Angelic anniversary: 10 years later


I was amazed to learn of this remarkable public artwork, apparently the largest sculpture in Great Britain.  Created by contemporary British sculptor Antony Gormley and erected in Gateshead in 1998.  From its inception, the sheer size and £1 million price tag was sure to generate controversy. 

The BBC recently celebrated the 10th anniversary  of the Angel.  You can view the Angel of the North 360 panorama  and learn from those who praise and those who disparage the massive public artwork.  


  You can even share your thoughts with the BBC and British public here

As described by the artist

Is it possible to make a work with purpose in a time that demands doubt? I wanted to make an object that would be a focus of hope at a painful time of transition for the people of the north-east, abandoned in the gap between the industrial and the information ages.

The work is made of corten steel, weighs 200 tonnes and has 500 tonnes of concrete foundations. The mound near the A1 motorway which was the designated site of the sculpture was made after the closure of the Lower Tyne Colliery, out of the destroyed remains of the pithead baths. It is a tumulus marking the end of the era of coal mining in Britain.

The Angel resists our post-industrial amnesia and bears witness to the hundreds and thousands of colliery workers who had spent the last three hundred years mining coal beneath the surface.

The scale of the sculpture was essential given its site in a valley that is a mile and a half a mile wide, and with an audience that was travelling past on the motorway at an average of 60 miles an hour.


angel-of-the-north-1            angel_side_long_120x180 


According to Wikipedia:

As the name suggests, it is a steel sculpture of an angel, standing 66 feet (20 metres) tall, with wings measuring 178 feet (54 metres) across — making it wider than the Statue of Liberty’s height. The wings themselves are not planar, but are angled 3.5 degrees forward, which Gormley has said aims to create “a sense of embrace”.  It stands on a hill, on the southern edge of Low Fell overlooking the A1 road and the A167 road into Tyneside and the East Coast Main Line rail route.




An artist cannot be judged alone by what may be his most notorious art work.  Check out Gormley’s current works and works in progress.

Via the weblog Still Checking for Nits.


Getting stoned at the beach


Check out this remarkable global art project devised by artist Sue Lawty in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The World Beach Project is a global art project open to anybody, anywhere, of any age, building on the experience many of us have had making patterns on beaches and shorelines.  The project combines the simplicity of making patterns with stones with the complexities of shape, size, colour, tone, composition, similarity and difference.

The idea for the World Beach Project arrived in the head of artist Sue Lawty fully formed and in an instant.  To find out why go here.

This map highlights over 300 participants world-wide to date.

Here’s how to join.



Ephemeral ice art

The epemeral ice art of Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo

Comments from Calvin and Hobbes on the impermanence of the medium and the transience of life.

 Via Neatorama

Related MadSilence posts:
Chill Seekers, or the art of ice
Auto on Ice: The Frozen Car Project




50-Foot Mechanical Spider Awakens

Recall The TelectroscopeThe Telectroscope was a project sponsored by Artichoke, a creative company based in London.  Now there’s La Princesse the giant mechanical spider.

As reported on the La Machine website:

La Princesse awakes

“It’s been three days since the giant mechanical spider, nicknamed La Princesse, appeared on the side of Concourse Tower. Since then Liverpool has seen an influx of French scientists, a crane, fire, snow and a lot of rain. Those thousands who braved the wet weather yesterday watched La Princesse being woken to an accompaniment of music from airborne musicians and, later, being bathed in Salthouse Dock. She is now resting beside the Cunard Building, ready to be woken again this afternoon. The spider is quite a character and is clearly enjoying all the attention she’s getting. If you would like to say hello come to the city centre this afternoon or evening, and you’re sure to bump into her.”

La Machine is a collaboration between artists, designers, fabricators and technicians who create projects of public, installation, performance and theatrical art.

Another Artichoke project:

The Sultan’s Elephant, Royal de Luxe. London, May 2006.   Photo Matthew Andrews, courtesy of Arts Council England.

Related links:
Liverpool spider 37 tonnes and a marvel of engineering. No, son, you can’t take it home.
The 50-Foot Mechanical Spider Awakens


The art of the environment

I’ve always dreamed of doing what Aldo Leopold did. This American forester, wildlife manager and conservationist took a mid-western American farmstead, impoverished by drought and poverty, and struggled to resurrect the soil and native flora. His efforts are chronicled in the book A Sand County Almanac, a series of essays “for those who cannot live without wild things.” Leopold was an early proponent of ethical land use, holding that the exploitation of the earth solely as an economic resource will eventually destroy both it and us.

There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” – Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac

I’ve recently discovered several artists who use their art in attempting to improve our relationship with the natural world. One is an architect and conceptual artist who uses his skills to make a statement about the American obsession with the lawn.

An edible estate in Lakewood, California.

In 2005, Fritz Haeg, a Los Angeles-based architect, launched the project known as “Edible Estates” in which homeowners trade their mowed and ornamental lawns for artistic arrangements of organic produce. Haeg says he was drawn to the lawn — that “iconic American space” — because it cut across social, political and economic boundaries. “The lawn really struck me as one of the few places that we all share,” he says. “It represents what we’re all supposedly working so hard for — the American dream.” Haeg invites homeowners to replace their water-guzzling, herbicide-hungry lawns lawns with food-producing organic vegetable gardens. Go here to learn how to make your own edible estate.

Cool Globes is a public art project designed to showcase what people can do to help combat global warming. Local, national and international artists, as well as school children designed the Cool Globes using a variety of materials to transform a plain white sphere to create awareness and provoke discussion about a potential solution to global warming. Each globe is five feet in diameter, seven-and-one-half feet tall and weighs 2,300 pounds.

Tread Lightly For A Livable Earth advocates for the “carbon neutral concept.” Personal impact and responsibility inspired the Bouzide’s globe. Every action has an impact on the planet measured by greenhouse gas emissions or a “carbon footprint.” This globe is literally covered with footprints of children and adults layered over caution stripes, which represent land and water masses. Suggestions on how to reduce carbon footprints are a reminder that things can always change for the better.

Tread Lightly For A Livable Earth (Artists: Cathi Schwalbe-Bouzide and Paul Bouzide)

Conservation photography showcases both the beauty of our planet and its vanishing spirit, and it represents the ‘pictorial voice’ used by many conservation organizations to further their messages. Although traditional nature photography is good enough to do the job, the creation of images that inspire and move people to change behaviors and take action requires an understanding of the issues necessary to tell the story; this is the job of a conservation photographer.”

The photographs of World-class photographer Peter Dombrovskis have been instrumental in the conservation of various Tasmanian wild places.

What Is Environmental Art? “In a general sense, it is art that helps improve our relationship with the natural world. There is no definition set in stone. This living worldwide movement is growing and changing as you read this. Much environmental art is ephemeral (made to disappear or transform), designed for a particular place (and can’t be moved) or involves collaborations between artists and others, such as scientists, educators or community groups (distributed ownership). These variables can make exhibiting this work difficult for traditional museums so we created an online museum for global the environmental art movement.”


Cartoon criticism

Cartoons (I’m referring to those humorous illustrations in magazines and newspapers) often provide the perfect blend of form and content sought by many an artist.  Cartoons often say what I have difficulty articulating.  Their silent commentary disrupts the mad silence that frequently cloaks the contemporary art world. 

Here’s some cartoon commentary concerning modern art.  From the MadSilence collection.

Image source:  Chris Madden Cartoons.   And of course Chris Madden gets it, dead on.  Damien Hirst’s shark, entitled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” manifested in NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last year for a three-year stay.  I’ve now seen it in London and New York and my opinion is only reinforced.  It’s conceptual art at its worst, with little aesthetic appeal and a message lost in the translation.   Man Ray would not be pleased.  For more Chris Madden cartoons on the subject of Art, go here.

The Calvin and Hobbes comic stripis one of my favorites.  Does anyone recall the “snowmen” series that depicted snowmen dying or suffering in grotesque ways?  Bill Watterson also used his snowmen to comment on the jargon surrounding modern art, artist funding, and high and low-brow taste.  Take a look at these examples.


Follow along with me through the strips.  At one point, Calvin (who’s only 6-years old) abandons representational art for the freedom of abstraction.  Next he struggles to obtain public funding to produce public art, even if his intended audience (the public!) cannot appreciate his genius.  Finally Calvin’s snowman sculpture captures the essence (and hopefully the price tag!) of Hirst’s shark.  Calvin builds on his medium’s impermanence and the transient quality of snow to comment on the evanescence of life and the horror of human mortality.  Too bad it melts before he can realize big bucks.

Did you get Calvin’s reference to Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase?  Quite cute.  Reminds me of an editorial cartoon that appeared in The New York Times in 1913 when Duchamp’s painting was first exhibited in New York City:

Appropriately entitled  The Rude Descending a Staircase.   Into the NYC subway. 

Of course if I were an artist I might not appreciate this cartoon criticism.  Here’s one artist’s possible response to the critics:


The art of doodling

I suppose we can’t hide it anymore, and why should we?  MadSilence has become enamored with Google doodles.
Here are a few more examples.  Enjoy!

    The 2008 China Olympics!

  Artist Marc Chagall

  Beatrix Potter

On a related note…stay tuned for an upcoming MadSilence post:
The art of the search engine, or, Has Google made us stupid?

Related MadSilence posts:
Doodle extravaganza
Google doodle honors artist
HoW to pLaY WeLL: Learn to LEGO®

Related link:  Holiday Logos and Events – Google style!


Rice art of Japan

 Mona Lisa rice paddy art via  Cool Things in Random Places

Created by intermixing the purple and yellow-leafed kodaimai rice along with the green-leafed tsugaru-roman variety, imaginative farmers in rural Japan grow rice paddy artworks in their fields on a massive scale.  According to Pink Tentacle, “In recent years, a growing number of local governments around Japan have started organizing rice paddy art projects as a way to attract tourists and educate people about rice farming.”


Via Pink Tentacle:  Rice paddy art in Yamagata
Via Cool Things in Random Places:  Rice Field Art
Via Japanesque:  Rice-paddy art,  and  Beauty is in the Rice of the Beholder!
And finally, there’s the Japanese website:  Rice Art

Related MadSilence posts:
The art of the lawn
The Quilt-Barn Movement Catches On


Do you believe in the Telectroscope?

Telectroscope New York (Source: Telectroscope)

It all began when London artist Paul St George went through his grandmother’s attic and found a packet of dusty papers in a trunk. The papers were from his great-grandfather, an engineer named Alexander Stanhope St George. From there the Telectroscope was born.

Hardly anyone knows that a secret tunnel runs deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean. In May 2008, more than a century after it was begun, the tunnel has finally been completed. An extraordinary optical device called a Telectroscope has been installed at both ends which miraculously allows people to see right through the Earth from London to New York and vice versa.

An illustration of the Telectroscope concept from Alexander Stanhope St George’s papers (Source: Wake up America)

Fulfillment of a Victorian dream? Or a whimsical contemporary public art project? Either way you know where I’ll be in June: The Fulton Ferry Landing by the Brooklyn Bridge.

Telectroscope London (Source: Telectroscope)

The Telectroscope lets Londoners and New Yorkers see each other in real time. (Source: CNN)

The Telectroscope is produced by Artichoke in partnership with Tiscali UK.

“It is a piece of art, and it’s also a sort of curiosity in a public space.” -Peter Coleman, New York organiser

Related links:
‘Telectroscope’ Connects New York, London in Real-Time from
Do you believe in the telectroscope blog
Enter the amazing world of the Telectroscope… 22 May-15 June 2008 London
‘Tunnel’ links New York to London from the BBC
The Telectroscope lets Londoners and New Yorkers see each other in real time from CNN


Plastic bag art: the sequel

Dan Steinhilber, Untitled, 2002 Plastic Bag Chandelier

More plastic bag art and facts from MadSilence. Why? Because we want to!

First, here’s the art.

Here’s Joshua Allen Harris’ Loch Ness Monster lurking on the streets of Manhattan. Via the WordPress blog BedTea.

And then there’s the Plastic Bag Monster attacking pedestrians and cars in the streets of San Francisco.

Japanese artist Miwa Koizumi makes interesting work from plastic trash – both bags and bottles. Via No More Plastic Bags Please!

Kites made from plastic trash bags by Miwa Koizumi

Here are some Garbage Bag Art Works from Japan via PinkTentacle.

Diane Kurzyna’s project entitled “Ephemeral Folks” “involved an installation of four archetypal figures that roamed the City of Olympia in a variety of ways. Created from humble materials such as unwanted plastic wrap, used bubble wrap, and tape, these sculptures became a metaphor for the transience of life, their presence a reminder that even commonplace moments may possess a quiet magic.”

Ephemeral Folk by Diane Kurzyna

Artist Diane Kurzyna, aka Ruby Re-Usable, uses recycled, reused, discarded, unwanted, unloved, lost and found, pre- and post- consumer waste materials in her work because she lives by the motto: MAKE ART NOT WASTE!

Bag Lady in the Alley by Diane Kurzyna, aka Ruby Re-Usable (plastic wrap and tape)

Cathy Kasdan knitted an entire 1950s ensemble out of old grocery shopping bags. This dress is all hand knit from grocery bags that were the result of actual trips to the grocery store. Via BoingBoing.

Artist Judith Selby Lang created “ReCycle Ryoan-ji”, a 20′ x 48′ replica of Ryoan-ji Garden in Kyoto made entirely out of recycled materials.

Now for some facts.

Go to for a campaign to remind people to bring “your own bags every time you go to the store. It’s one simple way to go green in your daily life.” Includes enlightening statistics about paper and plastic bags, bagging solutions from around the world, tips to remember your bags, and links to related sites. From the San Francisco Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition.

The City of Westminster’s Reusable Grocery Bag campaign “provides you with an opportunity to use your own bags at the grocery store and answer “neither” when asked by baggers whether you want “paper or plastic.” By utilizing these bags, you are reducing litter in our beautiful city, supporting sustainability of our natural resources and reducing waste in landfills. The intent of these bags is not revenue generation, but instead education on how citizens can purchase products that not only support sustainability but keep our city beautiful!”

Related post: The art of the plastic bag

Related links:
Tide turns against use of plastic bags from USA Today
Series of blunders turned the plastic bag into global villain from TimesOnLine UK


AUGUST 24, 2008 EXTRA:

Plastic Bag Art 1: “Madame” by Jet Mondares
“This is one of the Art works of Mr. Jet Mondares. Sometime August of 2007, he started an artistic campaign in response to the global call to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bags. Since then, he had visited schools in the city where he gave talks on the hazard of plastic bags. In the process, he demonstrated how his arts were done. Mr Mondares aims to encourage everyone to join his cause.”


For more plastic bag art visit Plastic Bagalicious via

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