The Horse Head Rorschach Test

Every day, the pleasant burghers of Bensalem, Pennsylvania who drive past the Parx Casino and Racing complex are confronted by this gigantic sculpture of a horse’s head precariously balanced on the tip of its nose, which is placed out in front of the casino right next to the road.  

It’s a fine rendering of a horse’s head, as horse head sculptures go — but what do you think of when you see an enormous horse head on your drive to pick up Krispy Kreme donuts? Do you focus on the fact that the head is severed, and think of The Godfather?  Or do you, like the animal-loving Marquette Warrior, conclude that the horse is happily taking a drink of water?  Do you wonder how, from an engineering standpoint, they got the massive structure to balance like that?  Or, do you focus on the totally discordant, out-of-place element of a huge green horse head on an otherwise undistinguished, soulless suburban commercial strip, and idly wonder if it was left by aliens?

In such ways does public art challenge us.

Tree, Sky, And Shadow

The fine Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, teaches that beauty can be found just about anywhere — in skyscrapers, in flowers, in barns, in the rugged landscape of New Mexico . . . and in trees. So when I left the museum and saw this tree framed against the adobe walls of the museum, with the sunshine etching an intricate shadow on the wall, I had to let my inner O’Keeffe snap this photo.

The Wonder Of Beethoven

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Last night Kish and I got our Beethoven fix.  The Columbus Symphony Orchestra was putting on a Beethoven Marathon, and we caught the three principal performances — of the Second Symphony, the Triple Concerto in C major (shown in the photo above), and finally the fabulous Seventh Symphony.  (The Symphony also offered a pre-concert performance of the Quintet for Piano and Winds and a post-concert String Quartet in C-sharp minor, but we missed those two additions due to dinner on the front end and increasing age on the back end.)

The program was wonderful.  I’m always fascinated by the live performance of a symphony orchestra — to see so many diverse instruments working together to produce a coherent sound, rather than cacophony — and by the creative impulses that moved a genius like Beethoven to create such magical music in the first place.  I think the second movement of the Seventh Symphony, for example, is simply one of the most deeply moving pieces of music ever composed, full of tension, straining and stirring and soaring and humble all at the same time.  How did it come to him?  Someone who has no musical talent (like me) cannot begin to guess what it must be like to hear such melodies in your head.  That Beethoven was able to create such music while his hearing was failing just makes the whole creative process more brilliant and astonishing.

Interesting, isn’t it, that long after the leaders and issues of his day have been consigned to the dustbin of history and then forgotten, Beethoven’s music — and Mozart’s, and Bach’s, and Wagner’s, and Haydn’s — lives on, to be performed anew and enjoyed and loved by new generation?.  The same is true of artists, and authors, and playwrights, of course.  We don’t remember the Popes, minor nobility, doges, kings, queens, and wealthy patrons who supported Michelangelo, da Vinci, Shakespeare, and Beethoven, but we know the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, the St. Crispin’s Day speech, and the stirring first chords of the Fifth Symphony.

Politics is ephemeral; art, music, and beauty are eternal. When you have the opportunity to listen to a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, that is really what you are hearing.

Hand Signal

I was walking down Parsons Avenue this morning, heading toward the Ace Hardware store, when I noticed this sign. It is a memorable one, with a seriously creepy element to it, too.  No one wants to look at a disembodied hand, really — but It harkens back to the ’60s, when many  signs featured folk art elements that sought to make the business memorable.  In those days it wasn’t unusual to see fiberglass cowboys, spinning globes, and neon martini glasses as you drove down Main Street.

Of course, the sign reminded me of Thing from The Addams Family.  As I took the picture I half expected Lurch to show up and intone, in that impossibly deep bass voice:  “You rang?”

Tiny Door (IV)

img_2899The elf and sprite population of German Village apparently has been busy.  We’ve found yet another tiny door on the streets of the Village — this one located next to a drainpipe and complete with a brook, a bridge, a clothesline, and a ladder so that our elfin friends can climb up to the front door.

As the fairy tale of the cobbler teaches, our vertically challenged buddies are very industrious fellows.  What’s next — an elfin high-rise?

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Tiny Door (II)

Tiny Door (III)

The Tiled Stairways Of The River Walk


To get down to the San Antonio River Walk, you take stairways and ramps from bridges and overpasses.  Many of the stairways and ramps are of the bland, concrete variety, but some are special — gracefully curved, with wide steps and overhead greenery and delicate tiled facings that reflect a southwestern flair.

It’s amazing how a few colorful squares of tile can turn a generic stairway into an eye-catching addition to an already festive area.  If I had my say, every concrete municipal staircase would have bright tile facings with bold colors and geometric designs.  It’s a way to inject some much-needed art into our everyday surroundings.