Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Restores the Soul

Last week I had the most wonderful time in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. The place has captured the most amazingly rich history of Colorado's San Luis Valley.

 This image is from the NPS I was to in amazement to take this photo (plus I forgot my best camera)

I mean really look at that sunset! To top it all off the colors during the day are succulent shades of green that would even make Madame Sunday lay down green pastures and walk beside still waters. I am so not joking.

Yep that is the Great Sand Dunes in the distance. Here is a fun fact - this area that you are looking at is a National Monument, and it might be one of the few Monuments that is actually alive and moving, see there is water under that there sand and the sand moves. I swear it is the only place that I have been that at the base I felt like I was at the beach at the base and in need for a camel at the top all while hanging out in a square landlocked State.

I took this picture of a friend. I think it is just stunning and helps explain the colors. FYI this is just a point and shoot, no special lens, no UV filter, nothing.

But the colors do not just stop at the Dunes - nor do the great stories.  This area is home to a town that just pulls at my heart strings -  San Luis the oldest town in Colorado.  I don't know how many times I can say the word amazing, but these people are.  They also have a very deep connection to religion in this area.  Some of these guys just are radiating with spirituality. Just so you know this area is a melting pot of so many different religions.  The mountain range - Sangre de Cristo means "Blood of Christ".  Plus it has been said that this area has over 11,000 years of settlement, someone is bound to have found god during that time and left a mark. While I was there I saw two churches when I was there both with different exhilarating stories, both with different marks.

First church is the major tourist destination Stations of the Cross
The view from the Church. 

Can you see that patch of snow that kind of looks like a rooster. (its the only big patch of snow that is center left on)  Well the local story is that it looks like a rooster and when they see the rooster appear they know warmer weather will be arriving soon. (yes that means that the Sand Dunes gets snow!) That little house is where members of the Knights of Columbus come to get away. (I wonder if JFK, Vince Lombardi, Babe Ruth or Jeb Bush ever stayed there? Wonder what they would talk about if they were all there at the same time)

So the second church that I visited has the best story ever. ( I am totally going to butcher but here goes) So this area (SLV) was once settled by the Ute Tribe. One day after the Spanish settled Mexico they sent a crew to take over the San Luis Valley (SLV). Well that didn't go over so well so the Spanish crew tried to go home. But they were kicked out of the house/Mexico and told to not come back. They returned made nice with the Utes and started to settle the land. Well somewhere in that time line you insert this story. One day the men had gone out to hunt for food and left the women and children behind.  Sadly they left them on top of this mountain which happened to be the same place that the Ute's would travel to during certain times of the year. I know great place to leave your wife and kids!  Well the women and children all of a sudden have this view of billions (OK not billions but its my butchered story) of Ute's on horseback charging towards them. (yep I would be freaked I just picture it as Kevin Costner in Dancing with Wolves but way earlier) Well the women/children/elders being the Catholics that they were drop to their knees and start praying to San Acacio (Saint Acacius patron saint of soldiers).  Saying if he protected them they would build a church in his honor. Still on their knees the Ute's kept coming and the women kept praying. According to the story the Ute's were so close that the women could see the whites of their eyes and all of a sudden they pointed their swords/ spears to the sky towards the clouds turned around and left. 

Well according to legend years later the settlers in the area befriended and old Indian women. She told them this story of how they were prepared to destroy the settlement.  When all of a sudden the Ute's saw a vision in the clouds of a great warrior on horse back coming to defend the small settlement over the top of the mountain. It scared them so that they turned around and left, to which everyone believes it was San Acacio. Apparently this story has been passed down since 1880 and now I bring you my hopefully not to butchered version for you to pass down.

So they built a church....

 That is a 12" thick Adobe structure. It is in serious need of some exterior restoration work. But the inside has recently been restored. Although I think the original might have been painted so..

Now the reason I was in the wonderfully amazing area was because I was helping out with the Colorado Preserve America Youth Summit. Now this summit is one of the best programs that I have ever heard of and not just because I get to be a part of it.  It is the only one of its kind but the mission is: Working to preserve America's history while engaging youth in preservation activities that support their local communities. These kids (middle school and high school) meet a few times a year in different locations around the state under different themes. They always end up leaving the host area with recommendations of how they can get youth more actively involved in learning about history.  They have a blog, everyone should check them out and follow them.
So that was my last week. We did a lot of other stuff, ate some of the best Mexican food I have had in a long time, and saw another section of my new state that I am in love with. I hope to be able to plan some things for work in this area so that I can stuff my face with food introduced others to this area. If I do you can rest assured that I will tell you all about it.

I will leave you with my shot of the fire that is burning in the Sand Dunes. They say it is under control. They believe it was started by a lightning bolt. But that it is not bad for the area cause it is going to hopefully be a good thing in the end since a natural fire that they can have under control is cheaper then having a controlled burn.  Talk about divine intervention in one of the poorest communities in Colorado. 

Until next time

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's the pleasure principle oh oh ohh

I don't know about you, but when I am working on rearranging my thought pattern avoiding something I stare out a window. Yep I was the kid staring out the window in school daydreaming about who knows what.

After my last few weeks I have been staring out a lot of windows.  Sadly, when this happens all thoughts work back to one thought - consumerism.  I could blame it on all the buzz around the oil spill, the truth behind a $4 t-shirt, and the lasting effects this will have on everything. The truth is I have been thinking about it since the 80s, when everyone had to have Guess jeans.

What made everyone want this products? How did these companies make me want them? Could I create something that would make everyone want one? Why did I feel like I had to have them? Now granted I really never felt like I had to had them, I have always valued quality over name brand, but having that upside-down triangle with red outline (and not the green cause I am not a boy) made me feel a little more special.

I think I had one pair and sadly I think it was the kids version (also a different color label) not nearly as cool as buying "grown up sizes".  But why did I want them? Was it really the Janet Jackson "Pleasure Principle" video or  Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer ads. I mean really who didn't want to dance like Janet in that video even if you weren't wearing Guess jeans, and hello I still want to look like Claudia Schiffer or Naomi Campbell have you seen them lately!

In the end it all comes down to advertisements. The way something is advertised teaches you a lot about 1) the year/time period of the ad 2) the main audience 3) the important key words of the time 4) the core/ sometimes popular products of the area. 5) the importance of craftsmanship and style and process.

Now I love ads all of them, (I have been known to break out in a jingle) but some of my favorite are the ones from years past.  Not just the old print ones, or the ones on tins, or original TV ads, but the ones that are known as Ghost signs. You can find them normally on old historic buildings, the hieroglyphics of a bygone and sometimes forgotten era.

At my new apartment both of my views overlook some great historic buildings. (Not the ones above I am lazy and have not found the good camera)  These buildings aren't by the laymen eye memorable.  They are what I will classify as traditional urban mix-use brick buildings with a classic storefront.  I could move further, but I will spare you the spiral of talking about storefronts cause really I could go on. (Maybe I will torture you when I find my camera)

So one day while staring at the old beer ad across the street getting really thirsty thinking about oil spill/ consumerism ,  I started thinking about how today preservationist spend a lot of energy protecting these signs. They (the National Parks Service) have even given us tools on how to properly protect them for years to come.(BTW for those renovating historic homes the NPS has a ton of briefs that will help you with every aspect of your renovation, i.e. how to remove plaster to expose brick and how to find funding to pay for it)

Just five years ago this was not the norm, even the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission did not protect these signs.  Fast forward just two years and a town in Colorado was doing a study on their ghost signs, three more years and another town is talking about how to restore an historic sign during restoration for a building and debating rather they could get preservation funding to help them.(and yes it is possible).

The skinny on these signs is that the ones that we can still see fading off into glory are mainly from 1890s to 1960s. But did you know that merchants of Pompeii before the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius that covered the city in thick volcanic ash had these same signs!(well not the same signs but hand-painted signs)

The funny thing about these ghost signs is the not the debate that has lasted for 1 billion years a few years on if we should preserve them, is that for 100 years we have argued about if we should even have signs. In 1911(St. Louis Gunning Advertising Company v. City of St. Louis) we argued that signs (and billboards) endangered public health and safety. Then in 1954 after a very famous case for preservationist (Berman v. Parker) communities enacted a sign control to reduce "urban blight".

So when you run across a faded sign you are looking at more then an advertisement of days gone by, a trail of our buying history the rise of consumerism, you are seeing pieces of two court cases and how those court cases helped shape many things (preservation laws, health concern, etc).  Lastly what you are seeing is the left over pieces of a dying art of the hand-painted advertisements because of the quickness and cheapness of replacements.  After all there is a connection between advertising and art and how we remember a time. How will we remember this one when art and form and care of creating is losing out to a "I need it now and I need it cheap" consumer. When did quantity beat quality.

So I leave you with this film that examines the dying art of hand-painted advertisements, or ghost signs, because I need to stop staring out windows for a little bit and unpack my new space.

UP THERE from The Ritual Project on Vimeo.

Until next time,

Monday, June 7, 2010

I want to be under the sea

Ran across these today and I had a flashback to my last post so I had to share.

Here is a great way to reuse those plastic 6-pack rings instead of cutting them so that our marine life doesn't get them caught in their noses. I think some of them even look like big giant jellyfish, or maybe some other marine life that we just don't know about because we can't dive that deep.  I think Louise Bourgeois might even like. 

A few days ago they also gave us some chandeliers made out of recycled plastic hangers, but I don't think they are nearly as stimulating.

Until next time,

Travel down the road and back again

The past two week hit me like a ton of bricks.  My emotions were all over the place.  At any given moment I was either really angry and ready to punch someone in the face (not really cause I am a lover not a fighter) or tears running down my own and sometimes both at the same time.  Everything that happened just added to this fuel. There were moments of smiles but they were shadowed with tears and rage.

Started off with having to write a press release that I was still struggling with from last week.  It is amazing the energy that happens to pull off a press release.  (I have to say I owe a lot to my PR director cause it can't be easy having to deal with me on some days.)  I would say it is pretty normal that when you are avoiding writing something you turn to the internet. The web is great at breaking up your thoughts so hopefully when you go back to what your are doing those thoughts are back in the right place. This did not happen to me.  No instead I got hit with was the beginning of the ton of bricks. Sadly cause this is what I found.

Angry tears poured down my face cause I know that in some way even myself is to blame. There are a lot of thing that I could say in regards to this, but it boils down to this sucks and its going to suck for a long long time. Until everyone in this world is ready to change even just in small steps, some are ready and some are not. *Side note had an online discussion with a friend of mine that lead me to believe that I have less in common with some of my long time friends then I thought.

Just when I got my emotions a little more in check. Meaning I was no longer sitting at my desk with tears running down my face trying to breath. I received a gchat message from a friend informing me that one of my fav. artist had passed away.

Now for those of you who don't know who she is shame on you. The Guardian did a good piece on her this Sunday.  This is a sample of one of her most famous pieces.

This women worked until the end.  A good friend of mine (the same one from the gchat message) who is an artist in NYC, told me a few years ago that she met with inspiring artist and would talk to them and actually review some of their work and give them pointers.  I mean could you imagine getting your stuff critiqued by her!! 

In 2007 she gave an interview in connection with her work being on display at the Tate called "My art is a form of restoration" she was asked why she worked on a large scale to which she answers
"I want to create my own architecture so that the relationships of my forms and objects are fixed. Sometimes I need the large scale so that the person can literally move in relationship to the form. The difference between the real space and the psychological space interests me and I want to explore both....."
I think some of my favorite architects have a similar answer but they also add how the relationship with the landscape and surrounding buildings and space play with and compliment each other.

So for the rest of the week the thoughts in my head involved the oil spill and how over the last 20+ years we really have made oil the most important thing in our life, the fight I had with my friend that did the whole circle of oil dependency to recycling to mass transit to drilling for more oil to you name it we talked about it. The whole thing ended with this friend saying that she had more important things to do with her time the debate oil.  I guess for the most part I did too.  Lets not forget that I still had that press release. I finally finished and it went to press, we shall see how it turns out. I think this next week will be just as hard.

What I did learn this week is that sometimes we need to take a step back an realize the choices we at one point had we nor longer do and we need to figure out how to get those choices back. 


On a side note special note does have to be given to the death of Rue McClanahan.  Her character Blanche gave all of the southern women out there a person that we could relate to.  That sassy lusty women  said things that many southern women just think about, well maybe not now since we all have a little Blanche in us. RIP Rue thank you and the rest of the GG cast (thats golden girs not gossip girl) for teaching us the meaning of friendship and that BFFs dont always need to be FBMs but the card attached will always say "Thank you for being a friend"