Standing woman sculpture at UC San Diego.

There’s an unusual sculpture at UC San Diego rising high in the air between the Medical Teaching Facility and the Basic Sciences Building. I say it’s unusual because it doesn’t feature a “usual” depiction of the human form and I’m not sure how it affects me.

The piece’s title is Standing, and its creator is artist Kiki Smith. The public art was added to UCSD’s Stuart Collection in 1998.

Gazing up at the small, vulnerable figure you’ll notice what appear to be nails sticking out from her upper body. It looks like an example of a surgical procedure in a medical textbook. It makes her look like a passive, punctured thing, not a vibrant human. The form appears tired, aged, fragile, resigned to her inescapable condition. It strikes me the sculpture depicts a confrontation with our human mortality. She stands atop a severed tree trunk. Her face seems to ask: Why me? When the fountain feature is on (it wasn’t when I walked by), water drips from her hands. I almost wonder if the dripping water makes one think of draining blood.

Yet, to me, the sculpture isn’t really that morbid. It’s simply seems a clear-eyed observation of the material human condition.

An interpretation from the website that describes the piece emphasizes certain dualities: “Cast from a live model, the female figure atop Standing calls forth thoughts of human strength and frailty, and both the power and the limits of medicine. Serene and ageless, she stands in a Madonna-like pose that is both vulnerable and generous. Ribbons of water – the source of life – flow from her hands into the rock-lined pond below, with a soothing, mellifluous sound.”

Perhaps my own interpretation is too bleak. It’s hard to see past those nails. They remind me of an earthworm dissection I performed using a square of cardboard and pins in high school. Perhaps if clear bright water was flowing from her hands my feelings would change.

If there is strength and generosity in this sculpture, it comes from within the form, from a place unseen–an organ those sharp painful nails cannot reach. And the water’s sound must be the gentle sound of present living. A sonorous whisper from a human standing.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

The dilemma of creativity.

Creating a work of art presents the artist with a dilemma. How does one know the artwork is finished?

Suppose you’re a painter. You add brushstroke after brushstroke to your canvas, continually changing it. You alter a line here, blend a color there, add touches of light or dark, then stand back every so often for another critical examination. Which brushstroke makes your painting exactly right?

There is almost infinite potential in a canvas, brush and paint. But a painter must decide when to stop.

Does the artist finally stop because their creation “feels” right?

Feelings change.

Does the artist finally surrender? Does creativity meet a wall? Can the artist proceed no farther?

Human imagination is limitless.

Yes, your painting at this stage is beautiful. But why do you decide to now place it in a frame and say it’s done?

I just finished writing a short story about this artistic dilemma. And about other mysterious things. It’s titled The Wheel.

The main character in this small story is a potter.

Will I ever make changes to this work of fiction? Who knows?

Read it by clicking here.

Quiet forms, late light, and untold stories.

An early evening walk along the Embarcadero. I didn’t take many photos. But some of the images contain such strong, silent feeling that I’ve decided to share them.

I titled this modest series of photographs: Quiet forms, late light, and untold stories.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The promise of musical power.

Tomorrow evening’s San Diego International Organ Festival’s concert is going to be awesome. I heard part of the rehearsal today.

The majestic Spreckels Organ accompanied by beautifully played string instruments is too emotionally powerful for words.

Starting at 7:30 pm on Monday, August 26, at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez will be joined by four accomplished chamber musicians, including members of the San Diego Symphony.

You can sense the musical power a little bit in a few of these photos.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A heart on the ground. Music on a rooftop.

A couple days ago I noticed two hearts while walking through downtown.

One was lying on the hard sidewalk, protected with sharp barbs. The other was up on a rooftop, in a musician playing violin. The musician’s heart was precarious, vulnerable and free.

Do you protect your heart? Do you express it?

To read thoughtful short stories about the complex human condition, click Short Stories by Richard.

Do smartphones make people more shallow?

I probably shouldn’t post this blog. I share some of the guilt. After all, I’m a producer of internet content.

During my walk through Balboa Park today, I felt creeping despair.

Balboa Park is an amazing, wonderful, special place. Lifted eyes see a world that is infinitely interesting and beautiful.

About one third of the people I observed had their eyes absolutely fixed to the tiny screens of their smartphones. They were too obsessed to notice the vast world around them. Nor other people around them.

Of these, many were grown adults searching for a virtual Pokemon, a game fit for the simple mind of a child. At least these people looked up from time to time.

Yes, I know some people were busy communicating with friends, or perhaps looking up information, or a map of the park.

I also know that our lives are complex and so is human psychology. Everyone is different. I, too, have my silly, simple pleasures. It’s hard to draw firm conclusions. Technology changes. The culture changes. People change. Fads come and go.

But it does appear that humans are powerfully drawn to stimuli on isolated screens.

And, of course, the wonderful thing about smartphones is they can make life so much easier. Eye-to-eye politeness is no longer required. The potential for vulnerability in spontaneously spoken words is thankfully avoided. Problem solving is automatic. Critical thinking is less and less necessary. Simple and self-comforting ideas flood social media. Self absorption is made as easy as pie. Narcissism is rewarded.

I often wonder, as virtual reality becomes increasingly prevalent, whether people will permanently insert their entire selves into shallow, shrinking virtual worlds. The Matrix, of our own choosing.

If it feels good, why fight it?

Survey of racial identity, feelings at MCASD.

People walk past the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's gallery at America Plaza.
People walk past the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s building at America Plaza.

I recently noticed new thought-provoking graphics in the windows of the MCASD building at America Plaza.

Last year, a survey was taken of 100 people passing through America Plaza. Questions were asked about racial and ethnic identity. Today an outdoor display at downtown’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego expands on the results and explores the complicated subject.

The window graphics are designed to catch the eye and draw visitors into the nearby gallery.

This project was produced by artists with students from local colleges in San Diego and Tijuana who participated in Transnational Seminar 1, lead by Collective Magpie.

On April 20th, 100 pedestrians took a survey here in America Plaza about race and ethnicity. Self-classification data was compiled.
On April 20th, 100 pedestrians took a survey here in America Plaza about race and ethnicity. Self-classification data was compiled.
Of the 100 surveyed, 83 answered mixed race; 14 white people; 3 people of color.
Of the 100 surveyed, 83 answered mixed race; 14 white people; 3 people of color.
Feelings about racial identity can differ from person to person.
Feelings about racial identity can differ from person to person.
One of two panels containing some of the racial or ethnic classifications that one might choose.
One of two panels containing some of the racial and ethnic categories that a person might choose.
A splash of words, asking passersby what the ultimate definition of race is.
A splash of words, asking people walking down Kettner Boulevard what the ultimate definition of race is…
People might feel differently about their racial identity depending on a range of factors and circumstances.
People might feel differently about their racial identity depending on a range of factors and circumstances, from their appearance…to their dreams…to their immediate environment…to the way they live.
Thought-provoking graphics in the windows of MCASD's downtown gallery at America Plaza.
Thought-provoking graphics concerning race in the windows of MCASD’s building at America Plaza.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A day full of dreaming by the water.

Dreaming together by the sparkling water.
Dreaming together by the sparkling water.

A slow, lazy day. One last November day of unseasonably warm weather. Like many, I had the day off from work.

A quiet stroll along San Diego Bay.

A day for dreaming by the water.

Reflected light is all we see. A dream of light flows from the hand of painter Paul Strahm.
Sitting in sunshine above the water. A dream of light flows from the hand of the always friendly painter Paul Strahm.
The undefinable essence of dreams.
The undefinable essence of dreams.
A vision beyond the reach of a pier.
A vision beyond the reach of a pier.
Light on water invites meditation.
A firm foundation and quiet moment. Light on water invites meditation.
More quiet time by the water.
Time vanishes near the water.
Ripples in a strange reality.
Ripples in a strange reality.
Moving together past a burst of beauty.
Moving together in the walk of life, past a burst of beauty.
Almost like a dream within a dream.
Almost like a dream within a dream.
Enjoying this magic, wonderful life together.
Enjoying this magic, wonderful life together.
Reading words by the tranquil water. Sensing deeper truths.
Reading words by tranquil water. Perhaps sensing deeper truths.
Another day of dreaming by the water.
Another day of dreaming by the shining water.

Today two ideas for short stories came to me like a dream. As I sat on a bench by beautiful San Diego Bay, I penned a few passing words.

I believe the titles will be The Failed Heart and A Dangerous Noise. When these stories feel finished–if that feeling ever comes–I’ll publish them on my writing blog Short Stories by Richard.

Three dystopian short stories.

Perhaps you’ve noticed I love to write fiction. I love to combine words. Words are tools that can dig toward truth.

I’ve recently written three short stories that are absolutely dystopian. They concern advancements in technology and the possibility of our own dehumanization.

I’m not a pessimist. I prefer to smile and generally try to find and highlight good things in life. But I also strive to be intellectually honest. I recognize that the human world contains both light and darkness. And some of my stories can be quite dark.

These three dystopian stories are: Life Made Easier, A Ship Without Ghosts, and What the Giant Saw. Click the links if you’d like to read them.

It’s funny–the latter, most recent story was written yesterday as I sat beside the small river in Balboa Park’s beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden. Looking down at the living water, I felt strangely like a giant. Perhaps my stream of thought emerged from that feeling.

All of my modest works of fiction can be found at my website Short Stories by Richard.

Photos of Donal Hord’s iconic sculpture Aztec.

Face of iconic sculpture Aztec, presented to SDSU in 1937 by artist Donal Hord.
Face of iconic sculpture Aztec, presented to SDSU in 1937 by San Diego artist Donal Hord.

An iconic work of art can be found at San Diego State University. The diorite sculpture is considered by many to be a modernist masterpiece–some have called it one of the finest stone figures ever sculpted. Its renowned artist, Donal Hord, who lived most of his life in San Diego, referred to his creation as Aztec or The Aztec. He presented the amazing sculpture to SDSU in 1937 during a Founder’s Day celebration.

I headed over to SDSU yesterday to see the sculpture for myself and hopefully take some photos. I was struck by the quiet strength, nobility and simplicity of the work. I could have rested my eyes and mind upon the Aztec for a very long while. It touched my innermost feelings about humanity–elevating those feelings. Art done well cuts deeper than philosophy. It reaches deep inside like potent magic.

Donal Hord with Aztec, 1937, at San Diego State University. Public domain image from the collection of the Archives of American Art.
Donal Hord with Aztec, 1937, at San Diego State University. Public domain image from the collection of the Archives of American Art.
The sculpture's base, which was presented to SDSU by the graduating class of 1937, has a plaque with the title Montezuma. The artist himself called his piece the Aztec.
The sculpture’s base, which was presented to SDSU by the graduating class of 1937, has a plaque with the title Montezuma. The artist himself called his piece the Aztec.
A tranquil, bold sculpture that evokes feelings of nobility.
A tranquil, bold sculpture that evokes feelings of human nobility.
Side view of the Aztec shows gracefully folded hands and strongly planted feet.
Side view of the Aztec shows gracefully folded hands and strongly planted feet.
The diorite sculpture seems to be carved from the eternal substance of the black, star-filled cosmos. Light upon its curving surface is like gentle light on rippled water.
The diorite sculpture seems to be carved from the eternal substance of the black, star-filled cosmos. Light upon its curving surface is like gentle light on rippled water.
An expression of strength, thoughtfulness, humility. An iconic image one will not soon forget.
An expression of strength, thoughtfulness, humility. An iconic image one will not soon forget.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to share and enjoy!