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Art Inspires Expeditions in “Headhunt Revisited” Documentary

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

An unusual expedition set sail from San Francisco in 1926.

Headhunt Revisited Lagoon

It was composed entirely of two women with cigarette tins full of art supplies in tow. Their destination was the South Pacific. And their mission was to document cultures in danger of disappearing.

Headhunt Revisited - Caroline Mytinger

Artist Caroline Mytinger and her partner Margaret Warner did not seem fazed by the western dismissal of Melanesians as ruthless headhunters. In fact, Mytinger often turned the phrase around, referring to the search for faces to paint as her own “headhunt.”

Headhunt Revisited documentary

The documentary Headhunt Revisited: With Brush, Canvas and Camera follows another woman-lead expedition with photographer and filmmaker Michele Westmorland retracing their steps 80 years later.

Mytinger Sketch and Westmorland photo

We travel along, not just through the Pacific but through time, as the film superimposes past and present. Its cinematographic shots are interspersed with grainy archival footage of traditional dances, art, and daily life on the islands. Westmorland’s narration dovetails with excerpts of Mytinger’s writings (as voiced by Lauren Hutton).

Elders, artisans, and family of Mytinger’s original portrait subjects share stories that give us a window into their worlds and the lives of their ancestors.

One of the artists we meet is Papua New Guinean painter Jeffry Feeger, who created a series of portraits that parallel Mytinger’s. His subjects come from the same places but are dressed in street clothes, rather than the traditional attire.

Mytinger’s portraits are like a colorful time capsule. The film is an equally vibrant exploration of the people, places, and traditions behind the paintings.

Headhunt Revisited screened recently at the Friday Harbor Film Festival, the Hawaii International Film Festival, and LA Femme Film Festival, where it won Best Foreign Documentary.

Hopefully, it will have a wider release soon. If you have a chance to see it, I recommend taking that journey.




Images and preview courtesy of Headhunt Revisited: With Brush, Canvas and Camera.

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Smithsonian: Air and Space Museum and Mitsitam Café

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Smithsonian American Indian Museum
Cafe at Smithsonian American Indian Museum

Cafe at National Museum of the American Indian

While I could have easily spent a full day at the Smithsonian American History Museum, a D.C.-area friend had recommended the Mitsitam Café at the Smithsonian American Indian Museum as a “little known gem.” I decided to make my way there for lunch.

Mitsitam cafe
Smithsonian Native American Museum

The cafeteria serves native-inspired foods that span the American continents. I got a buffalo burger and fry bread.

Smithsonian Native American Museum

The menu also includes options like wild rice and ceviche.

DC Museum cafe

This is definitely a place I’d like to come back to and try more things!

Smithsonian space museum

National Air and Space Museum

When I walked down Independence Avenue to the south entrance of the Air and Space Museum, I was discouraged to see a line over 100 feet long to get in. I had started back toward our hotel, when I looked back and saw that the northern entrance – along Jefferson Drive – didn’t seem to have a line! Sure enough, about five minutes later I was in the museum!

Air and space museum

So keep in mind that there is more than one entrance, especially since, as Stephanie later told me, the Air and Space Museum is the most popular of the Smithsonian museums.

Amelia Earhart

Immediately upon entering, I saw display spaces festoooned with replica and original air and space craft – a lunar landing module, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” the front half of the fuselage of a 747, rocket nozzles as big as my living room.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: plane

In the past I had wanted to be an astronaut, so I was particularly intrigued by the exhibits showing relics of the U.S. space program in the 60s and 70s – toolkits, suits, windowed hatches, flight manuals, and the like. There’s even a very official and ornate “certificate of merit” presented to the first chimpanzee sent to space by the U.S., which I found both ridiculous and moving. While I was certainly impressed by the spacecrafts themselves, oddly, it was these historic bits of ephemera that captivated me the most.

image

The guided tour moved a bit too slow for me, so I bailed out to cover more ground.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Marty met up with me about an hour into my museum visit, so that was a nice surprise. We toured the World War II fighter aircraft exhibit together. I especially appreciated the naval aircraft display that replicated both the deck and interior of an aircraft carrier.

Air and space museum

Unfortunately, our time soon ran out at the Air and Space Museum. We went to the food court with the biggest McDonald’s I’d ever been to. There was a large seating area and lots of windows to let in light. Fortunately, we went as the day was winding down, so we didn’t have to wait in line long.

National Mall sunset

I enjoyed sitting in the gradually-emptying mega-McDonald’s and debriefing the museum sights with Marty.

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Smithsonian: American History Museum

Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Smithsonian American History Museum

I arrived at the National Museum of American History just in time for a guided tour. The group was small – only me – but the docent/tour guide was still more than happy to take me on the full tour.

It started with a walk through the first floor exhibit on the history of transportation in the US with early trains and automobiles on display.

Transportation Smithsonian - American history museum

My tour guide mentioned that, at any one time, there is way more stuff in storage at the Smithsonian than there is on display.

Julia Child's Kitchen - Smithsonian - American history museum

One thing that’s always out, however, is Julia Child’s kitchen, rebuilt piece by piece. It reminded me of the end of the movie Julie and Julia, where a scene in this historic kitchen fades into today’s museum display.

Uniform at Smithsonian - American history museum

Combat Zone

One standout section for me was the display on the history of war in the United States. It was more realistic than idealistic, providing insight into the enormous human toll war has had on our country.

I was also profoundly moved by a display of items left at the Vietnam Memorial including notes from loved ones and friends. I looked at the dates of the “boys” that died. Some of them were born about the same time as my father. I thought about all the friends, fathers, and uncles that those in my generations never grew up knowing.

Smithsonian lunch counter

Counter Protest

A section of the lunch counter from the Greensboro sit-in during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s was on display, somewhat unceremoniously, in a clear space between larger exhibits. If I hadn’t known it was a display, I might have just thought it was a closed (and very dated) snack stand.

When I saw the placard and description, I stood there a long time, trying to imagine how it would have been to sit there in protest years ago.

It’s easy to idealize the moral stands of the past; with the benefit of reflection and history, most would agree the Greensboro sit-in was necessary. However, in the moment, with hostile people around clamoring for “peace and order” and to “stop trespassing,” it would have been easy to flinch or doubt oneself.

National Mall

History doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s made up of the mundane things of life, uncertainties and all. I stared at the lunch counter and marveled in its reality. It was gathering place with ugly pastel-colored seats. A place where people sat down to eat and drink coffee. A place where people sat down to protest a kind of oppression I will never know.

With the voices of so many marginalized populations still asking for a place at the table to speak, it doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago.

 

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Teatro La Fenice in Venezia (Venice)

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Teatro La Fenice

The Phoenix

For a place that’s been called “a city of stone built on the water,” Venice has had a lot of fires.

In fact, Venice’s premiere opera house only came into being because of its predecessor’s destruction by fire. Symbolically, the new theater would rise from the ashes of the old one. They named it “La Fenice,” The Phoenix.

Teatro La Fenice - exterior

First opening in 1792, Teatro La Fenice is now one of the top opera houses in Italy and one of the best-known in Europe.

While the name was chosen to commemorate the theater’s origin, it turned out to also be an ominous foreshadowing. Teatro La Fenice has been resurrected twice, after catastrophic fires in 1836 and 1996.

The one in 1836 started because of some kind of malfunction with a new stove from Austria. The 1996 inferno, however, was intentional.

Teatro La Fenice boxes

Two electricians doing renovation work on the theater were facing fines for being behind schedule. So they set the place on fire.

This (a) did not help get the project done on time, and (b) lead to each of them serving several years in jail. Not actually a helpful strategy for anyone.

I’m not sure if the electricians intended to burn it to the ground or just to singe it a bit to make their point. However, access to the theater was restricted due to the renovation project, and firefighters were not able to quell the flames before the building was destroyed. It would remain closed for the next 7 years.

 

Teatro La Fenice

House

La Fenice re-opened in 2003 with upgraded accoustics and an increased seating capacity of 1000, while its appearance matched the elegance of its previous incarnation.

Teatro La Fenice

There are five tiers of boxes, which had been “deliberately egalitarian in design” – until Napoleon came to power. To prepare for his visits to the theater, six individual boxes were combined into one royal box. This imperial loggia remains part of the current design of the theater, just above the auditorium entrance.
Teatro La Fenice

Opera

Despite a real history rife with operatic-level turmoil, the theater remains open today with a busy schedule that includes symphonies, ballets, and over 100 opera performances a year.

L'occasione fa il ladro - opera

This September, we are looking forward to seeing  “L’Occasione fa il ladro: ossia Il cambio della valigia” (The Opportunity Makes the Thief: The Case of the Exchanged Luggage), a single-act farce with music by Gioachino Rossini and libretto by Luigi Prividal.

The opera is a romantic comedy of errors that debuted in Venice in 1812.

It’s good to know that, after all that drama, La Fenice still has a sense of humor.

 

Teatro La Fenice behind the curtain

– More Info –

Teatro La Fenice:

You can see a complete performance of “L’occasione fa il ladro” by another opera company at Schwetzingen Festival, Germany on YouTube.




Photos by Michele Crosera, courtesy of Teatro La Fenice.

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Love Unlocked

Posted by on Jul 22, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Pont de l'Archevêché Love Locks by JD. CCL

Over the past several years, the phenomenon of love locks (or “love padlocks”) has spread to 5 continents.

To symbolize their love, couples place a lock – often with their names written or engraved on it – on a bridge or fence or sculpture and throw away the key.

Love Locks by Philip Robins. CCL

Locks Are Cheap

It’s an activity most popular with tourists, who often believe they’re participating in a harmless local custom. Perhaps they feel that snapping the lock shut binds them to the city, as well as their partner. Like carving initials into a tree, it’s a way people leave their mark on a place they love, unaware they’re damaging it in the process.

Part of the ritual’s appeal is its immediacy. It’s easy enough to get a lock and clasp it to a bridge, and then you have this very tangible expression of an intangible emotion, something solid and (seemingly) permanent. Something you can take a photo of before you have to catch your flight home.

There’s a communal aspect to both the act and the sharing of it, as if you’ve participated in some community art project that also happens to make a colorful photo backdrop. (See also: the gum wall at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.)

The fact that the practice spread so quickly just as social media was taking off is probably not a coincidence. Online networks have helped all kinds of ideas to spread, especially ones that come with a compelling visual.

Wedding locks

If You Like It, Then You Shouldn’t Put a Lock on It

Locals, on the other hand, tend to see the locks as vandalism, ruining the views of their city.

Whatever your opinion on the aesthetics of a padlock-covered bridge, the locks can damage structures. A single padlock would be no big deal, but some European bridges have been covered in hundreds of thousands of them, adding on several tons of weight.

Cities have reacted in a variety of ways – banning locks, removing them, creating alternate places for locks. In some cases, when the bridge is less historic and/or the locks less damaging, they decide to shrug it off.

While companies that sell love locks perpetuate the myth that the tradition is rooted in the distant past (perhaps ancient China or Serbia during World War I), the current craze began just over a decade ago.

In fact, it can be traced back to a single paragraph in an Italian novel.

Ponte Milvio

Ponte Milvio: An Origin Story

Putting the Rome back in Romance Novel

Author Federico Moccia’s 2006 best-seller (and later film), Ho Voglia Di Te (I Want You) includes a protagonist telling his love interest that locking a chain around a lamppost on the Ponte Milvio in Rome and throwing the key into the Tiber River below means you’ll always stay together.

Sometimes I feel...

According to an interview in the New York Times, the author “just dreamed up the ritual” and “was stunned” when locks actually began appearing on the ancient Roman bridge.

The new custom quickly spiraled out of control. Within a year, so many locks and chains had accumulated around one lamppost that it partially collapsed under the weight.

Ponte Milvio

Get Your Locks Off My Lawn

If Ponte Milvio could speak, it would probably say “I’m getting too old for this shit.” It’s been around since the days of the Roman Empire. Constantine became an emperor by defeating a rival on that bridge. Nero used to hang out there and get wasted. By the time the Colosseum was built, it had already been there for 200 years.

The Roman Empire fell, but Ponte Milvio has remained. People have been crossing it for over two millennia and still walk over it every day. It does not need the extra pressure of thousands of rusty locks chained to it.

City officials worried about more permanent damage and instituted a €50 fine for locks on the bridge or its lamps, encouraging couples to instead use the posts and chains installed as an alternative.

all those locks

A recent Spanish edition of Moccia’s novel features the bridge and love locks on its cover.

Although Rome was the setting of the novel, the love lock trend didn’t stay confined to the Eternal City for long.

Lovelocks on the Pont des Arts

 

Paris: Art from the Bridge

Perhaps the most well-known love lock locale is Pont des Artes, Paris – at least it was.

After more than one instance of locks causing part of the bridge’s railing to buckle, the city began removing all the locks in 2015, replacing chain link with plexiglass panels to prevent locks and preserve the view.

Instead of simply disposing of the locks, they turned them into art and auctioned them off to raise money for organizations helping refugees (Solipam, the Salvation Army and Emmaüs Solidarité). The lots included 150 pieces made from a few locks each on a base of wood, plexiglass, or recycled paving stones. They’re actually quite elegant.    
 
via Crédit Municipal de Paris
 
15 large lock-covered sections from the bridge’s fencing that ranged in size from 1.05 to 3.23 meters (3.4–10.5 feet) wide and weighed 240 to 660kg (529–1455 lbs) were also up for auction. They were mounted on casters, so they could be moved more easily.
 
In the end, a total of 10 tons of locks were sold, raising a total of €250,000 and far exceeding fundraising goals for the auction.
 
François Grunberg / Mairie de Paris via Paris.fr

Make Love, Not Locks

There were over 700,000 locks on the Pont des Artes before they were removed. That’s 700,000 people who thought it would be a good idea to get a lock and leave it on a Paris bridge. Assuming each lock represents a couple, it would actually be more like 1.4 million people.

Pont de l'Archevêché, Paris

Of course, there are many more people who cross the bridge without leaving a lock. And other bridges over the Seine, including Pont de l’Archevêché, have been covered with locks, as well. It is a staggering analogy to the tourist traffic of certain cities, and the impact that number of people can have on a place.                 
 

 
An organization called No Love Locks has started in Paris to educate the public, stop the practice, and look for alternatives.

Stop aux Cadenas ~ Love Without Locks

Paris also launched a campaign encouraging couples to post a selfie tagged #lovewithoutlocks instead of leaving a lock. Signs were posted on bridges that said “Our bridges can no longer withstand your gestures of love. No more love locks!” Photos were being posted on lovewithoutlocks.paris.fr, but the page hasn’t been updated recently.

The Paris Convention and Visitors’ Bureau lists romantic ways to enjoy the city – unsurprisingly, it doesn’t mention love locks.

Toronto Distillery love locks by Ken Lane

Toronto: There’s a Place for Locks

The removal of the locks at Pont des Artes in Paris inspired developer Mathew Rosenblatt to create a permanent place for couples to put love locks in Toronto’s Distillery District. The metal sculpture spells out “LOVE” and is made for attaching padlocks.

Love Locks in Toronto's Distillery District

Of course, a solution like this works well for a Toronto side street but wouldn’t have the capacity for a heavily-touristed Paris thoroughfare. On a much larger scale, though, maybe a structure like this could work in those high traffic areas too.

Love locks, Venice

Venice Makes the Cut

Love locks have also covered several historic bridges in Venice – 20,000 have been counted on the Ponte dell’Accademia alone.

As on many other bridges, they are periodically removed by the city, so you’re really not locking up your love forever.

Removed locks by @dawn_hawk

During a recent visit to Venice, community organizer Dawn Hawk took matters into her own hands, buying bolt cutters and clearing the locks from 30 bridges. A gondolier blew kisses in gratitude.

[UPDATE: Dawn wanted me to let you know it was actually her husband Mark that bought the bolt cutters and removed the locks – 400 of them! She interacted with onlookers, checked in with locals, and researched metal recycling options.]

Baci in Venice by @dawn_hawk

The site In-Venice specifically lists love locks in their top 10 list of things not to do in the city.

 

Padlocks

 

Hohenzollern Bridge

I Fought the Locks and the Locks Won

Cologne Tourism, on the other hand, encourages you to see the love locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine River.

As of October 2013, there were over 155,000 love locks on the bridge, weighing an estimated 15 to 20 tons. German Rail engineers studied the bridge and determined the weight was not causing a problem. It will continue to be monitored and policies may change if the strain becomes too great.

Lovelocks

Tony Kerzmann of Robert Morris University noted that today’s bridges are “highly over-designed” as a precautionary measure. “They have what is called a factor of safety as high as seven in some cases, meaning an engineer determined the maximum weight that the bridge would possibly see and then designed the bridge to hold seven times that weight. Even if the bridge were covered with locks, the extra few thousand pounds should have no effect on the structural integrity of the bridge.”

Love Locks Penang Hill Top George Town

Pulau Penang Promenade

Penang Hill in Malaysia created a place specifically for love locks. The resort town on the island of Penang encourages couples to decorate and add locks to their “lovers’ promenade,” which they call “Malaysia’s contribution to the world’s legacy of love.” Located on the Bukit Bendera observation deck, Love Lock Penang Hill opened on Valentine’s Day 2014.

Huangshan, China (YELLOW MOUNTAIN/LANDSCAPE)

China

Red (Ribbon) Wedding

I had a lot of trouble finding information on love locks in China. I was particularly interested in verifying the lore about the tradition originating somewhere in the country long before it appeared in a romance novel.

The closest I got was one account of a wedding tradition in Yangmei Zhan, which is in the south near Nanning. A bride and groom tie red ribbons and a padlock to an old tree, tossing the key into a river or other body of water. How long this has been going on and whether it’s likely to be the root of the current love lock phenomenon is unclear.

Lovelocks

The Great Locks of China

There are plenty of photos of love locks on the Great Wall and on guard fencing in the Yellow Mountains (Huangshan). However, I couldn’t find any real information on when people started attaching them there or what reactions have been. The locks don’t look any older than the ones in Paris or Rome. And perhaps they are spread out enough that the weight isn’t a problem and isolated enough that locals don’t complain.

do not throw your key away

In cities, however, it’s a different story. When a handful of locks appeared on bridges in Shanghai and Lanzhou, they were quickly removed by authorities.

 

Moscow locks on bridge

Moscow: Locks and Kisses

A wedding tradition in Russia is that the newlyweds should kiss on a bridge.

Wedding Lock Tree 1

To keep these kissing couples out of traffic, Moscow constructed a pedestrian bridge. On this Bridge of Kisses are several iron tree sculptures that couples can attach locks to instead of the bridge’s railings.

A post shared by keripeacock (@keripeacock) on

United States

L.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

You can find love locks from coast to coast, from New York City (on the Brooklyn Bridge) to Los Angeles (at Runyon Canyon and Sunnynook River Park).

Sunset

A year after its installation, locks had already started appearing on the Bridge of Sighs in Natchez, Mississippi. City officials decided to take a proactive stance, cutting the locks off the bridge before there was time for many to accumulate.

There's One in Every Crowd

There are several bridges in the Pittsburgh area with love locks, including the Schenley Bridge and Three Sisters bridges. Officials there, however, periodically monitor the stress on the structures and have determined the added weight is not a problem. They remove locks to perform maintenance, but otherwise leave them be.

Locking Their Love

At Tlaquepaque in Sedona, Arizona, there are love locks for sale and a metal trellis where you can attach them.

 

Lock Your Love in Lovelock, Lovers Lock Plaza, Lovelock, Nevada

There’s actually a town called Lovelock outside of Reno, Nevada. While the name comes from Welsh-born settler George Lovelock, the town has embraced the tradition with a plaza devoted to love locks and an “endless chain” where you can lock a symbol of your love.

 

090998

 

– More info –


 

Photo credits:

1. JD*
2. Philip Robins*
3. Elaine Ashton*

Ponte Milvio (Rome) –
4. kiki99*
5. Stefano Corso*
6. Giorgio Rodano*
7. Kyle Van Horn*

Paris –
8. Martin Pilát*
9. Heather Stimmler (@secretsofparis)**
10. Crédit Municipal de Paris
11. François Grunberg / Mairie de Paris via Paris.fr

12. Sacha Quester-Séméon (@sachaqs)**
13. twiga269 ॐ FEMEN*

Toronto –
14. Ken Lane*
15. Michael Lawrence*

Venice –
16. Chris Beckett*
17. + 18. Dawn Hawk

Hohenzollern Bridge (Cologne) –
19. Dave Collier*
20. Jörg Weingrill*

Pulau Penang –
21. Harry and Rowena Kennedy*

China –
22. Chi King*
23. Mike*
24. James Creegan*

Moscow –
25. Olga Pavlovsky*
26. Em and Ernie*

United States –
27. Keri Peacock (@keripeacock)**
28. Debs*
29. Cam Miller*
30. Kevin Spencer*
31. Ken Lund*

More –
32. Ghita Katz Olsen*

 

*Via Flickr. CCL.
**Via Instagram.

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