Posts tagged ‘art’

January 11, 2011

From our ‘zine: Fiction by Dorene O’Brien

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Suspension Bridge
by Dorene O’Brien

I told him that I was a professor of 16th century Italian art. What else could I do? I’m a 33-year-old court clerk whose mother still demands kisses over the telephone. I have a blind cat and a Twix bar addiction, and I’m clearly not fast on my feet.

We met in front of the knockoff portrait of Madame Cézanne at the Baldwin Public Library when he steamrolled my large and copiously corned left foot while making a beeline for the men’s room.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, engaging in a little bladder-tension hop.

“S’all right,” I said, even though the pain was far worse than when the drugs wore off during my root canal.

When he exited the restroom I was sitting on a bench with my eyes closed, envisioning thousands of miniature carpenters mending my ailing foot, filing down the calluses, planing the skin to an even finish.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “Can I get you some water?”

“For my foot?”


“Forget it,” I waved him off. “I’m all right.”

“Well, I’m Tony.” He sat beside me, his expression pained and guilty.

“I’m Aboline.”

“That’s pretty,” he said. “Are you named after a relative or did your mother love Texas?”

“Actually,” I said, “my mother loved scotch and misspelled Abigail on my birth certificate.”

Tony’s laugh was hard and real, and I understood then that he was the only person in town who didn’t know the story.

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December 9, 2010

From Milan to Michigan: The American Horse at the Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

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Most people would probably think that Milan, Italy and Grand Rapids, Michigan don’t have anything in common, but they are the only two cities that have the world’s largest horse sculptures (of equal size) designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. Milan has “Il Cavallo.” Da Vinci’s “The American Horse” can be found at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan (halfway between Chicago and Detroit).

Larry ten Harmsel, the historian for Meijer Gardens, presents us with The American Horse (August 2010, Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, $11.99), the story of how this great horse came to be. He is also a member of the Sculpture Advisory Committee and describes in vivid detail how “The American Horse” has helped Meijer Gardens become one of the world’s premier cultural institutions.

The first chapter touches on the creations of this 132 acre site, which includes boardwalks and nature trails that lead through small forests and wetlands, complete with native wildlife, as well as greenhouses, sculpture loops, and an amphitheatre. Fred and Lena Meijer donated the original 80 acres garden park and many of the permanent sculptures. In addition to the generosity of the Meijers, volunteers, members and visitors have helped Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park become a wondrous experience of art and nature blended together.

Subsequent chapters give the history of the horse going back more than 500 years. Initially planned as a life-sized equestrian statue, changes were constantly being made. While waiting for the needed bronze, Da Vinci completed “The Last Supper.” Due to complication, namely the Second Italian War, the horse was never actually made. The non-profit organization Leonardo Da Vinci’s Horse, Inc (LDVHI) resurrected the long-lost project. Eventually, Nina Akamu, a sculptor who had studied in Italy, became the creator of a model based on Da Vinci’s notes and sketches.

Included in this monumental story of art, history and determination, Larry ten Harmsel references many other beautiful pieces added to the Sculpture Park over the years, including “Mad Mom” by Tom Otterness and temporary exhibits like “The Thinker” by Rodin. It has been completely awe-inspiring to bring my five-year-old son to Meijer Gardens since he was a baby – one of his first words was “Da Vinci.” One of the most wonderful aspects of Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is that it is constantly changing from one season to the next, year after year, so no two visits are the same, as aptly proven by the breath-taking photographs included in ten Harmsel’s book.

I highly recommend adding Grand Rapids, Michigan (home of Art Prize, incidentally) to your list of must-see cities, and pick up a copy of The American Horse while you are there.

The gift shop at the Meijer Sculpture Park & Gardens accepts orders via phone and will ship the book upon request. Please visit the gift shop website for more information or call 616-975-3176 to order.

July 25, 2010

July/August issue Is Here!

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It finally happened! The July/August issue (#4) of this is waiting for you on our website with fiction by James Thibeault and Scott Deckman; poetry by Geer Austin, Micah Muldowney, Birch Taylor, Mariele Ventrice, Ami Xherro, and Lorenzo Buford; essays by Peter Gajdics and Cailin Barrett-Bressack; art by Maddie Scott; photography by John Densky; and reviews by our contributing writers Ursula K. Raphael, Jordon Chiarelli, and John Coleman.

In this issue, we also announce our poet spotlight initiative.

Comments? Questions? Feedback? Let us know!

June 27, 2010

Book Review: Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel

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By Yann Martel

Alfred A. Knopf
(April 2010, CAN $29.95, 197 pages)

Yann Martel’s new novel, Beatrice & Virgil, is noticeably less reliant on Martel’s masterful lore-ridden prose exemplified in his Man Booker Prize winning novel Life Of Pi. Beatrice is obsessed with two popularly tackled, yet uniquely portrayed literary themes: a bard with artistic challenges, and the Holocaust. Main character Henry, a world famous author living off the success of his last novel, is working on a half essay/half novel flip-book aimed at providing a fresh account of the Holocaust. Henry’s inspiration is historical realism’s domination of the theme in art, in response to which he thrives for an aspect of wonder: “A work of art works because it is true, not because it is real. Was there not a danger to representing the Holocaust in a way always beholden to factuality?” But after twenty pages of Beatrice, Henry’s unique post-modern stab at Holocaust representation is shot down by his publishers, who see hollowness in is his idea.

Upon the negative feedback, Henry takes a break from writing, and he and his newly pregnant wife Sarah move to an unnamed city. Henry attains a job in a cafe and volunteers in the local theatre company; Sarah works in an addictions clinic. Beatrice drops its budding rhetorical discourse of differently representing the Holocaust to more closely follow the theme of life as a writer: Henry begins regularly coaching a lowly, old taxidermist, also named Henry, on a play he has been working on all his life. Now, Beatrice mainly becomes an examination of the taxidermist’s play.

The play centres around two fervently symbolic, Dante-esque characters: a donkey named Beatrice, and a howler monkey, Virgil. The play becomes infused in the story, at times lengthily, with multiple page excerpts that follow the two animals as they lapse in and out of comi-tragic scenes. The first snippet of dramatic dialogue is six pages of Virgil describing to Beatrice what a pear looks like. It takes a while to decipher why Martel focuses on discussions of arbitrary things, at times difficult to link to any real symbolism. However, Beatrice eventually reconnects with Martel’s Holocaust motif, offering depressing, empathetic scenes where Virgil is sought out by an elusive secret police squad, and the taxidermist lividly pieces together parts of dead animals (“the mouth was a tongueless, toothless gaping hole revealing the yellow fibreglass jaw of the mannequin. [. . .] It looked grotesquely unnatural, a cervine version of Frankenstein”). Martel spells out numerous Holocaust metaphors, but it somehow takes the genius-like Henry until Beatrice’s final pages to understand the taxidermist’s theme, and realize there is a real-life Nazi nearby.

Martel, like Henry wants to do, cleverly creates an original viewpoint for Holocaust representation in art, which drives Beatrice’s self-reflexive capability home. By Martel leading us through the taxidermist’s play, reader and writer, fiction and reality become synonymous. Suddenly, Beatrice’s function is just what Henry’s art is, an imaginative story shedding new light on the Holocaust. Martel is begging us to look at his work as a reflection of real events and to pull fruitful reality out of fiction. This said, an entertainment reader seeking a Life of Pi adventure will be drawn away by Beatrice and Martel’s attempt to paint a new picture not so in your face as most would like it.

~ John Coleman