One Hundred Three. Art in the Cemetery.

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Earlier this year I purchased a Groupon for an Oakland Cemetery tour. They have all different themed excursions each weekend day throughout the year, from tours of the Jewish cemetery to Women in Oakland to the Leo Frank story. I decided to take the “Art and Architecture of Death” excursion, mostly because both Patrick and I had the evening off and that was the tour offered, so on Day One Hundred Three we decided to take the tour.

We met the group at the museum shop/bell tower just before the 6pm scheduled start. I was surprised to learn that Oakland is actually a City of Atlanta park. You can walk, jog, and even bring your dog to visit the 40 plus acre graveyard. Our guide began with a little history of the cemetery, and then we progressed to the first architectural example: a pyramid. Many of the statues and markers were reflections of the time period and the aesthetic influences of the era. The Grants (not of Grant Park, of Grant Field) who built this mausoleum were into Egyptian Revival.

We were also encouraged to look inside the free standing building where a small window lit the tombs. Many of the mausoleums included stained glass features and windows to allow light into their depths. We waited for several minutes as a tour group member took his time sticking his nose through the bars until his wife gently pulled him away. I was only able to get a quick glimpse. The cool air and soft light inside was beautiful.

As we walked along the brick paved path our leader pointed out the buried tombs with carved pillows at the head. Apparently Victorians were into figurative symbolism, letting the world know that this is where the dead laid their heads. Very subtle.

As we walked along, I noticed a few gravestone markers that looked much different than the previously seen Victorian style. These markers had a wooden or stone texture to their limbs. Our guide explained that after the neoclassical movement of the first markers we saw people started to look more to nature, peppering their carvings with natural material instead of ancient Greek or Egyptian symbols. And the headstones with a branch or limb cut off usually symbolized the death of a teenager or young person. Literally it was saying, “a life cut short.”

Children who died would have a gravestone with an angel protecting them.

There were also headstones with carvings of saints, some based on their profession.

The two most prominent mausoleums in Oakland were the partners who founded a major bank in Atlanta, which was then sold until it merged with Wachovia and now Wells Fargo. The Richards mausoleum holds the second highest point in the cemetery and looks like a mini mansion striking tall against the sky.

The Austells (of Austell, GA) purchased the highest land among the graves. Theirs is a testament to all different kinds of architecture, from Victorian symbolism to ancient Greek and Roman features.

The end of the tour found us walking by the Confederate cemetery while a small boy joined the group. He father trailed behind several hundred feet as the youngster interrupted our guide with crazy exclamations and an endless barrage of questions. The leader was becoming visibly annoyed (especially since the small child had not purchased a ticket to participate), but Patrick and I had a hard time stifling our chuckles. The boy was much more engaged than the rest of the group and his energy was refreshing. Finally his dad scooped him up and took him along a different path. Probably just in time.

In the late 1800’s families would go to church and then bring a picnic lunch to dine on the grave site of their passed loved ones, as though they were sharing a meal with those long gone. I don’t think I would care to lounge above a dead body, but there are plenty of green spaces for a nice afternoon chillout.

Overall the tour was quite enlightening. I would certainly recommend one of the outings to anyone visiting or living in the area. I would love to go back for the Leo Frank tour.

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Ninety-Nine. A Lesson in Golf.

July 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

On Day Ninety-Nine, I took my first golf lesson. I purchased a Groupon about a month earlier good for three lessons and 18 holes at the Georgia Trail near my workplace. I was planning on visiting my parents for my dad’s birthday, brother’s birthday, and Father’s Day a couple weeks later, so figured if I learned how to golf in time I could play a round with my dad. He seemed pretty excited about the possibility too.

I called to schedule the lesson a week earlier and self-consciously asked about the dress code. As a teenager I had tried to go along with my dad and uncle on a Saturday morning golf excursion and ended up being dressed inappropriately, and thus unable to play. I was devastated, partly because I wasn’t ever invited again. Poor me, I know. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that golf attire as I knew it had been relaxed in the fifteen odd years since my first attempt at the game. A plain t-shirt and bermuda shorts with sneakers should fit the bill for my lesson.

I arrived to the course and headed into the pro shop. The attendant inside told me I would be training with Ned, in the red shirt, who was down at the driving range in preparation. I nervously made my way down through the hot sun and picked up some borrowed women’s clubs. We started with the grip, an uncomfortably positioned arrangement of my hands. It felt as if my left hand was unnaturally twisted around the club, but Ned assured me that with practice I would become accustomed to it. He used an abundance of metaphors and similes for how to position yourself and swing the club.

“Your body is like a clock, with your hands like a pendulum. Get it?” I nodded. “But faced slightly back, so the face of the clock is tilted, right?” Sure. “The club head is a target and the ball the arrow. You want to hit it center. Ok?” Yup, got it. “Keep your left arm stiff, it doesn’t bend until you come all the way back, like at one o’clock.” Stiff as a board. “When you finish, you should tilt your body around so your belt buckle is facing your target; it’s a shining light flashing the target.” OK.

Remembering all of the tips and rules and grips and positioning was fairly difficult. But the first time I made contact with the golf ball Ned was uber-excited. “High ten!” he exclaimed holding a single hand up in the air. I wondered if I was supposed to slap his palm twice or just give him a high five. It was the latter. I didn’t match his enthusiasm which I think disappointed him a little. My mind was still reeling from all of the specific body poses I had to make before I even swung the club.

When I tried to joke around with the pro, he didn’t seem especially receptive. I jested about golf not actually being a real sport to see Ned’s face fall in shock. I quickly grinned and explained that I was only kidding. I don’t know if he believed me.

I tried to hit a few more balls, with a tip after each swing, whether I missed the ball or not. “You lifted your chin. You took your eye off the ball. You bent your arm. You didn’t hold your follow through.” It was hard. I was tiring rather quickly. At the end of the lesson, I dragged my sweaty self back up to the pro shop with the promise to come back to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls and practice.

I had a lot to think about and vowed to remember my grip and tilt and follow through and all the rest. I wondered how people who didn’t take a golf lesson learned the game sport.

Seventy-Eight. Glass Works.

June 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

I studied abroad during college in Sunderland, England, known to some as the armpit of the country (or the Myrtle Beach of the UK), and to others as the glass capital of it. The University of Sunderland actually had a great glass making study, and I signed up for a glass blowing class the first semester. I sucked at it. The studio was really far away from my other courses so I didn’t practice enough, and it was a difficult class. The activity is a combination of strength, lung capacity, and an intense awareness of your glass piece and its relation to gravity. So I gave up and ended up only making one useful piece of art which now sits undisturbed in a cabinet at my parent’s house. A flatmate of mine was taking the kiln glass course in the same studio, and I  realized that this calmer, less strenuous class would have been more my speed.

So when I saw a Groupon come up for Creative Clayhouse in Suwanee and that you could use it on glass mosaic work, I quickly signed up to hopefully find my glass working niche. On Day Seventy-Eight, I gave it a whirl.

I walked into the converted house in downtown Suwanee to find a sole gentleman standing in a kitchen straight ahead. He cautiously inquired if he could help me, and I explained the Groupon and what I wanted to try out. He opened up a little more as he led me to one of the front rooms, clearly decorated for children and families. It would definitely be my style to purchase a certificate intended for kids. I glanced around the room as Richard explained to me the sizes of base glass, where all of the colored filler glass bits were, and how much additional services would cost. It was a bit overwhelming, so I was relieved when a teacher and her five top students came in to distract the nervous man. Apparently, despite the building being virtually empty, not having made an appointment seemed to frazzle poor Richard.

I finally picked my glass size (6 x 6) and flipped through the idea book left on the table. Then I flicked through the photos on my phone trying to find something of my own to imitate. Despite the number of Murphy photos found there I wasn’t going to make a mosaic of my dog (even if my mom would have loved it), so I settled on an Instagramed photo I took from the airplane ride to Los Angeles. The earth below was covered in square plots of farmland, and it seemed mosaicy enough.

I began with the rivers and worked my way through the scene, becoming less meticulous as the hour wore on. By the end I had forgotten the proper safety rules for cutting glass (but always wore the goggles when attempting it lest Richard chastise me like he had done to the small children), but managed to sort through jars and bins of different colors to approximate the picture on my phone.

Two hours later I was set to let the piece be melted together. I couldn’t tell what Richard thought about my work. He had said something about me doing an intricate design in the beginning, made some suggestions for using frit (small ground up glass-not called “frick” as I had done earlier to his non amusement), and in the end said, “Oh, yes, I guess I can see it.” Whatever that means. I think it probably means that I should give up on glass work all together.

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