Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Zymoglyphic Meteorite

When I was a boy, I would troll the beach with a magnet tied to a long string, hoping to snag a torn-off bit of the cosmos in the form of an iron meteorite. As an adult, I found out that if you want one, you can just buy one. This one is from the Gibeon fall, a meteor that broke apart over Namibia in prehistoric times. It was originally part of the iron core of an asteroid that later broke up. Its melted, pitted exterior marks its fiery passage through the Earth's atmosphere, but its inner crystalline structure has not changed in 4 billion years. To me, it is the equivalent of a medieval relic, a connection to the universe and its creation.

One of the holiest relics of Islam (and its predecessors in Arabia as well) is a meteorite embedded in its central shrine at Mecca. One legend has it that this stone, too, dates from close to creation, falling at Adam's feet and subsequently discovered by Abraham.

The Hall of Meteorites in New York's American Museum of Natural History has an excellent exhibit (virtual and physical) on meteorites.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Michael McMillen's Dioramas

We went down to the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara last weekend to see Michael McMillen's latest installation, Red Trailer Motel. It will be on view until March 18, 2006. If you go, be sure to walk on the gravel, get up close to the doors and peer into the peepholes!

Michael has a long history of creating both full-size and miniature dioramas, always amazing, involving found objects and set pieces that he has constructed. We were fortunate enough to catch his big show at the Oakland Museum in 1991.

For a good overview of his work, see here. One of the interviews there takes place in his yard, where "stuff" has been accumulating for decades. More details of the Red Trailer Motel can be seen here at his Los Angeles gallery's site.

Permanent installations of his work can be found in the following locations:
- The Los Angeles County Museum has "Central Meridian", AKA "the garage", an amazing walk-through assemblage of a garage that is part Egyptian temple. See here for an interview with him that takes place in the garage.
- The entrance to the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena has "Motel (Under the World)" featuring an oil-guzzling robot watching TV in his underground room
- The San Jose Museum of Art has The Third Eye, a peephole into a sixties head shop
- The Oakland Museum has Aristotle's Cage, an evocative miniature diorama of a trailer in the desert.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Karl Blossfeldt

Neva Beach has graciously donated to the museum 13 prints from the 1929 edition of Karl Blossfeldt's Urformen der Kunst, along with a nice assortment of rusty metal and gnarly driftwood. Blossfeldt is featured in the museum's Photographers of the Marvelous online exhibit. The Blossfeldt prints form a major enhancement to the museum's photography collection. An online version of the book may be seen here. Blossfeldt's photography has been an inspiration to the museum's staff photographer, who envies Blossfeldt's ability to give a monumental, architectural presence to small scale natural objects - a major goal in photographing, for example, the museum's small dioramas and viewing stones.
An excellent book: Karl Blossfeldt: 1865-1932 (Photo Book Series)

-- The Museum Staff

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mom's dream

My mother is now elderly and frail, but possesses a great independence of spirit. Her vision is failing and her world is getting smaller. She says she rarely remembers her dreams, but recently she told me of a particularly vivid one. She was in a museum with many rooms and great curving walls, but open to the sky. My brother and I were both there, about 10 years old. Lots of people were coming in, but no one was going out as there did not appear to be any exit. The museum was full of exquisite objects, absorbingly beautiful, even indescribable. When she looked around, my brother and I had gone, and she could not find us anywhere.