Coronado Public Library’s amazing Oz exhibit!

L. Frank Baum authored many fantastic children's books.
L. Frank Baum wrote many fantastic, very popular children’s books.

The Coronado Public Library is featuring a world-class exhibit of Oz art and artifacts this month! Two huge glass cases full of books and collectibles and a large wall display of original graphic art are alive with the beloved characters that populate author L. Frank Baum’s fantasy land of Oz. The artwork, toys, figures and other cool stuff have been assembled from several important Oz collections, and made available to the viewing public during Oz Con International.

I’d like to share a few photos that I took!

Eisner Award-winning Eric Shanower's graphic novels.
Eisner Award-winning Eric Shanower’s graphic novels.
Oz collectibles and artifacts in many languages on display.
Oz collectibles and artifacts in many languages on display.
First edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz used by a Dorothy actress.
First edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz used by a Dorothy actress.
Oz books and cool stuff in an exhibit at the Coronado Public Library.
Oz books and cool stuff in an exhibit at the Coronado Public Library.
Colorful panels of Oz art catch the eye of library visitors.
Colorful panels of Oz art catch the eye of library visitors.
Troll Queen original comic art from Shanower's The Forgotten Forest of Oz.
Troll Queen original comic art from Shanower’s The Forgotten Forest of Oz.
More artwork based on the fairy tale creations of L. Frank Baum.
More artwork based on the fairy tale creations of L. Frank Baum.
Scarecrow and Tin Woodman among many characters in the collection.
Scarecrow and Tin Woodman among many characters in the collection.
This Wicked Witch is cooking up trouble!
This Wicked Witch is cooking up trouble!

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A look at the El Cid statue in Balboa Park.

El Cid sculpture in Balboa Park, by artist Anna Hyatt Huntington.
El Cid sculpture in Balboa Park, by artist Anna Hyatt Huntington.

Near the center of Balboa Park, between the San Diego Museum of Art and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, you’ll find a 23-foot high bronze statue of El Cid. The legendary hero of Spain is mounted on his horse Babieca and proudly holds a spear and shield.

The striking sculpture is formally called El Cid Campeador and was created in 1927 by Anna Hyatt Huntington, a famous American sculptor who during her life won numerous awards and commissions. Most known for her lifelike animal sculptures, she is remembered for being the first woman to create a public monument in New York City. Her Joan of Arc was also New York City’s first monument dedicated to a female historical figure.

Anna Hyatt Huntington was married to Archer Milton Huntington, a wealthy philanthropist and art enthusiast, who founded The Hispanic Society of America. He made the very first contribution to the nearby San Diego Museum of Art, in the form of the painting María at La Granja, by famed Spanish post-impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida.

The El Cid in Balboa Park is one of several identical statues. The original stands in front of the Hispanic Society in New York City. Other copies stand in Seville, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires.

It seems that when the statue was installed in Balboa Park in 1930, there was a good deal of public comment about the horse’s unsightly posterior, and a debate over the direction it should face! To the relief of many, the horse’s rear end faces away from the central square and nearby buildings!

A much smaller horse sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington can be enjoyed a short distance to the north of El Cid, right next to the San Diego Museum of Art. It’s called Youth Taming the Wild.

El Cid Campeador, presented by the Hispanic Society of America in 1930.
El Cid Campeador, presented by the Hispanic Society of America in 1930.
El Cid, with Balboa Park's House of Hospitality in the background.
El Cid, with Balboa Park’s House of Hospitality in the background.
East side of El Cid. Mingei Museum in background.
East side of El Cid. The Mingei Museum is in background.
Balboa Park's free shuttle passes the El Cid statue on a sunny day.
Balboa Park’s free shuttle passes the El Cid statue on a sunny day.

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Truth rendered with small touches of light.

Sorolla and America special exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art.
Sorolla and America special exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art.

Light is the physical means by which my eyes see. But I often don’t see true light.

Light is a mixture of myriad colors. But I often don’t see those many colors.

Yesterday I was struck by a few small touches of rare light. My eyes widened with astonishment during a few joyful, delicious moments of revelation.

I was very fortunate and privileged to be a given a special tour of the amazing Sorolla exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Catherine Jones, a docent at the museum, provided an excellent introduction to the light-dabbed paintings of a very important artist that the world has often overlooked.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was a Spanish post-Impressionist painter who won several major art awards and popular fame while he lived, but who soon became forgotten with the advent of the modern abstract movement in the early twentieth century. His stylistically varied and often unusually angled images contain applications of light like I’ve never before seen. Bits of reflection and exquisite luster, and sheens of revealed color, pulled me into a world where the true essence of a subject seems to shine out like magic, but in a very natural way.

I could have gazed at his emotionally stirring, always fascinating paintings for the entire day!

María at La Granja, courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
María at La Granja, courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.

The above painting, María at La Granja, was painted by Sorolla in 1907. In it you can see Sorolla’s famous application of light. The piece was donated to the San Diego Museum of Art in 1925 by Archer Huntington, philanthropist and founder of The Hispanic Society of America. The very first work of art to enter the collection, today María at La Granja is probably the most recognized image in the entire museum.

Joaquin Sorolla Portrait of President Taft, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Joaquin Sorolla’s Portrait of President Taft, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joaquin Sorolla’s Portrait of President Taft was commissioned by the president in 1909. It is one of many canvases in a special exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art assembled from museums throughout the world. Most of Sorolla’s important works are present, including Another Marguerite (1892), which was awarded a gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid and first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition, and Sad Inheritance (1899), which was awarded the Grand Prix and a medal of honor at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and the medal of honor at the National Exhibition in Madrid in 1901.

The two paintings that I’ve posted here hardly do justice to the full range of Sorolla’s splendor. His sun-splashed scenes of beach life in Valencia, his diverse and stunning portraits, his detailed scenes of life in Spain, all the essence and astonishing light that he captured, must be experienced firsthand to be most fully appreciated.

These works by Sorolla are on display for a limited time at the San Diego Museum of Art. If you can, you really should go see them! The special exhibition ends August 26, 2014.

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Cool sand sculptures at Sun and Sea Festival!

2014 Imperial Beach Sun and Sea sandcastle greets visitors.
2014 Imperial Beach Sun and Sea sandcastle greets visitors.

I had to take one more trip to Imperial Beach this summer because of another big, fun event by the pier. Today was the 2014 Sun and Sea Festival! The event replaces the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition which came to an end back in 2011.

Master sandcastle builders who have won many international awards converged to demonstrate their craft and compete for top honors just north of the Imperial Beach pier. When I arrived, the creations were roughly half done. So I got a bunch of interesting photos of the artists in action!

Featured sand sculpture built by Kirk Rademaker of Sand Masters.
Featured sand sculpture built by Kirk Rademaker of Sand Masters.

This centerpiece sandcastle stood near the foot of the pier, adjacent to busy vendor tents, and a variety of other fun activities.

Crowd watches master sand sculptors creating fantastic works of art.
Crowd watches master sand sculptors creating fantastic works of art.

Looking north from the pier toward the field of action.

Teams north of Imperial Beach pier works on a detailed creations.
Teams north of Imperial Beach pier work on detailed creations.
Plastic fork with two tines removed is used to create stonework detail.
Plastic fork with two tines removed is used to create stonework detail.
Patience, planning and creativity on a Southern California beach!
Patience, planning and creativity on a Southern California beach!
Sand creations are sprinkled with water to prevent disintegration.
Sand creations are sprinkled with water to prevent disintegration.
Tall structure looks like an exaggerated Eiffel Tower.
Tall structure looks like an exaggerated Eiffel Tower.
Sand head props up photos used to model more amazing creations.
Sand head props up photos used to model  rat from Ratatouille.
One unique sand sculpture was all about dogs.
One unique sand sculpture was all about dogs.
A dog has its day at Camp Run a Mutt.
A beach dog has its day at Camp Run a Mutt.
A castle with tall spires in the Imperial Beach competition.
A castle with tall spires in the Imperial Beach competition.
The 2014 Sun and Sea Festival attracted many onlookers.
The 2014 Sun and Sea Festival attracted many onlookers.
Brushes are often used to smooth and contour the sand.
Brushes are often used to smooth and contour the sand.
Water and sand are mixed to form raw material.
Water and sand are mixed to form raw building material.
Close look at some detailed work getting started.
Close look at some detailed work getting started.
Artist works on a tire of a Transformers sand sculpture.
Artist works on a tire of a Transformers sand sculpture.

Unfortunately, the Transformers sculpture wasn’t too far along, so I couldn’t get more interesting pics.

I think this is an octopus.
I think this is an octopus.
Huge, complex sand sculpture with many team members working.
Huge, complex sand sculpture with many team members working.
Now and Then is the theme of this sculpture.
Now and Then is the theme of this sculpture.
Long straight edge turns a broad swath of level sand into a boardwalk.
Long straight edge turns a broad swath of level sand into a boardwalk.
I like how quaint this sandcastle appears!
I like how quaint this sandcastle appears!
The Sand Squirrels was one team competing at the festival.
The Sand Squirrels was one team competing at the festival.
Rocket's engine of the Futurama sand sculpture.
Rocket’s engine of the funny Futurama sand sculpture.
Robot appears to be doing some sun bathing!
Robot appears to be doing some sun bathing!
Super cool locomotive sand sculpture near the IB pier.
Super cool locomotive sand sculpture near the IB pier.
I liked this huge underground sand train most of all!
I liked this huge underground sand train most of all!
Everybody is watching the teams build their sand creations!
Everybody is watching the pros build their sand creations!
Kids on the pier's other side build castles, too!
Kids on the pier’s other side build castles, too!

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Murals of San Diego history in an Old Town alley.

Mural in Old Town alley depicts explorer Cabrillo.
Mural in Old Town alley depicts explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.

I was wandering aimlessly around Old Town some time ago, just poking my nose here and there, when I discovered a whole bunch of beautiful murals! I found them in an interesting alley off San Diego Avenue, just south of the State Historic Park. The alley, a narrow walkway containing a variety of touristy wares, is called Avila Court. It’s tucked between the Old Town Surf Co. and Covered Wagon stores.

After looking at the artwork closely and talking to a lady working in the area, I learned most of the murals were painted by students from Grossmont College out in East County. Further research on the internet showed that there were originally ten murals, created in 2008, decorating over 85 feet of stucco wall. It’s apparent some of the murals were redone or altered in 2011.

Most of the murals depict people or places that are important in San Diego’s history. Those of you who follow my blog will probably recognize many!

Image of Charles Lindbergh and Spirit of St. Louis.
Image of Charles Lindbergh and Spirit of St. Louis.

Lindbergh’s famous airplane that crossed the Atlantic, the Spirit of St. Louis, was custom-built in San Diego by Ryan Airline Company.

Native American with flower painted in rich colors.
Native American with flower at night painted in rich colors.
Hotel del Coronado, buildings and beach scene.
Hotel del Coronado, buildings and beach scene.
Day of the Dead skeleton in front of the Whaley House.
Day of the Dead skeleton in front of the Whaley House.
Tuna fishermen and whale fluke off Coronado.
Tuna fishermen and whale fluke off Coronado.
Navy ship, huge surf and Mission San Diego.
Navy ship, huge surf and Mission San Diego.
Mural shows an American tall ship in San Diego Bay.
Mural shows an American tall ship in San Diego Bay.

I’m not sure who the whiskered military person is. If anyone out there knows, please tell us!

A combination of various old historic buildings.
A combination of various old historic buildings.
Point Loma lighthouse shines over Pacific Ocean.
Point Loma lighthouse shines over Pacific Ocean.
Tuna cannery worker and a Little Italy fisherman.
Tuna cannery worker and a Little Italy fisherman.
Star of India tied to dock at Embarcadero.
Star of India tied to dock at Embarcadero.
This part of one mural contains a gray whale.
This part of one mural contains a gray whale.
Sepia tone World War II era figures stand by old car.
Sepia tone World War II era figures stand by old car.
Seals, flowers and a cart on the beach.
Seals, flowers and carrying cattle hides from a beach.
Many murals were painted by Grossmont College students.
Many murals were painted by Grossmont College students.

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A very cool photographer near Seaport Village.

Photographer near Seaport Village shows me some great stuff.
Photographer near Seaport Village shows me some great stuff.

Yesterday I took a leisurely walk past Seaport Village. I said hello to a gentleman in the nearby Embarcadero Marina Park North who was displaying some stunning framed photographs, hoping for a donation. I’d never seen him there before.

I’m glad I paused to chat. Ralph Guest is one cool dude. (And a much better photographer than me!) In semi-retirement, he’s just begun to show and sell his photographs. He spends a lot of time out east of San Diego in the desert, especially in and around Slab City, which he described for me. He’s taken many amazing photos of the place, and of the people, who are called Slabbers. The folks out in the desert are a laid-back, independent,  unique bunch. He described a place out there named East Jesus, where trash is converted into art and power is supplied entirely by solar power. According to Wikipedia, “The inhabitants of East Jesus…provide a refuge for artists, musicians, survivalists, writers, scientists, and laymen. They are dedicated to providing a working model of an improbable improvised community…” Sounds to me like a rather interesting place! Ralph has photos and videos that can be checked out via links on his website.

It’s great to meet new people!

Ralph Guest is a super cool and interesting guy!
Ralph Guest is a super cool and interesting guy!

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Fun public art on Orange Avenue in Coronado.

Large cow stands in front of Coronado ice cream shop.
Large cow stands in front of Coronado ice cream shop.

Mosey along Orange Avenue on the island of Coronado and you’ll be confronted by extraordinary things. You’ll probably run into a large cow.  Or Elvis standing on the sidewalk, or a scaly, fantastic dragon. Or colorful ribbons of music. Or beautifully painted canvases by local artists in a public park.

Here are random pics of fun art that I’ve spotted…

Moo Time Creamery features a frozen Elvis.
Moo Time Creamery features an  Elvis on the sidewalk.
Coronado hot dog pours ketchup on itself!
Coronado hot dog pours ketchup on itself!
Checking out art for sale in Coronado's Spreckels Park.
Checking out creative artwork for sale in Coronado’s Spreckels Park.
Playful tile mural on a Spreckels Park restroom.
Playful tile mural on a Spreckels Park restroom.
Ribbon of music shown moving both old and young.
Ribbon of music shown moving both old and young.
Tile mosaic on park restroom shows lively musicians.
Tile mosaic on park restroom shows lively musicians.
Big dragon in front of the Coronado Public Library.
Big dragon stands in front of the Coronado Public Library. Imagine Dragon, by artist Kent Kraber, 2008. This fun sculpture was originally part of an Urban Trees exhibition along San Diego’s Embarcadero.
Head of fantastic dragon sculpture faces Orange Avenue.
Head of fantastic dragon sculpture faces Orange Avenue.

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The Strength of the Women mural by Rafael Lopez.

The Strength of Women mural by Rafael Lopez.
The Strength of the Women mural by Rafael Lopez.

Should you ever ride the San Diego Trolley up Park Boulevard between the Market Street and City College stations, you might notice this large, colorful mural on a building wall. It’s called The Strength of the Women and is based on the work of noted local artist Rafael Lopez.

This mural is part of the Urban Art Trail, a project in San Diego whose mission is to beautify areas that have been unfortunately neglected and subject to urban decay. Along this section of Park Boulevard you’ll find many homeless people.

Beautiful mural on Park Boulevard in San Diego.
Beautiful mural on Park Boulevard in San Diego.
A closer look at mural shows past patches of graffiti.
A closer look at mural shows past patches of graffiti.
Public art painted in 2000 by the women of CalWORKs.
Public art painted in 2000 by the women of CalWORKs.

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Fountain of Two Oceans sculpture turns white!

Bronze nudes of Sergio Benvenuti's Fountain of Two Oceans.
Bronze nudes of Sergio Benvenuti’s Fountain of Two Oceans.

This blog post is long overdue. The interesting pics you see here have been sitting idle on my computer’s hard drive, accidentally forgotten.

I was astonished several months ago to see that the Fountain of Two Oceans sculpture in front of downtown’s Wells Fargo building had completely changed. For the last 30 years, the two bronze figures reclining in the fountain’s basin have looked exactly like…bronze. Then–poof–one day I noticed they’d turned white!

I’m not sure if that’s white paint, or what exactly. It seems the intent was to make the figures stand out more, and appear like marble. To my eye, however, the white coating makes them garish, black-eyed, and almost ghostly. At a distance they look bland and formless.

According to an internet search, The Fountain of Two Oceans was placed in downtown San Diego in 1984. The art, now a familiar San Diego landmark, was created by Sergio Benvenuti, a sculptor from Florence, Italy.

Fountain of Two Oceans sculpture is now white.
Fountain of Two Oceans sculpture is now white.
White coating makes bronze sculpture seem ghostly.
White coating makes bronze sculpture seem ghostly.

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Duality in Coming Together mosaic sculpture.

Coming Together sculpture near Petco Park and convention center.
Coming Together sculpture near convention center and Petco Park.

A very prominent example of public art in San Diego is the large sculpture that stands at the southeast end of the convention center,  just across Harbor Drive from Petco Park. The colorful ceramic and mirror mosaic face, called Coming Together, was created by internationally famous artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Two more of her whimsical artistic works can be seen in front of the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park.

Niki has explained that Coming Together represents the essential duality in human beings. The two sides of the composite face have several notable differences.  One side is black and white, the other has a range of bright colors.  One side is jagged and angular, the other is smooth and curved.  One half of the face has long hair, the other half doesn’t.

The striking image that is created, she has explained, is a Western interpretation of yin and yang.  The duality includes joy and darkness, and the masculine and the feminine.

Created in 2001, Coming Together has definitely become a well known landmark in downtown San Diego!

Public art created by Niki de St. Phalle.
Public art created by Niki de Saint Phalle.
Closer look at light shining from mosaic sculpture.
Closer look at light shining from mosaic sculpture.
Ceramic and mirror artwork reflects nearby Hilton.
Ceramic and mirror artwork reflects nearby Hilton.
Coming Together sculpture stands along Harbor Drive.
Coming Together sculpture stands along Harbor Drive.

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