Rule of Thirds with some Light & Shadows

I started a new quilt top as soon as I returned to Michigan and have a third of it sewn together so I decided to take a break to respond to this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge: The Rule of Thirds. About a third of the distance home we stopped to spend a week-end with our daughter in Winston-Salem where she moved last December to start a new job at Salem Academy and College. We went for a walk-about of the campus and both of us were instantly smitten. They were celebrating their 250th anniversary with homecoming and graduation ceremonies. Old Salem is a living museum and Salem Academy and College is a part of this museum.

I composed this photo to highlight the main hall of Salem College built in 1856 but also wanted the photo to show that it overlooked the town square of Old Salem. I did minor cropping to center the banner announcing its 250th anniversary and the elegant porch within the center of the four lines that divide the image into horizontal and vertical thirds. I left the trees that frame the entrance in shadow so the eye is maintained in the center.

Salem Academy and College, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a women’s college (Bachelor and Master degrees) and girl’s academy – the oldest private educational institution for women & girls in the United States. The Moravian Church settled the town of Salem beginning in 1771 and the town was built to facilitate the Moravian core value of a holistic form of wellness that included physical, mental and spiritual growth. They had established a single brothers school in 1771 and wanted to provide the same for girls. In 1772 the town opened their school for single sisters and the girls lived in a cramped church residence until 1782 when the single sisters and older girls choir moved to their own residence. Although the Academy and College no longer are associated with the Moravian Church, the history of its early beginnings is evident in the buildings they use for girls’ and women’s educational activities.

This is a natural for thirds. I wanted the blooming azaleas to have center stage but also wanted the white picket fence and the old brick building in the background to help tell the story of this living museum. As I look at it with my heart, I look for the historical story written on the building in the shadows, and see the azaleas playing just a supporting role.

The literature I’ve read uses the phrases single brothers, single sisters and choir frequently and I spent a lot of time wondering what it meant. Finally I learned that “choir” relates to the segregation used in the Moravian Church to separate males and females in worship and for learning when young people were still single. I look forward to learning more about the progressive educational system instituted by the Moravians in Old Salem.

I experimented with how to use thirds when composing this photo. I found that using the lower horizonal third line to dissect the front table top pulled that table into center front with all the other tables serving as supporting cast for this story of women coming together over meals in celebration of their educational heritage. I find the tables in the dappled shade to be very inviting. The building in the background is the residence hall for the boarding high school students of the Academy.

According to the web site, “Schools for girls were rare in the early South.  In Salem, Single Sister Elisabeth Oesterlein began a small day school for girls in 1772.  By 1788, families across the South were asking if their daughters could come to Salem to receive an education.

In 1805, a girl’s boarding school was constructed in Salem, and the first class had 30 girls from across the South.  Girls took classes in reading, writing, syntax, history, geography, music, drawing and needlework.  In the late 1880s, the school was approved to offer a college education as well as the traditional preparatory program” provided by the Academy.

I was intrigued by this short shaded path – my daughter says she travels it often instead of going a few feet to the right or left to use the wider brick walks that would take her to her destinations. I wanted to capture the spirit of this path that causes a person to choose to go down it when it doesn’t directly lead to where they want to be. I took several photos and worked with each one but this one captures its essence best. I cropped so that the path, fountain and door fall on the right third vertical witness line and eliminated the building wall that is on the right. This made the trees more prominent and emphasized the shady walk. On the left I cropped to include some of the tree as a balance for the composition, along with the azalea. This puts the path off-center to symbolize its off-the-beaten-path nature. Horizontally I cropped so the canopy uses a bit more than the top third; the fountain, the tree on the left, and darkly shaded path the middle third; and the rest a skimpy bottom third. This was a breaking of the rule of thirds to emphasize the power of shade and light.

You have probably caught on that I didn’t get last week’s Lens-Artist Challenge “Rule of Thirds” finished before this week’s challenge of “Light and Shadow” was published. If I wait a couple more days I could integrate a third challenge into this post. Is including a third challenge too “shadowy” to fit into the “rule of thirds?”

Stick Sculpture – Finished

When we returned to the Botanical Gardens in January, I immediately headed for the Stick Sculpture that I introduced during its construction (here). It looked much different than I had anticipated but I wasn’t disappointed. It was more open than I had visualized during construction and also had many more twists and turns. It pulled us in to explore each arch and window.

If I stood at just the right spot I could see clear through to the other end.

I was amazed at how the willow branches were woven into curves and arches, were turned to form windows.

We sat on a bench at the southern end, looking at the sculpture and as usual, Jim had a story to tell me. The stick sculpture reminds him of being a kid living on North Street. There were lots of boys his age living nearby and frequently a few of them would hop on their bikes and go to the nearby “woods.” There they would build a stick fort, a much smaller one than this but every bit as exciting. Of course other boys would tear it down, but that only provided an opportunity to build another, better one. With the story in our minds, we sat smiling and looking and feeling at peace.

I am finding, as I am aging, that many “interesting objects” attract my interest because they remind me of something from my past, but with a novel twist. This post is brought to you in response to Patti’s Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: Interesting Objects.

Digby Neck Grey

This house with grey weathered siding was photographed on Digby Neck, a long, narrow piece of land on the eastern side of Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy. The weather is harsh there on the Atlantic coast of Canada so people frequently use cedar shingles that are left unfinished and allowed to weather naturally. The beauty and character always draw me in.

Brought to you in response to Jude’s Life in Colour: black or grey.

Sculpture, Art and Architecture

When I saw that this week’s Lens-Artist Photo Challenge is “Interesting Architecture” the only photos I could think worthy were used in a post I published in 2013. I had to go back in my posts (way back) to find the photos but decided that I couldn’t do much better than my original post. I hope all will forgive me for repeating – especially if you followed me and can remember the post from 8 years ago.

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I don’t think any building has impacted me as much as the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. I’ve seen some pretty amazing buildings in big cities such as Chicago, London, St. Petersburg, and Washington D.C that are huge and elegant and gilded in gold. I’ve also enjoyed some very impressive world-class art museums. The Broad Art Museum is small, a basement and two floors, with a small footprint but it packs a big wallop. There are three display rooms that are the typical, windowless rooms that hold a special display. I’m not going tell you about it because these rooms and this art could be most anywhere in the world.

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Instead I am going to tell you about the building and the art and the building that is art, from the outside in. It is new and very modern. I am not turned off by modern but I’m not usually drawn into it. It doesn’t speak to my soul – until now. This is the full length of the building, completely covered with metal panels forming different patterns of light and shadow and lines. Even the bench and the landscaping become a part of the angular design. The whole exterior is covered with angular panels.

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The two sides come to a point at one end (top image), with the main entrance in the shorter side of the triangular shaped structure and another entrance under the apex. It looks like an impenetrable fortress until I see glimpses inside. As I walk around the outside, lines and shapes draw me in and begin to open the structure ever so subtly. Let yourself be drawn in too, by clicking on the first photo of each gallery to see larger images.

The front entrance seems closed and hidden but as I move closer it opens up. I am drawn in by light panels on the ground that are designed to pull my eyes to the building. I am drawn in by the sculpture by the front entrance that feels softer and curved until closer inspection reveals that it, too, is angular. I am drawn in by the angular shapes and lines of the building that show me where to go. It plays with my emotions – holding me out while drawing me closer.

I walked in and stop, taking it in, surprised. It is a small space in area but not visually. Walls that are solid from the outside are filled with windows.

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The solid fortress is open and full of light so that the inside and outside become one. As I move through the building, busy Grand River Avenue becomes a part of the art. This very modern building integrates with the older brick buildings of the campus.

I move further into the building and see that every detail becomes a work of art, the art of the architecture.

Most amazing is the integration of art and architectural form. When I walk into the first exhibition room I am drawn to the side wall. The art is subtle, almost not visible, feeling like a shadow.

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I walk closer to see what makes the shadows, the movement, the undulating lines. This art isn’t hanging on the wall, it is a part of the wall. I look from multiple angles to see the pins, the string, the shadows of pins and string, and the glistening heads of pins. I step back to see the sum of the parts, repeating the process again and again.

There aren’t many pieces of art but all are artfully displayed and frequently seem to become a part of the architecture. I feel as if I am a part of the space and from this perspective the art becomes alive – interactive. As I move around the space, from side to side, from main floor to balcony, from room to room, the art interacts with light and architectural lines to form new images.

We were most intrigued with a sculpture of hexagons hanging on very thin threads. The tops are mirrors and the bottoms have designs painted on them so they reflect what is above as they gently move with the air currents caused by passing visitors. They also reflect the light from the windows, my clothing, and my camera lens. It is like an open air kaleidoscope; it is mesmerizing.

I walk across the gallery and sit on a bench to take in the room. I realize how much this sculpture is a part of the architecture, the architecture supports the sculpture, the architecture is a part of the art, and visitors become a part of the exhibit.

In fact I begin to notice that people become an important part of the interactive experience of this structure, of the art.

This is what a museum should be like. This stimulates my intellect that loves the interactive integration that results in a total that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. It excites my emotions because what is, is not what it seems to be.


Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Sculptures

Walking Roots (Steve Tobin, 2002)

The special exhibition at the Naples Botanical Garden this season is Steve Tobin: Nature Underground, with the goal of getting visitors to think “deeper about the life under your feet.” When Patti announced the Lens-Artist Photo Challenge as subjects starting with the letter “s” I thought “How perfect!”

This one, Steelroot, 2007, is perfectly located to be viewed with the mosaic of the Brazilian Garden behind it.

I love the grace of this white sculpture but was surprised how beautiful it looks from the walk to the right, seen as a backdrop of the arrangement of these plantings.

There has been a lot of dancing going on in the garden lately. Maybe a little ballet by Dancing Roots, White, 2010, or some jitter-bugging by Dancing Roots, Red, 2011, or maybe the Tango is your dance of choice by Dancing Roots, Yellow, 2011. I’m not a dancer so maybe these sculptures bring to mind different dances for you – I wonder what dances are taking place underground in your neighborhood.

Another sculpture is titled, Romeo and Juliet, 2003. I haven’t heard the artist’s explanation, but there seems to be a longing between them. What do you think? It doesn’t feel nearly as sensual as the dancing roots, though.

The next photo is of Steelroot, 2010 taken with Lake Tupke in the background. I love how the graceful curves of the sculpture and the curved edges of the lake support each other. This sculpture is composed of three parts that are carefully placed together.