America’s oldest public art museum belongs to Hartford, Connecticut. The Wadsworth Atheneum was created in the 1840s by Daniel Wadsworth, son of one of the oldest and most prestigious families in Hartford. They contributed many pieces to the collection, and since then the Wadsworth has been a place of “firsts.”
Here the Russian ballet master George Balanchine created his company, now known as the New York City Ballet, performing first at the Wadsworth in 1934. This museum was the first in the US to acquire the works of Salvador Dalí, Frederic Church, Piet Mondrian, among others, the first to display an exhibition surrealist art in 1931. Picasso was shown in 1934. Dramatic performances, music and dance performances have been held in this magnificent castle on Main Street.
If you’ve not been to the Wadsworth, an impressive treat awaits you, a parade of our cultural history from the massive Trumbulls depicting historic scenes in the Morgan Great Hall, to the display of modern furniture design up on the third floor.
For more on the Wadsworth Atheneum, have a look at this website.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
Here is the Chatham, Mass. lighthouse with the sun setting behind it. This particular tower was built in 1877, but a light, and at one time, twin lights, stood here in Chatham, the first as early as 1808.
The lighthouse overlooks what has always been some of the most dangerous waters in the world, with currents and shoals that have taken the lives of many sailors.
Cape Cod’s first lighthouse was Highland Light up Truro, but Chatham was next, with twin towers two distinguish it from Highland.
By the summer of 1841, the towers were replaced with two new brick towers, and 30 years later in the 1870s, the other great Cape danger, erosion, was threatening to drop the towers into the ocean as the over 200-foot distance between the lights and the bluff dwindled to a mere 48 feet. The south tower did eventually tumble into the ocean in 1879. Two new towers were built to replace them in 1877, this time cast-iron.
In 1923, the north light was moved up to Eastham, and from then on, Chatham Light has been a single sentinel. The light was automated in 1982, but remains an active Coast Guard station, and is not open to the public except when open house dates are scheduled.
For more interesting information on the Chatham Lighthouse, have a look at this website, and here’s another one.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The headstone stands in the shelter of low stone wall on a windswept rise of ground in Coventry, Connecticut. It is a place of reflection and some poignancy.
Corporal Benjamin Carpenter, of the 1st Company, D Regiment, a veteran of the French and Indian War, died in 1785, only a few years after a Revolution created a new nation. When he fought for the King did he consider himself English, as so many British subjects in North America who fought in the French and Indian War did? When did he stop thinking of himself as British and start thinking of himself as American? Did it happen before 1776? After? Would he have marveled at the thought of an American flag (let alone a 50-star flag) marking his grave?
We may marvel that Corporal Carpenter lived to be nearly 90 years old, was born in 1695, which would have made him over 60 years old when the French and Indian War began. Not just a citizen soldier, but a senior citizen soldier.
He was in his early 30s when he married Rebeckah Smith, who was some ten years’ his junior. She died three years after him. This child of the 17th century, who became a solider late in life, and lived to see a new Republic born, had this new marble replacement stone placed in during the Great Depression by WPA workers. He might well have marveled at that, too.
Since he is gone, we may consider all these things, and marvel for him.
Friday, April 17, 2009
It’s not a long voyage to Long Island, New York. But the cars crawl cautiously into the ferries, and the human passengers step briskly up gangplanks with assorted backpacks, duffels, and a few shopping bags, as if embarking on a great adventure.
It can be, with the right frame of mind. Leave New England by water for a few hours or the whole day. But remember to come back.
For more on cross-Long Island Sound voyages, have a look at this website.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Here are some views of the statue of Sojourner Truth in Florence, a neighborhood of Northampton, Massachusetts. She came to live here in 1843. Born a slave in New York, she attained her freedom in 1827 when New York abolished slavery. Her name was Isabella, but she took the name Sojourner Truth when she became a traveling preacher. She was known for a powerful voice, and a powerful message. Most often people recall her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech delivered in 1851 and just as powerful today.
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?
She preached about her relationship with God, spreading her message through Long Island and Connecticut, walking all the way. She went to Northampton, Mass., was urged to join the Northampton Association, a utopian cooperative community dedicated to the abolition of slavery and pacifism, equality, and the betterment of mankind.
Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
She met William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles, among others here, giants in the abolitionist movement. None was more giant than herself.
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
A “strange compound of wit and wisdom” Frederick Douglass called her.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
This statue created by artist Thomas Jay Warren was installed October 2000, a short distance from the house where Sojourner Truth lived in Northampton, which still stands.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
For more on Northampton’s Sojourner Truth Memorial and the life of this truth-speaking woman, have a look at this website.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Above, peeking through the branches and shops of Nantucket is the Unitarian Universalist Church.
The oldest church on Nantucket, it was built in 1809, having separated from the First Congregational Church and formed as the Second Congregational, conforming with the Unitarian Church in 1837. Visit the church’s website here.
Here is more on the church in an essay by artist Tom Kristensen, who has taken the church for the subject of one of his prints.
A very Happy Easter to all Christians.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
This statue is called “Hail to the Sunrise”, a fixture on the Mohawk Trail in Charlemont, Mass.
The statue was sculpted by Joseph Pollia of New York City. The figure represents a Mohawk, who looks eastward across the Deerfield River with uplifted arms to the Great Spirit. The 900-pound bronze statue sits on a nine-ton boulder, and was unveiled in October, 1932.
This memorial includes a nearby pool with 100 inscribed stones from various tribes from around the United States.
Generations of “leaf peepers” have taken family photos by the Mohawk, a favorite spot along the Route 2, the Mohawk Trail. Maybe you did, too.