I get on the bus. It goes about twelve-and-a-half blocks and a lady sits next to me. Without any preamble, she says, “What is that thing that is hanging on your sweater?”
I say, “What!” She says, “Hanging on your elbow.”
I look down, and hanging on the right elbow of my plaid sweater is an enormous dark-blood-and-orange, solid glass and rhinestone brooch, which somehow had hooked itself on me in my trip through the jewelry department! I look at it and say, “Oh, I found my pin, ha ha!” I take the pin off and I look at this fantastic object, and it is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, being blood-orange and lined completely with rhinestones and silver-plated lead. It weighed at least a pound-and-a-half. Somehow it had hooked on me when I had brushed through the jewelry department. Fifteen minutes later I am home. I am sitting in the kitchen waiting for my mother to get home from the PTA. She comes into the kitchen and I say, “Ma, I got a surprise for ya.”
She says, “What?”
I say, “I got a pin,” and I give her a blood-red brooch lined with artificial diamonds and chromium-plated lead. It weighs a pound-and-a-half.
And she says, “This is beautiful!”
“Yeah. I picked it out.”
She says, “Why do you give me this? It’s your father’s birthday.”
I say, “Well, I figured that dad would prefer it if I gave you a present.” Oh, what a rotten thing I was doing. Oh! And she says, “That’s very nice!”
About a half-hour later the old man comes home and my mother says, “Look what Jeanie did! He gave me this for your birthday.”
He looks across the red cabbage and the meatballs at me and he says, “Why, that’s very nice. That is the best present you could have given me!”
With becoming modesty I say, “I thought it was very pretty.”
My kid brother was burned up. Because he got my father a thirty-five-cent baseball glove and he was really bugged. Obviously I had scored big. I can’t tell you the end of this. I just can’t tell you the end of this. As a matter of fact, I won’t tell you the end.
[END OF PART 3]
What do Falling Water, The Vietnam Memorial, Machu Picchu, and some other sites have in common? At least in part, they all intrigue me because their art fuses man-made, three-dimensional work with the landscape they inhabit.
(Some other ”Earth Art,” or “Site-Specific Art” such as Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty,” “Mount Rushmore,” [both of which I’ve only seen in photos], and even “Stonehenge” [Which I visited when one could still walk up to it and touch it] also inhabit the landscape, as do some modern urban parks and even landscaped rooftops, but they don’t interact with the environment beyond their perimeters—though “Spiral Jetty” in photos, does vary in effect as more or fewer impurities in the water change the water’s color.)
Best-known is Mount Rushmore, in which carved portraiture emerges out of the mountainside. As a patriot, I’ve always admired it, but only recently have I connected it in my mind with my interest in landscape sculpture.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water is well-known for the dramatic visual effect of the building jutting out, set over a waterfall, fusing the two. His patrons had assumed that the house would be located so that from it one could view the waterfall, but Wright had in mind the fusion of water, rock outcropping, and building.
Falling Water Exterior
Falling Water Living Room
What many may not realize is that the interior is also fused to the landscape’s bedrock outcropping, which surfaces at the fireplace floor in the house’s living room, forming part of the center of family life.
Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial is built into the earth. The shiny black marble, maybe symbolizing mourning, sliced into the universal burial ground of earth, not only contains the names of the fallen, but reflects the viewers themselves as they look and mourn. The sight of so many visitors responding to the memorial indicates the positive emotional intensity it evokes. It’s the simplicity and the purity that embodies something fundamental within us all.
Lin has written, “I imagined taking a knife and cutting into the earth, opening it up, an initial violence and pain that in time would heal. The grass would grow back, but the initial cut would remain ….The need for the names to be on the memorial would become the memorial; there was no need to embellish the design further.”
The entire site of Machu Picchu was designed and built as an integral part of its immediate landscape and the surrounding mountains and valleys. The Incas revered nature—the sun, the ground, natural features. Buildings rise up as parts of the bedrock of the mountain upon which they are an inseparable part. Stairs are carved from the living rock, as is the Intihuatana sun dial stone and other special carvings. [All Machu Picchu photos and Pisac photo below by Al Naso.]
The Site Perched 2,000 Feet Above the Urubamba River
Stairways Carved From the Rock
Curved “Temple of the Sun” Built Up From Bedrock, and Carved
Entrance of “Royal Tomb” Cave Under the Temple.
A Carved “Altar” at Pisac, another Inca site.
Nearly right in front of my face and I was woefully uninformed about it, is the recently designed and put-into-glorious-use, “High Line,” Manhattan’s Westside elevated gardens that transform unused railroad track structures. Instead of tearing the whole thing down, it’s been transformed by designers, including landscape designers, taking into account the particular attributes of each grass, bush, flower, and tree to sculpt an elegant landscape for looking at, relaxing in, wandering through. It’s urban design beyond anyone’s expectations. It is Falling Water and Machu Picchu for the 21st century! It’s glorious—I gotta go and experience it someday.
The book, On The High Line, by Annik La Farge, describes the project: “Thirty feet in the air, rebuilt and planted on one and a half miles of abandoned, elevated railroad track snaking through Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line turns the dream of escape offered by most urban parks inside out.
The High Line invites you deeper into the city than you’ve ever been before.”
[Photos copied from the book. Top by Annik La Farge, middle left by Rick Drake, right by Annik La Farge, bottom two by Rick Drake.]