Tombstones

A Restless Temple in Cornwall

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MountsBay
MountsBay

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens are just ten minutes’ drive from Penzance, Cornwall, on the southwestern tip of England. The Gardens opened in 2012, the loving creation of a local doctor, Neil Armstrong (no relation to the astronaut). In 1997 he purchased the neglected, overgrown property, which once had been owned by the monks of St. Michael's Mount, and has taken a strong personal interest in the Gardens' development. He has turned Tremenheere into a magical faeryland of large-scale exotic and subtropical plants and monumental sculpture, tucked into a sheltered valley looking out towards St. Michaels’ Mount in Mount’s Bay, near Marizion. It is a glorious venue for an evolving collection of contemporary art installations. A friend dropped us off at the must-see locale. As we approached we were greeted by Penny Saunders’ “Restless Temple” kinetic installation, which opened in May 2015. It resembles a miniature Greek Parthenon with 10-foot high pillars located on a hill above the café. Each pillar is supported on a separate weighted pendulum that allows it to move independently of the others. They sway and careen, moving in surreal motion that is either very subtle if there is little breeze or a full-out dance if there is a gale. Words can’t do this piece justice. You must look at video footage shot on the site (CLICK).

TrembleTemple
TrembleTemple

Leaving the swaying temple and café behind, we wound our way along the woodland path to the entrance shed. A very helpful guide gave us a map complete with directions to new acquisitions drawn in, and advised us how best to approach the sculptures. We walked beside a babbling brook through a wilderness of mature trees and giant ferns. I am a dowser, and over the years I’ve become increasingly sensitive to subtle energies. I noticed several energetic gateways on the path as we moved deeper into this faeryland world. The aura around a huge oak tree provided another source of subtle energy. Thoroughly enchanted, we followed the path up into the sculpture garden proper.

Our first stop was at James Turrell’s “Tewlwolow Kernow” or “Skyspace,” which is a chamber designed for viewing the sky, especially at dawn and dusk. It was completed in June 2015. We walked through a dark hallway into the large all-white elliptical space with an oval hole in the ceiling, and sat on a built-in banquette. The seating made looking upward easy and comfortable, but the effect of the moving clouds made us slightly queasy and we quickly exited.

Sky
Sky

Walking further into the trees, we passed David Nash’s “Black Mound,” a collection of upright charred oak trunks in the middle of the forest. They reminded us of a mini-Stonehenge transformed into rich black wood. We tried counting them, getting numbers anywhere from 16 through 22. They stubbornly refused to be counted.

BlackMounds
BlackMounds

Coming out of the woods we came upon two huge angular metal sculptures called “Howling Beast” and “Crouching Beast.” They are impressive new additions by sculptor Lynn Chadwick and will be in residence in the Gardens for several months.

Beasts
Beasts

While strolling along one of the paths we met David, a grounds keeper, who proudly announced that Dr. Armstrong is his physician. He said they were preparing the gardens for the upcoming wedding of one of the doctor’s daughters.

GroundsKeeper
GroundsKeeper

Other sculptures include Tim Shaw Ra’s “Minotaur,” a life-size bull-like ceramic piece that expresses something fundamental about being; “Skhimza,” an installation by Ken Gill, using glass inserted into a natural crack in a boulder; and Richard Long’s “Tremenheere Line,” a line of plants terminating in a park bench on a hillside. Somehow we missed Billy Wynter’s “Camera Obscura,” so we must return another year to see the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens as they develop. Although only 20 acres in size, the Gardens appear much larger because they are divided into different ecozones, which vary from wildlife ponds and swampy bogs to exotic woodlands and dry, arid settings.

The deep valley provides several microclimates, which accommodate an amazing array of plant life, including huge cactus, giant rhubarb, banana plants, palm trees, oak forest, and grassland. All this, plus an excellent café and a flower nursery adds up to a wonderful half-day outing for families. And not a garden gnome in sight!

st-mtt-neil
st-mtt-neil

Dr. Armstrong has purchased an adjoining area and is at work on a further expansion. Stay tuned to see what develops. (CLICK)

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"In Memoriam" the video

Here is the video we created to accompany Elyn's exhibition at the Temps de Flors in Girona.

Elyn has recorded an audio commentary for this video, which explains her motivation in creating the 27 hand-felted vessels in the exhibit.

To learn more about Elyn's fiber art, visit her website at FiberAlchemy.com

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Temps de Flors and “In Memoriam”

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It’s the Time of Flowers here in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. This is the most important festival in this “City of Festivals.” Every year for nine days in May, tens of thousands of people descend on the town to walk through the medieval Old Town and admire elaborate floral displays, gardens, art installations, concerts, and, in general, enjoy our beautiful city.

CatedralFlowers
CatedralFlowers
TempsFlors2
TempsFlors2

This year Elyn has an exhibit in Casa Cúndaro, one of the most important houses in the “Call” (medieval Jewish neighborhood) in the heart of the Old Town. Her work is entitled “In memoriam.” She has created 27 hand-felted vessels to commemorate each of the people whose tombstones are exhibited in Girona’s Museum of the History of the Jewish People.

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ElynVessels
PeopleMemoriam
PeopleMemoriam

Girona was home to one of the most significant Jewish communities in Spain. Important Kabbalists such as Nachmanides lived and worked here. All the Jews and Muslims in Spain were expelled in 1492, in an attempt to “purify” Spain as a Christian land. Jews were given the choice of either converting to Catholicism or leaving the country. They fled to other European countries, such as Turkey and Portugal, or converted and became “Conversos,” a status that allowed for a precarious coexistence with the Christians around them. The Inquisition was constantly on the lookout for evidence of continuing Jewish customs and practices, and offenders were harshly punished, tortured, and burned at the stake.

When the Jews were kicked out of Spain, they were forced to leave their houses, property, synagogues, and cemeteries behind. These fell into ruin or were converted for other purposes. Some of the tombstones in the cemeteries were used in other constructions or turned into drinking troughs for cattle. In the 1980s, urban renewal came to Girona. The Call was opened up and the Museum of the History of the Jews was established. It contains a room filled with many tombstones that were recovered when the modern rail line was put through, crossing the ancient Jewish cemetery. It was this exhibit that brought Elyn here five years ago. She felt called to say Kaddish (prayers for the dead) for these forgotten people, and we moved into an apartment just across from the Jewish Museum.

When that year was over, we moved across the river to our current lovely apartment. We began our extensive travels and writing our book series, “Powerful Places in . . .” Elyn took up felting and has created many vessels and masks that adorn our apartment. Last year she suddenly felt the need to commemorate the medieval Jewish dead in another way, so she created the 27 hand-felted vessels that are now being exhibited in the Temps de Flors.

HandoutEnglish 1
HandoutEnglish 1
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TempsFlors4

I will later put up a video and other information about “In Memoriam,” but this serves as an introduction to the project.

http://www.girona.cat/call/eng/museu.php

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