. Many of the family farms have vanished, falling to the pressure of subruban development.

I’m certain the people in Woodbury have no idea there are gravesites up on the hill when they whiz by on the highway. I’m glad I stopped. There’s some silent stories here. The old stones imply rich lives, short lives, transitions and fading sorrow.

 

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Sisters (?) Mathilda and Clara lived together their entire lives and died the same year. No, I don’t know that, but that’s what I like to assume. Someone still remembers them.


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People either lived to very old age or they died in their first few years. I saw many of these little lamb tombstones. Very sad.


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Here are an entire row of children, all the same family, all born within a year of each other. None lived more than two years.

 

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Clarence is waiting for Laura.


I have no idea where my grandparents are buried. I’m not sure how to find their graves. I thought of them that day. I think of them a lot. Perhaps there’s someone like me walking over their resting places, casting eyes on their tombstones. If you know where your grandparents are buried, why not visit them — and let them visit with you for a few minutes?

Fire and Ice At Franconia

 

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Today we went to an Iron Melt at the Franconia Sculpture Park. Students were learning how to melt iron and pour it into forms. They were melting old scrap iron, mostly discarded car radiators. The Park is a place for sculpture students to learn technique. At any time you will find students welding, hammering and even singing as they produce unusual art form. Franconia is also a wide-open public sculpture garden. I recommend visiting it sometime on a summer day.

It was 23F and an Alberta Clipper was bearing down on us. It was plenty warm near the fires, but they kept shooing me away when I got too close.

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 The students used a steel drum to  to melt the iron. They had trouble getting the iron hot enough on this cold day.

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They poured the hot iron into forms made of pressed sand.

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 Their teacher took a few moments to explain the process to me.

 

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Coke is the necessary fuel to hit iron’s melting point.

 

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I walked around and took a few other snaps. This is perhaps their most renowned work.

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More of the large sculptures. The place is vast. I wasn’t prepared to capture too many more shots; my fingers were freezing.

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Lounge Lizard.

 

How Much Sculpture Can You Find In Four Hours?

 

Today I went on sort of scavenger hunt, a personal search for public sculpture. I constrained my mission to be in the Saint Paul area. Furthermore, I had to blog what I found that same day.

I started out in the city of North Saint Paul, dovetailing a necessary shopping trip with the start of the mission.

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I found the famous North Saint Paul Snowman right on Highway 36. He wasn’t commissioned and no professional artists designed him. He was built by the townspeople many years ago. I understand he’s been repaired a few times. 

 

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Then I headed south to eastern Saint Paul, targeting Mounds Park. There I found very old ‘sculptures,’ the burial mounds of the Indians (Hopewellian culture) who lived there many years ago. A plaque said these were between 1,600 and 2,000 years old. There are ten mounds in the park. Iron fences cordoned all of them off, probably because they are still sacred.

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In the same park, I found two more recent sculptures, made from local stone. The woman is obviously an indigenous person. The other sculpture was involved in some controversy a few years ago. I can’t recall much, except that the work wasn’t wanted there.

 

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I headed west across the river and through downtown to the immense Saint Paul Cathedral. I popped my head in the door and joined a tour that was going on. The docent was pointing out all the subtle symbolism and meaning in the statues (Saint Anthony, here). I ducked away and snapped a photo of the stunning main altar.

 

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Further west, and then up Lexington Avenue to Como Park. I stopped first at the McNeely Conservatory. Here the theme is Edwardian England with a cultural nod to Kew Gardens. The place is lush and green inside. Several sprites tiptoed above the water. The ponds at their feet teemed with hungry koi.

 

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The Conservatory is connected to the Como Zoo by an atrium. I found this automaton offering advice for a quarter. I didn’t have any change, nor time to stop, so I hurried on to the Zoo.

 

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There are several bronze animal statues. I captured ‘Don’ the gorilla. All the statues had ‘Please Don’t Climb’ signs in front of them, but they were all shiny and worn  from climbing kids, anyway.

 

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The Japanese Garden was closed for the season, but I managed a shot of a stone lantern through the chain link fence.

 

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On my way out of the park I found a single, multicolored stone with faces carved into it. It looked like an immense flint. I think was the most interesting thing I saw today.

I had a less than an hour left so I headed back east to my suburban town, Woodbury. Woodbury came of an age when public parks stopped adding artwork. Wealthy people stopped patronizing public art years ago in the old cities and it never blossomed in my suburb.

 

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There is one sculpture I know of,  a new thing in a tony subdivision called ‘Dancing Waters.’ It features bronze statues of several kids joyously tumbling about. I like it a lot but something bothers me about this sculpture. It’s not inside the neighborhood where people could enjoy it. Instead, it is at the entrance to the subdivision. Cars fly on a very busy road. I doubt many of the drivers know it is there. It’s as if the sculpture was meant to wave people down and come into the neighborhood to buy a house. Or it’s a billboard of sorts proclaiming “Educated, Artsy People Live Here!” Pity. I think the city should buy it and relocate it to the popular playground in Ojibway Park.

 

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And finally I close with this little display that’s just yards from my front door. Unlike the ‘Dancing Waters’ statue, this is tiny and private. It’s a memento tied to the base of a neighborhood traffic sign. Several years ago, a jogger collapsed at the sign’s base. He died of a heart attack on the spot. A few days afterwards this little tribute appeared. It’s always maintained and it changes periodically. This past summer it was a small plastic putto with flowers. I have never seen the caretaker and none of my neighbors have seen him, either.

It’s not fancy. Yet I pause every time I see the tiny display. Whoever the ‘artist’ is, they still feel a sadness and longing.