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Art Art & Architecture Travel Videos US Travel

Carhenge: Ever heard of it?

Nebraska’s version of Stonehenge

Last week, my husband and I took a three-day trip to Mount Rushmore from southwest Missouri. On the way to and from, we ventured off the beaten path to see some less-visited sites. One of those was Carhenge.

Can you guess what it is? Yep, you’re right. It’s a Stonehenge made of cars.

At left, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stonehenge in England and at right, Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.

And believe it or not, it’s been on the back-burner of our mental bucket list of places to see for several years now. So you can imagine our delight last Thursday when we learned (thanks to Google Maps) that we would be within a few miles of Carhenge when we passed through Alliance, Nebraska (pop. 8,500) later that afternoon.

Carhenge
Another shot

I first heard of Carhenge right around the time I graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988. The project’s completion in 1987 made the news back then in the Midwest for a little while. Then gradually, the news died down, and it became another one of those odd-ball sights the Great Plains is known for.

…y’know, an odd-ball sight that attracts 90,000 people each year and appears on the home page of its official owner, the city of Alliance, Nebraska.

Let’s get to it. Here’s a quick video of me simply rotating the camera around the central site:

The cars were at one time left in their original paint colors. But I would imagine that over time, the paint began to wear and/or the metal finishes began to rust, so a “Stonehenge gray” color was eventually applied to all. Works for me.

Here’s a photo of the site before the cars were painted gray.

Carhenge before it was painted gray.
You can buy this postcard in a very sparse information center/gift shop for 79 cents. That’s cool.

Some Facts About Carhenge:

Carhenge design versus Stonehenge design
Henges by Dan Lindsay | Wikimedia Commons License

More facts:

  • Some of the pits that hold the upright cars are five feet deep.
  • The cars that form the arches are welded to form a complete structure.
  • Reinders built Carhenge as a memorial to his father and while living in England studied Stonehenge to learn its size and proportions.
  • During the solar eclipse of August 2017, the path of totality (the path that would experience a total eclipse) passed right over Carhenge. Four thousand people, including the governor, viewed the eclipse from the site.
  • Carhenge won a Travelers’ Choice Award from Trip Advisor in 2020.
Carhenge
Another shot
Carhenge
Trucks were also used to form the monumental sculpture.
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Needless to say, Carhenge is an unusual experience.

The information sign below tells about the main Carhenge circle and some outlying sculptures made of found objects, farm implements, and auto parts.

Carhenge informational sign
The sign

Sign here, please.

While you can walk right up to the main sculpture, don’t write anything on the cars. If you feel the need to leave your mark, do it on this white car placed here specifically for that purpose.

Autograph car at Carhenge
Sign here, please. To the right of the autograph car is an assemblage also made by Jim Reinders called “The Fourd Seasons,” inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The sculpture includes all Ford automobiles and represents the four seasons of Nebraska.

Here’s another example of some of the outlying pieces around Carhenge. This is called Carnestoga after the old Conestoga wagons that at one time were the High Plains vehicle of choice.

Carnestoga at Carhenge
Carnestoga
Carhenge from a distance
Here’s one final shot as we left Carhenge.

Don’t forget to visit the small information center/gift shop at the site to drop in a donation and buy a souvenir. They have t-shirts, postcards, key rings, cold drinks, and a few snacks et al to make your Carhenge visit complete.

The bucket list

I can now cross Carhenge off my bucket list. If Carhenge isn’t on your bucket list, add it pronto. And then get thee to Alliance, Nebraska to see this funky testament to creativity and cars.


On our way to Mount Rushmore, we also took a quick two-hour tour of De Smet, South Dakota to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes. I’ll do a short post about that soon. Thanks for reading!
While you’re here, check out another post that celebrates the culture and art of the Midwest.
Categories
Art & Architecture Italy (Venice)

A Visit to the Venice Biennale 2019

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A photo of my daughter from the Venezuelan pavilion.  I liked that she was out of focus.

“May You Live in Interesting Times”

In interesting times, artists create. In uninteresting times, artists still create. Regardless of the global political climate, the Venice Biennale—the Olympics of art where countries each exhibit in their own pavilion or exhibit space—continues. Sure, some countries may decline to participate from year to year or may be late in readying their exhibits (such as tumultuous Venezuela this year); however, for the Biennale… the show must go on.

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A ticket good for entry at the Giardini and Arsenale portions of the Biennale cost 25€. You purchase them at a row of red ticket counters shown at left in this photo.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Venice Biennale, here’s a quick summary from the Biennale website:

The Venice Biennale has been for over 120 years one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Established in 1895, the Biennale has an attendance today of over 500,000 visitors at the Art Exhibition. The history of the La Biennale di Venezia dates back from 1895, when the first International Art Exhibition was organized. In the 1930s new festivals were born: Music, Cinema, and Theatre (the Venice Film Festival in 1932 was the first film festival in history). In 1980 the first International Architecture Exhibition took place, and in 1999 Dance made its debut at La Biennale.

An over-arching theme characterizes each Biennale. This year’s theme, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” encourages people to avoid the quick judgment, the stereotype, the single-lens viewing of current world events.

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A collection of brochures I collected during our visit. The Biennale brochure reads, “May You Live in Interesting Times.”

According to Biennale President Paolo Baratta, “the expression ‘interesting times’ evokes the idea of challenging or even ‘menacing’ times, but it could also simply be an invitation to always see and consider the course of human events in their complexity, an invitation, thus, that appears to be particularly important in times when, too often, oversimplification seems to prevail, generated by conformism or fear.”

Another way to put it: allow art to show you the many ways of looking at the world.

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Inside the Swiss Pavilion, we watched the video entitled, “Moving Backwards.”

Last Friday (June 14), I visited the Biennale with my daughter, who is an intern in the United States Pavilion. The United States’ participation is primarily a function of the Department of State, which “supports official U.S. participation at select international art exhibitions called biennales. The Department’s support ensures that the excellence, vitality, and diversity of American arts are effectively showcased abroad and provides an opportunity to engage foreign audiences to increase mutual understanding.” In other words, exhibiting at the Biennale is another way to build and maintain positive relationships around the world.

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The Canadian Pavilion is shown on the left in photo above. Their media company showcasing inside is called Isuma. The German Pavilion stands on the far right.

As for the U.S. Pavilion’s intern program, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a well-known modern art museum in Venice, handles the hiring of the interns who provide guarding of the exhibits, inform visitors about the various works, and generally are the main points-of-contact for visitors touring through the pavilions. (Two years ago, my daughter served an internship at the museum; when they issued a call for former interns interested in returning to work the Biennale, she quickly applied.)

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The German Pavilion exhibit: industrial, cold, and futuristic.

We arrived at the portion of the show held on the ground of Venice’s Giardini (Italian for garden). Visitors can see another section of the show at the adjacent Arsenale. In addition, more pavilions are scattered throughout the city. For example, we walked by the door to the Mongolian exhibit in a dark, narrow street somewhere in the San Marco area of the city.

From the Russian Pavilion. These figures were only one component to the entire Russian offering, which was inspired by Flemish painters.

During our three-hour visit, we saw fourteen exhibits out of the 79 participating in the Biennale this year. That doesn’t sound like that many, does it? Especially when you know there are art lovers who allot several days to see all the exhibits. To them, I say, “Go you!”

However, since I only had four full days in Venice, and one of those was spent in Bologna (see my next post!), we prioritized.

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Waiting in line to the British Pavilion.

Plus, we knew that a visit to the best gelato in town, Suso, was in order for the afternoon. This would require a thirty-minute vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal from the Giardini. Sheesh… the price we pay for good gelato!

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Works by Cathy Wilkes inside the British Pavilion.

Enjoy these photos! I’ve attempted to add some details in the captions and, looking back now, I should have written this post immediately after our visit to better capture the ambiance of our visit. But when one is in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, you want to get out and see it—not stay in and write about it.

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The front of the U.S. Pavilion, which features the work of Martin Puryear.
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And now, the back of the opening piece.
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A red Phrygian cap, also known as a French liberty cap. This is made of wood. My daughter says everyone wants to touch it.

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A Confederate Civil War cap. Look in the crosshairs to see yourself.
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Bronze, but doesn’t look like bronze.
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Detail of the bronze.
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The gallery label for the Martin Puryear exhibition inside the U.S. Pavilion. I do not have photos of every piece in the show. There were several more.
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I figured that if we are visiting Greece this summer, we should probably go see the Greek pavilion.
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Walking on glass cups inside the Greek pavilion.
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Countries from around the world participate. Here’s the Uruguay Pavilion. Not sure why I don’t have a photo from inside. No offense, Uruguay.
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Work inside the Czechoslovakia Pavilion.
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The Nordic countries participate in one exhibition hall. Every Biennale, one of those nations also has its own additional pavilion. This year, it was Finland’s turn, but I did not take pictures of that show. 
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Inside the Nordic Pavilion.
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This assemblage inside the Belgium Pavilion was eerily irresistible.
This installation within the Belgium Pavilion was eerily fascinating. Every figure is moving and making something… pottery, bread, cloth, music, a painting. The taskmaster controls it all with the ringing of the bell.
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The Egypt Pavilion
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Japan Pavilion
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A video piece inside the Japan Pavilion.
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We walked over this canal to see the back portion of the Giardini area of the Biennale.

Thanks for reading! As you can see, there is too much to see at the Venice Biennale without spending days there. In addition, to really study the art and understand its motivation and full message deserves much more time than we were able to devote. Still, if you have the desire to see art on a global scale, the Venice Biennale is where you need to go. Click like if you enjoyed this post, and feel free to leave a comment or follow my blog for my next post from Bologna!

Categories
US (Southwest) US Travel

Travel to places that make you feel small: Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley is good for that.

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Photo by Maria Sabljic on Unsplash

Those spires. Those ledges. Those bluffs. Behemoths of weight and mass, rising from the high desert floor with quiet heft and bulk.

The space between them is as much a part of the experience as the monuments themselves. My perspective disintegrates. My awe overwhelms. There is no way to determine: how far is that from me? How much expanse between those mittens?

The valley appears surreal, other-worldly. The interior of a cave where the sky forms the walls.

I hear the purr of a single car traveling the dusty road, a red thread snaking in the distance. Other than that, nothing. Even the breeze is silent, its sound swallowed in the burnt sienna drapery of rocky canyon gowns.

The valley transforms me and I am small, insignificant, a dot of breath in the stillness.


We travelled to Monument Valley three years ago and I’m still thinking about it.

Click like if you enjoyed this piece and follow me for an occasional travel post. Also… I would love to hear about your own canyonland experiences. Feel free to comment!