Friday, March 31, 2017

The former home of the “Mistress of Vikingsholm” in Reno

Lora Knights winter home in Reno's historic Powning Addition
Lora Knights winter home in Reno, designed by Frederic DeLongchamps
You certainly have seen the house on your stroll alongside the Truckee river or on your way to the Hub Coffee Roasters: it was once the home of Lora Josephine Knight, known as the Mistress of Vikingsholm. The house at 615 Jones Street is said to have served as her winter home, when Vikingsholm, her Scandinavian Dream home, at Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay was snow-buried.

Although not a landmark like Vikingsholm, Lora's house at the junction of Jones Street with Riverside Drive has its place in Reno's history [1]:

Lora's Reno “winter home” as she called it,the Frederic DeLongchamps-designed house at 615 Jones Street, also served as stopping-off place for her friends on their way to and from Vikingsholm. Located in Reno's historic Powning Addition, the structure is currently occupied by R&R Partners, an advertising and public relations firm, and is a feature of the annual Reno Harvest of Homes tour conducted by the Historic Reno Preservation Society.

Lora Knight also owned a winter home in Santa Barbara [2]. I am not sure if there was a time overlap, during which she had two winter homes. But one may be right to assume that her “little Reno house” was not only a stopping-off place for her friends, but for herself as well: a short stay to continue to Emerald Bay.

References and more to explore
[1] Philip I. Earl: Lora Josephine Knight: Mistress of Vikingsholm. Nevada in the West, Fall & Winter, 2016; pp. 10-12.
[2] Vikingsholm: Tahoe's Hidden Castle [].

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Basque Sheepherder Monument at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, Nevada

The Basque Sheepherder Monument with UNR's hillside letter “N” in the background
The Basque Sheepherder Monument is located northwest of the University of Reno, Nevada, surrounded by a few trees and sagebrush next to the Rancho San Rafael disc golf course. This is where the hilly landscape of the lower Peavine area with its many hiking and mountain biking trails merges with Reno neighborhoods. The monument platform offers fantastic views of the Truckee Meadows and the slopes of the Peavine mountain including the white hillside-letter “N”.

The 23-feet tall bronze sculpture is the work of the Basque sculptor Nestor Basterretxea, who gave the monument the title “Bakardade,” or “Solitude” [1,2]. It takes an attention-paying view of the relatively abstract bronze column to see what it depicts. The sculpture shows a shepherd carrying a lamb over his shoulder under a full moon.
Map of the Unites States indicating Basque Settlements
The first generation of Basque immigrants to the United States were mostly sheepherds. The bronze map of the United States at the base of the sculpture depicts areas in which Basques settled and their descendents live. Basque historic sites are found in various and remote places throughout the west-American landscape; for example at Whiskey Creek Camp, a former Basque sheepherder's camp in the Branite Chief Wilderness west of the Five Lakes basin.

Basques are diaspora people living in may parts of the globe. Even the Basque Country, their homeland in northeast Spain and southwest France, may be considered as part of the diaspora, as the out-of-Asia theory is supported by scientific evidence. On the back cover of the book by Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe in the series “Images of America“ with the title “The Basques of Reno and the Northeastern Sierra we read:

Thanks to DNA research, the Basque of the Pyrenees Mountains are no longer the “mystery people.” Thirty-five thousand years ago, they traveled from Central Asia to Western Europe, where they still live, speaking a language unlike any other. After helping Columbus discover America, Basques spread out from the Pampas to California and beyond into the Sierra and Reno, Nevada.

New plaques with names of Basque sheepherders
The original bronze plaques at the monument, tributing to the story of Basque emigration to the Unites States, were stolen a few years ago. The plaques have been reconstructed and are now replaced by steel plaques thanks to support from the Washoe County Open Space and Regional Parks Commission [2].

Getting to The National Monument To The Basque Sheepherder

Take exit 13 on Interstate 80 in Reno and head north on Virginia Street. Pass the intersection of Virginia street and North McCarran Blvd. and then turn left (west) to get to the parking area at the Reno Sports Complex (2975 North Virginia Street). Park for free. Find the trail map kiosk in the northwest corner of the parking area, where the disc golfers enter “their” territory. A short, northwest-bound trail is your access to the monument platform.
Alternately, if you like to combine strolling and hiking, walk through the Wilbur D. May Arboretum toward Herman's Pond and further to the McCarran underpass. Pass through and hike uphill between the grove and the disc golf  sites.

Continue exploring Reno-Tahoe.

References and more to explore

[1] Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe: The Basques of Reno and the Northeastern Sierra. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina, 2009.
[2] Basque Sheepherder Monument: Restoration [].

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci resting on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno

“Inside the Mind of da Vinci” sculpture at University of Nevada, Reno (UNR)
A giant head lies on the snow-covered lawn between the Virginia Street parking garage and the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center: the head of a Giant of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci [1-3]. This larger-than-life sculpture is made out of  diverse materials (concrete, bronze, metal, glass). The snow above the beard is temporary; it's not left-over shaving foam. As I understand, Leonardo never shaved. He did not portray himself, but every portrait made by other artists shows him with his magnificient flowing beard [4]. And now here it flows on a Nevada campus about halfway-around-the-world away from Leonardo da Vinci's original places of creativity.

Although Leonardo was interested in both body and mind, this sculpture by artist Mischell Riley and her team wants to highlight the mind. The title of this sculpture project is “Inside the Mind of da Vinci.” The back of the head allows you to walk into the open head and get in touch with its inner sides, which reveal etchings of Leonardo's sketches and writings; a section of which is shown below.

The da Vinci head had its debut in the desert: at the Burning Man 2016 event, which had its art theme inspired by the Italian Renaissance [5]. A flyer next to the sculpture outlines further details and the travel route of the head:

Fresh off the playa of Burning Man 2016, this larger than life sculpture head of Leonardo da Vinci weighs seven tons and is made of concrete, bronze, recycled glass and metal. Walk behind the sculpture to view some of da Vinci's sketches and writings and draw inspiration from this famous polymath. Imagine what your mind can do! Artist Mischell Riley created the sculpture prototype using 3D scanning and print to-scale modeling in the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library. Inside the Mind of Da Vinci was unveiled at the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center on November 17, 2016. The exhibit will move to a permanent home in Carson City in May 2017.

Seven tons of head. Maybe one ton of beard? And a weigh-less mind that still creates heavy impacts on the flows and directions of our current endeavours in the arts and sciences.

References and more to explore
[1] Nevada Sagebrush: Look inside the mind of da Vinci [].
[2] University of Nevada, Reno: Inside the Mind of da Vinci [].
[3] Mischell Riley: Inside the Mind of da Vinci [].
[4] Bearded Legends - Leonardo da Vinci [].
[5] Burning Man: 2016 Art Theme: Da Vinci's Workshop []. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Reno's historic post office found a new beginning

Historic United States Post Office, Reno, Nevada
Reno's downtown post office between South Virginia Street and South Center Street has been underused for many years after a Vassar Street facility became the city's main post office in 1975. Finally, the United States Postal Service sold this landmark structure, which now has been restored to its former glory.

At the bottom of the northwest corner of the gray building you will find the name of the architect engraved: Frederic De Longchamps—variously spelled Frederick DeLongchamps and Fredric DeLongchamp elsewhere. Reno-born in 1882 and the official Nevada State Architect since 1919, he not only designed buildings in Washoe County and Nevada, but also in California and Florida [1].

The downtown post office was built south of the Truckee River between 1931 and 1934. Longchamps designed it in a modern art deco style. The exterior is ornamented with motif panels. A meander band wraps around the former bureau cuboid. Rock-sculptured versions of the Postal Service's eagle logo “soar” majestically near the roof. A small panel, displayed within a basement exhibit, describes the Attention to Detail for the composed interior design in the following words:

“The flooring installed throughout the building is composed of approximately forty tons of Tennessee maple. The intricate inlaid pattern on the ground floor was created without the use of a single nail. The lobby is an exuberant showcase of black marble, terrazzo floors, and gleaming cast aluminum details. Federal emblems include American eagles and banners punctuated by stars and stripes. Above the interior doors inside each entryway are images of period airplanes and the winged Roman messenger god Mercury, commemorating progress and commerce.” 

Underground in Reno, NevadaA local development group, 50 South Virginia LLC, has ownership of the once federal downtown building since August 2012. The group carefully restored the original skylit atrium and opened The Basement [2]. The latter features community-oriented work areas and commercial spaces, where you can get coffee, juices or pralines and may see a barber to update your hair style. A Basement board says: “This retail experience is an urban fabric of local merchants who evoke an alternative lifestyle. Welcome to Reno's new hangout.” I like the broad, lighted work tables in the community area as well as the living-room sides with smaller tables crafted from machinery scrap with transparent plates on top. Here, you may want to lay out and discuss your next biggest little project or play your favorite board game—all underground.   

The post office is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places [3].

References and more to explore
[1] Online Nevada Encyclopedia: Frederick DeLongchamps [].
[2] Mella Harmon: Reno Downtown Post Office [].
[3] Photographies by the National Register of Historic Places [].

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beniamino Bufano art exhibit in Reno: animal sculptures, saints and messages of peace

Benny Bufano exhibit in Reno
Under the title So be it in Peace, a selection of art pieces by the Italian American sculptor Beniamino Bufano (1898-1970) were presented between December 17, 2015 and March 6, 2016 at arte italia (at 442 Flint Street) in Reno's Arts DistrictBenny Bufano—so his anglicized name—is best known for his large-scale, peace-promoting monuments, standing outdoors. The arte italia exhibit in the upper floor of the historical, 1914-built Joseph Giraud House showed some of Bufano's smaller sculptures characterized by their simple, beautifully rounded shapes; for example a smooth, playful penguin. These are masterpieces of their genre.

In addition to sculptures, the exhibit included paintings, sketches, work on paper and mosaics.

One of Bufano's art & peace inspirations was St. Francis of Assisi.  A small black granite composite figure of the saint was displayed at the exhibit.

Bufano was a life-long pacifist and modernist with great respect for humanitarians and peace activist of the presence and the past. Not a materialist, he nevertheless used high-quality materials for his art. A displayed board said:

Though  Bufano cared little about material possessions, even wearing the same threadbare suit for years on end, he demanded that the materials for his art be of the highest quality. He would only use the finest marble shipped from the quarries of Italy, the most vibrantly colored mosaic tiles, and only pure stainless steel and copper. His efforts at producing only the finest works continued up to his death, which occurred on August 16, 1970 while working in his Minna street studio in San Francisco.

This was the greatest little fine-arts exhibit in the Biggest Little City.

More to explore
arte italia: Beniamino Bufano [].

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tahoe: A Visual History

The exhibition Tahoe: A Visual History in Reno's Nevada Museum of Art surveys two centuries of cultural creativity and recreational experiences on and around Lake Tahoe.  This historic exhibition features hundreds of objects including paintings, sketches, prints, postcards, photography and Native American art and devices. Basket collections, Bierstadt sceneries, historical maps—you'll find it here.

The Tahoe Watershed by Maya Lin, literally pinned to the large wall of the contemporary gallery, introduces visitors to the larger Tahoe area. Lake Tahoe and its tributaries are “nailed” onto the white wall by straight pins. Lin's sculptured floor installation with the title Secchi Point features oversized glass water droplets, representing annual rainfall totals in the Tahoe basin over the past 50 years. The nearby fiberglass sphere Around the Vast Blue by Russell Crotty incorporates passages from Mark Twain's Roughing It. The Twain text is written onto the mountain slopes surrounding Lake Tahoe; all projected onto the hanging sphere. Tom Killion's woodcut print Lake Tahoe from Maggie's Peak, Desolation Wilderness (2006) provides a Lake Tahoe overview—back in time without any buildings or roads.
Lake Tahoe's southwest shore

One common theme of the exhibition is water, naturally. Between deep blue and snow white, water is presented in all its forms and settings: lakes, lakelets, creeks, rivulets, waterfalls, ice, snow cover and clouds. Edwin Deakin's Cascade Falls Near Lake Tahoe (oil on canvas, 1877) gives us a nineteenth-century view of a pristine waterfall in a Sierra conifer forest. Gregory Kondos zooms in and depicts Emerald Bay (oil-on-canvas, 2001). Compare this painting with Ansel Adam's gelatine silver print from 1952 with the same title. In contrast to the solitude expressed by these artists, Thomas Bachand shows the increasing presence of people on the lake in Three Seconds on the Fourth of July, Emerald Bay (2003), with a leisurely armada of boats cruising around Fannette Island.

Phyllis Shafer is present with Lake Tahoe from the East Shore (2011) and Above Cave Rock (2014)—both oil-on-canvas paintings with her characteristic clouds that swirl across the sky, harmoniously resonating with the lakescape and landscape below.

The Lake Tahoe's Golden Age section of the exhibit features 19th century painters such as Raymond D. Yelland, William Keith, Thomas Hill, Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Ferdinand Schafer, Edwin Deakin, Norton Bush, Julian Rix, Lorenzo P. Latimer and Frederick A. Butman.

Since I am living in Reno, I have often hiked up to Church's Pond off the Jones Whites Loop Trail. For a long time, I was wondering what this hidden body of water in the shadow of Mount Rose is named after. The pond name honors James Edward Church, whose gelatine silver print Lake Tahoe from the Summit of Mount Rose (circa 1910) is part of the visual history exhibition. A note next to the photograph introduces the UNR professor:

Mount Rose Summit (2013)
Dr. James Church, an early climate scientist and cofounder of the Nevada Museum of Art, pioneered the field of snow surveying on Mount Rose beginning in 1906. He took this panoramic photograph of Lake Tahoe from the top of Mount Rose around 1910.

Wow! A branch of climate research, more relevant today than ever before, originated in Reno over hundred years ago.

The Tahoe exhibit not only brings art and science together, but features many other fields of human activity and enterprise around “The Lake” including  the traditional craftsmanship of the Washoe people and also sports, tourism, and architecture. The hypothetical study model of Frank Lloyd Wright's Summer Colony and his pencilled cabins and barges stand for a dream that never came true in the Wright-way, but captures the human longing for nature and leisure associated with the imagination Lake Tahoe triggers:  

Having visited Lake Tahoe once, and only very briefly, Frank Lloyd Wright designed one of the most remarkable architectural additions to Lake Tahoe in 1923. The Summer Colony, as he referred to it, was never realized.

On the bright side, a panoramic and inspiring Tahoe exhibition has successfully been realized. It is going to be closed January 10, 2016, and will leave many memorable traces with all who came for a visit.

References and more to explore
[1] Nevada Museum of Art: Tahoe: A Visual Tour [].
[2] Lake Tahoe News: Museum exhibit captures Tahoe in its totality [].
[3] KQED Arts: From Baskets to Bierstadt, Tahoe's Visual History Stuns [].

Friday, November 20, 2015

An arts and music initiative in Reno's Midtown: The Holland Project

The permanent home of the Holland Project in Reno, Nevada
With the mission Art, music, culture. By young people, for young people the Holland Project offers diverse workshop opportunities to Reno's Midtown community and beyond [1]. The recently bought building at 140 Vesta Street in south Midtown provides a permanent home for the youth-based alternative arts organization, where workshops are hosted, music events take place and a go-to art space invites the public to visit visual exhibits. The Holland Project Gallery has a Blogspot site [2]. The Holland building is located in a performance-oriented, cultural and educational neighborhood including the Reno Little Theater (RLT), the Stremmel Gallery, the Rainshadow Community Charter High School and other places to meet, entertain and interact.   

Don't feel excluded while pondering the above by-young, for-young mission. The Holland Project is run by young people, but caters to all free-spirited age groups, as their site with posted events promises [3]: The Holland Project Always all-ages. All the time.  

References and more to explore
[1] About the Holland Project [].
[2] The Holland Project Gallery [].
[3] The Holland Project Blog [].