Thursday, October 6, 2011

Be Dazzled

Words are kinda my thing. I’m a sucker for catchy expressions.

You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough.
Whatever you are, be a good one.
Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.

Turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.  (Although I feel pretty bad for the sow.)

I know people who make silk purses out of sow’s ears all the time, figuratively speaking.  They make gorgeous pieces of art out of aluminum wire and old glass ashtrays.   They make jewelry out of bottle-caps, pop tabs, ribbons, and shells.  They use bowling balls to trim their garden and seventies ceramic plates to mosaic the outside of a studio.  Blue bottles become trees. Broken terra cotta becomes a huge sliver of a moon to rest on.  Copper bunt pans are ceilings…as are tiny fast-food toys and old lunch boxes.

It doesn’t surprise me that they have a vision for the holidays this year.  They plan to make the grounds around their house a dazzling display of flowers and fun.  Plastic bottles will be chandeliers and furniture. Bottles will morph into fantasy flowers and fantastic displays.  Mosaics will be accomplished with lids… lots and lots of lids.   When these people say, “We have an idea,” one never knows quite what to expect.

“These people”, of course, are Safety Harbor artists and residents Kiaralinda and Todd. 

I cringe a little whenever I hear that they have “an idea” because I know how hard the work will be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know how to work in a Calvinistic- Protestant- work- ethic kind of way.  But they’d make John Calvin cry for his momma. They like to do it big. 

Installations are their special babies from inception to birth, although they do have helpers. Luckily, as the years go by, the troops have increased.    

Here’s a brief history and I promise I’ll try to make it quick.  There won’t be a test.

The first time they “had an idea” about a December holiday installation was in 1992. (Last century!) They named it Silver Lining.  They thought it would be a good idea to cover everything…trees, their house, bowling balls, people, the possum that crawled out from under the Gazebo,(kidding), with silver Mylar and foil.  There is a flight pattern to and from Tampa International Airport over their neighborhood and we worried the installation would somehow muck up the airwaves. People came from miles around.  It was pretty darned cool.

In 1993 they decided that since we were all still exhausted from 1992 we might as well do it AGAIN. No rest for the wicked, as they say. (Another clever, if not disturbing, expression.)  So the old train station in Tarpon Springs was covered with Mylar. A train station is a challenge to cover. That installation was more of a musical venue.  Again, people were amazed and delighted. 

1996 was all about color since silver had previously dominated. Wild Palms was created.  The house was an explosion inspired by Carnivale. The foliage looked suspiciously like hands.  Get it?  Wild palms?    Costumes were crazy and birdlike, and the scenery was even wilder. There weren’t any other places quite like it for a Christmas experience that was definitely outside of the standard red and green box.  

1998 brought a calmer, but no less awesome installation with Sweet Dreams.   Their house became a giant ginger bread house. Towering lolly-pops and huge boxes of candy dominated the landscape.   I gained 10 pounds that year.  Children especially loved the experience.  By now the “bowling ball” house (Whimzey) had quite a reputation as the place to go with family and friends for the holiday season.

1999 brought the millennium.  The year was dramatic enough in that people thought everything would crash when computers changed from 1999 to 2000.  We were about to move into a new century.  Kiaralinda and Todd did it big.  Everything was Jetsonesque futuristic. The house became a spaceship.  The Volkswagen became “Y2K,”lovingly referred to as “Ytooky.” It looked like a little creature covered in computer pieces and silver CDs with an LED counter on top to count down the last of 1999.  Melanie, the recording artist, sang on the lawn.  The experience was all about celebration.   People wrote wishes for the new century on long streams of paper that twisted and turned in the wind like telltales on a sailboat.  A photographer came to document the installation as the clock turned to midnight. The picture was featured in a book of photographs taken across the world to document the change from one century to the next.

2001 was a year of introspection.  We weren’t infallible.  Empathy for fellow human beings was at an all-time high. It was time to take a break.  It was a time to exhale.  

In 2008 they traveled the world and saw firsthand the suffering that people endure.   In Burma [now Myanmar] they saw the children orphaned by mass killings and brutality, the result of the regime in power.  An idea came to them in a restaurant in Turkey. They jotted it down on a napkin.    The installation would be Peace on Earth, Piece by Peace.  They had the idea to use the internet to reach as many people across the world as possible.  They asked that people create, on Tyvek mailing envelopes, flags inspired by Tibetan peace flags.  There were no rules.  What does peace mean to you?   Flags poured in from over 17 countries.  There were thousands of renderings in paint, marker, crayon, collage, and more.  It was beautiful. Flags crisscrossed around their property and through the studio on lines.  Candles and twinkle lights accented the quiet, but powerful beauty.   People were much more introspective.  It was incredibly moving.

The installations have been interactive so visitors were able to create pieces of art to add to the environments, thus becoming part of them. And they’ve all been fundraisers for various charities, including victims of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, Habitat for Humanity, Toys for Tots, Multiple Sclerosis research, and the children of Myanmar.

This year the installation will be for SHAMc- the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center that Kiaralinda and Todd are giving to us…every one of us…for the holidays.  It’s too big to wrap. Besides, it isn’t built yet! But we can come to their house and enjoy yet another great experience. This will be re-purposing for a purpose.  It’s amazing what you can do with bottles, plastic lids, and discarded plastic flowers.  There will be flower-making parties everywhere leading up to the installation, which will bring people together in the spirit of the new Center. It’s scheduled to start construction in the fall of this year, thanks to the Pepsi Refresh Grant and private donors.

The name of the experience THIS year?   Drum roll please…..

HOLiDAZZLE!!!!!!!!        Here’s some interesting numerology type stuff. The Center will be on 7th Avenue in Safety Harbor.   It will be their 7th holiday installation.  7 is the number associated with healing and nurturing.     Cool, eh?

Here’s a wish list of materials;

Colored vinyl tape- like electrician’s tape.
Caps and lids of any size
Plastic bottles-all sizes, and lots of liter sized
Aluminum cans
Old glass cake plates with pedestals
Old silk flowers or plastic flowers
Four inch and 1 gallon nursery pots (plastic)

Please save and wash your plastic bottles, cans, and lids and place them in garbage bags.  These CLEAN recyclables can be deposited on the Gazebo behind Whimzey on the corner of 12th.Avenue and 3rd Street North.

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