Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fort Point and More

The entrance to the San Francisco Bay is well defined by the Golden Gate Bridge which was completed in 1937. One of the adventures that most tourists (including yours truly) partake, is walking across the bridge. In fact I even ran across it once in a "fun run" while attending a meeting here. But the entrance to the bay has long been defended by a number of military forts and installations put in place in strategic positions to keep enemies out. In fact, Alcatraz was a military fort built there to defend the bay long before its short history as a prison. As tourists walk across the bridge they usually look at San Francisco in the distance, or down at the water and the ships that pass under the bridge, but if you happen to look down just before you leave the bridge, you will see the top of Fort Point. This fort was completed around 1860 and was armed with 102 smooth bore cannons that sat on top of and within the 7 foot thick walls of the fort. You can see from the following picture that the bridge was built right over the fort. In fact the design of the bridge was adjusted so that the fort could be preserved. We had walked to the Fort a while back- but the building was all secured so we didn't even realize we could go inside. This was our lucky day. The winds near the bay are pretty vicious in the afternoon- so we had some idea of the life of those living in the fort. We were able to walk through the Officer's quarter's- quite an interesting museum.

Max and I discovered this fort while walking across the bridge, but never really visited it until recently. We took a walk along the bay from the Marina to the bridge and noticed that the doors into the fort were open so we ventured in. We were quite surprised to find that this is a National Historic Site and part of the National Park Service. It is very well preserved and a very interesting place to visit. The following picture is at the top of the fort which had cannon emplacements all the way around it. They indicated that the range of the cannon was such that they could hit any ship trying to enter the bay.

Below is one of the 10 inch smooth bore cannons that was originally put in the fort.

An below is a picture of the casemates where the cannon were placed on the lower levels. Each casemate had a hole through which the cannon could fire.

This cannon wouldn't have much effect on this container ship passing under the bridge, but when this fort was built, the ships were made of wood.

And I am forever amazed at the kite surfers that "play" in the bay. We often see these kite surfers out in the middle of the bay in the shipping lanes being pulled by their kites and the winds that blow through the "gate". I really think these guys (and we do see an occasional gal wading into the Bay with board and kite- so maybe we're watching a gal?)- Anyway I think these surfers are absolutely crazy- to ride on top of a surf board with a sail- weaving in and out behind a huge container ship- oh my goodness- we did wish I'd remembered the binoculars! We were even more amazed to see these two shown below going over right next to this ship so they could jump the waves that the ship was producing. We couldn't tell how close they got, but it looked like they were within 20-30 yards of the hull as the ship passed by. Keep in mind that there is almost always a swift current flowing through the "gate" in this part of the bay and the water temperature is in the mid-50's.

On our walk back to the marina, we passed something that we constantly see here in San Francisco. The scenery and views that this city provides is constantly being used as a backdrop for wedding pictures. This couple happened to be a rather mature pair of women who stepped out of their limo for pictures with the bay behind. This is San Francisco. Sometime we think we'll just do a picture blog of all the weddings (and more often pictures of the wedding party) as we walk around San Francisco. But this couple was different- older- and both women. The first we've seen in our wanderings!

And finally, along the walk back to the marina is a group of sculptured globes, each depicting some theme about preserving the earth, fighting pollution, and slowing global warming. Cincinnati had its pigs, Chicago had cows, Toronto had moose and I'm sure there were many other cities that raised money using art forms of local interest. San Francisco actually had hearts that we often still see here and there around the city. But this display was actually started in Chicago and is currently on display here in San Francisco. The project is called "Cool Globes" and if you "google" it, you can read all about it. Originating in Chicago the summer of 2007 it is traveling to Washington DC, San Francisco, San Diego and London this year. We stumbled on it by accident! And we are loving what we stumble on quite by accident!

These next pictures are for Clare (and any other fan of Chihuly). We did make a trip to The de Young Museum and they are featuring a large Chihuly exhibit.

Don doesn't like Chihuly- first- he doesn't like the work- and then he became absolutely hostile when he read that Chihuly sued a man that had begun designing and producing his own works- in the Chihuly style- and the article carefully pointed out that Chihuly hasn't actually done any production work in years. As Don mutters (over and over throughout our meandering through the exhibit)- what would have happened if Monet had opposed other younger artists using his "Impressionist" style after they had worked with him. Now if you're wondering where I fall in this discussion- well mostly silent- I do agree with Don- but I did enjoy the exhibit. I used my little Sony camera- no flash of course because you can't use flash in a museum. But I love the pictures- Do remember that the exhibits filled whole rooms!

These boats were side by side- full size wooden boats- and my favorite exhibit- especially the way it was all reflected on the black floor. If you left click on the picture you can enlarge it and see the details of the blown glass.
As Max said, I don't think much of Chihuly or his art form. But my opinion of his art form is personal. I think it's rather garish and not very innovative. He has done essentially the same art ever since he began. It's just been more of the same with little variation. Moreover he reportedly hasn't even been in his studio for almost 20 years. It's a factory to make "his art" and he isn't involved in the production. But my real issue is with his opinion that he owns making big garish glass pieces. He did take one of his ex-students to court to stop him from making glass pieces similar to his. Should the world only have one impressionist or one cubist? Chihuly is a jerk.
But the real surprise of this trip to the museum was when I was rambling through one of the permanent exhibits- yes- a permanent exhibit in a San Francisco museum in the Golden Gate Park- and found a good size exhibit of Rookwood Pottery from Cincinnati! I think They had about 10 different pieces on permanent exhibit! I was so very proud! My hometown!


fiddleheads said...

very nice surprises. Rookwood pottery, Earth sculptures, crazy surfers, you guys see some great stuff out there.
Now Chihuly...well i feel about the same as don does again. he is a jerk. i have been surprised though about the amount of artists that feel similarly to him with younger artists "copying" him. how can you train artists to work glass for you and then be upset when their work looks like "yours"? it is unfortunate that they feel this way. they are missing a big amount of the point of art and its evolution. its also unfortunate that bad personality publicity is still publicity and probably MORE people know about him because of it. grrr. you can't win but they do...
i have seen 2 traveling exhibits of his. one in Vegas and one at the New York Botanic Garden. i thought the one in Vegas was kinda cool since it was all these massive glass flowers but the one in the garden seemed garish and out of place and distracted from the beauty that was already there...

Lucas said...

What an amazing clear day you had out on the bay! I know those truly sunny skies are sometimes hard to come by there. But those pictures are so beautiful. No wonder the brides wanted that as their backdrop. And that fort looks really cool. I love seeing history like that. We saw a fort similar to that in Key West with the cannon balls all piled up and the wind whipping through the barracks. Quite a trip back in time.

As for the glass, I have to say I know little to nothing about art. I only know what I like and what I don't and I'm a HUGELY visual person so for me....that glass, especially reflected on the black flooring, makes my eyes dance with glee. I love the contrasting colors and shapes and have always loved blown glass so I rather enjoyed the pieces (although I've never heard of Chihuly) although suing one of your own students does officially make him an asshat!

Thanks for sharing your adventures. I love being a fly on your wall (or your backpack as it were). Tons of love!!!

Beyond The Strip said...

Cool pics, I really like the glass art, but it comes with a bit of guilt given that apparently the creator is such a jerk.