Thursday, August 07, 2014

Wanton Act of Creation

On July 18th, the Jamaica Plain Gazette reported on an illegal bike path constructed in the Francis Parkman Woods - a small piece of the Frederick Law Olmstead's "Emerald Necklace", and adjacent to the Jamaica Pond.

If you haven't seen it, you should. And soon. Although the City hasn't put enough resources forward over the past 10 years to create a skate park or BMX park, apparently they will find the resources - pegged at about $10,000, to "fix" the problem of the illegal bike path and the approximately 12 trees affected.

In Yvonne Abraham's Boston Globe column today, she writes (link), that for a decade these woods have been used by bikers. (full disclosure, she mentions my work in the article) The monumental ramps and jumps you can find there now have been there for years. Only a few weeks ago did members of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and the Friends of Jamaica Pond become aware of the situation.

This parcel of land, what Google Maps labels as Parkman Memorial Park, is a triangle of manicured lawn and woods between Francis Parkman Drive, Prince Street, and Perkins Street. The site was the former home of Francis Parkman, noted American Historian and member of the 19th Century Boston elite. Born and raised predominantly on Beacon Hill, Parkman's house on the shore of Jamaica Pond was called "Sunnyside", and it was his summer retreat from the hustle and bustle of downtown Boston. The house, demolished to make way for Olmstead's vision, was featured in a book called The Homes America by Martha Johanna Lamb (h/t Remember JP?).

It is easy to forget that for every act of creation, there is, by necessity, a corresponding act of destruction. Drive in a beautiful hybrid, lithium battery powered car? - somewhere in the world a mountain was demolished to mine that lithium and all the other rare earth elements that go into the batteries and motors for your car. The Rose Kennedy Greenway? - hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed to make way for the elevated expressway, that then was destroyed to make way for the Greenway. The Emerald Necklace? - the Jamaica Pond was ringed with homes, mansions, and industry (the Ice House), prior to Olmstead's plan. The Pond itself is no where near its original glacial kettle pond self, its shores having been filled and manicured to fit the ideals of late 19th Century urban planners. In Abraham's article, she quotes the tireless green-space advocate and President of the Friends of Jamaica Pond, Gerry Wright, as saying. “People can say it is just one dirt bike track, but that one track has damaged many trees,” says Wright, “It’s a small symbol of what is happening across the world.” An image of the Parkman Memorial on a postcard from 1912 (at online postcard retailer Cardcow), shows the memorial on a nearly barren hillside. 

If it's the trees we are worried about, it seems as though they are doing fine. Or better yet, check out the BPL's image of the Memorial here. You can also see a picture of Parkman's home before it was destroyed at the Boston Public Library's flickr page here

For ten years the City of Boston has ignored its citizens for whom BMX riding (and skateboarding) is an important activity. For the past ten years, some of those disenfranchised youth took matters into their own hands, and built a spectacular playground that the City should be envious of. That it has taken years to come to the notice of authorities is a testament to how well placed it is - hidden in a nearly inaccessible and little-used corner of the Emerald Necklace. The singular paved path that runs most of the length of the park is so underused that a large tree branch - clearly down for some time - partially covers the path. If this were on the path around the Pond, you can bet it would be removed within a day.

I took the pictures shown here today, as I wanted to see for myself these epic structures before City bulldozers flattened them. I had to climb over two guard rails to get there from the Jamaica Pond. On my return, I looked for sanctioned pedestrian crossings from the Pond to the Parkman Memorial Park, and guess what - there are none. At least not at the intersection of Perkins, Cottage, and Parkman Drive. The sidewalk that runs along the Parkman Park and Cottage Street, much like Shel Silverstein's sidewalk, just peters out and ends. No cross walk. 

If the City is planning to use $10,000 to eliminate this wanton act of creation, they should instead take pause, ask why these young, energetic, and resourceful individuals created this (most likely in broad daylight!), and put the $10,000 towards helping to stabilize the site and make it a resource for anyone who wishes to ride their bike there. Do we really imagine that youth raised primarily in the digital 21st Century in this City could in any way interface with the analog bureaucracy that is City Hall? In light of our City's fiasco that is the BRA for the past 30+ years, it would be so great to see the City embrace its citizens, and find the value in this project, albeit unsanctioned. 

To do otherwise would be a pathetic continuation of the ageist discrimination against the creative and energetic youth of Boston, and indication that Boston only supports certain kinds of citizens, not all. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

STILL, 2014, is a site-specific sculpture. The object I created, a 6" diameter x 4" high bronze cap for an abandoned cast-iron lamppost, depicting a hoodie sweatshirt on the ground, is only one part of the entire piece. The other component is the Soldier's Monument, located in the center island of the intersection of Centre, South, and Eliot Streets in Jamaica Plain.

The first part of this artwork, the bronze sculpture, memorializes Trayvon Martin, using the symbol of a cast-away hoodie sweatshirt to conjure the narrative of his killing. The death of a teenager - no matter whom, and under what circumstances, is a tragedy. I chose not to put Trayvon's name on the sculpture, because I also wanted to point to larger societal issues about race, equity, and power. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the most recent National Vital Statistics Report: Deaths (Volume 61, Number 4, May 8, lists non-Hispanic black males as being ten times more likely to be murdered than their non-Hispanic white counterparts (35 per 100,000 vs. 3.3 per 100,000, page 69).

The second component, the Soldier's Monument, specifically memorializes 23 West Roxbury residents who died in the conflict alternately called the Civil War, or the War of Northern Aggression. The conclusion of this conflict - 150 years ago - was the emancipation of the slaves. In 150 years, the notion of freedom in the United States has meant many different things depending on who you are, what language you speak, what gender you are, and what color your skin is, etc.

It is my intent that the two objects - the small bronze, and the large stone monument - speak to the distance we have traveled in achieving freedom for all, and also the hard work and long road ahead to actually accomplish true equity and inclusion in our society. (In fact the original, working title was to be "How Far?....." referencing this notion of a journey)

For some further reading, john a powell's "Post-Racialism or Targeted Universalism" .

Monday, June 23, 2014

Abandoned No More

UPDATE: Sources at City Hall confirm that, indeed, the City is responsible for the painting of STILL. It just so happened that the City was scheduled to do touch-up paint along Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. Looks like I might be going down with some solvent to clean the paint off.

Abandoned No More by hincman
Abandoned No More, a photo by hincman on Flickr.
I think the City of Boston has given STILL - and its formerly abandoned post - a little love! Yup, the lamp post STILL is affixed to, and the adjacent street sign post (up to about 6') have been spruced up with a fresh coat of black spray paint - including the patinated bronze sculpture. While it may not be best practice in conservation to spray paint over patinated bronze, if the City did the maintenance - Thank you! I take this pro-active maintenance towards STILL as a positive sign of City support for the work!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

winter nests

DSCF0907.JPG by hincman
DSCF0907.JPG, a photo by hincman on Flickr.

a short photo essay testing out Fujifilm X-T1 camera with a 35mm f/1.4 lens. All images are untouched.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

How to Cook a Chicken

Most semesters I begin my first Welding class (yes, Welding), by asking my students the following question: How long does it take to cook a chicken?

Usually I get quite a few blank stares. Then someone blurts out - an hour? - or some other time. And then a student who actually cooks will say, "Well, it depends."

Exactly. It depends.

When I teach Welding, ostensibly I am the expert in the room. But the answer to the question "What's the best way to: weld A to B, cut a 1" square bar, etc.?" will always depend upon variables outside of my realm of knowledge. For instance, a student will ask what is the best way to cut an organic shape out of a sheet of 14 gauge steel. Well, it depends. It depends upon what the piece will be ultimately used for. It will depend upon if the piece needs to be welded at the edge to another piece of steel. It will depend upon which tools the student is most comfortable with (bandsaw, plasma-cutter, oxy/fuel torch, angle grinder, etc.). It will depend upon the physical abilities of the student. As a faculty (and also an artist) I cannot answer these questions for the student. And so my first response might be, "I have no idea!" This really gets their attention. What I am trying to do is disrupt the notion of the expert, and also validate and encourage individual agency in the student. My real role is to help guide them once they have made a decision, and allow the decision to be a failure if that's the way it works out. They will still pass the class.

On Feb 5 there was a NY Times article by Laura Pappano, which begins at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State University, and gives an overview of newly minted academic programs in creativity. I applaud this recognition that creativity and problem-solving are being recognized as academic subjects on their own, but for those Colleges and Universities looking to follow the trend, look no further than your art departments. And employers looking for really creative and innovative employees? - hire some artists. You will not be disappointed.

And for the record, I generally buy only whole chickens, cut out the back with my poultry shears, spatchcock the bird, and cook it in a hot oven until it is done. Usually around 45 minutes.