Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Author Paul Caranci


Leave a comment on today’s post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you and entry into the Grand Prize giveaway at the end of the month! (Print copies for US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital copy of the book.)

Monumental Providence

Public art is everywhere, but, nowhere in Rhode Island is there a greater concentration of the sculptures, statues, monuments and memorials that constitute public art, than in its capital city of Providence. We see them dotting the landscape as we drive to work, walk to the store, or enjoy a day at the park. They are all around us. Yet, some of these artistic masterpieces seem to hide in plain view with thousands of otherwise unsuspecting and pre-occupied passerby walking or riding past each day without even as much as a notice. Rhode Island School of Design Assistant Professor of Sculpture, Richard Jarden, noted the irony when he, in 1980, so profoundly wrote “…Public sculpture is very difficult to see.  On the immediate level, what is going on around it, behind it and sometimes on it can be as engaging as, or often more engaging than, the sculpture itself.  We pass by sculptures every day without noticing them because they are mute, frozen helplessly in time, while we have the ability to move, even to move away.”

Sometimes, however, we do notice the art. We look at it, study it, get up close to it, and walk away from it scratching our heads wondering what in the world we have just seen. It happens frequently, and, in fact, it was just that scenario that prompted us to write Monumental Providence: Legends of History in Sculpture, Statuary, Monuments and Memorials. The book chronicles all 94 permanent pieces of public art on display in the city and while some may be self-explanatory, others might need some interpretation before the true beauty of the work can be appreciated.

Take for example those three impressionistic figures standing upon a pond frond that is a prominent feature in Frazier Park, a small two-tiered park located just off Benefit St. on the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design. You’ve probably seen it, you may have admired it, but you very likely have no idea what it represents.

This 1963 treasure of Sculptor Gilbert Franklin was a gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth, Chairwoman of RI School of Design’s Division of Fine Arts and descendant of one of the institution’s founders. The bronze work of art brings to life a piece of Greek Mythology. According to legend, the musician Orpheus had the ability to charm anyone with his music. Overcome with grief upon discovering that his wife Eurydice had died of a viper bite he descends to the depths of hell to plead for his wife’s return. So strong is the power of his music that it overcomes death itself and the devil agrees to allow Eurydice to return to earth on the condition that Orpheus walk in front of her and not look back until both he and his wife have reached the upper world. As he enters the world of the living, an anxious Orpheus looks back at Eurydice forgetting that she too must have entered the upper world before he could look back. She immediately vanishes from his site, forever cast back into Hades. The sculpture depicts Orpheus watching the guide Hermes lead Eurydice back into death.Caranci Orpheus

The sculpture entitled “Orpheus Ascending” depicts an anxious and horrified Orpheus looking back as his wife Eurydice is led back into hell by the devil

The myth is a beautiful love story and the sculpture so adeptly freezes in time that horrific moment when enraptured happiness is forever stolen from Orpheus. It is a magnificent example of public art which has far greater meaning once the subject of the art is better understood.

Perhaps Paul Campbell, former Archivist for the City of Providence, and Richard Jarden summed it up best when they observed, “Public art is everywhere and has served as an artistic form of cultural memory since the dawn of civilization.”  “It is all around us. Yet, some of these artistic masterpieces seem to hide in plain view with thousands of otherwise unsuspecting and pre-occupied passerby walking or riding past each day without even as much as a notice.”

Hopefully, going forward, you will take more time to notice and appreciate the great examples of public art that you pass by every day. Monumental Providence: Legends of History in Sculpture, Statuary, Monuments and Memorials will help with a greater understanding of each of the City’s magnificent examples of public art. The book may be purchased at Amazon.

Paul and Heather Caranci

Paul F. Caranci has been a student of history for many years. He is the author of eight books, including The Hanging & Redemption of John Gordon, a true story of Rhode Island’s last execution, and Wired, Caranci’s personal story of how he gambled his thirty-year political career, his reputation, and his family’s safety in his quest to restore good, honest government to a community that needed it most.

WIN!   The author is giving away a print copy of Monumental Providence – just leave a comment on this blog post to be eligible. Winner will be selected at random one week from today and the author will contact you directly.

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1 for the Rhode Island Author Expo!

The Memory of Sense


A scent can be so evocative as to bring back memories of a time long past. Your mother’s perfume, freshly-mowed grass, roasted turkey.

Revlon

When I was in college, I used a certain shampoo (whatever was cheap at the time). Revlon’s Aquamarine was in my plastic bucket during my sophomore year at Providence College, and the scent of it will take me back. Back to December of 1977, back to a snowy night when students eager to unwind from the rigors of studying for finals let loose in the quad with an impromptu snowball fight.

I’ve written about that evening here and also here. There was a fire that night in one of the women’s dorms, and ten girls died. Those of us who were students at PC remember, because how could we ever forget? I write this post annually, to remember Laura Ryan, Cathy Repucci, Barbara Feeney, Gretchen Ludwig, Jackie Botelho, Sallyann Garvey, Donna Galligan, Dotty Widman, Debbie Smith, and, of course, Katie Andresakes. I write it also to honor the survivors, young women and men who lived with pain and remembrance and even guilt.

In the weeks following the fire, I consoled myself with music. And so the memory is not only scent, but sound.

The Saddest Day of the Year


I posted this blog a couple of years ago, but am reposting it today, Holy Saturday. And in remembrance of my dad, who died unexpectedly – 35 years ago this past Wednesday.

confessional

 

“What’s the saddest day of the year?” My dad was driving the Ford Country Squire station wagon, and I was sitting in the front, because my sister wasn’t with us. Otherwise, I’d be in the back, staring at his head. We were headed downtown for confession at Saint Francis chapel.

I thought about his question. “The day after Christmas?” That seemed logical.

“No. Think about it.” He took a drag of his Kent cigarette. To a Frenchman, it’s the Eiffel Tower, to a Dutchman, it’s a pretty flower, to an Indian, it’s a mon-u-ment, to a smoker, it’s a Kent!

“The last day of summer?” He shook his head, and looked exasperated. We pulled up next to the curb. Providence was quiet on a Saturday afternoon. He turned off the engine and faced me.

“No, the saddest day of the year is next Saturday. Holy Saturday. And do you know why?” He didn’t wait for me to try to figure it out. “It’s because Jesus is dead. He died on Good Friday, and didn’t rise from the dead until Easter Sunday. So Holy Saturday is the saddest day of the year. Come on, let’s go.” We got out of the car and walked on the sidewalk to the chapel. My dad wasn’t a hand-holder; he just expected you to keep up, so I walked fast to stay with his long strides.

He pushed the door open. The door to the chapel was on the side of the building. You went inside and walked down a flight of stairs to the chapel, in the basement. It smelled like wax and vinegar. I wrinkled my nose. My dad put his hand on my shoulder and marched me to a pew in front. There were four confessionals in Saint Francis, one at each corner. The one in front had a green light shining, which meant there was a priest inside. On either side of the priest’s closet, there was a place to go and confess your sins. The confessionals had the most beautiful velvet curtains: thick and soft and dark. I loved to stroke the velvet and thought it would be nice to have a pillow made of this material. If someone was inside and confessing, there was a red light above, and you couldn’t go in. You really weren’t even supposed to sit too close, because listening to another person’s sins was a sin. One time when my sister was with me, I was sitting in the pew and could hear her whispering, but I couldn’t tell what she was saying. I slid farther away, but really I wanted to move closer, because someone broke the arm off my Barbie and if she did it, I wanted to hear her confess it. Then I’d know. But even if I did, I couldn’t tell her, because then she’d know I was listening, and listening to someone’s confession was a bigger sin than breaking the arm off a Barbie.

While my dad was behind the velvet curtains, I walked up to the candles. I loved the candles. They flickered inside little red glass cups, and if you wanted to light a candle, you had to put money in the box. An offering, my dad said. If I had a dime in my pocket, I would put it in the slot and listen to it clink as it fell to the bottom of the metal box. Then I would take a long wooden stick from a little bucket of sand, and hold it in one of the flames until it had a flame, too. Then I would light my candle. My dad said you were supposed to offer a prayer for someone when you lit a candle, so I would offer a prayer for everybody in my family, because I didn’t know anyone who had died.

~~~

The Saddest Day of the Year


“What’s the saddest day of the year?”  My dad was driving the Ford Country Squire station wagon, and I was sitting in the front, because my sister wasn’t with us.  Otherwise, I’d be in the back, staring at his head.  We were going downtown for confession at Saint Francis chapel.

I thought about his question.  “The day after Christmas?”  That seemed logical.

“No.  Think about it.”  He took a drag of his Kent cigarette. “To a Frenchman, it’s the Eiffel Tower, to a Dutchman, it’s a pretty flower, to an Indian, it’s a mon-u-ment, to a smoker, it’s a Kent!”

“The last day of summer?”  He shook his head, and looked a little exasperated.  We pulled up next to the curb.  Providence was quiet on a Saturday afternoon.  He turned off the engine and faced me.

“No, the saddest day of the year is next Saturday.  Holy Saturday.  And do you know why?”  He didn’t wait for me to try to figure it out.  “It’s because Jesus is dead.  He died on Good Friday, and didn’t rise from the dead until Easter Sunday.  So Holy Saturday is the saddest day of the year.  Come on, let’s go.”  We got out of the car and walked on the sidewalk to the chapel.  My dad wasn’t a hand-holder; he just expected you to keep up, so I walked fast to stay with his long strides.

He pushed the door open.  The door to the chapel was on the side of the building.  You went inside and walked down a flight of stairs to the chapel.  It smelled like wax and vinegar.  I wrinkled my nose.  My dad put his hand on my shoulder and marched me to a pew in front.  There were four confessionals in Saint Francis, one at each corner.  The one in front had a green light shining, which meant there was a priest inside.  On either side of the priest’s closet, there was a place to go and confess.  They had the most beautiful velvet curtains: thick and soft and dark.  I loved to stroke the velvet and thought it might be nice to have a pillow made of this material.  If someone was inside and confessing, there was a red light above, and you couldn’t go in.  You really weren’t even supposed to sit too close, because listening to another person’s sins was a sin.  One time when my sister was with me, I was sitting in the pew and could hear her whispering, but I couldn’t tell what she was saying.  I slid farther away, but really I wanted to move closer, because someone broke the arm off my Barbie and if she did it, I wanted to hear her confess it.  Then I’d know.  But even if I did, I couldn’t tell her, because then she’d know I was listening, and listening to someone’s confession was a bigger sin than breaking the arm off a Barbie.

While my dad was behind the velvet curtains, I walked up to the candles.  I loved the candles.  They flickered inside little red glass cups, and if you wanted to light a candle, you had to put money in the box.  An offering, my dad said.  If I had a dime in my pocket, I would put it in the slot and listen to it clink.  Then I would take a long wooden stick from the little bucket of sand, and hold it in one of the flames until it had a flame, too.  Then I would light my candle.  My dad said you were supposed to offer a prayer for someone when you lit a candle, so I would offer a prayer for everybody in my family, because I didn’t know anyone who had died.

~~~

My friend in Texas is getting married.  We would have liked to go to Austin for the wedding, but since I left my job last year to pursue writing full-time, we’ve had to cut back considerably, especially on travel.  A weekend in Austin for her wedding would have cost us about two thousand bucks, so I had to tell her we couldn’t be there.  She said she’d send us an invitation anyway.

The invitation arrived last week.  She’s getting married on April 7th.  When I looked at the invitation, suddenly it clicked – she’s getting married on Holy Saturday.  And for my friend Vicki, it will be the happiest day of the year.