Thursday, October 20, 2016

Art, nature combo a N. Carolina treasure

After several stops in Virginia during my recent trip to the East Coast, I swung south to North Carolina to revisit family near Raleigh. While there, a family member suggested I visit the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art if I were looking for something interesting to photograph.

I went online to check out the NCMA, and indeed, what I saw piqued my interest, so on Oct. 5, I explored this a gem of an attraction and asset to the area and state, a must-see for anyone interested in art or nature ... or just to get away from everything. And it's particularly exciting if you are a fan of French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1847-1917), because the museum was gifted 30 Rodin sculptures in 2009.

Making the trip even sweeter was the fact that there are no photography restrictions in the museum's outdoor park (as there are outside the Indianapolis Museum of Art) nor in the galleries that hold permanent collections.

You can visit NCMA's website to learn about its early history, but its presence at the current site began in the 1960s when the state legislature created a commission to find a site to build a new facility. The grounds, once used for training in the Civil War and later as a youth prison, are close to interstate traffic, PNC Arena. J.C. Raulston Arboretum and North Carolina State University. The East Building opened in 1983, after which work began to further expand and add an art park and trail system. That fell together after the new millennium, and the West Building housing the museum's permanent collection opened in 2010.  

NCMA's website says the art park and trail system's 164 acres make it the largest art park in the country. Parts of the art park are open meadow and beautifully landscaped, others are wooded and left in their natural state. In both areas, institutional art of some kind is sprinkled about for visitors to appreciate. NCMA is a place I would enjoy revisiting often.

The most striking of the park art is Thomas Sayre's "Gyre," three concrete ellipses colored with iron oxide. I present one perspective of "Gyre" in the photo leading off the post; I'll offer a couple others below and more in my full online gallery of the shoot.

I made it through a lot of the park, both open and wooded areas, but did not get to it all. I spent the last hour or so at NCMA touring some of the permanent collection galleries in the museum's newer, glass-wall exterior West Building (I did not make it inside the older East Building).

In 2009, the Iris and Gerald Cantor Foundation donated 30 Rodin sculptures to the NCMA. Rodin is regarded as the first modern sculptor. Rodin's "The Thinker," one of the most recognized sculptures ever, has been reproduced multiple times and displayed many places throughout the world over the years. The original bronze cast is in the Rodin Museum in Paris. (This no doubt dates me, but my earliest exposures to "The Thinker" were the many interludes in the 1960s television series "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" when Dobie turns directly to the camera -- in front of a park sculpture of "The Thinker" -- to inform viewers about his problem of the week.)

Several sculptures from the Cantor collection are used in a display in one of the three quadrants featuring reflecting ponds outside the museum's West Building. The Cantor donation makes NCMA the repository of the most extensive Rodin collection between Philadelphia and the West Coast.

There are separate parking lots at NCMA -- one is close to the two main buildings, and another used by those who visit just to use the art park paths and trails. There were several walkers, joggers and and cyclists using the trails on the Wednesday I was there.

Photo geek stuff: I shot all of my outdoor images at NCMA with a Canon 6D equipped with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. I bracketed my shots for three exposures of each scene, melding them into one using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. As always, I used my shutter speed as the exposure variable for the bracketing. My aperture was set at f/8, and I had varying degrees of sunlight due to heavily cloudy skies most of the day, so ISOs ranged from 160 to 500.

To see a full gallery of my outdoor shots from the North Carolina Museum of Art, visit my site at As always, to view a larger and sharper version of a photo in a post, click on the picture. This is especially important if you access the post from a mobile device.

Above and below: Two more perspectives of "Gyre," the bottom featuring one of the ellipses framing the museum's East Building.  

Above, Ronald Bladen's "Three Elements," painted and burnished aluminum over welded steel, and below, Henry Spencer Moore's bronze "Large Spindle Piece," can be found in front of the East Building. 

Above and below: Ledelle Moe's "Collapse I" concrete and steel sculpture on loan to the museum can be found along the art park's main trail.  

"Ideas of Stone-Elm" by Giuseppe Penone is a bronze sculpture cast from an elm tree and cradles a 3,000-pound boulder. 

This angle is about the only one a photographer can use to show maximum detail of this piece of art (I didn't note the artist or title) near the art park's parking lot. 

Above and below: The reflective exterior and a quadrant hosting one of the reflective ponds you'll find outside the West Building, which houses the museum's permanent collections. From pictures I've seen, this facade is quite photogenic at night. 

Above: An area between the East and West buildings where visitors can gather, snack and relax.

Above: In pleasant weather, NCMA's amphitheater -- which is behind the original East Building (background) -- hosts various live performances and concerts. 

While on the main trail early into a walk just beyond the amphitheater, one can turn to the left and view the East Building (above) and turn to the right up a hill and catch a glimpse from afar of "Collapse I" (below).   

Further along the main trail, you come across these artsy step rails (above) in a scene overlooking yet another pond. The rails were so distinguished that I momentarily wondered if they might be institutional art, but they're not. Closer looks at the above pond are available in the next two photos below.

Above: I stopped to grab this composition because I loved the snaking, leading lines in the walkway. I took two versions of this composition, one focusing on the bench on the left, the other focusing on the path. This is the former.  

Above: As this paved trail heads toward the wooded end of the grounds, one comes upon this vista. A bit down the path, I would follow a short dirt trail to explore some of the wooded area.  

Above: In the wooded area, this bright red interactive piece, titled "You and Me" by Maria Elena Gonzalez, stands out. 

Above and below: Two more "finds" in the wooded area. 

Above and below: Back on the main trail I came across Martha Jarvis-Jackson's "Crossroads/Trickster I" and took regular and detail shots.

Above: "Wind Sculpture II" by Yinka Shonibare.

Above: I composed this foliage-and-berry frame of the East Building from the other side of the pond. 

I don't make a point to involve images of myself in my posts, but I came across two opportunities at NCMA where it seemed natural to do so. The glass panel showing me taking the photo above extends from the West Building at the main entrance, so every visitor who approaches the building from this angle sees himself/herself in the mirror. The angle I used to take the photo below, I felt, helps convey the thickness and layered panels that architects chose for the West Building exterior. Ensnaring my reflection in the composition I rationalized as an artsy trade-off.

Above: This boulder was one of several that was part of or near the only West Building quadrant that did not feature a reflecting pond.  

Above: Roxy Paine's "Askew" arrived in pieces and needed to be put together, presenting a challenging installation for museum staff when it was added to the landscape after the campus expansion that included the West Building in 2010.

Above: German artist Ursula von Rydingsvard's "Ogromna" features honeycombed layers of roughly hewn and stacked cedar blocks. 

Shots above ("Jean de Fiennes") and the next six below are from the Auguste Rodin sculpture display positioned in the Rodin Garden, a quadrant around one of the reflecting ponds outside the museum's West Building. I provide titles for individual sculptures. 

"Meditation With Arms"

"The Three Shades" (a detail shot appears below)

Above: James Prosek's "Abstract Fish No. 4" installed in the James Wheeler pond quadrant outside the West Building. 

Above: This multi-crevice wall was interesting on its own. I grouped an unrelated chair into the photo in a moment of ... artistic inspiration. 

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