In addition to the quirky and wonderful folk art that one sees in houses, gardens, and roadsides everywhere–there is public art: artwork commissioned by town or church to beautify the buildings and centers. My husband is not one to get excited about visiting art museums and galleries, but there is something interesting and fun about stopping by to look at a single piece here and there, and we were lucky to do plenty of this on our recent vacation. Here are some favorites:
This huge mosaic was on the front facade of St. Joachim Catholic Church in Madera, California. It was beautiful. The inside of the church was richly decorated with mosaics and statues as well.
At the other end of the artistic scale was a simple wooden carving in the town of Weed, California, of a mountain lion clawing at a post with a battered flag on top. There had been some damage to this piece, and I hope that the town fathers are thinking of repairing and restoring it. It is very unique and expressive of the attitudes of the loggers who founded this town. It is a fairly large piece, probably 7 or 8 feet tall as I remember it.
The same town also commissioned a contemporary metal sculpture of its founder, Abner Weed. A life- size standing statue, it at first appeared to me to be a bit stiff, but close inspection revealed wonderful details that made examining it a lot of fun. The structure, materials and welding joins were visible and made this piece really interesting and unique.
I believe that the same artist, R. Starrit, who sculpted the fantastic Yreka dragon that is installed along Interstate 5 in northern California, created this Abner Weed sculpture. The statue is installed in front of a large metal bas-relief rendering of the town logo. The logo is an interesting work in its own right, and probably much older.
Another favorite from this trip was a stone sculpture of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Memorial Garden and gravesite of the farm worker activist, Cesar Chavez, in Keene, California. The garden was beautiful, the gravesite simple and humble. I am no expert on sculpture, but would guess that this statue came directly from Mexico, created through the hand of a very skilled artist. It was like icons in that it translated the familiar image into another medium and style, carrying on the message of the original image to another time, place, and people.