Little Gardens: Life in a Hard Place

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People talk about nature as if it were outside the city: “This weekend let’s get out into nature. Let’s go for a hike.” However, such statements create a division between humans and nature, as if we were somehow separate from the biological processes of the earth, an idea that stems from Judeo-Christian beliefs that the world was created for human beings: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” This dangerous notion leads us to treat nature like a park that can be visited, a product that can be marketed, a commodity that can be exploited.

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But nature is not outside the city. There is no border dividing our communities from the natural world. Life flourishes in the most inhospitable environments, including poisonous deep-sea vents with temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, so why not in the cracks of our sidewalks? To remind us of the continuity of nature in our urban landscapes, I love finding plants that reach sunlight in spite of our efforts to pave over and sterilize the earth.

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Guest Post on Save the Bay Blog: Biodiversity and Ronosaurus Rex’s Walk Around the San Francisco Bay

Save the Bay, the organization that did actually save the bay from plans to fill it in 60 percent to become a narrow shipping channel, invited me to write a guest post for their blog. I wrote about the biodiversity I saw–and didn’t see–on my walk around the San Francisco Bay. Check it out!

Crissy Field and the Presidio: A Favorite Place on Ronosaurus Rex’s Bay Walk

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(Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line, Photo by Ronosaurus Rex)

Walking through the forested Presidio, it’s easy to imagine that San Francisco was once covered with trees. Not so! Its sandy, shifting soil supported mostly low, ground-hugging plants, such as dune strawberry and lupine. One of the best places to see what San Francisco looked like before its transformation is the tidal marshes of Crissy Field, the first of my favorite places in my walk around the San Francisco Bay.

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Ronosaurus Rex’s Walk Around the San Francisco Bay

The End of a 350-Mile Journey

I have walked all around the San Francisco Bay at every accessible point, including islands, bridges, piers, and docks. You can see me below, jumping over the yellow line, marking the spot the walkway on the Golden Gate Bridge reaches land, the end of what was at least a 350 mile journey. Do you think I look pleased?

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(Photo by Omar Rodriguez Rodriguez. To my left, Deb Garfinkel, Gary Boren and Katie Fox)

Today, June 20, 2015, a group of friends–Omar Rodriguez Rodriguez, Gary Boren, Katie Fox, Deb Garfinkel, Erik Kessell–and I walked the last leg. We took a ferry to the Sausalito Ferry Landing, then walked along the beautiful waterfront to Fort Baker, on the north side of the bridge, where we had drinks at The Presidio Yacht Club Bar, sometimes known as Mike’s place. (“No,” the bartender said to one of my friends, “we don’t have iced tea. This is a bar.”) After beers and shots of tequila (and a diet coke), we climbed to the bridge and crossed the Golden Gate, and my walk was completed!

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Protomysteries: Precursors of Detective Fiction

This post contains extracts from proto-mysteries, predating Edgar Alan Poe’s Auguste Dupin stories, which popularized the genre. For an analysis of some of these sources (“The Three Princes of Serendip” and Zadig), tied into a history of story-telling and reading, see my essay “The Reading of Mystery and the Mystery of Reading.”

Susanna and the Elders

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Giovan Battista Tiepolo

The Book of Daniel, Chapter 13

As the story goes, a fair Hebrew wife named Susanna was falsely accused by lecherous voyeurs. As she bathes in her garden, having sent her attendants away, two lustful elders secretly observe the lovely Susanna. When she makes her way back to her house, they accost her, threatening to claim that she was meeting a young man in the garden unless she agrees to have sex with them.

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Abstract Art Reinterpreted in Photography

(The second of a two part series examining the influence of modern art on photography, following the post The Influence of Modern, Figurative Art on Ronosaurus Rex’s Photos.)

11553831416_28d3931b46_zAbstract painters have helped me to see the colors, textures and shapes around me, a way of seeing I have tried to capture in my photos. The impetus to represent the world abstractly stems from a high school trip to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. My classmates, I noticed, were attentive in the museum, but once they stepped outside, they stopped looking. “Art is only worthwhile,” I commented to a classmate, “if it teaches us to see the world more richly.”

Instagram gave me a handy tool to translate this abstract vision into photography. Often I tag my pictures with #abstract and nothing else, and #abstract is the name of a book of my photographs compiled by Omar Rodriguez-Rodriguez. In this post, I hope to give credit to some of the abstract artists who have influenced my photographs, either directly or indirectly.

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Influence of Modern, Figurative Art on Ronosaurus Rex’s Photos

instagram-anglesMy name is Ronosaurus Rex, and I am an Instrgramaddict. “Interested in painterly photographs,” read my profile previously. By “painterly,” I mostly mean modern art, from the Impressionists onward.

In comments, viewers sometimes name the artist whose paintings my photos resemble (“Picasso!”). I realized I should have acknowledged the inspirations myself. This post gives credit to some of the modern artists who have influenced my photos. Here I will cover figurative art, paintings with recognizable images. I will look at non-figurative, abstract paintings in a companion post: Abstract Art Reinterpreted in Photography.

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#abstract: A Book of Ronosaurus Rex’s Abstract Photographs

Photography freed the painter from the need to represent the world realistically, so images melted off the campus as modern art developed. These days most painters have returned to more naturalistic painting. Ironically, some photographers, myself included, have turned the lens to abstract subjects. Omar Rodriguez-Rodriguez put together a book of some of my abstract photographs, called #abstract. Now you can get your own copy at Blurb!
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Here is the description: #abstract is a colorful compilation of urban details too small, too quiet, too understated to be noticed by most people. Miniature urban gardens, spray painted letters, colorful leaves, spilled paint, reflections, gravel, grass, metal and rock, an abstract rendition of the invisible to render it visible. These photos are the nooks and crannies of our civilization, where natural meets artificial, where plants grow in human-made environments, where life interacts with the lifeless. Ronald B. Richardson, aka Ronosaurus Rex, travels the cities of the world, compiling for us undiscovered sights in a whimsical safari.

(See and read more about my photos in my posts Photo versus Metaphoto: Ronosaurus and Omarrr on Instagram and Reading the City as Text: San Francisco’s Urban Landscape. Read more about abstraction in Abstract Paintings are Meta-Paintings.)

The Venus of Interpretation: Susan Sontag is “Against Interpretation” and for the Sensual Love of Art

venus_of_willendorf_by_artofthemystic-d3glif3In the beginning, art was religion.

“The earliest experience of art,” Susan Sontag writes in “Against Interpretation,” “must have been that it was incantatory, magical” (Sontag 1). With her round belly and mammoth breasts, The Venus of Willendorf, one of the earliest known human figurines from 30,000 BCE, was some kind of invocation, whether of fertility, childbearing, sex, the harvest, or the earth we cannot know, but she is undeniably an invocation.

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