Several times, I’ve found that if I’m disappointed with how some sort of creative work has turned out, if I put it away and take it out again later, I like it more. Here are some photos I took awhile ago that I thought were pretty mediocre at the time but that I like now.
It all started when I stumbled upon the story of PonyHenge in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reports that ‘a herd of some 30 wooden and plastic rocking horses gradually appeared on a sliver of farmland in the town of Lincoln’ and calls it ‘a whimsical mystery.’ The number and position of the ponies regularly changes and it is contested how exactly it started.
My favorite take-aways from the article are:
‘”It’s a spontaneous art production”, Pingeon said of the dreamlike scene’.
‘The rocking horses have a presence that falls somewhere between antique yard sale and spooky prank’.
‘“There is something about the quietness and mysteriousness of it that I just love”, Graver said’.
The story of PonyHenge delighted me—’whimsical mysteries’ are right up my alley—and I vowed to visit it one day. In the meantime, I wanted to see if there was anything similar in my area, so I started looking up weird roadside attractions. Cue an orchestra of sweeping strings because I found
This one isn’t a mystery (it’s an art installation), but it’s still whimsical enough for my tastes!
Visiting the sacred scene required a short jaunt up a winding path. When the bunnies came into view, I knew I was in for something special.
They had a quiet majesty about them.
Side note: To snap the first picture, I had to venture out onto the glass-walled walkway seen in the second picture. I am terribly afraid of heights, so my knees were shaking and I had to creep slowly forward to the edge. But I did it! And got a nice view of the bunnies as a reward. Looking up, I could also see a giant bunny in the distance, down another path.
I really want to start something like this, some sort of public art project! I’m guessing many people have contributed to PonyHenge, i.e. it’s not just one person adding horses, but I’m not sure how I could encourage similar participation among people around me.
Who did it better: PonyHenge or BunnyHenge (aka the question of the century)?
Have you seen any weird roadside attractions?
Any ideas for how to garner participation for a public art project?
A Softer World is my favourite comic, web or otherwise. It’s not updated anymore, but its memory lives on in its archives. The format is simple: three panes, one or more photographs (sometimes it’s the same photograph cropped differently in each pane), and some text in a typewriter font. There is no plot, though there are some recurring characters and definitely some recurring themes. The text can be thoughtful, philosophical, funny, bitter, or all of the above.
My favourite edition of the comic is titled ‘he had a trustworthy smile.‘ It speaks to my soul with its combination of weighty (nuclear war) and whimsical (carnivals). (The first two panels are cars driving in a tunnel and say, ‘After the war, the fallout drove us underground. “Follow the tunnels toward the light,” our president said. The final frame is a close-up of a carousel horse and continues the quote: ‘Toward the smell of cotton candy.’) I’m interested in post-apocalyptic stories and love all things carnival: cotton candy, caramel apples, carousels, Ferris wheels, balloons, etc. This comic excites my imagination with thoughts of a secret carnival beneath the earth standing as a stark contrast to the bleak world above. It even represents hope to me: having the grim reality of nuclear war greeted with the news that there is a hidden haven waiting for you sounds pretty incredible to me.
This isn’t the only edition that deals with hidden worlds—the title comes from the third installment, which starts out, ‘In the caves behind my house I found a softer world.’ Then there’s number 107, where mirrors are broken in an attempt to climb into another world. These desperate searches for another reality really hit me in the heart, even though I may not agree with the man in number 3’s reasoning or have the same experience as the bemasked inhabitants of number 107. I grew up loving Alice in Wonderland, which obviously also involves another world that is similar yet markedly different. I think I am always trying to create that softer world for myself. I know I won’t find one in a cavern or underground tunnel, so I try and surround myself, physically and online, with my own reality. It’s my safeguard against the harsh realities of life. I do try and confront the truth as often as is healthy—I’m not drowning it out altogether. I just need a reprieve sometimes.
Inspired by the final frame of my favourite one, I snapped a few shots of a carousel and then a Ferris wheel for good measure. I just got this camera and was experimenting with the exposure triangle. I was especially interested in the motion of light, and I found a few locales that sang to my carnival-loving soul.
This next one is called Carousel Delirium. I used a longer exposure time and slowly rotated the camera. Incidentally, “delerium” is one of my favourite words.
Here are some with crisp lighting and shorter exposures:
And another one with a longer exposure to imply movement.
Here are some snapshots of flowering trees I took with my instant film camera at a local park. I had seen the flowering trees from the road and wanted a closer look. As I walked alone around the gigantic park, the first lines of Keats’s poem “O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell” came to mind: “O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,/Let it not be among the jumbled heap/Of murky buildings….”
When I lived in Utah, spring seemed to mean more because of its contrast with the bleak winter months (in comparison to southern California, where seasons don’t differ very much); colourful blooms peaking out of the snow made me smile and were a welcome change to the uniformity of winter. I love flowers and greenery and I missed them during winter, so springtime rolling around always made me happy.
These trees reminded me of the ornamental pear trees in Utah with their showy white blooms. Although they didn’t appear after a snowy winter, they were a reminder of that excitement I would feel when the pear trees and other plants would start blooming again.
I lay under one of the flowering trees to get a photo of the branches standing out against the brilliant blue sky. Later lines from the Keats poem seemed appropriate: “let me thy vigils keep/’Mongst boughs pavillion’d.” I love how the light made silhouettes of the branches and made the colour contrasts more dramatic.
I didn’t intend mimicry when I took it, but the next photo reminds me of Van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms. I think it’s kind of neat that it’s like a real life version of a painting, like the painting is coming to life.