Belated: I almost didn't notice this faded-paint ghost bike in the dreary dull Burlington afternoon light. It's chained to a tree outside of Radio Bean, with a sprig of fake pink flowers stuck in the frame. According to Radio Bean barista, it's not a memorial to anyone in particular, but the leftovers from a past Day of the Dead bike ride.
I had the pleasure of meeting Burlington based artist Toni-Lee Sangastiano yesterday, who spoke with me about meeting with Canadian independent curator Ola Wlusek through her participation in Burlington City Art's Visiting Critics program. Toni-Lee's work (what I saw) ranges from pointed social-commentary installation to colorful, large-scale sideshow banners, but what caught particularly caught my eye (surprise) was her use of Italian street shrine niches in Florence.
Toni-Lee explained to me that she restricted herself to using only items purchased at the European 99-cent store, and made lanterns using Coca-Cola cans and glow sticks. For each altar she installed, she made a corresponding map of its location drawn on marbled paper she made while studying there.
She writes on her website: Misguided Adorations repurposes vacant Italian street shrine alcoves as slyly subversive altars to consumer culture and maps of their locations with Florentine marbling. Created during her sabbatical in Florence, Italy, this photographic series documents Sangastiano’s luminous art-installations created from low cost consumer goods, including soft drink cans transformed with pin-hole tracings and glow-sticks.
Presiding over the front entrance of the Seven Days offices in Burlington is a memorial to a one of the paper's former arts writers, Marc Awodey (pronounced like Audi). Awodey was not just a writer, but a painter, published poet, and, as Seven Days noted in his obituary, a "one-time creator of poetry vending machines that served up tiny verses for quarters" - which the base of this shrine-like construction is modeled after. Awodey wrote about the project in his book 95 Theses: Art and Machine, published in 2004.
The memorial itself was made by Poultney, VT, artist Ruth Hamilton, and is officially titled Marc Awodey Memorial Cabinet. It is at Seven Days by the generosity of collector Mark Waskow, whose "Waskowmium" purports over 12,000 works of contemporary art housed in multiple locations. Hamilton has made two other "cabinets," Peace Cabinet and Day of the Dead Cabinet, as well as the altar-like Goddess Figure - all can be viewed on her website.
In the main compartment of this memorial, Awodey stands reading against a miniature painted backdrop of Church Street, surrounded by his art supplies and easel. There is also an apple tree with an orchard ladder, a cello, and a circus elephant.
Awodey was born in 1960, and graduated with an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1984. He died of a heart attack in October of 2012, at the age of 51.
Spotted on Av du Parc, in honor of a cyclist killed on July 18th, 2013. Read about the ghost bike project here on Wikipedia - which I'm directing you to because ghostbikes.org is down at the moment, and hopefully, hopefully will resurface. You can also see one of my previous posts about ghost bikes here.
Seven Days editor and co-founder Pamela Polston sent these photos of public shrines spotted during her flanerie in France. From left to right: 1) a Mother Theresa niche (creneau? lieu saint? autel?) in Nice 2) little fellow in the "medieval village-turned-mall Saint Paul de Vence" 3) Virgin Mary in unknown location. And 4) in L'Hotel de l'Amphitheatre in Arles, of which she says, "Not exactly a shrine but it might as well be. And that must be the saint of breakfast."
The two-day exhibition An Order included five artists who each made installations responding to the space that used to be Saint Joseph's Providence Orphan Asylum. The show's organizer, Abbey Meaker, has been creating lens-based work that she calls "semi-archaeological" based on her investigations of the former orphanage for approximately three years, which includes an active Facebook group for adults who once lived or worked at St. Joseph's. The participating artists are Meaker, Wylie Garcia, Sarah O'Connell, Rebecca Weisman, and Mary Zompetti.
In the short amount of time I've been back in Vermont, this is the second time that a public arts event allowed me to visit the inside of an otherwise off-limits building - the first was the Moran Plant. An Order let visitors explore a portion of the former orphanage, which operated from 1885 to the early 1980s, and then became a part of Burlington College - before its impending transformation into private housing.
In the giant, high-ceilinged chapel, the five artists created a Last Supper-styled altar tableaux, which to my delight was arranged below a giant rolled screen hung from the ceiling, a presumably coincidental (?) comment on the proximity of different kinds of image-worship. I spoke briefly to Meaker, who said that the entire altar was created using items that the artists had found from around the property.
My friend Matthew Anderson just sent along this short video he and Avery McIntosh made last year in Baja. Watch it:
This one may be at the outer limits of altar-dom, depending on just how fluid you feel like being. I would've included it no matter what, but what really clinched it was the "inscription" (Can caves have inscriptions? Message, graffiti, art, etc.) inside the cave, which reads:
This itself is religious / It demarcates a sacred space
It's a note that's frustrating for a few reasons, the first of which is, don't pretentiously tell me via vandalism what is a sacred space. The second, keeping the first reason in mind, is that it's true. Caves have been sacred spaces since humans began to formulate both art and sacredness, which Werner Herzog can narrate to you in Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Not only that, but a major, major point of altars is the ability to demarcate sacred space as you choose, more or less where you choose, by the mere decision to arrange objects and text.
This particular cave is in Two Harbors, on Catalina Island. Mom came to visit from Vermont, and treated us to a two-night stay. In the last hours before getting the ferry back to LA, we rock-scrambled just a teensy bit off the sandy beach in the harbor. The cave is small, with shells and rocks people have tucked into its walls' natural nooks and crannies, and someone lined its edge with rocks.
It's no surprise, but Joshua Tree and its surrounding area (Yucca Valley, Landers, Pioneertown) is replete with altars and altar-like installations, from Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Museum to the Joshua Tree Health Foods counter.
This altar-like piece is against the wall inside (a detail of, if you will) Noah Purifoy's Carousel, one of over 20 assemblage sculpture installations in the Outdoor Desert Art Museum off of Blair Lane, in what feels like the absolute middle of nowhere. Lauren and I just barely got tickets for the day's last sound bath at the Integratron, and with two hours to romp around before vibration-bathing and a map graciously provided by an Integratron crew member, we went rumbling down the dirt roads to find Noah's museum, a High Desert Test Site.
While many of the constructions and pilings are arranged like altars or memorials, this particular section of Carousel stands out for its resemblance to early Christian altarpieces, and for the three small wooden crosses at the top. Crosses and groupings of crosses are found throughout the ODAM.
Bottom left image from Noah Purifoy Foundation website, bottom right image from High Desert Test Site website.
We passed this memorial to Dennis Ray Caton (1/29/1974 - 4/2/2010) on Border Ave between the ODAM and the Integratron. According to the Hi-Desert Star, Caton was killed in a motorcycle accident at this intersection. A handful of tiny motorcycles are at the base of the cross. I borrowed Lauren's phone to take pictures, which are oddly glowing, either because of her phone's temperament or the unusual misty, rainy weather, or a combination of both.
This is the "multi-cultural" altar inside the Integratron, with a sign above it that reads: This "multicultural" altar is filled with sacred objects and mementos left behind by people who were deeply touched by their experience in the Integratron.
A small counter altar inside of a health and wellness store (mostly teas and tinctures) next door to Natural Sisters Cafe along the main drag in Joshua Tree.
This roadside memorial is off of Old Woman Springs Road between Joshua Tree and Landers. It marks the site where, according to the Hi-Desert Star, 11-year-old Jeffrey Matzek and his father Leslie Matzek were killed in a car crash in 2011.
The lovely producer Bianca Hernandez sent me this shot from Walnut Creek as a birthday-altar-present.
Bristol, my hometown next-to-my-hometown, has a new Mexican market, opened in November of this year. Along with a host of Mexican products including spices and candies, the market serves tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas. The market is in the old home of the Village Corner Store, where we bought Cowtails, penny candy, and Coke in glass bottles in middle and high school. Read more about the market here.
Small memorial with Guadalupe candle lashed to tree, along the beach in Santa Barbara.
Walking along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, this memorial honors surfers who have died riding local waves. It's near the famous spot Steamer Lane, and sits next to a stairway leading down to the ocean. Roadside America writes about the memorial here.
These are not exactly altars, but are similar in form! Walking out on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, there were four temporary "installations" whose builders were nowhere in sight. Presumably constructed by the local homeless, passersby read signs inviting them to coin toss (MAKE A WISH) and chip in for a meal (JUST PLAIN HUNGRY). My favorite part was the meal of sand.
One Yelper writes, "Seeing the homeless blankets on the side of it so you can toss change to them is one of the most inventive ways I've seen to collect spare change."
Salvation Mountain just outside of Niland, CA, is someplace I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. Leonard Knight was born in 1931 in Vermont, and dreamed of visiting California from childhood. In 1984, he settled in Niland and began to work on Salvation Mountain. The mountain in these photos is Leonard’s second mountain - his first was built from cement and sand, and collapsed.
Knight’s primary construction materials are adobe and paint, and the next-door museum is made from hay bales, utility poles, and salvaged wood, among other things. Two small structures are adjoined to the mountain, between the mountain and the museum. These are modeled after Native American hogans.
Leonard Knight is 81 years old and has been experiencing health problems for the last year, which have prohibited him from actively maintaining Salvation Mountain. The non-profit Salvation Mountain, Inc. has been set up to raise funds and volunteer-power to keep the mountain vibrant.