Sunday, May 01, 2016

Ventura: A Bit of Propaganda at the Post Office


When we were in Ventura, California I dragged my family away from the beach and the usual touristy stuff...

to visit the Post Office, more accurately to gaze upon the 360 view of murals painted by Gordon Grant as part of the WPA's Art Program during the Great Depression.


A small part of the New Deal program, detailed here on Wikipedia that was envisioned by Franklin Roosevelt's administration to put to work many of the young men that had lost their jobs because of the crashing economy...


FDR put Harry Hopkins in charge of the WPA and Hopkins put Holgar Cahill in charge of the Arts programs. And it is a wonderful thing that Hopkins was of the opinion that "artist have to eat as well," so 15,000 to 20,000 pieces of artwork were created between 1935 and the middle of World War 2.

Gordon Kenneth Grant, came from an artist family, his father. Gordon Hope Grant, was an illustrator who worked with The Saturday Evening Post and the Boy Scouts of America. His son, painted the mural at the Ventura Post Office...


In the style of "America Scene" painting, bringing to mind the industrious farmer and worker in their orchards and fields the Ventura Post Office murals are  not that dissimilar to other patriotic works of the time to encourage a since of national pride and communal direction.


Like this painting of young steelworkers coming out of the USSR. View more Socialist Realism paintings here

But even though the panels at Ventura post office and other WPA murals have somewhat of a propaganda tilt to them, they have not become a national treasure. 




And in recent years, as the memory of that time in our national history fades away with the passing of the people who lived it, we are also losing the art as well, as new government buildings and public works are being built the painting, sculptures, and panels are being stuffed away in storage, claimed by unknown entities or thrown away. 

The effort to retain these pieces that belong to us all and protect them was recently highlighted on Antiques Road Show, click below to watch... 


Art. as I have said before, meaning nothing...
It is not necessary to live, can not sustain life or protect it.
But Art also means everything...
and does a very good job of declaring who we are and where came from.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ventura: Mission San Beunaventura...

                                               

Now surrounded by downtown Ventura, Mission San Buenaventura, read its history here ...


that actually includes such things as relocating nuns, earthquake, tidal waves and pirates, was built starting in 1782 by Franciscan Priest and the labor of the Native Chumash tribe, including a elaborate ditch system to bring water to the mission, surrounding gardens and orchards.

Through the wonderful gift shop and "ticket booth"...


a little museum room does a great job of letting it sink in just how old a church built and used  just a few years after the Revolutionary War is, complete with wooden bells that "dinged" or "thunked" with a small bit of metal inside.


 Here, posters annoucing the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Francisan priest to the shores of California have now become relics themselves...


Even the rafters, an addition to the original church or possible an addition to an addition, are old, very old...




Outside, a courtyard is formed by the museum/gift shop, the chapel...


and the Rectory...


We were there the Saturday after Good Friday, and early enough to observe the clean up from the Holy Week's festivities...

and the preparation for the celebration of Easter Sunday, the red being traded out for white...



Inside the oldest part of the existing church... 



the chapel follows the style and decore' of other mission church down the coast of California and across the Spanish territories of Arizona and New Mexico...

 the chapel at the Carmel Mission...

the alter at Mission San Barbara 

and even the ornate sanctuary of  Mission San Xavier Del Bac, almost at the Mexican border in Arizona...


Which we visit a very long time ago, when the children were much younger and I took a little break from the crowds and sketched the exterior, complete with mismatched and unfinished towers...



Yes, I have a thing for churches, all sizes. Intrigued by the beautiful important missions as well as the more primitive village churches captured here, from the High Road to Taos...







Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Channel Islands: Where They Left Prisoners and Other Isolated Critters


The next day we headed back out to sea, crossing the International Shipping Lane....



and in the presence of dolphins again...


to make our way to the largest of the Channel Islands, Santa Cruz, protected by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy. We gained access at Prisoner's Harbor, a locale with a sorted past, that included the forced removal of the Chumash tribe, native's to the islands for hundreds of years and an ill conceived transplant of prisoners, left on the island with supplies and livestock around 1830, that did not go so well. The prisoners trying to make boats from not completely cured cow hide that ended attracting shark.




Since then the island has been mostly been a private cattle ranch, only recently donated to the public...



Little buildings are left on this side of the island, one of the few still standing near the shore were storage sheds where goods were stored until the occasional boat came to the island. 


Gathering for instructions from our guide, we woke up an Island Fox, just recently brought back from the edge of extinction by local efforts. Tiny as a small cat, the fox only resides on the Channel Islands and nowhere else in the world. 


Not overly developed, the island is also a supreme example of how the coastline of California would look, if not for the great development on the other side of the Santa Barbara Channel.


Santa Cruz is one of the least visited public parks, needing a guide to explore the trails. 


We picked a hike called Pelican's Roost and it did not take long for me to realize I was ill suited for the pace and the confines of being in the middle  of a fast moving train of people, hurrying up a steep trail on the side of a cliff...



I gladly sent my "mountain goat" family along and sat here and tried to sketch this view. The same one the man on watch would have, ready to signal the passing ships of the need to transport the goods waiting in the storage sheds near the peer. 


Mostly I just stared off to the horizon and hoped the boat came back for us, I had heard it's engine roar and watched it move off to the other side of the island. The whole experience was unnerving, much more than the time I have spent on top of a mountain, looking down at valleys thousands of feet below.



Luckily my family did come back to get me...


and after another hour or so at the shore...


where not only the passengers brought in that morning, but a few rather scruffy scientist who had been on the island for days or weeks doing research were ready to get back on the mainland...


a line forming even before the boat left the dock for a chilled beer from the galley.


Crossing the channel again, we took a meandering route and were rewarded with another sighting of a humpback, its black slick skin glistening atop the water. What great creatures has God created and what a privilege to travel along side them.