Museum exhibit brings Coney Island to San Diego!

Grinning face of Tillie, symbol of Coney Island, on the back of a tour bus heading toward the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Grinning face of Tillie, symbol of Coney Island, on the back of a tour bus heading toward the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

An extraordinary exhibit recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. It’s called Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008. Last Saturday, I enjoyed a very special tour, courtesy of my docent friend Catherine!

The exhibit features a collection of more than a hundred objects that depict 150 years of Coney Island’s amusement parks, boardwalk, beach and people. It includes paintings, photographs, videos, carnival posters, sideshow banners, carved wooden carousel horses, and a wide range of colorful, unique artifacts.

From its early days as a peaceful beach getaway for wealthy New Yorkers, to the rise and fall of amusement parks, years of decay, political wrangling, then modern renewal, Coney Island has been interpreted by artists through the years in a variety of surprising ways. Some artists portray an innocent playland for common people. Others, something more complex, and less innocent.

Most of the exhibit’s artwork centers on Coney Island’s legendary amusement parks. Many images resemble exuberant scenes from a carnival or circus. They’re full of energy, laughter, humanity, wonder–but often base, superficial, disturbing, despairing. Many painting are dark, almost gaudy with a crowded press of people seeking pleasure. A symbol adopted by Coney Island–the unnatural, exaggerated grin of Tillie–seems to be a taunting reminder that the purchased thrills are artificial. The grin is strangely maniacal and mindless, one part Joker, one part Cheshire Cat.

Fantastic imagery abounds in the exhibit, which is sure to delight many kids. They’ll see huge cyclops heads, videos of romping midgets, a banner promising a sideshow freak with inhuman tentacles. The adults will see images of lust, insatiability, scattered litter, dripping blood.

I suppose we humans like to be both excited and terrified.

One Impressionist painting by the important American artist William Merritt Chase shows a landscape of sunlight and natural, unspoiled beauty; the egg tempera painted canvases of Reginald Marsh are dark, crammed with unabated appetite, bold kinetic energy and human expression; photographs by Arthur Fellig (Weegee) show people crowded onto the beach like fleshy, happy sardines.

Personally, as I took my amazing tour, I saw life’s wonderful jumble and a sample of our world’s endless variety. All the emotions, the complexity–but mostly I recognized the sunlit memories of ordinary good-natured neighbors heading to the beach and boardwalk, and some exciting, brief amusements, on a sunny weekend day.

This isn’t a typical art museum exhibit. It’s more like taking an instant journey to a place you already know. A Coney Island in your mind. And your vivid experiences in the San Diego Museum of Art will make the journey seem very real.

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008, has come to San Diego from the Wadsworth Athenium Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. This special exhibition continues through October 13, 2015.

Here are just a few things that you’ll see…

Reginald Marsh, Wooden Horses, 1936, Tempera on board. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Reginald Marsh, Wooden Horses, 1936, Tempera on board. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Pip and Flip, Twins from Yucatan with World Circus Side Show, Coney Island, 1929, Photographic reproduction. Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection.
Pip and Flip, Twins from Yucatan with World Circus Side Show, Coney Island, 1929, Photographic reproduction. Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection.
Jeanie, Living Half Girl, 1940, Sideshow banner. Collection of Ken Harck.
Jeanie, Living Half Girl, 1940, Sideshow banner. Collection of Ken Harck.
Mort Künstler, Coney Island, 1953, Gouache on paper. Collection of the artist.
Mort Künstler, Coney Island, 1953, Gouache on paper. Collection of the artist.
Barnum & Bailey Circus Water Carnival poster, Coney Island.
Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, the Great Coney Island Water Carnival poster.  Thrilling and daring feats of every description!
Arnold Mesches, Anomie 1991: Winged Victory, 1991, Acrylic on canvas. San Diego Museum of Art.
Arnold Mesches, Anomie 1991: Winged Victory, 1991, Acrylic on canvas. San Diego Museum of Art.
Joseph Stella, Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras, 1913, Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery.
Joseph Stella, Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras, 1913, Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery.

The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is simply jammed with fantastic, provocative Coney Island art. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  So go see it!

Coney Island, Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, at the San Diego Museum of Art.
Coney Island, Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, at the San Diego Museum of Art.

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Galleon San Salvador docked at Maritime Museum!

Replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's galleon San Salvador is now docked at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, adjacent to their B-39 Soviet submarine.
The amazing replica of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s galleon San Salvador is now docked at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, adjacent to their B-39 Soviet submarine.

The San Salvador, a full size replica of the historic Spanish galleon sailed by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo up the coast of California, is now docked at the Maritime Museum of San Diego! I believe the museum’s newest ship arrived a couple days ago!

This morning was the very first time I saw the vessel on San Diego’s Embarcadero. Docked next to the museum’s B-39 Soviet-era Russian submarine, the San Salvador appears small compared to the other nearby tall ships. But the gentleman rowing the longboat in the next photograph informed me that she’ll really blossom once fully rigged and under sail. The San Salvador will then appear almost as large and amazing as the Californian, which is docked right across from it!

Looks like the San Salvador is ready in time for this Labor Day weekend’s Festival of Sail. On Friday she will lead a parade of magnificent visiting tall ships across San Diego Bay!

Gentleman from the Maritime Museum rows a longboat under ramp which leads to the HMS Surprise and other historic ships on San Diego Bay.
Gentleman from the Maritime Museum rows a longboat under ramp which leads to the HMS Surprise and other historic ships.
Full size replica of historic Spanish galleon San Salvador seen beyond dock of Anthony's Fish Grotto on San Diego's Embarcadero.
Full size replica of Spanish galleon San Salvador, seen beyond the dock of Anthony’s Fish Grotto on San Diego’s Embarcadero.

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Team USA Olympics sand sculpture in San Diego!

Sand sculpture in front of U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge in San Diego shows Team USA and Olympians on the Road to Rio!
Sand sculpture welcoming visitors to the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge in San Diego shows Team USA and Olympians on the Road to Rio!

A sand sculpture that pays tribute to Team USA and the upcoming 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro is now standing at the foot of the B Street Pier in downtown San Diego. I thought you might enjoy seeing the finished artwork!

Several days ago I blogged about how the sculpture was being created by Dan Belcher from St. Louis, Missouri and Ilya Filimontsev from Moscow, Russia. They’re both world-class sand masters who will be competing in Labor Day weekend’s big international U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge. This fantastic sand art will welcome visitors to the annual event!

The beautiful result of friendship between American and Russian artists is on display in San Diego!

Banner on fence at B Street Pier near Cruise Ship Terminal promotes the 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge and Dimensional Art Exposition in San Diego.
Banner on fence at B Street Pier near Cruise Ship Terminal promotes the 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge and Dimensional Art Exposition in San Diego.
Team USA, American Olympic gymnasts and a United States flag decorates one side of a sand sculpture at the foot of the B Street Pier in San Diego!
Team USA, American Olympic athletes and a United States flag decorate one side of a sand sculpture at the foot of the B Street Pier in San Diego!

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Preparing for another delicious day in Little Italy.

Typical early morning deliveries in Little Italy include kegs of beer and boxes of spirits.
Typical early morning deliveries in Little Italy include kegs of beer and boxes of spirits.

Another early morning stroll. Today: through Little Italy. Trucks were lined up on India Street, delivering to many popular restaurants. You like Italian? You like a friendly neighborhood with history and character? This is the place to go.

Food delivery truck advertisement promotes San Diego Restaurant Week, September 20-27.
Food delivery truck advertisement promotes San Diego Restaurant Week, September 20-27.
Pulling the dolly up a ramp, getting ready to retrieve potatoes and other fresh ingredients for a tasty Italian meal.
Pulling the dolly up a ramp, getting ready to retrieve potatoes and other fresh ingredients for a tasty Italian meal.
Plaque in sidewalk on Date Street declares A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat. Old New York Proverb
Plaque in sidewalk on Date Street declares: A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat. Old New York Proverb
A second plaque further down the sidewalk proclaims Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso. Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick. Spanish Proverb
A second plaque further down the sidewalk proclaims: Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso. Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick. Spanish Proverb
Little Italy street banner shows actor Danny DeVito enjoying a drink.
Little Italy street banner shows actor Danny DeVito enjoying a drink.
An umbrella and chairs that will soon be arranged for casual alfresco dining.
An umbrella and chairs that will soon be arranged for casual alfresco dining.
Lady inside Little Italy eatery is busy preparing for another delicious day. Buon Appetito.
Lady inside Little Italy eatery is busy preparing for another delicious day. Buon Appetito.

World’s top sand sculptors warm up in San Diego.

Dan Belcher from St. Louis, Missouri and Ilya Filimontsev from Moscow, Russia, work together on the big event's welcoming Team USA sand sculpture.
Dan Belcher from St. Louis, Missouri and Ilya Filimontsev from Moscow, Russia, work together on the big event’s welcoming “Team USA” sand sculpture.

The 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge and Dimensional Art Exposition is coming next weekend! Between this very special annual event, and the equally amazing Festival of Sail which will be held a short distance up the Embarcadero, the long Labor Day weekend is going to be awesome!

Today I walked along the waterfront in the warm sunshine to see if anything interesting was going on.

Not only has quarry sand been dumped in large piles along the B Street Pier, right next to the Cruise Ship Terminal, but sand sculptures which welcome visitors to the event were being readied by a few of the world’s top sand masters! I briefly met Dan Belcher, Ilya Filimontsev and Susanne Ruseler, three of the best, most talented sand sculptors on the planet! And all were really nice people! They and the other world-class sand artists who will compete at the event have won many top awards. Dan, alone, has won 14 world championships!

Ilya is new to the San Diego competition this year, and so is Susanne. When I spoke to Susanne, I remembered how Chris Guinto, several days before last year’s competition, told me his still unformed creation was secret. Susanne remarked that plans aren’t so much a secret–it’s that they’re only partially formed when the work begins. The act of sand sculpting is dynamic, and sometimes changes have to be made mid-creation for either artistic or structural reasons. I asked if she ever accidentally knocked down portions of a sand sculpture and she replied: “Yes!” But it’s something you get used to and work around. It’s just something one can expect when working with sand.

Funny. According to a notification I received from WordPress, today is the two year anniversary of Cool San Diego Sights. And during those two years, the most “liked” blog post is from last year’s U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge! You might enjoy seeing last year’s jaw-dropping entries!

The 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge is coming to San Diego's B Street Pier, next to the Cruise Ship Terminal, this Labor Day weekend!
The 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge is coming to San Diego’s B Street Pier, next to the Cruise Ship Terminal, this Labor Day weekend!
Dan is helping to create this non-competitive sculpture near the entrance to the 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge at Harbor Drive.
Dan is helping to prepare this sculpture near the entrance to the 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge at Harbor Drive.
These mounds of quarry sand from East County were dumped on the B Street Pier several days ago. They'll be used by the competing sand masters later this week.
These mounds of quarry sand from East County were dumped on the B Street Pier several days ago. They’ll be used by the competing sand masters later this week.
Susanne Ruseler, from the Netherlands, is another new competitor this year. She was super nice and talked for a bit.
Susanne Ruseler, from the Netherlands, is another new competitor this year. She was super nice and talked for a bit.
Susanne is carefully working on another cool sand sculpture for event visitors. I can't wait to see what she produces during the competition!
Susanne is carefully working on another cool sand sculpture for event visitors. I can’t wait to see what she produces during the competition!

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Photos of cool urban art in the Village of La Jolla.

Photographer and model next to One Pointed Attention, 2014, by artist Kelsey Brookes, in La Jolla.
Photographer and model next to One Pointed Attention, 2014, by artist Kelsey Brookes, on a wall in La Jolla.

Here are some photos of cool art seen while walking about the streets of La Jolla. More specifically, the Village of La Jolla–the central business and cultural district which is the heart of this wonderful community.

La Jolla is an affluent part of San Diego, so there seem to be art galleries wherever one roams. But there are also many eye-catching street murals and works of urban art.

This collection of photos is far from comprehensive. These are just photos taken during several semi-random walks around The Village (including today). That’s the way this blog usually operates!

Classic religious imagery floats above entrance to Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church in La Jolla.
Classic religious imagery floats above entrance to Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church in La Jolla.
A funny walrus and frightened fish along the roof of a shop on Pearl Street.
A funny walrus and frightened fish along the roof of a shop on Pearl Street.
Trashcan street art depicts Native American, whose headdress contains feathers spelling place names.
Trashcan street art depicts Native American, whose headdress contains feathers spelling place names.
Urban art on a La Jolla trashcan shows a boldly colorful Southwestern scene, with mountains and cacti.
Urban art on a La Jolla trashcan shows a boldly colorful Southwestern scene, with mountains and cacti.
A female face painted on a La Jolla garbage container.
A female face painted on a La Jolla garbage container.
Another similar face, composed of different hues.
Another similar face, composed of different hues.
This eye-boggling street mural on Fay Avenue is Sexy Cash, 2015, by Mark Bradford.
This eye-boggling street mural on Fay Avenue is Sexy Cash, 2015, by Mark Bradford.
Most street numbers on city buildings are plain and boring. Not 910 Prospect Street!
Most street numbers on city buildings are plain and boring. Not 910 Prospect Street!
Unusual human sculpture sits near the sidewalk outside La Jolla's Madison Gallery.
Unusual human sculpture sits near the sidewalk outside La Jolla’s Madison Gallery.
Another strange figure squats nearby.
Another strange figure squats nearby.
This cool horse outside a Madison Gallery window was created with large pieces of junk and old machine parts.
This cool horse outside a Madison Gallery window was created with large pieces of junk and old machine parts.
A close-up photo of the imaginative horse sculpture.
A close-up photo of the imaginative horse sculpture.
On Prospect Street, a long narrow mysterious mural and a single underwater eye. Whale, 2014, Nina Katchadourian.
On Prospect Street, a long narrow mysterious mural and a single underwater eye. Whale, 2014, Nina Katchadourian.
Some interesting metal artwork above a store entrance depicts a sailboat and palm trees.
Some interesting metal artwork above a store entrance depicts a sailboat and palm trees.
It's Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham! This fun art is outside the Legends Gallery in La Jolla, where popular children's book author Theodor Geisel lived.
It’s Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham! This fun art is outside the Legends Gallery in La Jolla, the town where popular children’s book author Theodor Geisel lived.
A canvas out on public display in front of the Contemporary Fine Art Gallery in the central business area sometimes called Village of La Jolla.
A canvas out on public display in front of the Contemporary Fine Art Gallery in the central business area sometimes called Village of La Jolla.
Someone walking down Herschel Avenue said she hated this giant mural! It's Blah, Blah, Blah, 2015, by Mel Bochner. Perhaps it gave her the blahs.
Someone walking down Herschel Avenue said she hated this giant mural! It’s Blah, Blah, Blah, 2015, by Mel Bochner. Perhaps it gave her the blahs.
I personally like this mural of a darkly glowing tall ship. at Sea, 2012, Ann Hamilton.
I personally like this mural of a darkly glowing tall ship. It’s titled “at Sea” and was created in 2012 by Ann Hamilton.
A cool fish dangles in front of the Herringbone Restaurant.
A cool fish dangles in front of the Herringbone Restaurant.
Large, unusual metal sculptures in front of the Tasende Gallery in La Jolla.
Large, unusual metal sculptures in front of the Tasende Gallery in La Jolla.
Hummingbird artwork on a bench near a sidewalk, and a rose.
Hummingbird artwork on a bench near a sidewalk, and a rose.
Hammering Man by Jonathan Borofsky at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego...in La Jolla. I believe years ago this motorized sculpture stood near America Plaza downtown.
Hammering Man by Jonathan Borofsky at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s location in La Jolla. I believe years ago this motorized sculpture stood near America Plaza downtown.
I don't know what this egg-like object is. If you do, please leave a comment!
I don’t know what this egg-like object is. If you do, please leave a comment! . . . According to Corey Lynn Fayman (read his novel Border Field Blues), the artist is Andy Goldsworthy!

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Kayakers vanish in mysterious La Jolla sea cave.

It's a beautiful day by the ocean in La Jolla. Some kayakers have noticed the entrance to a sea cave in the sandstone. Curious eyes spot them from above and watch the unfolding drama.
It’s a beautiful day by the ocean in La Jolla. Some kayakers have noticed the entrance to a sea cave in the sandstone. Curious eyes spot them from above and watch the unfolding drama.

Please forgive me for this imaginative little story. It’s hot today and perhaps my brain overheated.

The summer heat is why I went down to La Jolla this morning.  By the water it was thankfully a few degrees cooler. While I walked along the Pacific Ocean near La Jolla Cove, I watched some kayaks enter the nearby sea cave.

Upon studying my photographs, this short story emerged. For the exciting conclusion, please read the captions, beginning with the above first photo…

The kayakers can't resist a strong impulse to enter the cave. They turn carefully to peer into the darkness deep within the earth. There seems to be a strange blue light shimmering inside.
The kayakers can’t resist a strong impulse to enter the cave. They turn carefully to peer into the darkness deep within the earth. There seems to be a strange blue light shimmering inside.
The mysterious glow lures them into blackness and possible danger. As their kayaks seem to diminish, the weird light begins to intensify.
The mysterious glow lures them into vast blackness and possible danger. As their kayaks start to fade, the weird light intensifies…
Drawn forward into the unknown, the courageous kayakers paddle forward along the dancing sliver of light. They are explorers. Life is a great adventure.
Drawn forward into the unknown, the courageous kayakers paddle along the dancing beam of light. They are explorers. Life is a great adventure.
Beyond darkness lies the magical source of shining blue. They soon vanish–passing from one amazing world into another.
Beyond darkness lies the magical source of shining blue. They soon vanish–passing from one amazing world into another.

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