RAMBLING ROSCOE: Public art to crow about

PHOTO: The Cyclist, by Larry Morris. Photo by Mary Ellsworth.

RAMBLING ROSCOE • ANNE KAISER and MARY ELLSWORTH

Roscoe, Takoma Park’s iconic rooster, forayed into Silver Spring last August to study the public art – as reported in The Voice. Since the year 2000, Roscoe himself has been public art. Takoma Park’s famous feral rooster was immortalized in bronze and placed atop a Takoma Old Town pedestal. The stationary statuary lifestyle is frustrating for formerly free-ranging fowl. So once again Roscoe ceased his stewing and spent a day sight-seeing in Silver Spring.

Before his joy ride, Roscoe investigated why Silver Spring has so many art-filled public spaces.  He found that Montgomery County, under the Montgomery County Public Art Guidelines, has promoted significant works of public art in Silver Spring.  Under a 1974 Zoning Ordinance, public art is an amenity to be provided by developers in exchange for higher density building in downtown areas.  The idea is to create a more attractive urban environment while increasing open space, affordable housing, farmland protection, environmental conservation and . . . public art!  Silver Spring, as well as Bethesda, White Flint and Wheaton have taken advantage of this option.  

Fully educated about the ‘why,’ our plucky Roscoe shanghaied his bicycling biddy and wheeled off to explore more sculpture.  The Voice is proud to again present Roscoe’s travel journal.

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Roscoe eggs readers to pause and take a closer look at these sculptures as they pass by. This time Roscoe visited six sculptures in midtown Silver Spring. Some portions of these art descriptions below are quoted from the Arts and Entertainment pages of Discover Silver Spring.

THE MAYOR

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Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.35.30 AM  Well ruffle my feathers!  Could this be my long lost brother?  We have so much in common. Before being cast in bronze, we both walked the streets and were homeless.  The “Mayor” was homeless for 25 years; that is more than a lifetime for a rooster – I really admire him.  Glad the kind folks of Silver Spring found a coop for you, Norman.  Now there is something to crow about –  we both have these eggs-traordinary tributes!

A bust of the unofficial “Mayor” of Silver Spring sits contemplatively at 8219- 8221 Georgia Ave, at the entrance to Mayor Lane, an alley named for Norman Lane.  Norman was a homeless man who lived in Silver Spring in the 1980’s, collecting hand-outs of money and food. Norman Lane walked the streets, took odd jobs around the neighborhoods and handed out flowers he found in the Bell Flowers’ dumpster.  

Norman was a well known figure in the community, and his enjoyment of life has been immortalized in this bronze bust created by artist and friend, Fred Folsom.  The plaque beneath the sculpture reads, “Remembering the Caring Kindhearted Forbearance of the People of Silver Spring.”  This is a tribute, not only to a local legend, but to the citizens of Silver Spring like Robert Phillips, owner of the Silver Spring Auto Body Shop, who kept a cot and a hot plate in the garage as a permanent home for Lane.  Norman died in 1987. This monument was erected in 1991.  

Park Bench

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Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.35.30 AM  Do you think these birds are reading the Takoma Silver Spring VOICE?  I can’t tell because I never learned to read. Like many journalists who now are trying to scratch out a living in the print medium, I had to scratch out a living.  I scratched around the ground looking for tasty treats.  Which reminds me . . . these guys have very beautiful feet.  I’ve never seen such beautiful feet.  Remind you of anyone’s feet you know?

On the quiet little corner of Wayne and Dixon Avenues there is a small park space with two abstract sculptures by artist Larry Morris.  The first, “Park Bench” shows three commuters with triangular bodies and heads, leisurely sitting on a park bench. The left figure holds a briefcase in his lap, the middle figure holds a briefcase in his lap and reads a newspaper, and right figure reads a newspaper.  They appear comfortable, unhurried, waiting for . . . the next bus maybe?  They’ve been waiting there awhile – since 1988 when they were installed.  The 4.5’ x 6’ sculpture is painted black and rests on a low concrete foundation.

The Cyclist

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Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.35.30 AM  I abandoned  my bicycle basket to try riding on the handlebars with The Cyclist.  He may look like a speed beast, but we made no headway. I didn’t lose my head over it.  He had a lot of sharp corners and hard edges. What’s the angle the artist is going for? It’s a hard-boiled life?

The second sculpture in the Wayne & Dixon Avenues park depicts a cyclist speeding along with his long scarf flying gloriously out behind.  The piece captures the essence of why people love to bike.  The sharp angles on the bike and rider, along with the rider’s scarf whipping in the wind, depict the ideal bike ride as speedy and fun.  Artist Larry Morris works primarily in steel using angular shapes, particularly the pyramid, as a figurative form.  His art has evolved into whimsical representations of life in a geometric format, containing multiple levels of meaning as well as distilled energy or movement.  

According to the Discover Silver Spring web site, “Park Bench uses floating rectangles to capture, in the midst of chaos, a freeze framed moment of order.”  Juxtaposed is the Bicyclist riding on inverted and right side up triangles in an energetic race saluting how thrilling riding a bike can be. This was Roscoe’s favorite sculpture.  He’s a great devote of bicycling as we all know… birds of a feather, and all that.   

Petalos Reflejantes (Reflective Petals)

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Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.35.30 AM  As I came in for a landing, I thought for sure I was in luck – gigantic chickens!  It has been so long since I’ve seen a nice plump good looking chick. There they were!  Big beautiful pullets with outstretched wings!  Alas, the yolk’s on me –  this was no hen party.  Jumpin’ gibblets! Well, according to the Discover Silver Spring web site, this piece is “viewed best close-up in this intimate space”, so I’m getting up real close here. Not going to lay that egg again!

Wayne Avenue Plaza is a small oasis in the hustle and bustle of modern urban life and a welcome respite to pedestrian commuters.  Prominent in this space is artist Wilfredo Valladares’ steel sculpture of lotus leaves and petals, “Pétalos Reflejantes” (Reflective Petals), This piece was commissioned as a joint venture between Montgomery County and Rob Sugar of Aurus Design.  “The reflective qualities of the polished steel, in combination with the geometric and organic forms, act as a visual metaphor “reflecting” the changes in Silver Spring for past, present and future generations.”  

Wilfredo, born in Honduras, is an artist and educator, who came to the US seeking political asylum during a time of conflict in his country.  “Wilfredo’s work is designed to cross boundaries and to move beyond the traditional paradigm of cross-cultural art.”

The ARC

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Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.35.30 AM  Cock-eyed Capons! Are we on top of a shark?  After all, we are very close to the Discovery building which often sprouts shark fins and protruding jaws.  Is this one that got away?  Call Henny Penny to spread the word!  Oh . . . no, it’s just The Arc.  Here I’ve gone off half-cocked again. This one I’m not getting over easy.

 
In a small out of the way corner on 1215 Fidler Lane, this sculpture inhabits a charming brick courtyard surrounded by benches and covered arbors.  By its color and shape it might remind you of a rock formation in the Arizona desert.  The tall straight sides of the granite are smooth and pleasing to touch.  With hues of rust and pink, The Arc blends with the color scheme of the brick courtyard, producing an unexpectedly tranquil space, despite it being so close to busy Colesville Road.  “The piece was originally conceived by artists Thom Ashcroft and David Chung. The stone benches in the courtyard were also designed by the artists to complement the sculpture.”

Sligo Trees

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Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.35.30 AM  Roostin’ Roosters!  What’s up with this tree? It was difficult but I was able to find an itty-biddy perch.  I can’t imagine taking a nap here. I hope I’m not barking up the wrong tree. Ha ha ha!  A rooster barking . . . that’s a cackle!

Sligo Trees, a sculpture by Silver Spring’s own Richard Lorr, has graced the front of Pyramid Atlantic for the past three years.  Created in 2012 of mild steel (steel containing a small percentage of carbon, strong and tough but not readily tempered), Lorr experimented with using repoussé technique to impart the texture of bark in the steel.  He used a ball peen hammer on 225 pounds of flat 4’ x 8’ plate of steel, creating the trunk of a tree in two pieces that curve in around each other.  The partially offset sides create a pleasing negative space in between, which draws the viewer close, to peer inside, in the way that a hollow in a living tree invites you to explore inside.

Lorr says the piece was inspired by the beautiful trees of Sligo Creek, which led him to try other representations of trees as well.  A smaller and lighter sculpture, an abstraction called Little Sapling is also displayed near the street in front of Pyramid Atlantic.  Lorr comments “Sligo Trees was one of three sculptures I made using repoussé techniques on mild steel.  The use of mild steel is somewhat unusual because the steel is much stronger and much more resistant than the softer more malleable metals that are typically used in this process, such as copper, bronze, pewter and silver. A number of people doubted it could be done.”  He certainly did do it, and quite successfully.  Sligo Trees is a beautiful and interesting piece that evokes the majesty and endurance of our forest giants. At the same time, incomplete and truncated, it cries out for their protection and conservation.

The Fenton Cafe

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Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.35.30 AM  Looking at art can make one very hungry, especially a rambling rooster, so I directed my bicycle chauffeur to ride straight to the Fenton Cafe.  Well feather my nest!  That crepe looks wonderful and I hope it is for me! That’s the kind of chicken feed I like! And I really love the chef’s hair, don’t you?  Do you think she chose that color in my honor – have I become a trend setter?

At 8311 Fenton Street, the family-owned Fenton Cafe is one of Silver Spring’s best hidden treasures. Take one step inside the door and you’ll find yourself in front of the cook, Yadan Terefe, watching her work on her special cook surface where you get to see your crepe being made. The Fenton Cafe has been serving up breakfast, brunch and snack crepes since 2010.  A wide selection of crepes either sweet or savory is offered, plus Italian coffee served in a cozy cafe space with a small seating area. This Ethiopian-owned French creperie tucked away on Fenton Street can satisfy your cravings any time of the day.