Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What is this man doing?

If there were no words, would this sign say "Hazardous bridge ahead" to you?
Or would it say "Watch the road when you ride your bike"?
I shot this while on a tram tour of Saguaro National Park outside Tucson in 2003. When I picked up the processed film (yes, it was in the olden, film days), the woman who had done the work pulled this picture out of the pack and said, "It looks like he's peeing!"
The picture could have been used to illustrate this story from Bloomington, Minn., last April about a man who was trying to pee off a bridge but fell to marshy area below. The awkward headline was "Man Falls Urinating Off Highway 77 Bridge."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mayflower madam?

Another picture from last fall's visit to Washington, D.C., and more sculpture on the Mayflower Hotel. Although I doubt this lady is a "madam."

Wide-mouthed lion

Having just covered another pediatrics conference for the Day Job, I'm taking a few days off to turn our national holiday (Canada Day, formerly Dominion Day, July 1st), which falls on a Wednesday this year, into a long, long weekend.
So, another post from a past trip. This one is a lion mascaron from the Mayflower Hotel (yes, that Mayflower - as in Mayflower Madam, and home base for former New York governor Eliot Spitzer's downfall) in Washington, D.C. I shot this when I was at an infectious diseases conference there last fall.

Monday, June 22, 2009

They're everywhere!

Even airports have gargoyles!
This guy—one of a pair called, collectively, "Notre Denver" by Terry Allen—watches over the baggage claim area at the Denver International Airport. He... I mean, they... were installed as part of the then-new Denver airport's ambitious art programme in 1994.
("Notre Denver"... geddit? geddit? As in the gargoyles on Notre Dame in Paris?)

I actually shot this guy back in 2003, but I've recently been going through my boxes of prints (from back in the 35mm film days) and scanning some of them. So for the next week or so, while I'm covering yet another conference for the Day Job (about which, more later) I'll be posting some older pictures.
Which reminds me — Terry Allen has a freestanding bronze sculpture in San Francisco called "Shaking Man" which I also shot. When I find that print, I'll scan and post it here. It is very shaky. Even the guy's tie. You'll see...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Silly putti?

Not a chance. These putti ("cherubs" is really simpler and doesn't sound as pretentious) seem to take their job very seriously. Whatever their job is. I think they're merely decorative. Who would give a gargoyle's job to an out of shape boy? Certainly not the architect of the Burrage mansion!
The Burrage House was built in 1899 as the winter home for attorney, businessman, philanthropist and copper magnate Albert C. Burrage and his family, so says a report by the Boston Landmarks Commission.
It remained in the Burrage family until the death of Burrage’s widow Alice in 1947. Since then, it has been converted, in turn, into doctors' offices, a clinic, a nursing home and condominiums. (In fact, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lived there until recently.)

Charles Brigham was the architect and Hugh Cairns is thought to have done most of the sculpture. Cairns was a Scottish artist who counted H.H. Richardson's Trinity Church in nearby Copley Square among his other significant projects.
With this mansion, Burrage and Brigham were hoping to achieve the opulence of New York's Fifth Avenue, where the Vanderbilt and Astor mansions were built in the chateau style. In fact, the Burrage House is said to be "the only fully executed chateau in Boston," inspired by Chenonceaux, a chateau built in the Loire Valley between 1513 and 1521.
A report by Otis & Ahearn Real Estate estimated that the house's exterior sports nearly 200 griffins, dragons, gargoyles and cherubs.

The American Institute of Architects' Guide to Boston called it "the one exception to Boston's avoidance of flamboyant architecture."
The Boston Landmarks Commission report also says it's apparent that for Brigham and Burrage, "complexity was favored above simplicity, magnificence above charm, and stimulation above peace."
However, this fellow seems to have found some peace and stimulation (of the intellectual variety).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wedged in at the Burrage

It was a bit tricky shooting this critter at the Burrage in Boston two weeks ago. He's located right in the corner (and in the right corner) above the front door. So the lighting was problematic as was his position. But I think I've managed to capture him well enough here.

This putto (below; putto is the singular of putti which is what chubby, winged male figures are called who aren't really angels; it's not wrong to call him a cherub, although it should be made clear that "cherubs" are not really related to the Cherubim. Got that?) and his lions are also wedged in a corner - more obviously than the griffin above. I mean, the poor lion on the right is roaring straight into the wall.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I spy...

Back at H.H. Richardson's Trinity Church, a gargoyle peers over the shoulder of a saint.

Both of them actually looked away when this fellow (below) came by to use the church wall just below them:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Back to Boston

Well, not literally. I mean back to Boston for blog purposes. This fellow and his compatriot (below) adorn the doorway of Burrage House, formerly the Burrage mansion. The one clear day I had for shooting was intermittently brilliantly sunny (hence the deep shadows and warm tone to the first monk playing peek-a-boo)

and the somewhat duller but more even appearance of his buddy.
Burrage House was a riot of gargoyles, grotesques and other architectural ornament. I particularly liked this fellow at the base of a conical roof. Or maybe I just liked the colour and texture of those roof tiles.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Newspapers on the web...in 1981

Way back in 1981, this report appeared on KRON-TV News in San Francisco. This not-young man who OWNED A HOME COMPUTER had dispensed with reading his daily newspapers on paper in favour of reading them online. It took only two hours to download the paper using his Radio Shack computer and acoustic coupler. "We're not in it to make money," says the editor from the San Francisco Examiner, and 30 years later, newspaper publishers still haven't figured out how to make their websites pay.
"Engineers now predict that the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer," says KRON reporter Steve Newman, "but that's a few years off."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Last glance at Baltimore

I didn't like Baltimore. I probably didn't see enough of it or at its best, but what I did see didn't really make me interested in going back. I spent most of my time at a pediatrics conference for the Day Job, but on the shuttle to and from it every day, I saw a depressed, boarded-up downtown. The skies were slate grey and rained much of the time I was there, which didn't help my impression either.
But I did see a bit of architectural sculpture. These figures on the defunct Hotel Junker caught my attention because this type of architectural ornament really doesn't appear anywhere in Toronto.

When these supporting sculpted figures are female, they are called caryatids, but males are known as telamones (singular: telamon) or atlantes (singular: atlas as in Atlas, who bore the sphere of the heavens on his shoulders.

Toronto actually does have one (below, as shown in Faces on Places), on the former Bank of Montreal that is now the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is mostly identified as Hermes, though - the god of commerce.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Back in Toronto

So when I was driving around the GTA a few weeks ago, I noticed a house that had a riot of birdhouses and garden ornament. There were these bird condominiums (left - sadly the clouds rolled in for this shot), and this interesting configuration of birdhouses on the wall of the human-house:

It was a corner house, and when I turned into the perpendicular street, I saw a profusion of garden ornament, of which this picture offers only a hint:

Okay, so they're not gargoyles, but I shoot a lot of things.


A friend drove me home from the Distillery District a few weeks ago, where I'd read from Faces on Places as part of Toronto's 175th anniversary (the theme of which was Toronto writers and books about the city) and Doors Open Toronto. We took a short cut which took us past a garage with the head of Caesar on one corner of the roof

and a lion or cat over the main garage door. Of course I was curious about who they were and why they were there, so I phoned the people listed as living there, and learned they were props from a couple of movies that were shot here - "Bulletproof Monk" and "The Incredible Hulk."

The props (made of styrofoam, by the way) were just sitting around, so the owner of this house (a carpenter in the biz) rescued them and gave them a good home - his.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Here I am in the second stop in the B-city tour — Boston, aka Beantown, where I've been staying in Back Bay. (Can't get much B-er than that.)
This is a gargoyle on Henry Hobson Richardson's Trinity Church on Copley Square, against a reflection of the sky in the windows of John Hancock Tower (not to be confused with the John Hancock CENTER in Chicago). I shot this on Saturday, just before a conference on organ transplantation started (which I'm covering for the Day Job) and when it was sunny and bright.
On the opposite side of Copley Square is the Boston Public Library, the main door of which is guarded by this fellow (who, please notice, is announcing that the library is free TO all — he is NOT encouraging a free-FOR-all).

It may have been sunny and bright since then, but I've been indoors , seeing as the shortest (and quickest) distance between my hotel and the convention centre is through several pedestrian overhead walkways and one shopping mall.
However, tomorrow (when it is supposed to cloud over and rain), once I've covered the last presentation, I plan to head out and shoot some more of Boston.
I still have a few souvenirs of Baltimore to share with you, as well as the shooting I did in Toronto — AND a report on the late Michael Camille's book on the gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was delivered just as I was leaving for my trip here.

So stay tuned.

A brief note about Henry Hobson Richardson: his style appears in turn-of-the-century (19th turning into 20th, that is) buildings in Toronto as well. Examples of it are in the previous posts "Watcher at the Window" and "I'm back, baby!"