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    Tower of Sea Creatures

    The below slideshow features photos of a sculpture I made and gave to my brother and his wife.  It’s now sitting on a counter in their dining room and chances are they aren’t even using it.  The sculpture is quite the work of art if I do say so myself.   The central tower beam, upon which most everything else projects, is comprised of sea urchin exoskeletons.  Numerous red algae branches are glued to the urchin tower, and from these branches hang dozens of crabs, all of which I handpicked myself from Northern California beaches.  Manifold shells festoon the sculpture.  These small shells (which, like all the other shells I’ve collected, reside in jars – and in the case of the smaller ones are divided into two separate jars: “tiny” and “miniature”) were obtain by crawling around on my hands and knees on obscure California beaches with a pair of forceps, hand-picking the shells that looked nice.  The little trees which adorn the sides of the sculpture are made from driftwood and jewel beetle wings.  What I find most impressive about the sculpture is not that I made it, but that its beauty is entirely natural.  I could never construct this sort of art out of synthetic or artificial material because it doesn’t exist.  What makes this sculpture beautiful is that fact that nature itself is the most brilliant artist, and every piece I’ve glued together is an impeccable rendition created and perfected by the natural world.  I take no credit for this because Mother Nature has done it all.  Additionally, what I have presented in the form of a stagnant sculpture of sea death resembles living micro-worlds I have encountered while scuba diving.  The sculpture I have created is not unlike many sections of reefs or subtidal zones I have seen underwater off the coasts of California, New Zealand, and Belize. What is tragic about this sculpture is that marine life everywhere is in steep decline.  I am a firm believer in the web of life, and very much fear that the end of humanity begins with the death of saltwater ecosystems across the globe.  I can imagine an abysmal dystopian future where the only point of reference to coral reefs and healthy marine ecosystems will be photographs, drawings, virtual reality depictions, and sculptures like the one I’ve made.  I truly pray that I am wrong.



    Auckland Art Gallery

    Last month I was fortunate enough to visit the Auckland Art Gallery, which houses a surprisingly impressive array of fine art in the museum’s painting and sculpture collection, which is the most extensive in New Zealand. Admission is free, and there a many incredibly beautiful paintings in this gem of a museum which is small enough to prevent being lost in but large enough to stand in a wing of in solitaire observance of the paintings.  The below slideshow features some of the pieces that I found most moving.  When I see a painting that blows me away, I usually stand back and look at it for a moment and then shake my head from side to side, thinking: This is absolutely amazing, how in the world did they do this?  I sometimes wonder if I could ever paint a nice painting like those I’ve seen on the walls of the Auckland Art Gallery, and I am not bothered by the fact that the answer is no.  One of the tricks in life is to do what you’re good at and love to do.  The fact that you should pursue your passions shouldn’t dissuade you from trying your hand at something different, like paintings, but you should never feel bad about not being a virtuoso in every field that you respect, admire, and appreciate. I’m still learning this lesson. 



    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City contains the third largest collection of paintings and sculptures in the world - the second largest being at the London Gallery of Art, and the single largest being at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg - or so I’m told.  The best times to visit the MET is when they’re open late on Fridays and Saturdays, for there are fewer people than compared to normal visiting hours.  You can pay any amount you wish for your admissions fee, which is part of a broader testament to how far we can come culturally as a species, for some of humanity’s finest artistic achievements are harbored in museums open to the public all across the world (it didn’t have to be this way, and such was not the case in many hubs of civilization throughout history, yet it remains to be seen if humans can maintain this culturally enriching egalitarian trend insofar as the material arts go), granted there are countless private collections own by wealthy families or individuals whom are constantly acquiring through auction pieces of art that may never be showcased in a public setting.  I believe that the best way to appreciate one’s museum experience is to visit alone (sometimes you can get very all too often wrongly thought it a good idea to visit a museum with one or more friends, but when lucky and find a partner who sees eye to eye with you on art, and you can go with them and still have a fulfilling experience, but this is an extremely rare occurrence, at least in my experience), for I have we got there I felt bad that they were not enjoying the same pieces of art as I, and felt guilty for wanting to spend a longer amount of time viewing a particular painting or lingering in a particular wing.  On top of this, when you go with friends who are disinclined to appreciate the same art as you or whom have dissimilar artistic interests, then you may spend a good deal of time talking to each other, often about things that have nothing to do with the pieces of art at hand and before you, and thus everyone walks away not having observed or appreciated the painting or sculpture at all. (I have also found this principle of going solitaire to be true while hiking and backpacking– I’d rather go outdoors alone than with someone who isn’t interested in the natural world or whom is frustrated by the length of a trip or a spontaneous detour to investigate or scrutinize something that may or may not end up to be interesting – it’s easier to just go it alone and thereby alleviate any potential difference of impulsivity or curiosity which may lead to opposition or resentment between the disagreeing parties.)  How one knows if they like an art piece can be determined easily.  Art is subjective, so what you like is up to you.   Just as you can determine whether or not you like a female’s ass by asking yourself, “would I want her to sit on my face,” you can determine if you like a painting by asking yourself, “would I want that to be hanging on my wall.”  Like writing, paintings and sculptures are special because they transmit the thoughts of a person who may or may not be alive or close to the observer.  You can stand before the artistic expressions and ideas of someone who has been deadly for over three thousand years, or who is thousands of miles away, and in this way they can be communicating something to you.  Furthermore, writing, paintings, and sculptures are ways for people to envision and explain concepts that could never happen in real life due to physical limitations or other restrictions of reality.  For instance, on paper I can depict the explosion of the Earth, something that the majority humans will never live to see if it happens at all.  There are paintings in the MET which are over one-thousand years-old, and I love to think about the time periods that the painters lived in when they created such magnificent works of art – especially Hieronymus Bosch – my favorite painter, who died over five-hundred years ago and painted some of the most bizarre, curious, and peaceful compositions imaginable.  Much of his artwork is hosted in museum collections throughout western Europe, because he was of Dutch/Netherlandish origin and descent.  A notable difference between visiting museums in the United States versus those in Europe is that in European museums generally prohibit photography of paintings or sculptures, whereas in the United States museums seem not to care if you take photographs of the artwork so long as you do not use the flash function on your camera, which unleashes deteriorative photons. So, in the museums operated by the ungrateful and stingy Eurotrash elitists, you must often purchase the postcards of the museum paintings at the gift store if you want to walk away with a convenient photograph of a painting you like.  Ultimately, this is not a bad thing for not only are you supporting the museum, but you can keep the physical postcard to appreciate down the road, or you can mail it to someone (and in any case, it’s unlikely that you would have actually printed out the photograph of the painting had you been allowed to take one in the first place).   Following this logic, a good strategy for seeing the paintings you want to see in European museums is to go to the gift store first and look at the postcards of the paintings housed in the museum before you enter the museum proper.  This way you can identify which pieces of art you want to see before you leave. 


    Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

    The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the nation's largest Catholic church.  You don't have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of certain places of worship (all mine just happen to be outside: forests, beaches, reefs, mountains, rivers, and so on).  Here's a slideshow of some pics I took while visiting the Cathedral last month:


    Space Palm Trees and Beach Scene Terrarium 

           Here is a slideshow of a sculpture that I made mostly of objects I collected on California beaches.  The palm tree trunks are metal, and the leaves are beetle wings.  With the exception of some shells that I purchased from Paxton Gate, the sea creatures are from the beaches.   The sculpture is now sitting on my mom’s living room table.