Category Archives: San Francisco

From Alcatraz to Grace Cathedral….agony to ecstasy

I think I gasped  when we entered San Francisco’s  Grace Cathedral for a Sunday morning service.  I was expecting to enjoy ‘regular’ cathedral grandeur;  I didn’t know about the art installation.

Can you think of a better place to exclaim “OMG?”

There are nearly 20 miles (miles!) of ribbon suspended in the cathedral.  The artist, Anne Patterson, worked with the congregation to create this art work.  Some of the ribbons have prayers written on them.  Movement and heat from the congregation cause the ribbons to sway and shimmer.  I love how the idea of the spirit (in Latin, spiritus, the breath) is evident in this work.

The colours of the ribbons reflect the colours in the stained glass.  Those windows are worth a trip (and a couple of hours) alone!  And I haven’t even mentioned the sculptures. The church does have docents available, who are more than happy to talk about the art work in the cathedral.

Anne Patterson was the church’s Artist in Residence for 2013.  Because the installation is so popular with the congregation and visitors to the church, its showing has been extended to the end of 2014.

So now you HAVE to go to San Francisco.  There are worse things on your ‘To Do’ list, right?!

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Art at Alcatraz…

….I’m not kidding.

I’ve never wanted to visit Alcatraz.  I don’t understand the appeal.  The Art Caravan pulled into San Francisco last week, and was offered the opportunity to tour Alcatraz.  Thank goodness a friend  mentioned the art show at Alcatraz or I probably wouldn’t have gone.

What a loss that would have been.  To put it plainly, this is one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen.  Ever.  Really.

The art show is actually a series of installations by the contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei.  He is considered to be as much  activist, as well as  artist.

There are seven different installations. Weiwei deals with the ideas of confinement, repression, and suppression.  He uses a variety of materials: sound, porcelain, recycled metals and playthings (Lego, and kites.)

He has been critical of his government, and is currently unable to leave China.  His re-purposing of the different spaces in the prison is most remarkable, when one considers he was not able to visit Alcatraz.

The artwork is very site specific.  His use of individual cell blocks as ‘sound booths’ for broadcasting was extremely moving.  One cell was filled with  classical music written by the Czech/Jewish composer, Haas, while interred at Terezin concentration camp.  Each cell had a different musician, poet or speaker.

I wasn’t actually able to enter the psychiatric holding cells,  The sound and space were too powerful for me.

The last installation I saw was remarkable.  It is composed of recycled metal, including solar panels.  It is like a giant winged creature, contained in a space.  One views is from a narrow, poorly lit corridor.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz is on view until April 26, 2015.