From the Frederick Law Olmsted Collection

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Olmsted’s Winter View

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) began in 1857 with the design of Central Park in New York City and went on to become the founder of American landscape architecture.

The thousands of landscapes he designed include many of the world’s most important parks such as Prospect Park in Brooklyn; the Emerald Necklace in Boston; the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina; Mount Royal in Montreal; the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and the White House; and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.

I was commissioned by the National Park Service to create the first artistic photographic collection of Olmsted’s office at his Fairsted home. I had the good fortune of showing up during a snowfall. This wintery view from his Print Room is romantic, and the handwritten instructions are charming. Among its warnings is the proper handling of ammonia during the printing process.

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From the Sagamore Hill Collection

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Theodore Roosevelt

On January 6, 1919, Theodore Roosevelt passed away. The day before, he uttered these wistful words to his spouse, Edith: “I wonder if you will ever know how I love Sagamore Hill.”

His home and summer White House – Sagamore Hill – features a large portrait of the 26th president from back when he was a member of the legendary Rough Riders, a regiment that saw combat in the Spanish-American War. The painting by Fedor Encke stands in command in a corner of the famous North Room where TR met with dignitaries and other VIPs of his day.

My photograph of it was on exhibit at the Long Island Museum exhibition Long Island at War. Another photograph I created that closes in on TR’s face was exhibited at Harvard. You can see this close-up and read about the Harvard exhibit in my essay, published in the Theodore Roosevelt Association Journal.

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From the New York City Collection

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No More White Presidents

Recently, I was back in Greenwich Village. It’s where I went to law school at New York University. Walking along Broadway, I came across this empty storefront, which signaled that the tradition of artsy protest was alive and well in this iconic neighborhood. Ironically, someone – an NYU student most likely – scrawled “No More White Presidents” against the whitewash of the window.

This street photography image is what I like to refer to as “future history.” Years from now, it will neatly encapsulate the political, cultural, and social tumult spanning the Obama and Trump administrations. The stark and gritty image conveys the emptiness, alienation, and decay of these uncertain times. The black-and-white composition also projects the racial divide expressed by the graffiti.

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From the Weir Farm Pre-Restoration Collection

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Weir House – Dining Room Shutter

These solid wood shutters and bold, but decorative, hinges, really caught my attention. My father was a chair maker and, as a result, I appreciate the beauty of the grain, texture, and finish of wood.

But, here, it’s more than just that. It’s also the rustic elegance and character of the handmade hinges and bolts. Despite the “hard” impression of the black metal, a softness is suggested by the curves of the fleur-de-lis and kidney bean shapes.

This is the sort of detail and hidden beauty that may escape your view when visiting the eccentrically decorated home of Julian Alden Weir, a leading innovator of American Impressionist painting. This photograph gives you a rare close-up view that cannot be seen during a tour from behind a stanchion.

I can assure you of the stunning clarity and remarkable detail in this print. Many have observed that it almost appears three dimensional.

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Weir Farm Artist, Xiomaro, to Present Author Talk and Pop-Up Exhibit at Wilton Kiwanis

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Weir BookThe first book about Weir Farm National Historic Site, Connecticut’s first national park, will be the subject of a talk and pop-up exhibit by its author, Xiomaro, at Wilton Kiwanis on Wednesday, February 19, 2019.  Signed copies of the book will be available as well as a pop-up exhibit of some of the photographs featured in it.

Xiomaro’s Weir Farm National Historic Site (Arcadia Publishing) introduces readers to the park, which is the only one in America dedicated to painting.  The property was the homestead of Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), a leading innovator of American Impressionism.  The farm’s landscape inspired countless masterpieces created by Weir, his famous artist-friends, two subsequent generations of artist-owners, and contemporary artists who continue to create at the park.

The book’s foreword was written by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, who introduced the legislation in 1990 that established the park. In April, this iconic site will be featured on the reverse of the U.S. quarter.

The book is the only one to chronicle the property’s rescue from residential development to its establishment as a park. The story is told through Xiomaro’s artistic photographic collections documenting the Weir Farm, most of which have never been published before. The author was commissioned to create these images by the National Park Service.

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Weir Pond could have been renamed Thunder Lake surrounded by a residential development.  Photo from page 26 of Weir Farm National Historic Site (Arcadia Publishing) by Xiomaro.

The fine art photographs are currently on exhibit at the district offices of Congressman Jim Himes.  They have also been exhibited in the Hart Senate Office building in Washington DC; the State Capitol building in Hartford; the Department of Environmental Protection in Hartford; the Mayor’s Gallery in Stamford; Brigham Young University in Utah; and at many other venues including the National Park Service.

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Xiomaro (Credit:  Barbara Cittadino)

Xiomaro (pronounced “See-oh-mah-row”) is an internationally recognized artist, author, and speaker whose photography has been covered by The New York Times, CBS Eyewitness News, Hartford Courant, and News 12.  Since 2011, he has served as Weir Farm’s sole Visiting Artist where he presents free public photography workshops.

The author talk and pop-up exhibit will be held on Wednesday, February 19, 2019.  For more information, visit the author’s website at www.xiomaro.com or contact Wilton Kiwanis at wiltonctkiwanis@gmail.com.  Founded in 1915, Kiwanis is an international family of service clubs with more than 600,000 volunteers fighting hunger, improving literacy, and serving other needs of children.

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Street Photography: Looking Down

A while ago I was reading up on San Francisco in anticipation of a visit I was making to the city. I read about how it is one of the most populous US cities and other statistical facts. What caught my attention though was that the city was dealing with a chronic problem of human feces on public streets. Between 2011 to 2018, reports of human waste went from 5,500 annual incidents to more than 28,000 incidents. Who knows how much worse it really is given that not everyone is going to bother filing a report. Plus, of course, there is whatever dog feces that have not been scooped up. So that’s an awful lot of poop baking in the California sunshine. Although I did not encounter any feces while I was there, the potential for a misstep is enough for one to keep their eyes down.

All of this came back to mind when I was uptown in New York City and saw the above sign at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. It’s posted in a park-like area near the church. There’s even a bench with a realistic sculpture of someone asleep on it. In this context, I was sure the sign was intended to discourage the homeless from public defecation. After I took the photograph, which was taken quickly as I walked by, I saw the bottom where it was clear the reference was to dogs.

It got me thinking about the state of public feces in New York City – both dogs and human. A little checking revealed that the Big Apple has about 2,500 complaints of human waste, which is far less than San Francisco especially considering that New York City has a larger population. An article in The New York Times, for example, reports that residents of a Chelsea apartment building have had to clean up after the homeless who not only leave behind their feces, but trash, rotting food, used needles, and urine stored in juice bottles. So it’s a problem but not an epic one.

As far as good old fashioned dog feces go, it does rank up there as a quality of life issue, especially in the Bronx. The number of filed complaints have been going down ever since New York City passed its Pooper Scooper law in 1978. But the complaints that do remain have been vocal. So perhaps the church has it right. Add an 11th commandment. Thou shalt not poop.

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Street Photography: Still Looking Up

If you read yesterday’s post, then you’ll know about how I’ve been working at creating different kinds of photographs of familiar buildings by looking for architectural details above my head that may otherwise go unnoticed. You’ll also know about a particular building in Greenwich Village featuring an emblem of a seahorse above its doorway. That same building had more to offer.

As I walked down the block I saw a smaller detail above me of two elephants pushing against a cross. As with the seahorse, this symbol posed yet another mystery. If I had seen fish or other aquatic adornments, there would at least be a theme. But why elephants and why a cross?

The best I could tell is that this is either a Recercelee cross or a Moline cross depending on how much the ends fork outward. These cross styles apparently date back to their use during the Middle Ages in coats of arms. The connection with the elephants eludes me. Perhaps it is nothing more than a fanciful design.

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Street Photography: Looking Up

I was near Stonewall National Monument in Greenwich Village. I lived in the Village during law school when the neighborhood’s artsy bona fides were still vibrant and less corporate than it is now. There is a building with its entrance right on the corner of West 4th Street and Grove Street. I’ve walked past many times before but this time it was different. I was still in my self-imposed challenge of looking upward for things to photograph as a way to avoid re-creating visual cliches.

So this time, I notice a large stone emblem of a seahorse above the doorway. There was lots of sunshine that helped accentuate the depth of the relief sculpture as well as the rough textures of the stone and patchwork repairs.

There are so many artful details hiding in plain sight a few feet above our heads. Even the fluid curlicue of vines and leaves above the seahorse is unique. You might expect that the same design would appear on either side of the central floral figure as a way to maintain symmetry. Instead, they are completely different. Yet they share a common style that keeps the overall design cohesive. The central floral figure is decorative, yet intended to be natural looking. Each of its petals are different in size and shape from the other. A lot of thought and care went into an adornment that probably many people do not notice.

Why there is a seahorse over the door is unknown to me. Perhaps the building originally housed a fish market or sold nautical supplies? In any case, the seahorse remains as a unique vestige of this building’s history.

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