There is something so natural, so organic in the shape and design of a mobile. The balance and proportion, the delicate play of this original kinetic art has a certain timeless quality. That said, it’s hard to believe that this most natural of kinetic delights was first conceived by American sculpture Alexander Calder in the 1930’s. Born into a family of artists, his mother was a painter, both his grandfather and father were sculptors, Calder studied mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. After which he held several engineering jobs thereafter including working for a time on a passenger ship that sailed between New York and San Francisco, before retreating to the woods of Aberdeen, Washington where he worked as a time keeper at a logging camp. Loving the nature but dissatisfied with the work, Calder returned to New York City to pursue a career in the family vocation, art.
In 1926 Calder moved to Paris where he met fellow artist and lifelong friend Joan Miró, as well as other avant-garde artists including Marcel Duchamp and Jean Arp. His earliest creations were toys made of wood and wire. Known as Cirque Calder, his first major work won him praise from his fellow artists as well as the general public who flocked to see this miniature circus. Calder designed it to fit conveniently in a suitcase. The simple construction of Cirque Calder held the seeds for his what was to be his greatest innovation. He started by working on a kind of sculpture that would be motor driven. It was these initial works of moving leaves, birds and fish that Marcel Duchamp famously named “mobiles.” It was the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, and his good friend Miró that led him to embrace the sensibilities of abstract art, thus abandoning both the images from nature and the motor. All this, combined with his engineering background allowed him to break free from the static art of the past.
While Calder went on to create large, even monumental sculptures (the ones that don’t move are known as stabiles) as well as painting and jewelry, this prolific artist is best known for his mobiles.
Fall has arrived and for many of us that means that cooler winds are blowing the wind sculptures in our backyards. For those of us living in New England who are just coming off a cooler than average summer, and still have last years brutal winter fresh in our minds, the big question is just what kind of winter can we expect?
I recently overheard a conversation at a local coffee shop. The subject was, what else, the weather.
“Well you know what they say. A cool summer usually precedes a very cold winter.”
“Who exactly is they,” their friend asked.
“I’m not really sure, the Old Farmer’s Almanac, maybe?”
That’s when I thought I’d see what the revered “Old Farmer” had to say when it comes to what we might all expect this winter. But first, did you know that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is the oldest continuously published periodical in the US? Originally known as The Farmer’s Almanac, It was first published in 1792. According to wikipedia, the founder of the Almanac Robert B. That’s when I thought I’d see what the revered “Old Farmer” had to say when it comes to what we might all expect this winter. But first, did you know that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is the oldest continuously published periodical in the US? Originally known as The Farmer’s Almanac, It was first published in 1792. According to wikipedia, the
founder of the Almanac Robert B. Thomas “studied solar activity, astronomy cycles and weather patterns and used his research to develop a secret forecasting formula, which is still in use today.” Thomas “studied solar activity, astronomy cycles and weather patterns and used his research to develop a secret forecasting formula, which is still in use today.”
A quick trip to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website confirmed what I’d overheard to be true. “Brrrrrr!” OFA was predicting a “bitter cold” winter with “heavy” snow for New England. The Forecast Here’s what the OFA’s is saying for winter 2014 - 2015 for the rest of the nation.
Regarding Temperature, the word is that three quarters of the nation should expect colder than normal temps with the Great Lakes and the Northern Plains experiencing the coldest conditions in late January into early February. Temps in these places could go as low as minus 40. Both coasts are expected to be only slightly more temperate, meaning near normal conditions.
As for precipitation, the Pacific Northwest, some of the Southwestern states and the Northern Plains can expect near normal amounts of precipitation. While the upper mid-west and the Great Lakes Region are likely to experience below normal precipitation - most likely due in part to that extreme cold. The central and southern plains should see above normal amounts of precipitation. The OFA tells us that ten days in January along with the first week of February have been “red flagged” for the Atlantic seaboard to experience harsh winter weather. This means heavy snow and strong winds. Another “red flag” has been
planted on mid-March for the nation’s midsection and the east coast to experience more “wintery”
One open question is the return of El Nino, This phenomenon is caused by the warm Pacific air currents. An El Nino could provide great relief to drought ravaged California and other Southern States. It could even mean slightly warmer temperatures resulting in more rain, less snow and cold to the north and east. The El Nino effect is strongest from December to April. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
A couple more fun facts about the OFA.
• The Farmers Almanac became the Old Farmers Almanac in 1832, when Robert B. Thomas, who served as it’s first editor for fifty years, added “Old” to the name to celebrate the fact his publication had beat out all other competitors.
• Ever wonder why there’s a whole in upper left hand corner of every copy of the OFA? Thomas decided to drill a hole in the corner of each copy to make it easier for the user to hang it on a nail or thread a string through it.
• While the OFA has been published steadily from it’s birthplace in Dublin, NH from it’s beginning there was nearly an unexpected hiatus during World War II. Apparently a German spy who had been arrested in New York was found to have a copy of the OFA in his pocket. According to the US Office of Censorship’s voluntary code of Wartime Practices, Weather was listed as one of several subjects which may be of value to the enemy. To ensure that their long history of publication went unbroken the OFA substituted weather indicators for their in-depth forecasts from 1943 through the end of the war in 1945.
The cool breezes that gently spin our “Spinning Leaves” is a mystery to most of us. The way our kinetic sculptures capture the wind is almost magical. Of course most of us have also seen the extraordinary power of the wind from a Hurricane, or the devastation caused by a Tornado. What causes the wind to blow?
First and foremost is the difference in air temperature. We all know heat rises. When the sun heats the earth it warms the air above it causing it to rise. Cool air replaces the rising hot air and we have wind. You can observe this in the ripples that form on a lake as the rising sunwarms the early morning air.
Looking at the wind on a global scale we see this hot air rising from the equator and moving north. As it cools it falls back to the earth’s surface. This atmospheric circulation pattern known as a Hadley Cell - low pressure and converging winds, plus something known as the Coriolis effect - produces what are known as tropical easterlies or “trade winds.”
The Coriolis effect - stay with me - is the deflection of winds moving along the surface of the Earth to the right of the direction of the earth’s rotation in the Northern hemisphere, and to the left of the Earth’s rotation in the Southern Hemisphere. This can be seen in those satellite pictures of a large cyclones where winds around the center will appear to move counter clockwise in the North, and clockwise in the south.
This combination of temperature and barometric pressure - air bumping into air and the earths surface - generates winds of different speeds. High barometric pressure produces calm weather, whereas low barometric pressure results in unsettled weather and higher wind speeds. So next time you’re enjoying the simple play of your Hypnartic Artworks wind sculpture, think of the complexity blowing in that wind.
Yes, it’s Autumn and nothings says fall like Mum’s. Chrysanthemums, that is. You needn’t look
far. With nearly 40 species and a wide range of shapes and colors, they are everywhere. These lively flowers originally from East Asia are a hardy happy sign that cooler weather doesn’t have to shorten the life of your garden. Gardeners will frequently tell you that if you want to make a big statement, there’s no better way than with mums.
While mums appear later in the year the best time to plant them is in the spring. You’ll find them available as annuals or perennials. Note that annual fall plantings leave the longevity of your blooms tentative at best. While spring planted annuals will guarantee you marvelous colors each fall. Another distinction to be aware of when it comes to mums is the difference between Florist mums and Hardy mums. Florist mums are a hybrid and are less likely to do well in the garden. Lastly, while mums flourish in a cooler weather, they still require a good six hours of sunlight each day.
Growing and Pinching Mums
Young spring mums will require some pinching to encourage branching and more blooms. Learn more about how to make the most of these fall favorites here.