Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tampa Museum of Art

We were pleasantly surprised to discover that this art museum is along the river walk of Tampa.  Unfortunately the day was cool and overcast with a threat of rain.  I was so tempted to head out on the river walk, but decided that there were going to be better sunny days ahead when John and I could even possible bike the path along the bay.
Currently, outside and inside the museum, there is the work of one of the world's foremost living sculptors- Jaume Plensa.  This special exhibit of the artist is titled  Human Landscape.  The artist has created all over the globe large-scale artwork related to the human figure.  Several of his art pieces can be found outside of the museum.  Pictured below is his Heart of Trees.  Each of the seven bronze figures is a self portrait.  Arms and legs are wrapped around living trees which pay homage to such great composers of the 19th and 20th century as Gershwin, Bizet Wagner and others.  Their names are inscribed on the shirts of the figures.
 Music profoundly affects Plensa's artwork, as seen in another one of his sculptures in the exhibit which is a human head with musical notes on it.  He also liked poetry as a sensory experience, as seen in his hanging display of letters called Silent Rain.  Those letters form words which compose lines of poetry taken from 8 poems written by different authors.  It is one piece of artwork which can be touched and felt!

Awilda and Irma were created in 2014.  The large stainless steel mesh heads, according to the museums interpretive sign near the artwork, allow light and air to show the inside and outside of the heads.  Viewers are then encouraged to consider inner and outer beauty.

As I have noted before, every small art museum we have toured always surprises us.  Plensa's artwork in the museum, the largest to date, has displaced much of  this museum's other exhibits.  However, there are a couple displays of artwork in the lobby which we found interesting.  We were drawn to the one below because it had moving parts.
The above artwork is titled Simply Beautiful.  It was done by Cuban artist Mabel Pujols.  She made a state-sponsored visit to a women's prison in Holguin,Cuba where the inmates make plastic flowers from recycled materials.  She placed those flowers on bicycle spokes, which are activated to move around a portrait of a lady by a motion sensor.  According to museum information, it creates an on-going formation and deformation of the face.  The artwork explores "the expression of the material and spiritual freedom that the search (for) beauty can provide".
The Classical World is the only complete exhibit currently left on display in the museum.  It is artwork produced in ancient Greece and Italy as well as North Africa and the Near East.  Fish carved on a piece of terracotta pottery, as well as the Christogram on the oil lamp fragment pictured above, caught my eye.  I had learned in church history classes about how the early Christians had used those symbols to identify themselves as followers of Christ.  To actually see those symbols on the ancient pottery was quite impressive for me!  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Trolley Ride in Tampa

We have been averaging one or two days per week when the weather has cooperated for us to be out and about.  The weather has been either wet, or windy and quite cool.  On Monday the weather forecast was for a sunny day and the temperature in the low 60s.  And it was a day to spend with Melissa and Nathan, which meant we had to keep our touring simple, and get it all done before his nap time.  A trolley ride through downtown Tampa seemed the ideal activity for the day.
All the trolley stops are marked by a decorated small trolley car, pictured in the foreground above.  The one titled above is "Encore Tampa!".  It has musical notes and instruments painted on the trolley.  Also notice in the upper left hand corner an object on the ground in front of the car.  That is a homeless person sleeping on a concrete divider between the trolley tracks and the street.  A warm spot, but to my mind a bit dangerous!  Also notice in the right side of the picture our daughter and her son Nathan.  While waiting for the trolley he kept quite busy looking for any kind of box with buttons to push- like newspaper stands, atms, or parking meters.   A young man on a mission!  Fortunately for us the trolley eventually came.
Nathan thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  He kept saying "going" when the trolley stopped to pick passengers up.  In his vernacular that meant "do not stop I am enjoying this too much".  Our ride took us along Port Tampa where we saw a couple of very large cruise ships docked.  It was certainly one interesting means of seeing the downtown area of Tampa.
Our ride took us to the end of the line, which is Ybor City.  I mentioned this town before in another posting when I referred to a Cuban area of Tampa.  You may remember it because I wrote of chickens roaming the streets.  When we got off the trolley what a surprise- our first sight in Ybor was a rooster strolling down the street!  The city has, besides chickens, some very old buildings dating to the turn of the twentieth century.
Pictured above is Vicente Martinez Ybor- pioneer of the cigar industry in Florida as well as founder of the city of Ybor.  He was born in Spain in 1818 and later his family immigrated to Cuba.  During the Cuban revolution in 1889 he fled that country and settled in Florida where he bought some scrub land outside of Tampa.  He founded the city of Ybor at the age of 77 years and died in 1898.  Other cigar manufacturers joined him and Ybor city became the cigar capitol of the world.  Walking down the main street of the town we saw a few cigar shops, with women rolling cigars in store front windows.  Other than those shops, there is not much more to see of the Cuban influence in Ybor today.  Some of the restaurants advertise Cuban as well as Spanish fare.  Quite popular here and in most eating places in southern Florida is the Cuban sandwich, which is ham (including or instead of there maybe other variations of meat) and cheese between slices of Cuban bread.   It was a popular food of the Cuban immigrants in the last century.  We did find a nice sandwich shop for lunch, which had grilled cheese quesadillas for Nathan.  After that it was a hurried walk to catch a trolley which would take us back to our car parked in Tampa.  In the foreground of the picture below is another trolley sculpture, this one looked like a trolley with wings.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Heritage Village of Pinellas County

This 21-acre living museum is located next to the Florida Botanical Gardens.  Thirty-one historical structures have been moved to this park from various areas in the county.   We knew that only a few of the buildings were furnished and docents were available to give tours in those buildings so out first stop was at one of them, the seven-gable, thirteen room Victorian house pictured below.

The interior of the building was constructed in loblolly pine, also called heart pine as the inner core of the tree is used for construction.  The wood hardens as it ages and is quite resistant to termites.  However, it does make the interior quite dark in appearance.  Pictured below is the front parlor, where the heart pine can be seen around the fireplace.
The furnishing are not original to the home, however the Pinellas County Historical Society has done a wonderful job in decorating it in period antiques.   This home built in 1896,  was once located on a bluff in Clearwater.  It was the winter residence of a wealthy business man and his family from Rockford, Illinois.
We had our grandson Nathan with us.  He was not about to tour the old buildings where he was forbidden to touch the valuable artifacts.  He enjoyed so much more the winding trails through the pine flat woods which surround the buildings.  At least on those paths he could throw pine cones!   However, I did convince him to enter the church pictured above because there was a cross to look at-  crosses seem to be his latest interest. The Methodist church was active until 1960 when the congregation moved to another sanctuary.  In 1921 a hurricane lifted it up from the ground and deposited it elsewhere on the property, facing a different direction.  It was left there.  Another hurricane ripped off most of the roof in 1935.   Amazingly it still has the original pulpit and altar rail.

The house above is the oldest continuously lived in building in the village, and is described as a "Florida cracker-style plus" home (rooms were added over the years).  The McMullen family moved to Pinellas Peninsula in the 1850s and left it during the early 1860s.  During the Civil War Daniel and his brother joined the Cow Calvary to bring beef to the Confederate troops.  In 1868 Daniel returned and built this home for his family.  I enjoyed the history which came with all of the structures in this village.  It is impossible mention all of the other interesting buildings, of which there is a sponge warehouse, barn with old tools and carriages, smokehouse, sugar cane mill, as well as a boat shop.  We do have every intention of visiting this place again, so there may be another posting on it in the future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Florida Botanical Gardens

El Nino has chilling us a bit down here in Florida.  Today there is a cold stiff wind blowing, we will be lucky to reach 60 degrees.  I know, for you people further north, that still is a enviable temperature!
John and I did get out yesterday, to the botanical gardens. 
We were at the gardens last month to look at the holiday lights.  Yesterday, while we were there, the garden staff were taking down those lights.  Not sure when the poinsettia displays will come down, they are still decorating up the gardens quite nicely, as you can see in the above picture.
There are a large number of plants in the gardens which are not blooming now due to the fact that it is winter time.  However, the tropical plants are still faring quite well, as the Chinese rain bell, pictured above.  We found that plant in the Vinery.  That is quite a beautiful section with plants vining down in a rich profusion of greenery.  An example of that is pictured below,  that is bleeding heart plant is in the foreground.
There is a variety of palm trees all through the gardens, and in addition there is also a Palm Tree area just 
devoted to them.  Many of them are from places all over the world, and vary in height.
We also returned to the Wedding Garden where we discovered a Jazz section.

There is a creek flowing through the garden, where John happened to see a turtle sticking his head above the water, and also an alligator swimming nearby.  One ibis was feeding in the grass by the shoreline.  Finally, as we were leaving the garden, I happened to glance up and see a golden trumpet tree full of yellow flowers.  Not many leaves left on the tree, but lots of yellow blooms!  It may get cool down here in Florida, but still there is lots of green around and flowering plants can be found.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach, Florida

This state and federal manatee sanctuary is located on land owned by the Tampa Electric Company.
It was a cool over-cast day when we were there, so we were surprised to find the parking lot almost completely filled.  It was probably one of the better days to view the manatees.  Beyond the power station is Tampa Bay, where the water is a bit cooler at this time of the year.  In the clean warm (like about 82 degrees) water of the reservoir pictured above, is currently numerous manatees.  We could easily make out the shapes of their bodies in the cloudy water.
And we could also perceive that there was a great number of them by the many swirls in the water.
As the manatee submerges he makes a series of half-moon swirls.  After viewing the manatees from a boardwalk and observation platforms, we spent some time in the environmental education building.  Here there is plenty of information regarding the manatees, as well as about the Big Bend Power Station located near the center.  One interesting piece of information regarding manatees is that they have no natural predators.  They are harmed or killed by watercraft collisions, ingestion of marine debris, cold stress, red tide and natural causes.  Florida is considering taking them off their protection list since their numbers are starting to rise.  Pictured below is a life-size model of a manatee.
By the way, they are herbivores.  To my thinking they are just sweet gentle giants of the deep seas!
One other note here, while we were observing the manatees we noticed fish jumping out of the water.  A staff member of the center informed us that those were a type of shark which has its mouth underneath its head and feeds by turning upside down to catch the fish above them.  That was an interesting sight, as well as the manatees!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Sunken Gardens of St.Petersburg

These botanical gardens have been a landmark of St.Petersburg since 1935.  In 1903 it was the property of George Turner,Sr.,a plumber and avid gardener.  He drained a shallow lake, which had filled an ancient sinkhole and dropped 15 feet below street level to provide a rich soil to grow fruits and exotic plants from all over the world.  By 1924 his garden was attracting visitors from around the world and Turner began charging 25 cents for a stroll through them.  In 1999 it was purchased by the city of St.Petersburg.
I was at first struck by the sight of the magnificent Royal Palms, but there are many other different kinds of palms in the gardens which are equally beautiful.  Meandering walkways also took us past many tropical displays with vibrant flowering plants.  There is also a section of the garden with a few orchids currently in bloom, and a cactus garden. 
Not surprising,  since 1935 it has been the favorite site for many weddings.
The gardens have 100 varieties of the croton plant, pictured above.  According to a garden sign this plant once originated in the islands of Indonesia, and is a "genetically unstable tropical plant".  It has a propensity to sport, or branch off from its parent plant.  It is also pollinated by ants (and later by man), so its evolutionary process has brought about endless varieties in cultivation today. 
The gardens are a wonderful place for toddlers to wander.  Our grandson Nathan enjoyed reading the signs to us ( or at least pointing out the letters he does know).  I think that at one time there were more exotic wildlife than there are presently.  All we saw was one alligator snapping turtle, two flamingos, and the ponds have fat koi fish swimming in them.  Nathan certainly enjoyed adding to their obesity!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Museum of Fine Arts- St.Petersburg, Fl.

Our impetus for seeing this museum was an article in the paper concerning a current exhibit.  One of the greatest living practitioners of sand mandalas, a Buddhist monk Losang Samten, is at the museum until Jan.16.  Samten once served as the Dalai Lama's personal attendant.
We found him working on a sand mandala in the lobby of the museum.  The picture above shows how he delicately lays down grains of colored sand with two tapered tubes.  The bottom one contains sand, the one above it vibrates the lower one as it slowly drops down sand onto the picture.
You may notice lines outside of the picture above.  That is what Samten has to fill in by Jan. 16 when the picture will be destroyed.  There is information available regarding this sand mandala, which is best explained by quoting from that material.  Mandalas are "healing for an individual's body, speech, mind, environment". "They are used to enhance the spiritual practice environment through image and meditation to overcome suffering."   In the center of the above picture is a Medicine Buddha, and  there is a blue light of healing radiating from him in all directions.  The creation of the mandala, as well as its design, is a ritualistic process.  While the Buddhist monk works there is soft Tibetan flute music playing and if there is any speaking at all it is done in whispers.  There are chairs for people to sit, watch and meditate as long as they wished to do so, but John and I moved on to check out other exhibits of the museum.
After such a serious note, it almost seems wrong to post the above picture.  Another current exhibit of the museum is titled Marks Made: Prints by American Women from the 1960s to the Present".  It is a celebration of the printmaking medium and the many women who have contributed to its development.  In this exhibit I learned about the Guerrilla Girls, an organization which tries to get the word out that "less than 5% of artists in modern art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are females".  That latter fact has especially bothered me when I have toured art galleries!
Another very interesting but sobering current exhibit is titled "I Remember Birmingham".  Seven glass blocks and prints done by John Scott are a memorial to the race-related bombing of a Baptist church in 1963 when 4 African American girls attending Sunday school were killed.  On the glass block above is written the words: "I am closed out of my dreams by someone who didn't know me- why?"
Another interesting current exhibit is by Carrie Schneider on "Reading Women".  She did a 4 hour video on women reading women's books, of course we only took a few minutes to watch that!  We probably should have dedicated a whole day to St. Petersburg's art museum because we certainly did not see it all in the 4 hours we were there!  As we have learned in touring art museums all over the nation, we never know what we will see in those museums.  Most often, as we discovered at the St. Petersburg art museum, it was a most pleasant and enjoyable surprise!  We felt that we had learned and seen so much regarding different forms of art.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Alligators, Elephants, and Roosters

The weather has hampered us a bit in getting out and about- that and a young toddler who has not been feeling well.  Around Christmas time we had 80 degrees weather and spent a lot of time on the beach and in the swimming pool.  After the New Year the weather turned cooler, with some rainy days.
We were fortunate to discover Sawgrass Park, which is next door to our rv park.  What encouraged us to explore that park is that it has a boardwalk, which is very convenient in containing a toddler who wants to be independent and explore everything on his own!
Sawgrass Park is primarily a large swamp, noted for its alligators, large turtles, and bird life.
It was surprising for John and I to learn that we have alligators located close to where we are parked!
And the circus has arrived in Tampa, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey, that is!  We learned from the paper that their train was arriving early Tuesday morning.  Despite the very cool weather we were at the train station, on time, with Melissa and our grandson.  No trains came in, but instead a fleet of large trucks arrived on the parade route.  They proceeded to unload horses and three elephants for the parade through the streets of downtown Tampa.  We learned that the circus train had arrived earlier than planned, like at midnight the night before!  We were disappointed, but it still was all right for Nathan who enjoyed the horses and elephants.  By the way, it's one of the last years to see the elephants in action.  In 2015 the producer of the circus announced that after 145 years of featuring elephants in acts, the 13 Asian elephants still traveling with the circus would be moved to a conservation center in Florida by 2018.
 After the small parade we drove over to the Cuban area of town looking for a sandwich shop.  After parking we heard roosters crowing- that was a bit of surprise as we thought we were in the heart of the city.  Soon we saw a few roosters and chickens roaming around between the shops and houses.  More excitement for little Nathan!  I think John and I will have to do some sight-seeing on our own to make my postings of this area a bit more interesting!