After enjoying immensely the Sargent exhibit at the Met, I ran into this Man Ray gelatin silver print of 1930, “Histoire naturelle.” The text panel describes it as a petrified sea horse, at rather larger-than-life scale, supposedly as part of a Surrealist effort to defamiliarize ordinary objects. Simpler times.
Archive for the 'Art Culture Politics' Category
Tags: Brooklyn, Green-Wood, insects
This patch of native meadow in Green-Wood Cemetery was a revelation on a recent afternoon when it was absolutely pulsing with life as numerous species of butterflies, dragonflies, bees, wasps, and beetles gathered pollen and nectar and munched on plants and each other. I gather it’s an experiment. I hope it thrives, and that those burying their dead here and elsewhere see the relevance and importance of such landscaping and start demanding it. The old-fashioned lawn of a cemetery is no more conducive to life than a suburban lawn and comes from a similar era and ideology. But if you do decide to go the burial route, forest burial and meadow burial should be options for an age with much more concern for ecology and fostering habitats. Sure, direct access to a tombstone is made more difficult, if not impossible, in this kind of situation, for relatives. So I assume that family members had to give permission for this, if there were still any on record for this crowd. And yet what a beautiful thing to visit: flowers in bloom through the summer, grasses heavy with seed in the fall, winter’s stubby potential. While we were there, the animals were buzzing as a breeze blew up the Harbor Hill Moraine and cicadas and Mockingbirds staked out their territory.
Such a difference from the fake flowers often stuck in front of graves.
I’ll say! Here’s typical American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) habitat in the city. That rectangular gap in the bracket is the entrance to a nest from which at least two youngsters fledged this year. North America’s smallest falcon species has really taken to such rotting cornices here in NYC: I know of three nests within a two mile radius of where I live in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, the habit of cutting down dead trees (snags), with their cavity-nest possibilities, out in the “country” means that urban Kestrels actually seem to be doing better than than their country cousins. Here’s a Two-spotted Ladybug (Adalia bipunctata) laying her eggs on a leaf in Brooklyn Bridge Park as dozens of people walk by. This is a species that has seen a marked decline, probably because of the introduction of invasive ladybug species. When I reported my discovery of these beetles in BBP to the Lost Ladybug Project a few years ago, it was one of only a bare handful of New York state locations for this insect in their database.House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refugee, in Queens (and a bit of Brooklyn), an absolutely amazing thing to have within the city’s bounds.I could go on. I have gone on for five years on this blog. NYC is wild! The brand new meadow at Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I was privileged to have a preview of this past weekend.
Meanwhile, there’s a contest marking the 120th year of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the city’s four zoos and single aquarium. It’s sort of a treasure hunt: find and photograph 120 wild things in the city. (120? That’s an undercount that would lead to legal action if this was a census.) Actually, it’s all about the animals in these institutions, most of them far from home. Their use of the hashtag #NYisWild is what started me on these thoughts. They’re perpetuating the fallacy that the place to find wild things in the city is on display behind a cage or glass panel. Considering these places tout their educational function, this is a great pity.
Of course, there’s very good work being done by the WCS; but I just don’t think zoos are a particularly fruitful aspect of that work. And, not to drag up the mud of the past here, just because it’s the earth from which we came, but “the zoo” has much to atone for: consider Ota Benga, kidnapped from Congo and displayed in the Bronx. In 1906.
Recently at Bush Terminal Park, I heard a parent tell her child that the Osprey nesting platform there was for albatrosses. She’s probably seen them on TV.
The owl of Minerva overlooking wee Jamie Boswell’s brilliant career. National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.At the kirk in Duddingston, Edinburgh.On the exterior of The Salmon, in Belford. Presumably an earlier incarnation of the inn….In Craster, under the pall of the smokehouse working on the town’s famous kippers (cf. Salmon Rushdie’s first brush with the things).In Alnmouth.Saw this in two different spots and wondered. Turns out to be the symbol of the old Martins Bank, defunct since 1969. 16th century beginnings with London goldsmiths, who banked under the sign of the Grasshopper.The bird is Liverpool’s “Liver Bird,” a cormorant which has been the city’s symbol since at least the 14th C. It joined the Grasshopper after a merger with Bank of Liverpool in 1928. A Red Squirrel in a mosaic at the National Portrait Gallery. The animal itself, Sciurus vulgaris, is in critical condition in the UK due to the invasive Gray (yes, our familiar North American park inhabitant) and habitat loss. The Grey is not only larger and more aggressive but carries a pox which it is immune to but which horribly disfigures and kills the Red. We saw a Grey in Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden, but no Reds anywhere. The Berwick Red Squirrel Group’s hazelnut-filled boxes were noted in Shiellow Wood south of Fenwick.There is a war going in the UK between large landowners, their myrmidon gamekeepers, and raptors and their allies. The landowners make money from game-bird hunters, and claim raptors kill too many grouse and pheasant (an introduced species, by the way, which we saw and heard far more times than we saw raptors), so the gamekeepers poison and shoot raptors (all illegal, but money talks loudest of all in Thatcher’s neoliberal encampment). The Hen Harrier in particular is under severe threat from the eradicationists.
I think here of the dialectic in Frost’s “Mending Wall.” One voice says “something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and the other, the more-often quoted, says “good fences make good neighbors.” I gravitate towards that something, the earth, heaving and shivering through the seasons, throwing the wall to pieces, as it will all our works. Not that we should stop making things, necessarily, however Sisyphean the task. Or should we? Fencing in trees, for instance, is a folly best abandoned.
Who doesn’t feel like that traveller from an antique land when walking in the northeastern woodlands and coming across an old stone fence, so laboriously made long ago and now forgotten, moss-covered, the home today of snakes and chipmunks?
Artists of Earth and Sky at the Met until May 10 is not to be missed. It is amazing and immensely sad. Drawing of artist’s world. Attributed to Wacochachi (act. ca 1820-1850), Meskwaki, Iowa. Ca. 1830. Ink and sealing wax on paper.Shield with guardian sporty. Arikara artist, North Dakota, ca. 1850. Buffalo rawhide, native-tanned leather, pigment.Ghost Dance drum. George Beaver (act. late 19th century) Pawnee, Oklahoma. Ca.1891-92. Wood, rawhide, pigment.