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Saturday Art: The Southern Cross

The Southern Cross

This post is a change of pace, and deals with one of the inspirations of art and a part of the reason I wanted to make a visit to the southern continent, a sight I wanted to see and one that’s had meaning for many of us who travel there.

A great treat you experience when visiting in the MesoAmerican area, where the Maya that I’ve talked about for several months held sway, is the sight at night of The Southern Cross. A remarkable constellation, the Southern Cross has been more than a guide sailors and travelers have used to find their way. The Maya were particularly schooled in the sky and its features, and showed knowledge and understanding that Europeans adopted to inform their own reckonings. The Southern Cross, known well in southern skies, has inspired art and music, and lifts the heart when you see it.

It was great good fortune the first time I traveled to the Southern Continent of the Americas, on a ship at night, to wake in the dark, go out and sight the Southern Cross there above me in the sky. It’s been an object I’ve wanted to see, and that was a wonderful experience.

Alexander Calder’s work gives some idea of the magical quality of those stars, and has special attraction for those who’ve been delighted by the sight of the constellation itself. I can’t find a picture without rights reserved, of Calder’s ‘Southern Cross’, but you can see it at the link.

Calder’s best works are like great wit: You don’t see them coming. They accelerate through mind and body with an almost audible whoosh. They’re works of such simplicity, such seemingly effortless balance, that you feel you can take in everything about them with a glance. But it’s worth pausing.

Take a moment — or better still, a few minutes — to register how the relationships between parts, and between parts and empty space, shift over time; how what look like simple repeating patterns of line and shape, all in perfect balance, are actually subtly different; how Calder always puts asymmetry in tension with symmetry, and stable, weighted forms in tension with planar, suspended ones; or how his moving parts seem to carve out volume, and even to shape time.

If you do all this, you may, if nothing else, feel a fleeting kinship with Albert Einstein, who once reportedly stood for 40 minutes in front of Calder’s motorized 1934 piece “A Universe” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and later said, “I wish I had thought of that.”

Art and music intertwine, and I’ve always loved the lilt of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s lyrics in Southern Cross, “when you see the Southern Cross for the first time”, something that draws us down to the brilliant waters of the Caribbean, and the tropical beauty of MesoAmerican culture.

Another art work is the Southern Cross station in Melbourne, Australia, where the constellation is a familiar one.

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Saturday Art: The Southern Cross

 

The Southern Cross

(Picture courtesy of Mike White at flickr.com.)

This post is a change of pace, and deals with one of the inspirations of art and a part of the reason I wanted to make a visit to the southern continent, a sight I wanted to see and one that’s had meaning for many of us who travel there.

A great treat you experience when visiting in the MesoAmerican area, where the Maya that I’ve talked about for several months held sway, is the sight at night of The Southern Cross. A remarkable constellation, the Southern Cross has been more than a guide sailors and travelers have used to find their way. The Maya were particularly schooled in the sky and its features, and showed knowledge and understanding that Europeans adopted to inform their own reckonings. The Southern Cross, known well in southern skies, has inspired art and music, and lifts the heart when you see it.

It was great good fortune the first time I traveled to the Southern Continent of the Americas, on a ship at night, to wake in the dark, go out and sight the Southern Cross there above me in the sky. It’s been an object I’ve wanted to see, and that was a wonderful experience.

Alexander Calder’s work gives some idea of the magical quality of those stars, and has special attraction for those who’ve been delighted by the sight of the constellation itself. I can’t find a picture without rights reserved, of Calder’s ‘Southern Cross’, but you can see it at the link.

Calder’s best works are like great wit: You don’t see them coming. They accelerate through mind and body with an almost audible whoosh. They’re works of such simplicity, such seemingly effortless balance, that you feel you can take in everything about them with a glance. But it’s worth pausing.

Take a moment — or better still, a few minutes — to register how the relationships between parts, and between parts and empty space, shift over time; how what look like simple repeating patterns of line and shape, all in perfect balance, are actually subtly different; how Calder always puts asymmetry in tension with symmetry, and stable, weighted forms in tension with planar, suspended ones; or how his moving parts seem to carve out volume, and even to shape time.

If you do all this, you may, if nothing else, feel a fleeting kinship with Albert Einstein, who once reportedly stood for 40 minutes in front of Calder’s motorized 1934 piece “A Universe” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and later said, “I wish I had thought of that.”

Art and music intertwine, and I’ve always loved the lilt of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s lyrics in Southern Cross, “when you see the Southern Cross for the first time”, something that draws us down to the brilliant waters of the Caribbean, and the tropical beauty of MesoAmerican culture.

Another art work is the Southern Cross station in Melbourne, Australia, where the constellation is a familiar one.

(Picture courtesy of Koppenbadger at flickr.com.)

Southern Cross Station

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.