A Monumental Fix
While in Venice, Italy, last summer, I came across a most unusual fountain in the Biennale Gardens near the city's historic Arsenale: It's a tall, slightly overgrown tribute to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian general, politician and nationalist who is counted among the founding fathers of the modern Italy. I almost put the word fountain in quotation marks in the first sentence above, because the structure's water flows in an unusual way: While I'm reasonably certain the imposing tower of volcanic stone, granite boulders and bronze statuary once had internal plumbing and flowed with the greater elegance befitting such a tribute, it now flows through bands of black tubing interrupted in places by dribbling spouts. The odd effect is that the monument seems to be watered by an ordinary drip-irrigation system that keeps its plants green and aerates the turtle-filled basin at its base. I know that resources for restoration of even relatively intact artworks are scarce in Italy in general and especially in Venice, where life is a constant struggle to keep everything operational in the face of a combination of rising seawater and subsiding ground. But it's sad and a bit dispiriting that funds apparently aren't available for more than a stop-gap fix for a monument of this prominence and grandeur. But no matter: The fix works, and I still enjoyed seeing the monument, which was completed between 1885 and 1887 by Augusto Benvenuti, a local artist and sculptor. My guess is that it stands nearly 30 feet tall, with Garibaldi, flamboyantly attired, standing at its peak. Beneath him is a lion - the most accessible and impressive figure in the composition - as befits its being in Venice, where these beasts are iconic fixtures almost everywhere. Behind and below Garibaldi is a soldier attired in a uniform of the sort worn by Garibaldi's troops. I haven't been able to determine if there are any plans to repair the fountain and restore it to a more elegant form, but I'll hold onto that hope. In the meantime, the monument is worth a visit - if only to marvel at the beautiful turtles!
Lofty Inspiration
With some watershaping projects, homeowners enter the process with a very specific vision in mind.  This can, of course, be problematic if their thinking doesn't align with the character of the site or the extent of the available budget. With this project, however, the clients' deep-seated desires were never an issue.  In fact, the space the clients envisioned had a source of inspiration so sublime - and the property was so well suited to the desired look - that there was no reason even to question how things would turn out. The clients live in a large home in San Marino, Calif., just a couple blocks away from
Turtle Heaven
Every once in a while, we come across a client with a special interest in supporting something other than the fish and plants that generally inhabit the ponds we design and install.  Occasionally, for example, we’ll get a request to build a watershape that will be particularly attractive to non-fishy wildlife – everything from birds and frogs to various mammals and even insects. In most cases, no special features are required:  The pond becomes a known, habitual part of the local ecosystem and various creatures will just show up, so all we really need to do is make certain the water is deep enough and that we’ve installed enough caves and hiding places that the fish will be able to elude predators. Turtles, however, are a different story.  Where frogs and birds and raccoons and butterflies will just appear, pondowners generally need to bring in turtles – and then
Safe Havens
It’s one of the unavoidable results of living in urban or suburban areas:  People who dwell in mostly built environments feel cut off from nature.  This, of course, is one of the reasons why ponds and streams have become so popular among so many homeowners. Adding spice to the sauce, I’ve found in recent years that this desire for naturalistic watershapes and elaborate gardens has also been attended by a desire on the parts of many of my clients to attract various forms of wildlife to participate in the setting.  And it’s not just about fish in their ponds:  With increasing frequency, my clients are also asking me to design and build spaces that will comfortably host a variety of creatures, including
Alive by Design
The most famous artists and designers often become known for one particular style or motif.  When we see the cubism of Pablo Picasso or the drip paintings of Jackson Pollack, for example, we firmly link those distinctive artistic "moves" with the artists themselves. In some cases, those associations are extremely positive and add to the artist's or designer's mystique and prestige - certainly the case with Picasso and Pollack. For other artists who are less famous, however, an identifiable mode of expression can lead to confinement, predictability and, in some cases, a needless limitation of vision and creative possibilities.   Since I began my career in the early 1980s, I've focused on capturing aquatic life forms in mixed-media sculptures to such an extent that my name is associated with the genre - although I'm certainly no Picasso.  Indeed, in the years I've been active, there have been so many sculptures, statues and paintings depicting whales, dolphins and fish that the genre I love has become something of a cliché. So many consumers love such images that a vast number of enterprising artists have stepped in to meet the demand.  The problem is that so many of these efforts are uninspired and
Sea of Tranquility
During a lifetime of driving up and down the part of Sunset Boulevard where it finally meets the Pacific Ocean, I'd often noticed the sign pointing to "Lake Shrine" but had never taken the time to stop and have a look. I suppose the "shrine" part of it made me think it was the exclusive preserve of adherents or members of the Self-Realization Fellowship - an organization I knew nothing about other than that their facility was in one of Los Angeles' most beautiful locations. I finally overcame my hesitation about visiting the Lake Shrine a couple years ago, when a friend told me it was a place where people of all faiths and religions were welcome to stroll, meditate and enjoy the tranquility of the setting.  Curiosity overcame skepticism and I finally visited the place.  What I found at the Lake Shrine was a serene, calm, meditative oasis of lush, beautiful gardens surrounding a lake. To this day many years later, the minute I drive through the entrance gate, I'm always swept up by sensations of serenity and peace - and have since