Big City Tales

Take Time to Think and Ponder at Musee Rodin

September 27, 2018
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As the father of modern sculpture, Auguste Rodin was known for his incredible ability to convey a range of complex human emotions in his stunning works. Be they made of bronze, clay, marble or plaster, Rodin applied a deft touch of hand and showed his in depth understanding of the human psyche in pieces such as The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gates of Hell, to name just a few of his masterpieces on display at Musée Rodin in Paris, France.

From Mythology to Realism

While Rodin was trained in traditional sculpting techniques and had a healthy respect for works demonstrating high quality craftsmanship, where he differed from his contemporaries was in his fervent desire to create works that were not strictly based on myths and allegories. In Rodin’s view, figurative sculpting was too limiting and his preference was to portray the human form in a realistic manner and showcase both physical and emotional aspects that weren’t always “beautiful to behold” in the eyes of his early critics.

From Criticism to Acceptance

Even though Rodin’s unconventional style was not immediately well-received in the arts community, he remained committed to his new vision of sculpting and set about producing a prolific amount of pieces. Good things come to those wait and Rodin eventually found favor with those who had previously offered only harsh critiques. By the turn of the 20th century, Rodin was now being exalted in his native France and, thanks to his World’s Fair exhibit in Paris, his unique aesthetic was now much admired resulting in demand for his services around the globe.

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From Original Clay Models to Finished Works

Rodin’s approach to sculpting began with a mound of clay that he would quickly manipulate with his fingers to obtain an initial form and then set aside. He would tinker with the clay model until he was satisfied with its form and texture and then his assistants would create larger clay versions that would be cast in plaster, cast in bronze, or carved in marble and Rodin would apply the finishing touches. Rodin was known for requesting multiple plasters and using them as raw material for new pieces, such as The Cathedral, which he created by intertwining the right hands made from two different figures. He also had no qualms about pulling individual sculptures from a group of reliefs and turning them into stand-alone pieces such as he did with The Kiss, which was originally part of The Gates of Hell, a monumental work containing some 180 figures.

From Radical Rebel to Genuine Genius

Interestingly, in the later stages of Rodin’s career, many of his “finished” works were in fact “fragments” reused from earlier statues. While many perceived them to be incomplete, such as The Walking Man that shows a partial figure (torso and legs only) in a dynamic pose, Rodin insisted they were as he intended. This new abstract way of sculpting would inspire legions of his students in his workshop and fellow artists who admired his vision.

At the time of Rodin’s death in 1917 he had completed an extraordinary number of sculptures and had rightly earned the right to be called the greatest artist of the modern era. Sheer volume of work notwithstanding, there is no denying that he pushed the boundaries of his craft and left the world with much to look at and consider.

The Musée Rodin is one of the artist’s enduring legacies and contains the largest collection of his sculptures and other paper works. Whether wandering the grounds or exploring the interior galleries, take time to think and ponder as you admire and appreciate Rodin’s immense talent.

 

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Yukon History Comes to Life at MacBride Museum

September 19, 2018
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From the early beginnings of its First Nations people to the intrepid explorers who sought to conquer the land and strike gold, the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse pays homage to the Yukon’s bravest and most colourful characters (including its MANY furry critters). Located along the city’s quaint and picturesque Front Street, the museum houses over 30,000 artifacts and Yukon history truly comes to life as you wind your way through the exhibits.

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Passion for the North

As one of the co-founders of the Yukon Historical Society (YHS), W.D. (Bill) MacBride was passionate about his adopted homeland and ardently sought to preserve its heritage be it in the form of writing historical accounts or acquiring cultural artifacts. MacBride donated much of his personal collection of essays, books, photographs and other Northern-themed items to the YHS, which were first put on public display in the 1950s at the Government Telegraph Office. It didn’t take long to outgrow this space and planning began for a larger, permanent location. When the new facility opened in 1967, it was named in honour of MacBride in recognition of his efforts to promote the North and safeguard its treasures.

Earliest People

The Yukon is home to an abundance of First Nations and their stories, customs and handmade items are displayed around the museum. The first tribes to inhabit the land thousands of years ago included the Kutchin, Han, Kaska, Tagish, Tutchone, and Teslin. Today, there are 14 First Nations associated with the Yukon Territory and 25 percent of its residents identify as Indigenous, representing eight languages. While many Indigenous people do not speak the language of their nation, handicrafts have been proudly maintained and passed down to new generations. The intricate beading work applied to moccasins and ceremonial attire is an impressive sight to behold and shows off an amazing attention to detail and high quality of craftsmanship.

Where the Wild Things Are

In the Yukon, furry critters and birds vastly outnumber humans. The museum’s Natural Gallery showcases 35 common mammals and birds that are grouped according to their common habitats. The mighty moose, majestic bald eagle, busy beaver, and bulky buffalo share the Yukon’s diverse and expansive landscape along with some 160,000 caribou; 22,000 mountain sheep; 6,000 grizzly bears; 220 species of birds; and 34,000 humans.

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Klondike Gold Rush

After gold was discovered in the Yukon’s Klondike region in 1896, a mass migration of prospectors ensued for the next three years with some 100,000 people making their way north in search of fortune.

Whitehorse was the primary gateway city to the Klondike where many prospectors stocked up for the long haul to Dawson City. In order to comply with the requirements of Canadian authorities, prospectors had to amass a year’s supply of food before they could embark on the arduous journey to the gold fields.

Such a massive influx of people over a short period of time was both a blessing and a curse for the Yukon. Boom towns cropped up along the route to the Klondike, the largest being Dawson City, and local saloons enjoyed large crowds of drinkers and gamblers; while makeshift inns provided accommodations for the prospectors. The downside of the economic prosperity was that native tribes were pushed off their land and sent to reserves where poor living conditions resulted in many deaths. Dawson City was also riddled with epidemics and suffered many fires due to its largely wood buildings.

Main Street Survives and the Yukon Thrives

When the Klondike Gold Rush ended in 1899, many drowned their sorrows; while others toasted their successes at local watering holes such as the Windsor’s Bar & Saloon and got on with the business of making a living by other means.

Service industries thrived and shippers, seamstresses, barbers, postal workers, printers and others established the new economy at the turn of the 20th Century. At the time of World War II, three major projects were also embarked upon that made a significant impact on the Yukon in terms of transportation, industry and national defense initiatives.

True to the spirit of the wild west and nomadic north, the MacBride Museum celebrates the legendary people and events of days gone and strives to uphold its commitment to dynamically conveying the value, and increasing the understanding and enjoyment of Yukon history.


A Pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

September 12, 2018
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It’s that time of year when summer turns to fall, sweaters and sneakers replace shorts and sandals, and millions of football fans are in a frenzy for the start of the new season. It’s also a time when many embark on a pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF) in Canton, Ohio. So it was in the fall of 2017 that this Canadian fan of the American game paid a visit to the HOF’s hallowed halls and its gallery of bronze busts.

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Game of Inches and Hall of INTEGRITY

Football is a game of inches that requires its participants to possess both physical strength and mental acuity in order to achieve greatness. “Doing right” by teammates, coaches and fans is of utmost importance in evaluating a successful career, as well as demonstrating commitment, courage, respect and excellence on and off the field.

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As one of first HOF inductees in 1963, George Halas embodied the game’s core values and earned his place in the annals of football history for his accomplishments as a player, coach and franchise owner. He was also one of the co-founders of the National Football League (NFL) back in the 1920s, and co-developed the T-formation offensive scheme that revolutionized the game in the late 1930s. Over the course of his storied and celebrated 60-year football career, Halas fittingly earned the nickname “Mr. Everything” and among his many honors he was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year winner. Given his myriad contributions to the game, it is little wonder that the official address of the HOF proudly bears his name.

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Huddle Up, America 

For those familiar with the “take a knee” controversy that plagued the National Football League last season during the playing of the pre-game national anthem, it should be no surprise that the HOF came up with a flag-planting campaign to counter the negativity. Using the flag as a symbol of national unity, the HOF planted 300 of the good ol’ red, white and blue on their front lawn and shared that the goal of its “Huddle Up, America” initiative was to encourage the broader football community to come together and constructively work through issues. The garden of flags certainly made for a striking and colorful visual on the walkway to the main entrance (especially on a cloudy day), and stirred patriotic emotions even within this proud maple-loving Canuck.

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Inside the Hallowed Hall

The NFL will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2020 and what a first century it has been. From the league’s earliest superstar players such as Jim Thorpe to pioneering teams such as the Canton Bulldogs and the Akron Pros, the HOF pays tribute to days gone by and highlights each decade with incredible artifacts and numerous interactive exhibits.

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Individual and Team Accomplishments

Be it the perfect regular season of the Miami Dolphins in 1972, the career rushing yard mark held by Emmitt Smith, or the winning ways of the league’s great dynasty teams through the decades, The Record Book exhibit celebrates the significant achievements of individual players, coaches and teams.

As a longtime fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I was delighted to see the various displays pertaining to the exploits of the team during the powerhouse 1990s. Troy Aikman was the team’s all-star quarterback and led the Cowboys to an impressive three Super Bowl championships in 1992, 1993 and 1995 with ample support from the likes of Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

Aikman, Smith and Irvin are among over 30 Dallas Cowboy Hall of Famers, a group that includes coach Tom Landry, owner Jerry Jones, and players Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Randy White who made their marks in earlier eras during the 1970s and 1980s.

Football Immortality

You know you’ve made it into football glory status when your bust is cast in bronze and mounted in the HOF Gallery alongside fellow inductees.

In addition to the bronze bust, the custom-made gold jacket that inductees wear during the enshrinement ceremony (and can take away with them) is another symbol of their high performance standard.

Many deceased inductees are buried in their treasured jackets and those still living are more than happy to don them for special appearances or when conducting official NFL business matters.

Measured to fit like a glove, the jacket also features custom lining and buttons with the HOF logo, and a special label with the inductee’s name and enshrinement number. Even the toughest “big guys” of the game admit to becoming emotional upon receiving their finished jackets and joining the ranks of HOF immortality…the forever NFL brotherhood.

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The Wild and Wacky Warhol Museum

September 6, 2018
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Located in the quiet and conservative North Shore district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there is certainly nothing quiet and conservative about the wild and wacky Andy Warhol Museum.

Indeed, the pink bannered building and pink pylon outlined parking lot that fittingly features a specially themed Brillo Box attendant booth are the first clues that this is not your regular museum. The next clues come inside with exhibits chronicling the artist’s life story beginning on the top floor and winding down into an underground conservation lab.

From his early successes with Campbell’s Soup and other brand name product paintings to his later triumphs with celebrity portraits and experimental films, all aspects of Warhol’s eccentric and exceptional career are on display making for an entertaining and enlightening viewing experience.

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Off to the BIG City

Before he took the New York City art scene by storm in the 1950s and 60s, Andy Warhol was a clean-cut, fresh-faced kid from Pittsburgh who discovered a penchant for drawing during his teenage years. While he originally wanted to study Art Education in university and become a teacher, he ended up changing his mind and pursued training as a commercial artist at the Carnegie Institute of Technology where his first published works appeared in Cano, the student art magazine. After earning his Fine Arts degree, Warhol moved to the Big Apple in 1949 where he found work with magazines and advertising firms.

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Before and After Campbell’s Soup

Along with being a talented illustrator, Warhol was adept with silk-screening techniques and enjoyed making fruit and floral prints that evolved into the more abstract ‘Pop Art’ works that he is famous for such as soup cans and celebrity portraits. Early on, he was known for ink blotting and the use of tracing paper to replicate images and produce variations on the same themes. He also liked to project photographs and transform them using shading and contouring to bring out shadows and other subtleties.

Consumerism and Cult of Celebrity

Warhol started showing his work in the 1950s with some initial success in local galleries but his career really took off in the 1960s when his focus turned to iconic American objects and the cult of celebrity. At the time of his first solo exhibition in the fall of 1962, he was a creative genius to be reckoned with and was now garnering attention across the United States and beyond for his signature pop art pieces such as 100 Soup Cans, 100 Coke Bottles, 100 Dollar Bills and the Marilyn Diptych, which was created following the death of Marilyn Monroe.

Jackie Kennedy 

Along with Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy was one of Warhol’s favorite celebrity muses in the 1960s. The unfortunate assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy in 1963 provided fodder for the series of Jackie silk-screen portraits he produced using a selection of newspaper images of the grieving widow.

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Crazy for Cardboard and Flower Power

Not one to shy away from quirky and bold exhibits, Warhol’s other early pieces included a series of supermarket boxes and and a grouping of hibiscus blooms in a range of bright colors and varying textures.

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Pop Art Portraits

In the 1970s, Warhol’s work was mostly focused on portraits of celebrities and politicians, many of whom he sought out as patrons to support the growth of his artistic enterprise. Warhol was known to frequent the Studio 54 nightclub where he hob-knobbed with the likes of Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross and other superstar entertainers of the day.

As much as Warhol loved celebrities, he was also a devoted son and occasionally painted his mother’s portrait. The 5th Floor gallery in the museum shows his mother in good company between British actress Joan Collins and 1970s super-model Cheryl Tiegs.

Warhol’s circle of high-profile acquaintances also included controversial international political figures such as the deposed Shah of Iran and his family, and he famously created a series of Mao Tse-tung images to mark President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972.

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Dazzling Digital Design

With new technological advances in the 1980s, Warhol experimented with creating digital art on an early version of the Commodore computer. He used The Birth of Venus by Botticelli as inspiration and succeeded in turning an Early Renaissance masterpiece into a stunning stylized modern design.

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Collector or Pack Rat?

Anyone who had the privilege of visiting Warhol’s townhouse can attest to the fact that Warhol liked to collect eclectic things and display them throughout the four floors of his home. Referred to by Warhol’s friends as “Andy’s Stuff,” his collection of knickknacks was so extensive that overflow items ended up in a nearby storage unit. After his death, the museum took in an astonishing 641 boxes of personal effects that contained items ranging from cookie jars and jugs to airplane menus and supermarket flyers.

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Wild, Wacky…and WONDERFUL!

True to Warhol’s iconic and indelible image, the Andy Warhol Museum showcases all that was wild, wacky and wonderful about him. When in Pittsburgh, be sure to include a visit and check out its glorious oddities.

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