Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering_____ The Art of Mountain View Cemetery

In honor of Memorial Day, I’ve decided to write about cemetery art. All photos contained in this entry are my own.

I have never considered visiting cemeteries to be ghoulish nor morbid. On the contrary, I find them peaceful, beautiful places that are, more often than not, full of interesting art treasures... from mosaics, to the carved stone statuary to the ironwork and cast bronze memorial plaques and urns...I am usually delighted.

This is a small mosaic (about 12" x 10") made with gold smalti that is located in the back of a dark crypt in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. When the sun moves toward the west and shines through the door, the background of the piece is illuminated and the gold sparkles in the light.


One of our Japanese foreign exchange students told me that cemeteries are the best places to meditate. However, I love them best for picture taking venues. I used to tape paper on the tombstones in the old cemeteries where we lived in Western Massachusetts and make rubbings. These days, it's all about the camera.


Here in the Bay Area, we have some incredible cemeteries. All of these photographs are from the Mountain View Cemetery at the end of Piedmont Avenue. Every visit there is like a trip back in time, reminiscent of shaking hands with railroad builder Charles Crocker, admiring the brushwork of Yosemite landscape painter Thomas Hill, and hearing architect Julia Morgan rhapsodize about her designs for Hearst Castle.
White Marble Bust

Bust detail

Designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (whose other credits include New York's Central Park), Mountain View's acreage offers spectacular vistas of the San Francisco Bay's surrounding areas. The cemetery is an impressive repository of local and state history and some incredible art.

Mountain View is distinguished from other cemeteries by its architect's vision of man and nature and their relationship to each other. It serves as an example of the humankind's search for a civilized life in harmony with the environment.


Between the art and the breathtaking sunset views of the Bay, the place lends new meaning to the words, "Rest in Peace".


1 comment:

Maureen said...

Lovely images and reflections on cemeteries and their potential to delight us in the process of remembering their purpose. Thanks for that.

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Stacy Alexander