Tag Archives: United States

The lightness of steel

I caught a great exhibit at Boston’s Mills Gallery on its last day: ‘Three Point Perspective’ by Richard Bertman, a local artist and a founding Principal of CBT Architects. (He’s the B).

Already familiar with his meticulously detailed pen and ink renderings of buildings and landscapes from back when I was a CBTer myself, I learned of my former boss’ extensive creative background: for decades he worked in the mediums of welded steel and carved wood. This particular exhibit focused on drawings, wire sculptures, and complex kinetic sculptures. The work is dynamic, playful, and quirky.

Assembled with an array of steel rods, pulleys, sprockets, chains, and sheet metal, some of the kinetic sculptures are activated by triggering the footswitch of the electrically powered motors. They begin to flex, shift, turn, and rotate, mapping out their place in space, the relationships between their parts constantly in change. Squeak squeak

Bertman’s steel wire sculptures of faces are “like drawings in the air.” He created a large scale one of his own head, a huge ‘sketch’ in three dimensions, which seems to come alive as you observe it from different angles. The various accompanying multimedia studies of his face were painstakingly undertaken – every line and fold charted out, traced, molded, shaped…

Richard Bertman’s artwork is rich with personality and humour. I’m reminded of the artist at the office, his happy smile, his manner of sketching with Sharpie pens on rolls of architectural tracing paper. It’s not such a far stretch from this…

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Long Island City II

Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Hipster central.

I resided for one week in this influential hub, a mere 3 subway stops away from Manhattan’s Union Square.

Vintage shops, indie theatres, phenomenal restaurants – you name it, it’s there. The area’s many industrial buildings have always been a magnet for artists, who’ve transformed them into studios or galleries. Characterized by diversity, it boasts a happening arts and music scene and various ethnic enclaves formed by long-established immigrants. Creativity of all sorts permeates the neighbourhood and its main thoroughfare, Bedford Avenue, buzzes day-in day-out with activity and twenty- and thirty-somethings.

But, like the usual story goes, the booming real estate market is transforming the mixed-use character of the neighbourhood. High-rise buildings are ‘mushrooming’ and long-abandoned factories are being converted to expensive condos and apartments. The locals that I talked to were not too thrilled about the rapid development, about the gentrification that has prompted an increase in rent prices, driving people out.

On a positive front, the city’s re-zoning has also called for revitalization of the waterfront, which had fallen into neglect. The East River State Park looks back upon the Manhattan skyline. On clear evenings, residents gather here by the water’s edge to watch the sunset. That’s a sweet view you can’t put a price on.

Next stop: Coney Island

Eager to escape Manhattan at the peak of summer, my friend and I decided a full-fledged beach day was in short order. A quick jaunt over on the subway and we were in Coney Island, America’s “People’s Playground” in Brooklyn, NY.

A stop at Nathan’s Famous is an American tradition that must not be missed so we nabbed a couple of their signature bacon cheeseburgers and crinkled fries and made our way through the obstacle course of beachgoers to a breezy spot by the water’s edge.

The boardwalk is lined with eateries and other attractions. No amusement park rides for us (those particular thrills ceased to wow me years ago) but seeing them again does take you back. I don’t really know what I was expecting to see in Coney Island but it was more along the lines of circus freaks and other outrageous types strolling about, hot dog eating contests, and multitudes of children shrieking with unbridled enthusiasm. It was a little tamer on this day.

Once a thriving entertainment destination, Coney Island is now but a shadow of its former self. Much of it is slated for redevelopment, and many of its historic buildings are threatened with demolition. There is a strong effort by preservationist groups and the like calling for their safeguarding, citing economic incentives for the rehabilitation of these unique structures. It’s interesting to imagine what they could become if they were preserved, restored and reused…

I’d like to return to Coney Island in the wintertime, to behold the sweeping calm of the beach and ocean and, while walking the empty boardwalk, to search for traces of its former glory.

Land of the lobster

For reasons none other than dental ones, I spent the 4th of July in the U.S. And such a treat it turned out to be that I take all blame squarely off the godforsaken tooth. I did Independence Day, Gloucester-style.

Some Scandinavian friends of friends organized an evening barbecue at their lovely home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, just 40 miles north of Boston. Worming my way into their good graces, I got to go too. Located on Cape Ann, on the rugged, rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean, it is America’s oldest seaport.

I’m told the entire day’s celebration is quite the Extravaganza, complete with a 4k Run/Walk, traditional picnic games (i.e. sack races/tug-of-war and a raffle), scavenger hunt, and a softball game. It typically culminates with the eccentric Lanesville ‘Horribles’ parade and a massive bonfire down by the picturesque Lanes Cove, but both were nixed this year because apparently things got wildly out of control last year (note: a raging enthusiasm, not raging inferno). As a result, there was a strong police presence this year – i.e. a couple of cops joining in on the fun. Even with the town’s annual festivities somewhat curbed, families, friends and neighbours were out in full force and good wholesome fun was had by all.

The other guests and I followed the crowds down to the waterfront landing at Lanes Cove, narrowly tripping over lobster traps and buoys galore. I watched as the small procession marched across the stone pier, bearing a giant inflatable lobster overhead. At the pier’s edge, the lobster, fashionably decorated with streamers in red, white and blue, was tossed to sea amid woos, yelps and applause. Then came the national anthem. The lobster was subsequently rescued. (I must admit the traditions here are entirely lost on me…)

Now, normally, I pride myself in not being a sunset-photo-taker but I’ve got to make an exception here. As the sun approached the horizon, the silhouetted figures standing atop the wall reminded me of Giacometti ‘Walking Man’ sculptures coming to life against the ever changing light. It was a sight to see.

As night fell, we were treated to fireworks. It was a good day.