Friday, September 14, 2018

--- Pride of Place: Cultural Artifacts in a Time of Change ---

Cultural artifacts can be practical or artistic, or anything between. Here's that mural at the Alameda RTD station again.

                                                     [Alameda mural]

It's obviously an art piece and the artist, Aaron Glasson, from New Zealand, said outright that it's purpose was to give people something to look at while they were waiting on the trains.

The artist, Aaron Glasson is being compensated through the Denver Urban Renewal Authority - a group that partners with different developers in the city - and helps fund their projects through TIF - or tax increment finance bonds. One percent of the money that goes toward each re-development project has to be used for art. Glasson has created murals around the world. So, this is not a piece of "local art", in that the creator is not "from around here", but I think he admirably captured many elements of the spirit of Denver.

Glasson took about a month, working up to 10 hours a session.

Perhaps the most obvious elements are the trains - here, the reality - there the dream.  Alameda Station here, the mural in clear sight across the street. The mountains west, the painting east, with the mountains, plains and river. Denverites, more than any other peoples that I have lived around, are outdoors people.

One of the birds is a space satellite, or is it a kite, or a wind ornament companion to the pinwheel/windmill?

And the mural expresses the diversity that I love in this area. The people, obviously, but the plants are both native and exotic, reflecting the bold use in local gardens of plants that would never have existed on these high plains - perhaps plants that people have brought from their homelands, like the deities in "American Gods."

The mural depicts a dreamscape of people and things floating through the scenery. At once the dream elements seem mystic, perhaps aboriginal, and also technological, with geometric, tesseract-like constructs. It's as if the high technology of Denver's industries has seeped into the storied heritage of the land.

This is an art object, there for the enjoyment of commuters. It is an everyday object with other world content. I remember seeing the artist at work while I drifted through on the way to a job training session. He used paints in cans and a cherry-picker-like conveyance. He looked like a house painter.

The work looked like a job. The worker looked like he was enjoying himself, as workers, in an ideal world, should. I am fascinated by the work of workers who enjoy their work. I did not get to converse. He did talk to other passersby.

There was a transformation. It was a work. Now it's a confrontation, a statement. People actually sit across the street and look at the mural. I wonder how many know what they're looking at.

In Pride of Place: New Haven Material and Visual Culture - Cultural Artifacts in a Time of Change: Material Culture of Daily Life ( accessed 9/14/18) Pedro Mendia-Landa presents frameworks that can be used to evaluate cultural artifacts and cultural spaces. These are standard tools for the anthropologist. Try them out on a favorite heirloom or an interesting building in your area. Everything, everywhere, everybody has a story and that's what learning is about.

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