But is he an artist?

Maurice Sendak

Curators, critics and collegians declare they know the difference between an artist and an illustrator.  Often it is clear, but I am not always so sure.

For decades, they described Norman Rockwell as only an illustrator.  As I walked through a hotel lobby shortly after I returned from Vietnam, I saw a Rockwell painting with a thousand dollar price tag, so low it now sometimes raises doubts in my mind.  I like Rockwell so much Alie once gave me a book featuring all his Saturday Evening Post covers.  That painting haunts me; I didn’t have a thousand dollars and did not foresee his rise to artistic fame; today the painting is worth millions.

We are pleased – and perhaps astonished – to find the relatively small Columbus Museum of Art able to present the one-of-a-kind U.S. exhibit of the Raphael cartoons for tapestries and more recently the first retrospective of Maurice Sendak’s work since his 2012 death.

We were long past our childhoods and did not have children when Sendak’s fabulously successful 1963 book Where The Wild Things Are was published.  I was aware, however, of some of the more famous paintings from that book, and interested to see the CMOA exhibit.

In 2009, Sendak founded the Sendak Fellowship with the stated goal to help picture book artists to create work that is not vapid or stupid but original; work that excites and incites.  Illustration is like dance; it should move like—and to—music.

My sense is the curator is making the case that Sendak is a true artist, not a mere illustrator.  I still do not know the definitive answer to that question.  Sendak’s goal above speaks of illustration, but it sounds like art to me.

I enjoyed the exhibit, bought a copy of the book and read it before giving it to a five-year-old friend, a wild thing himself.

Click on images to enlarge.

What do you think?

Date of our visit: 28 Dec 22

Apologies for the photos marred by the glare of the glass protecting the originals.

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Gingerbread House Competition

When we lived in Florida, we watched on TV the Grove Park Inn gingerbread house contest which takes place each year at the inn of the same name in Asheville, North Carolina. It brings in fantastic artists from all over the country. But the one year when I tried to see it ourselves, it was not open to the public. When I searched Google this year, I found the competition was over [perhaps the part that was not public] but the buildings could be found throughout the inn. We live in Ohio now. Perhaps we will visit yet, but not this year.

Nonetheless, we were pleased to see a much less fancy version at the Franklin Park Botanical Gardens and Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. This was their 16th annual gingerbread competition, and contestants were challenged to present a design that represents their favorite era. All competitors were amateurs divided into Adult, Junior and Family divisions.

We once went to the Oklahoma Sugar Arts Competition where professionals entered decorated cakes of amazing complexity. You can read my post about that visit here


Detail from wedding cake at Sugar Arts Competition, Tulsa, OK 2008

The Columbus contest was not nearly as big or as professional, but it was interesting to see both the imagination in the entries and the skill with which they were presented.

Click on photos to enlarge.


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We really like holiday lights.

Happy Holidays to our blog-friends across the globe.

We really like the lights we see at this time of year and have been going out for decades to see them. Here are a few from this year.

Click on photos to enlarge.

One day, we just drove to a nearby neighborhood. The lights were very nice but nearby was the best set of neighborhood lights of all. You will have to take my word for it, a simple shot down the street does not do it justice. A very large community that goes on for blocks just has whatever decorations the homes chose to put up, but all are synchronized to music one can listen to on your car radio. I should have made a video. 😥

“Conservatory Aglow” is a professional show each year at the Franklin Botanical Gardens and Conservatory.

Getting cold, we went into the conservatory where there were more holiday botanical displays rather than lights.

The most spectacular display, however, is at the Columbus Zoo “Wild lights.” The zoo has 580 acres of which 140 have exhibits for visitors. There are six geographic regions: Asia Quest, North America and Polar Frontier, The Shores, Australia and the Islands, African Forest and Heart of Africa. We were tired after just two, North America and Africa.

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A beautiful memorial that brings tears to your eyes:  The National Flight 93 Memorial

Pennsylvania countryside just a little more than halfway from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

After a busy weekend at my reunion in Hershey, I was weary as we set out for home.  I was also tired of fighting the trucks and construction on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  So, we got off at the Breezewood exit and headed west on U.S. Route 30.

I knew the National Flight 93 Memorial was in that direction, but I did not expect it to be just seven miles off the highway.  Of course, we went in to see it.  We were glad that so many young people with their children visiting.  As long as that happens, the events will not be forgotten.

A model of the Memorial as seen from behind the crash site in the foreground. All photos were taken near the building in the upper left.

It was a beautiful day just like the September 11, 2001 day when four groups of terrorists set off to attack the United States.  They took civilian planes, hijacked them and turned them into weapons.

Two planes were flown into the towers of New York’s World Trade Center.  One was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.  2956 people lost their lives. Thousands more were injured.

Flight 93 left from Newark, New Jersey heading towards San Francisco when it was hjacked and turned around towards Washington.  It is believed the terrorists planned to fly into the U.S. Capitol building.

There were forty crew and passengers other than the hijackers aboard.  The pilot and copilot were killed or injured and the passengers herded into the back of the plane.  There, the passengers heard about the attacks that had already taken place through phone calls placed by or to loved ones.  Transcripts of many of the phone calls are still available.

A number of the passengers decided to rush the cockpit to take back control of the plane. In the melee, the terrorists decided to crash the plane into the Pennsylvania farm field below.  All aboard died, but who can say how many more lives were saved.

Click on photos to enlarge.

I do not believe the courage of the passengers is unique to the United States; people will rise up to defend themselves and those they love.  But Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and inspiration for the hijackers, did misread the United States as many have done before him.  He believed the nation to be much weaker than was generally thought [a belief that exists in many parts of the world].  He had seen the U.S. withdraw from Vietnam.  He had seen the U.S. withdraw from Lebanon after the bombing of a Marine barracks there.  He had seen the U.S. withdraw from Somalia after 18 servicemen were killed there.  As with others, he did not understand such events were not perceived to be attacks on the U.S. way of life itself.  He did not understand the core beliefs of a nation created from the wilderness by immigrants. As it was for others, it was a fatal mistake.

Inside the Visitors’ Center, one is guided through the events.  The people involved are presented as real people, not characters in a television or movie.  Near the exit, there is a box of tissues for those who need them to dry their tears.

Date of our visit: 16 Oct 22

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A really big coffee pot and other big things.

16 Oct 22 Bedford, Pa.

Anyone who knows us personally or has followed this blog for a while knows we are interested in everything. As “Begin Here” above says, we are easily amused — we are the people for whom “Alligator Farms” are built.

The Coffee Pot can be found right on Route 30 on the fairgrounds in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  Bert Koontz built the building in 1927 to attract customers to his gas station on the recently built Lincoln Highway, a road across the United States built at least partially to encourage the sale of cement, automobiles and tires.  Similar large buildings in Pennsylvania are the Ship Hotel and The Shoe House.

Koontz’ restaurant served ice cream, coke and hamburgers.  He added a hotel in 1937.  The Lincoln Highway Association renovated it in 2004 and moved it to the fairgrounds, but it needs some paint again.

Here are some photos of big things from previous trips:

Click on photos to enlarge.

World’s Largest tomahawk, Cut Knife, Saskatchewan, Canada

Date of our visit: 16 Oct 22

Click here to visit Casey, IL which is known for its big things.

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Topiary Park and an unexpected surprise

Topiary Park, Columbus, Ohio

We suddenly had some free time on a warm sunny day and decided to visit Topiary Park in Columbus.  I had read about the park before, but what we also saw there came as a pleasant surprise.  If you would rather not read about the park, scroll down to the surprise.

Topiary Park, begun as Topiary Garden in 1989, is a depiction in topiary of Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Ile De Le Grande Jatte painted between 1884 and 1886. https://www.artic.edu/iiif/2/2d484387-2509-5e8e-2c43-22f9981972eb/full/843,/0/default.jpg

The 7-acre topiary rendition is on the 10-acre site of the 1834 Ohio School for the Education of the Deaf which was relocated in 1953.

Obviously, it is hard to replicate the sharp edges of a Parisian hat with a living plant.  Also, living plants eventually die, so some subjects such as the boats show a lot of the metal frame.  But it was a very interesting and pleasant visit.

As we walked around the park, we saw lots of high school students in the uniforms of a private school.  We spoke to four clearly of Hispanic origin practicing a dance and learned they were practicing for a quinceañera, the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday.

Click on photos to enlarge.

When we reached the west side of the park, we saw that they were coming from Cristo Rey Columbus High School.  We were unaware of its existence, and a quick review of Google gave us a very pleasant surprise.

We both went to college in Washington, D.C. in 1964.  At that time, local Catholic schools provided a quality education much better than the public schools to minority children through “scholarships.”  Unfortunately, as many nuns left their teaching vocations after the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, these schools began to close, and future financially poor students lost that opportunity.

Cristo Rey Columbus High School opened in 2013, the 26th school in the Cristo Rey Network.  The original Cristo Rey school was founded in 1996 in Chicago to provide s a career focused, college preparatory education in the Catholic tradition for students with limited economic resources, integrating academic studies with four years of work experience and support to and through college.

The Columbus school partners with local businesses to provide five hours professional work experience at $18 per hour each week to finance about half of each student’s education.

I usually post on Fridays.  This Friday I am attending my class reunion at the Milton Hershey School.  The school, founded by Milton Hershey in 1909, provides support and education to students from age 4 to 18 and helps with advanced education.  Each time you buy a Hershey chocolate or other product today, you are helping over 2000 boys and girls of all races live in a secure home and get a superb education.  http://Mhskids.org

Alie attended The Philadelphia High School for Girls [Central is the equivalent for boys].  A public school, it provided exceptional education for girls from all over Philadelphia including many who would have been too poor to attend a private school.

To say the least, we both have a soft spot for such institutions and were pleased to learn that new ones are still being formed.

Date of our visit: 6 Oct 22

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Glass Pumpkin Festival, Laurelville, Ohio

A vase is taken from the glass blower to be put into an annealing oven at the Jack Pines Studio.

We didn’t meet Jack Pine, but I believe he is truly an artist. 

We have seen glass pumpkins in Corning, New York, and we own one from the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, but Pine’s are more beautiful than any of these: he layers metals and enamels on top of each other; he mastered embedding curving lines and even webs; some appear to have butterflies, small petals or leaves inside the glass.

Pine is also an entrepreneurial artist.  Pine, who has been blowing glass for over thirty years, teaches, and now has a staff of younger glassblowers working for him.  He lectures on the subject at other festivals.  He advertises.  He uses local news media.  His studio is open seven days a week.

This was only the 3rd year for the glass pumpkin festival but was almost perfectly organized.  It is held at the site of the Jack Pine Studio, a large glass blowing facility in the countryside with a store attached.  When we arrived, local sheriff’s officers smoothly guided people to parking lots where staff collected a $5 fee and guided us to open spots.  Others provided golf cart rides for those with mobility problems.  Portable bathroom facilities were in a separate field where someone sold real pumpkins at the entrance. Two glass blowing demonstrations were running at once.  A field across from the studio had a log-fenced in area where tables and benches offered glass pumpkins for sale and a center wagon featured “the pumpkin of the year,” pumpkins made especially for the festival with a special design.  Food trucks and craft vendors with their tents lined the field beyond the sales area.  In the center, a ”squash-carver” carved a ginormous pumpkin and another finished carved pumpkin was on display.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Perhaps the only negative was the long line weaving first around the sale area and then, Disney-like, back and forth outside the fence to a tent where clerks wrapped your purchases, provided bags and made the sales.  Alie thought the line was too long; they needed more sales clerks.  But this was Ohio; everyone was friendly and kind, and the line moved quickly.

Date of our visit: 24 Oct 22 Other posts on glass blowing: https://ralietravels.wordpress.com/2017/12/08/blenko-glass-milton-west-virginia/https://ralietravels.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/ron-hinkle-glassblower/https://ralietravels.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/corning-museum-of-glass-corning-n-y/https://ralietravels.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/chihuly-at-the-franklin-park-conservatory/

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We are back [sort of]

As I mentioned in my most recent post back in May, health issues have prevented us from traveling for almost a year now. But early this month we were able to make a short overnight trip to a memorial service for a friend. Now we hope to take additional short trips around Ohio, our home state.

Our first such venture in many months was to the Delaware County Fair. We appreciate local small fairs and attended one near where we lived in Florida, but it lacked the old flavor of an agricultural fair. A little better was the Oklahoma State Fair, but we were there for the Sugar Arts Competition [click here]. Our favorite was probably the North Dakota State Fair, a true farmers’ fair with sheaves of wheat, the latest equipment and lots of animals on display as well as inexpensive entertainment. But that was in 2000 long before I had any thoughts of blogging as was our visit to the Hunt County, Michigan Fair a couple years later.

Despite many old industries, a strong health care, insurance and finance history and the recent announcement of the construction of a computer chip factory, the agriculture sector still contributes over $98 billion to the Ohio economy. So the little Delaware County Fair may have lacked the scale of the Idaho State Fair, but it was a good one.

This guy was cute.

We were amused at these little guys.

Alie always liked seeing exotic poultry.

We walked around other animals before pausing in the shade for something to drink and then heading for the carnival to get some fair food from one of many food trucks. Our fresh hot soft pretzel and hot dog inside a pretzel were better than fair.

Of course, there were carnival rides. There is also a race track famous for the Little Brown Jug race, a harness race for three-year-old pacing standardbred horses and one of the premier such races in the country. Delaware was one of the earliest places in the country to have organized horse races.

Date of our visit: 20 Sep 22

Click on photos to enlarge and see descriptions.

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Our first backroads adventure: Zion, the finale.

Road into Zion from I-15 in the West near the Kolob Creek Visitors Center.

We did not know it then, but 1997 was a great time to visit Zion National Park.  We were able to drive into the park.  It was not crowded on the trails, and at points, we were even able to relish a quiet spot.

I think those days are gone.  On our more recent visits, long lines of cars approach from nearby Las Vegas.  One is required to park at the visitors’ center and take a tram into the park itself.  We found no quiet spots.

If you haven’t been there, however, you should still visit.  The trails each have a unique characteristic, and the geology is still very special.

After leaving Bryce Canyon, we spent a night at the Perry Inn in Kanab which had hosted numerous early movie stars staying there to make “westerns.” We ate at the Houston’s Trails End Restaurant which had good food and an interesting mobile catering business serving forest fire fighters all over the west.

Then we moved on to Zion.  At the time, it had roads paved with red gravel which blended in with the canyon walls.  We encountered smoke from lightning-caused fires on the way into the park, but it did not spoil our visit.  Weeping Rock was decorated with many spring flowers.  Alie made it up the “easy” trail to Emerald Pools despite an RA flare in her hip.  But, the most endangered species in the park on a weekend was a parking spot. It took some driving around just to find one.

We thought we would try one last dirt road and drove from Virgin, Utah over the plateau to the Kolob reservoir.  Then, however, we were warned the road would become muddy and was possibly blocked by the fires, so we didn’t try to continue to Cedar City, Utah.  Instead, we back-tracked to the main road much to Alie’s disappointment,

Click on photos to enlarge

Date of our visit: 17 May 1997

The finale?

We are grateful to be able to look back to so many wonderful travel adventures in our lives.  At the moment, however, mobility issues require we now find our “adventures” closer to home.

Originally written for family and friends, it amazes me this blog has so many “followers.”  I know most of those people click “follow” and do nothing else in the hope that their gesture will be reciprocated, especially those seeking income from their blogs.  However, I am even more amazed by those whom I have never met that are regular readers.  I feel like I have come to know you.  It is rather like the “pen pals” of my youth.

For those of you who do read RalieTravels regularly, I will not be writing for a while.  I do not know when I will resume, but I am confident we will resume our travels at some point, and I look forward to writing about them again.

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Our first backroads adventure, part eight: the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon as seen from the North Rim

As we were still gainfully employed and our vacation time was limited, we moved quickly on from Bryce Canyon National Park to Kanab, then through the beautiful high meadows of the Kaibab Forest to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Nearly six million people visit the South Rim every year.  Few make it to the North Rim.  For that reason alone, you should try to do so.

It was one of the few places on our 1997 trip that we made advance reservations or needed them.  We arrived on May 15, the first day the lodge was open for the summer season. 

The lodge, perched on the cliff, was fantastic. We had cocktails on the veranda watching the sun set. 

North Rim visitors watch the sunset from the Lodge terrace.

We needed reservations for dinner and still had to wait about forty-five minutes.  Had we been anywhere else, we probably would have moved on.  Alie says “if there is a line for the second coming, I’m not waiting.”  But it was the restaurant’s first day, and I imagine they might have even greater problems in today’s post-COVID staffing era.

Our cabin was spacious and nice, and I was up early to see the sun rise over Bright Angel Point on the other side of the canyon.  Four of us sat quietly and apart, but soon we were joined by a thundering herd of five or six more people.  I wonder if it is still that isolated today.  But back then, there were too many people, and I walked on to an overlook where the only other creature was a squirrel sprawled out on a rock that seemed to be enjoying view too.

After Alie was up and going, we went out the Cape Royal trail which was easy to walk and had many signs describing what we were seeing.  Angels Window is a lovely arch close to the trail on Walhalla Plateau. 

We had a picnic lunch next to the rim at Vista Encantadora near Point Imperial, the highest place on the canyon rim.  At 8803 feet, it is about 1800 feet higher than Bright Angel on the South Rim.  Notes I kept at the time say we were plagued by bugs.  Looking back 25 years later, I guess they were probably flies.  It was the only place on the trip to the Southwest where we were bothered by insects.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Date of our visit: 15-16 May 97

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