Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chalk the Block

Yesterday, to celebrate the end of representative government in the United States and the first annual "Chalk the Block" in El Paso, I thought we'd opt for the latter and something new and refreshing as distraction from the pervasive stench of the former, in its final stages of putrefaction for sometime now.

So we ventured downtown to view the artwork literally 'going down' in chalk on the sidewalks outside the Museum of Art. In an effort to see what's been going on in downtown lately, Mrs. Dada and I decided to park across from the plaza and walk the final three or four blocks to our destination. (Or maybe it was because that's the closest parking space we could find, I don't remember.)

(All photos by Dada unless otherwise noted ~ click to enlarge)

El Paso's shady downtown plaza offers people a pleasant respite from the heat of the summer's mid-day sun. It's outdoor stage also often serves as a terminus in the very heart of the city for marchers from the barrios, Chamizal National Memorial, or sometimes the University protesting a cause dear to them. Occupying a small city block, its trees, lawns and center fountain are fancied by many, to include developers.

As one 'Pave the Earth!' progressive advocate recently suggested, the plaza should be razed, paved over and a small stadium ala the Roman Colosseum be built in its place.

El Paso is undergoing urban renewal so it's common to see images of streets barricaded or completely closed beneath buildings being gutted and made completely new again, like this former department store from its heyday in the 1940's and 50's undergoing a resurgence, evolving into upscale boutiques and apartments.It exists within a block or two of unique, one-of-a-kind shops like this,

(photo by "Samples")

where a sign just above the door says "I will buy your gold or silver" (after entering through their "well-taken care of electronic door" (OK, OK, so I'm leaning heavily on a Spanish t0 English translating dictionary), or

a butcher shop (carniceria) selling fresh carnes. And, god forbid, where else in town could you get your six and one-half pound plus bags of "Chetos" for under $50 if we were to ever lose little stores like this?

photo by "Samples"

It is my hope that El Paso's urban renewal can evolve around its heart that gives the city its unique flavor of a border town unafraid to blend its culture with its sister city, Cuidad Juarez. As you know, you can't find six and one-half pound bags of Chetos just anywhere.

Continuing our walk to the museum, we passed this statue of one of El Paso's founding figures, Fray Garcia de San Francisco. This statue of him is one of the "Twelve Travelers" sculptures commissioned by the city from sculptor John Houser. The second Traveler which is one of the largest equestrian statues on Earth is entitled simply "The Equestrian" due to the extreme controversy it caused. I also blogged about it here after the Equestrian's erection (no pun intended, but take one if you must.)

Note, originally, Fray Garcia was to be holding a cross, but this being America as it is, in its final stages of putrefaction, there's something verboten about The State and religion, such that never the twain shall meet. I pretty much agree, but when a Catholic priest has his symbolic cross exchanged for an inscribed 4x8 inch plank of wood cast in metal, well, that's taking it bit far perhaps. It's somewhat akin to the ridiculous hassle of the city just up the road, Las Cruces, NM, fighting to keep its name (despite the best efforts of fanatics) which translates from Spanish as "The Crosses. " Fanaticism exists on both extremes of the political spectrum, I suppose.

That aside, note this isn't my best picture of the statue, but I unintentionally caught a passing redheaded woman capturing a picture of Fray Garcia. I thought her extended animated left arm contrasted nicely with the priest's extended arm, almost as if they were about to exchange waves with one another. Of course, Fray Garcia, being frozen in time, couldn't really return the woman's wave, but it made for a nice momentary tension between the two that was vibrant, kind of alive and animated, despite the other being frozen eternally motionless in bronze and dead.

Finally, we arrived at the El Paso Museum of Art. The thing that struck my eye initially was "My Other Squeeze" which, like the first thing you might think of, was nothing like its name suggests. It was a mobile lemonade stand instead. Mrs. Dada and I had worked up a thirst during our walk, so it was a welcome sight.

"My other squeeze" is a paper cup of lemonade.

Finally, it was time to view the chalk art we had come to see. I've included a few samples here from the many that had been executed on the sidewalks outside the Museum. Anyone who's been to beaches that hold annual contests for the best sand sculptures undoubtedly can appreciate what hopefully began here yesterday as an annual tradition of bigger and better things to come in the years ahead.


I apologize I didn't catch the names of these sidewalk art creations or their creators, but I post them here in the order of those that were my favorites.

I enjoyed this one for, if not paying attention, it appears there are three artists working on it, instead of just two. While difficult to settle on just one creation, this (below) was my favorite trompe l'oeil.

Finally, there was another aspect of this artistic event I found to be the most enthralling. It was the 'human statues.' After watching for a couple of minutes the motionless figures, I walked across the sidewalk to drop a donation in their jar. "Great job!" I said, smiling. But there was no reaction.


As I stood there pondering their seeming ingratitude, it suddenly struck me, the source of their forlorn expressions of sadness and detachment from all around them.

"I think I understand why you are so sad," I said to them quietly. "You see, the reason I came here today was to escape exactly what you're feeling -- the pervasive stench of our representative government, now in its final stages of putrefaction." There was still no reaction from any of them.

Dropping another donation into their jar I said once more, "Great job!"

As I walked away. I reminded myself of the redhead I'd seen earlier, waving at a bronze man who couldn't wave back.
~~~~~~~~~~~
(Dada final note on the day's exhibit: A couple of hours after departing the "Chalk the Block" exhibit, something happened that hadn't occurred in three months in El Paso -- it rained! Quicker then they had appeared, the works of chalk art were gone and I'm left wondering if maybe we shouldn't have these artists back several times a month instead of annually. To break our drought, I mean.)
~~~~~~~~~~~

13 comments:

eProf2 said...

Great post, Dada. The juxtaposition of upheld arms, second squeezes, old neighborhoods with new, and the great sidewalk art actually brought a smile to my old cynical face this morning. Well done!

Border Explorer said...

Hi Dada. This post is ALMOST as good as being there...but maybe that's not such a good thing for me because it makes me lonesome. Wow, I can't believe you finally got rain. Too bad it came on the one day you wish it'd be dry!

enigma4ever said...

oooohhhhh this is great....
I have never been to El Paso- you gave us such a great tour...and I love the Chalk Art- so beautiful....really exquisite...lovely....

and the Human Statues...so serious..tragic...poignant...

wonderful post....
made me want to get in the car and Goooooo....oh, that's right..cant do that....

Fran said...

I am wowed by the chalk art, for sure. Too bad they were washed away by the rain. I like your idea of having more frequent chalk art a thons.... but not for rain!

The Human statues were breathtaking. Thanks for sharing.

Fran said...

Requesting permission to use this photo...

Fran said...

Of the Human Statues... to use the photo please....

Anonymous said...

Hello! This is a veryy nice review!! I really appreciate you liking my work! I am the girl that painted "St. Bartolomeo" and a guy that is "drawing" it. My name is Wendy Reyes, and I am a local 18 year old artist. I will really appreciate if you could send me more pictures, that is, if you took more. =)) Thank you very much again! And my e-mail is starryvangogh@gmail.com

Thank you!!!

dada said...

Hi Wendy: Thanks for stopping by. Glad you found and liked this blog on the chalk art. As an old art student from the 70's, I found this exhibit and some of the more beautiful creations (yours being one of my faves!) pretty enthralling, especially because this was my first time to view the medium of chalk.

I'll e-mail you a couple more pics very soon! Being this is chalk, I'm assuming you have another medium you work in, or am I just so far out of touch to think chalk couldn't be someone's first choice of artistic expression?

Obviously, from what I saw at Chalk the Block, chalk can be a very serious medium.

Hitthestreet12 said...

I love the shot where the girls are wearing their long white robes. The girls feel so calm and at ease...

dada said...

Hitthestreet - Hey, thanks for stopping by, Hit. Yes, I really loved the living statues. Was very enthralled by them. And while they were very good at this, very calm and at ease as you say, didn't you think they conveyed a sadness among them?

Anyway, I have a confession. I saw them from upstairs in the museum. They were on break downstairs, and I regret I didn't go talk to them, to tell them what a powerful presentation they were making.

dada said...

I don't know if anyone, that is, anyone this is intended for -- eprof, B.E., enigma and fran -- will see it, but my apologies. I really thought I had responded to your very nice comments until just now, more than a week after I posted this.

Well, in the event you do see this, I'm sorry. I really appreciated all the very nice feedback.

In the event you don't see this, I feel quite badly but, of course, you don't know that...you're just all thinking, "That ungrateful sumbitch!" And you would be right. And for that I'm really truly sorry.

Anonymous said...

Join us for the 2nd Annual Chalk the Block Sept. 19, 2009. For more information please visit www.chalktheblock.com!

Dada said...

Anonymous: It's now August 31, 2009 and I must confess I missed your comment here until just today. Coincidentally, I saw Wendy Reyes (one of last year's artists - of "St. Bartolomeo" as she revealed in a comment above) this past Saturday. We have become friends and I am very impressed with how tremendously talented she is. We talked about the upcoming Chalk the Block this Sept. and am very excitedly anticipating this year's event which promises to be even bigger that last's!