On a Playful Brick

To me, art is one of the (if not the most) ultimate expressions of human creativity. It’s easy to apply that thought to paintings, drawings, and sculptures – but it also applies (and not limited to) music, architecture, closing, photography, and countless creations of woodwork, jewelry, knitting, pottery, and embroidery..

For many months, my wife and I looked forward to visiting an exhibit before it left Cincinnati’s Museum Center – an exhibit of something many of us played with – a toy – yet, the fundamental ingredient of an art form – LEGO® bricks.

Art of the Brick is an exhibit featuring the work of Nathan Sawaya – a contemporary artist who uses LEGO® bricks to replicate his expressions of great art and his own original art through these toyful bricks.

Lego Entrance

Although the exhibit contained over 100 pieces, the comparative images of Sawaya’s work to the originals impressed me …

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… but so did his replications of the Mona Lisa (da Vinci), Starry Night (Van Gogh), and others …

… and so did this (I’m guessing) 10 ft (3 m) version of the iconic Moai on Easter Island composed of over 75,000 individual bricks …

Lego Moai

.. Sorry to say I didn’t get of a good picture this 20 ft (6 m) long replication of Tyrannosaurus rex of over 80,000 bricks, but The Guardian did (which I will list in the Additional Resources at the end of this post)

Mr. Sawaya also created original contemporary work How could one not love the swimmer in the pool of bricks …

Lego Swimmer

… and Yellow: the expression of a life-sized man ripping open his chest …

Lego Yellow

.. and a unique collection of other originals …

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… and even the Flying Pig specifically done for the people of Cincinnati in this exhibit.

Lego Flying Pig

Art of the Brick is a fun and impressive exhibit. Although it’s run in Cincinnati is ending, multiple exhibits are currently touring across the globe. See the Additional Information at the end that includes the tour’s world-wide schedule. Any favorites?

Videos
The Exhibit

From the artist

Testimonials

The exhibit challenges the concept of what is art. What is a toy. And even the limits of human imagination. It’s a playground where pigs are let loose to fly. – Carol Motsinger, Cincinnati.com

Is it a grown-up version of child’s play? Yes. Is it art? Yes — and not merely in the kitschy tradition of Warhol. In addition to presenting an 80,020-piece Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and plastic reproductions of famous masterpieces, the exhibition is surprisingly contemplative. – Kathy Schwartz, CityBeat

Sure, it might start with a brick, but it takes an impressive amount of vision to build upon that first step and take the concept to the finish line. Because while we’ve all, at one time or another, built a house out of LEGOs, we haven’t built the world’s largest display of LEGO art. That claim belongs to Sawaya. – Leah Zipperstein, Cincinnati Refined

While I loved seeing the well-known works of art re-imagined and created in LEGO® bricks, I was totally enamored with the creativity displayed by the original works of Nathan Sawaya.” – Bridgett Raffenberg, 365Cincinnati.com

This exhibit isn’t just for LEGO fanatics…everyone is going to love this collection of works of art using LEGO bricks. – Katie S., TheLittleThingsJournal.com

Each room of the exhibit has a WOW factor! It’s hard to pick a favorite when you see how diverse Nathan’s skills are. It’s incredible to think of the foresight and planning that went into creating each sculpture. – Nedra McDaniel, AdventureMomBlog.com

Additional Information
Exhibit’s website
The Touring Schedule
The Artist
Images from The Guardian

Art of the Brick is something to think about. After all, this exhibit may be near you.

Lego Ponder

On the Headstone’s Story

Many of us remember Charlie Rich – the country music singer and songwriter known as the Silver Fox. His biggest hits were Behind Closed Doors and The Most Beautiful Girl, and the latter earned him two Grammy Awards.

I recall the first time I passed the beautiful and unique headstone near the road in a small town cemetery not too far from my house, but I knew his man wasn’t the Silver Fox – who was actually Charles Allan Rich. However, research would deliver a few surprises about the Cincinnati connection in this tale.

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I never stopped to look at the headstone, but it’s uniqueness and significance always caught my eye. One day it was gone. I’ve heard different reasons for it being missing, but for the next 10 years or so, I would think about Mr. Rich when driving past the cemetery … especially wondering about the missing headstone.

Several months ago, I noticed the headstone had returned. I don’t know why, how, or if any changes were made, but I was happy to have it back. Much has happened since it last stood tall – especially starting this blog. I knew it had to be featured in a post, so I visited the grave … and now the rest of the story.

Miners formed Deadwood in the Dakota Territory in 1876 as a result of the Black Hills gold rush. The town’s namesake were the many dead trees occupying the surrounding canyon walls. The name stuck and the town is still there today in what is now west-central South Dakota. Deadwood is also a great name for the colorful and lawless legends of the new American frontier of that time … the wild, wild west.

Charlie Rich was born (1859) and raised one county north of Cincinnati. Being unmarried, young and adventurous, he traveled west seeking fortune.

Away from Deadwood, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was a skilled sharpshooter and quite the character. His legendary status involved time as a lawman, hunter, tracker, winner of duels, and participation in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. He also drank, gambled, and indulged in more than his fair share of fun. In other words, many knew Wild Bill.

In 1871, Hickok met Agnes Thatcher Lake, a widow and experienced circus performer who was 10 years older. They married on March 5, 1876 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Oddly enough, Agnes grew up in Cincinnati – so they traveled to Cincinnati for their honeymoon and to meet Agnes’ friends. After a few weeks in Ohio, Wild Bill felt the need to head west to search for gold – so Wild Bill took the train back to Cheyenne (leaving Agnes in Cincinnati). Later, he joined a wagon train bound for Deadwood – arriving in June or July.

Two interesting things happened on August 1, 1876 in Deadwood. Wild Bill wrote a letter to his wife with these words:

Agnes Darling, if such should be we never meet again, while firing my last shot, I will gently breathe the name of my wife—Agnes—and with wishes even for my enemies I will make the plunge and try to swim to the other shore.

That evening at the Nuttall, Lewis & Mann’s No. 10 Saloon, Wild Bill played poker with several men – including Jack McCall. While Wild Bill won the money, others (including McCall) lost. Wild Bill returned some money to McCall so he could get a meal, but he also cautioned McCall about playing again before repaying his debts.

The next afternoon, Wild Bill Hickok returned to the same saloon for more poker. Charlie Rich, whom Hickok had met in Cheyenne earlier in the year, was the dealer. Rich was sitting in Wild Bill’s favorite seat, so Wild Bill asked Rich to changed seats. Rich refused, but Wild Bill joined the game.

Charlie Rich dealt the game of five-card stud. Jack McCall entered the saloon. He saw Wild Bill seated at a table, and approached him from behind. While saying, Damn you, take that! – McCall shot Wild Bill Hickok in the head from point-blank range, instantly killing him.

Headstone Deal

Wild Bill Hickok’s card hand was two black aces, 2 black eights … thereafter known as Dead Man’s Hand. In this case, the jack of diamonds was his down card.

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The townspeople buried Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, the town where he still lies today. Agnes visited her husband’s grave in 1877. While there, she made arrangements to place an iron fence around her slain husband’s grave. She eventually married a third time, and died on August 21, 1907 in New jersey. Interestingly, she is buried here (in Cincinnati) next to her first husband at Spring Grove Cemetery.

But what about Charlie Rich – the dealer – the man whose gravesite is near me? Several years after the shooting, he returned to Ohio where he worked, married, had a family, and died (1929) – three weeks shy of his 70th birthday.

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In time, the family decided to honored the man who dealt the infamous Dead Man’s Hand with a special headstone – the man who family says never dealt another hand.

Headstone Whole

This is the side that one sees when driving by Evergreen Cemetery on Rt. 126 just outside Miamiville, Ohio. Some of the other images from the other side appear in this post … and this headstone tells quite a story!

On a Martha

Sorry … not Martha Stewart, Martha Graham, Martha White, or Martha Raye. Nope … not Martha Reeves, Martha Plimpton, Martha Quinn, Martha Raddatz, Martha from the Bible. Not even Martha in another language as Marta, Martina, Martine, Martella, Maruska, Marte, or even just simply Marti. I know some are guessing Martha Washington, wife of the first US President – na-baby-na … but this Martha is named the First Lady.

Martha literally means lady, so yes, the name fits. Martha has a royal significance in Scandinavia, so royalty is a suitable adjective, but this Martha isn’t Scandinavian and possibly never visited that beautiful part of the world.

There isn’t consensus on or where Martha was born, but there is no doubt about when and where she died .. nor her significance. This post is about Martha – Ectopistes migratorius – a passenger pigeon.

Living in enormous colonies, passenger pigeons were the most common bird found in the US. Their migratory flocks could darken a sky, causing famous bird painter James Audubon wrote in 1813,

I observed the Pigeons flying from north-east to south-west, in greater numbers than I thought I had ever seen them before, and feeling an inclination to count the flocks that might pass within the reach of my eye in one hour, I dismounted, seated myself on an eminence, and began to mark with my pencil, making a dot for every flock that passed. In a short time finding the task which I had undertaken impracticable, as the birds pouted in   countless multitudes, I rose, and counting the dots then put down, found that 163 had been made in twenty-one minutes. I travelled on, and still met more the farther I proceeded. The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse, the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose. The Pigeons were still passing in undiminished numbers, and continued to do so for three days in succession.

Overhunting, habitat loss, and possibly diseases sharply decreased their population. By mid-1910, Martha was the only remain of her species – and living at the Cincinnati Zoo. At 1:00 pm on September 1, 1914, Martha died. Shortly thereafter, zoo workers packed her in a 300 pound (140 kg) block of ice for transportation to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

Enter my ties to Martha. Although, I’ve seen her memorials on numerous occasions at the Cincinnati Zoo and Cincinnati Museum Center, in 2014 I posted this image of a mural in downtown Cincinnati. The mural is a project by ArtWorks, a non-profit organization with one aspect being providing murals as public art. (For the interested, here’s a short video about ArtWorks)

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Later, I discovered that the mural is based on a painting by a famous wildlife artist, John Ruthven. His style is not only similar to John Audubon’s, Ruthven’s world has also traveled the globe and is found in numerous museums. Currently at the age of 91, he still resides in the Cincinnati area. In 2013, Ruthven completed an acrylic painting – Martha: The Last Passenger Pigeon.

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In the summer 2013, ArtsWork transformed Ruthven’s painting into a very large mural. Enjoy the time-lapse as Martha flies again.

 

On a Day at a Museum

In late December, my wife and I spent the afternoon at the Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC). The fabulous day included two Omnimax movies, an exhibition, the holiday train display, and sometime in the history portion of the CMC … so here’s your chance to explore what we saw.

The CMC occupies Union Terminal. With its Art Deco, rotunda, tile mosaics, and architectural structures, Union Terminal is quite the building. In 2007, the American Institute of Architects listed this wonderful structure by placing it #44 on the AIA’s favorites of American architecture. Learn more about Union Terminal here.

Jerusalem, a National Geographic movie, was fascinating! We’ve seen most of the Omnimax movies through the years, and this one ranks as one of the best. The trailer is below, but here is the list of locations the movie is currently playing throughout the world.

Mummies of the World is a travelling exhibit that is currently in Cincinnati. The exhibit trailer is below, and click here for the exhibit’s main website. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a schedule of future tour stops.

In the Omnimax theater, we also saw Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs. To me, the movie was OK and worth seeing, but doesn’t make my list of favorite films at the museum’s theater. Explore the trailer.

On our way to the holiday train display, the Cincinnati in Motion exhibit is a personal favorite. It’s a model of the city in the first half of the 20th Century. Life in cities during pre-suburbia and interstates fascinates me. The video below will give you a ride through the display, and you can see some images here.

On a Walktober Town Walk

Loveland Sign

Loveland Sign

As part of Robin’s Walktober, welcome to Loveland, the town where my wife and I reside. Instead of sharing our beauty fall colors, I’ve chosen to take you for a town walk of this northeastern Cincinnati suburb.

Lt. Colonel Thomas Paxton may have first lived in a house like this …

Rich Cabin

Rich Cabin @ the Loveland Historical Museum

… but his daughter and husband built this home in 1840 …

White Pillars

White Pillars

… and all are buried in the family cemetery (both the home and cemetery are now part of a subdivision)

Paxton Cemetery

Paxton Family Cemetery

In the early days, Loveland thrived as a railroad community because two lines intersected here, thus served at least 14 trains a day … (and one railway still operates as I hear the train’s horn several times a day)

Loveland Station

Loveland Station

One of the railroad beds is now a very popular 70-mile bike trail, which also intersects with other trails in the state

Loveland straddles both sides the Little Miami River, which is a designated sceinic waterway at both the state and national level, thus is popular for canoeing … plus the bike trail follows the river

Between the bike trail and the river is a wonderful city park with picnic tables, an amphitheater, and access to the river bank

Old Town offers a some shops, eateries, and a movie theater that the local firefighters converted into a playhouse for the community theater company

Other sights include a studio for local artists, an old church that is now someone’s home (I’m told the owners call it their chouse), and even a mural for Resa

Loveland honors its veterans from all wars and area firefighters

The city’s motto is The Sweetheart of Ohio, besides, people love to send Valentine’s Day cards with the Loveland post office mark

A City Symbol

The Sweetheart of Ohio

From Loveland, Ohio, good day and good night … and don’t forget to vist

WalktoberRobin

On a Grand Hall

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With its face towering over a rejuvenated Washington Park in the historic Over the Rhine neighborhood just north of city center, Music Hall is a Cincinnati treasure. Recognized by the US Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark (December 1974),

Music Hall is a grand building with a central concert hall, a large ballroom that originally served as an exhibition center for automobile shows, garden shows, and even hosting sporting events. We love ballroom dance events in this venue. I introduced Music Hall in this June 2011 post.

From the first performance on May 14, 1878 (the opera, Alceste, and Beethoven’s Eroica symphony) to serving as the current home to the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, Cincinnati Ballet, May Festival, and more, Music Hall remains the city’s cultural heart. Besides being one of America’s grand concert halls, it also has known as place haunted with ghosts – but friendly ghosts.

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One can view its majestic nature from across Washington Park. Is there any doubt that Cincinnati Germans love for music? Nonetheless, its highest peak is quirky.
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The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), the fifth oldest orchestra in the America, used a new summer event to welcome its new (13th) conductor, Louis Langrée – who joins the list of CSO Musical Directors as Leopold Stokowski, Max Rudolf, Thomas Shippers, Walter Suskind, Jesús López-Cobos, and Paavo Järvi.

  • The event: LumenoCity 2013
  • The place: Washington Park
  • The background and screen: Music Hall

Enjoy the Fourth Movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 from LumenoCity 2013, an event using Music Hall’s exterior as a backdrop for a concert also delivering a visual feast that is worth 10 minutes for those who like this sort of thing. Additional information related to this post is below the video.

Additional Information
For all the LumenoCity videos
More about Music Hall
A recent article from the Huffington Post about Music Hall and LumenoCity 2013
My post about historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood

On OTR

 

From the Cincinnati Enquirer 05 Apr 2014

From the Cincinnati Enquirer 05 Apr 2014

Italianate: An architectural style familiar to Cincinnatians; to me, this word means history, it means culture and the effect of row after row of rooftops overlooking the city. – David Falk, Cincinnati restaurateur, Huffington Post  

Over-the-Rhine (“über dem Rhein.” in German) is a Cincinnati neighborhood that got its name from the Germans that transformed the area in the mid-1800s from farms and gardens to a vibrant community. Its name came from the fact that residents had to cross the Miami-Erie Canal that separated the neighborhood from downtown. (Today, the former canal is Central Parkway, a large thoroughfare.)

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It was this wave of working-class German immigrants that brought Italianate architecture to Cincinnati. This scale-down version of Italian palaces met their needs because there were affordable to build on narrow lots.

At one time, more than 45,000 people lived in Over-the-Rhine (OTR), of which 75% were first or second generation German-Americans. Given the German culture’s love for beer, Cincinnati’s historic brewery district was born, which also employed thousands. OTR also became home to Cincinnati landmarks as Music Hall, Findlay Market, historic churches, Washington Park, Memorial Hall, and more.

DSC02008Many left the neighborhood due to the anti-German sentiment of World War I. Coupled that with Prohibition, OTR changed. Although many Appalachians became residents, the neighborhood remained vibrant. The 1960s brought interstates to urban areas, and OTR became flanked by I-75 and I-71. Suburbia began to grow, and the neighborhood’s demographics continued to change – eventually leaving this neighborhood to the poor.

DSC02047By 2000, the once-proud neighborhood was the poster for urban blight – deteriorating buildings, walls separating, broken windows, unsanitary living quarters, drugs, shootings, and high crime. With an average median income of $10,000 per household, OTR was also the home for many social agencies.

“One of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country” would be added to a neighborhood that in 1983 received distinction of a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places that has significance to other historic neighborhoods as in Savannah (Georgia), Charleston (South Carolina), the French Quarter (New Orleans), and Greenwich Village (New York City).

DSC02043In 2003, Cincinnati Center City Development Corp (3CDC) formed to transform the area. After all, the 360 acres of historic distinction was home to 943 buildings of Italianate architecture from the 19th century. Besides, given the historic distinction, tearing down buildings is not an option – so change became the order.

With 3CDC leading the charge, millions have been spent to rehabilitate the historic neighborhood to restore buildings, renovate Washington Park, improve streetscape, add green space, and develop DSC02050commercial space. Yes – OTR is rapidly changing. Suburban friends of ours recently purchased a building to rehabilitate into their future home.

Last October, a friend and I decided to walk around Over-the-Rhine. Transformation is evident by site of active construction workers and buildings are various stages of restoration. Mixed within the new, social agencies remain to care for the many that remain needy – causing me to wonder where they will go. Nonetheless, vibrancy is returning to this historical, once-vibrant neighborhood. After all, a Graeter’s has also arrived in OTR.

You (Cincinnati) are no longer that embarrassing girlfriend I don’t tell my friends about, insecure and self-conscious. You are alive and breathing in gasps of energy, and I scream my love for you from the Italianate rooftops. David Falk, Cincinnati restaurateur, Huffington Post

On a beautiful day, we walked a lot, saw a lot, and always felt safe. Enjoy the pictures of this historic Cincinnati neighborhood. Any thoughts?

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Additional References