Archive for the 'Objects' Category



[Picture showing the statue of Liberty's feet and toes]Everyone knows the Statue of Liberty.  Most will know that it is actually French, and gifted to the USA. Many will know that the structural engineer was Gustav Eiffel, and the sculptor was Frederic Bartholdi.

A few may know that it was built in Paris between 1875 and 1884 as “Liberty Enlightening The World”, and was then dismantled and shipped to Liberty Island in New York Harbour where it was finally assembled.

However, I’d bet, though, that most people will not know about Miss Liberty’s toes. They are 32 times normal size, but apart from that, they are designed in a specific style – these are Classical feet, often referred to as Roman feet.

[Picture of museum statue foot]This is the style of foot found in statues of antiquity, and is the look considered to be the most beautiful. I studied fine arts, and have spend many happy hours in museums around the world.  I have visited the great cities of antiquity and enjoyed their sculptures.

In sketching these delightful things, I noticed that I myself had feet like these — classical feet, beautiful feet. Yes, I have always been happy with my feet — for that, and for the reason that they have never smelled, had fungal infections, hard skin, scars, blemishes, or anything but classical proportions and lovely baby-soft skin.

[Picture of roman statue toes]And yet I never gave my feet special attention, and certainly did not give them any thought or anything other than basic care. I have broken bones in my life, and my arches crashed. So Big Deal; I have flat-feet. So what? This is quite a common complaint, after all.

However, in recent years, as I have grown older, my feet have gradually begun to give me bother, and I have taken them to the GP surgery and hospital too. I often get compliments on them, but while they may be nice and classical, they hurt! I have had a silicon injection and tried insoles and what-not.

I looked into the matter. It seems that the problem is exactly that I have classical feet!

[sketch of Egyptian foot]Here’s the deal: If your big toe is longer than your other toes, then you have so-called “Egyptian Feet”. Now,  think this looks funny (and I always have) — even though my wife and children have this type of foot style.

I find it difficult to draw this kind of foot to be frank; it just looks wrong!

The second toe has to be the same or longer than the big toe for it to be considered classically beautiful like mine. Like the statues in Rome and Paris. Like this:

[sketch of Greek Foot] or [Sketch of Roman Foot]

I have recently discovered that a few experts have decided that the longer second toe, is more “Greek”, while the foot where the second toe is slightly longer or the same length as the big toe is more “Roman”. But I’ve always taken this non-Egyptian style as either “Roman” or “Classical”.  Either way, though, I have a “Roman foot”.

Further investigations unearthed the fact that Classical feet are hereditary, and that they cause the arches to collapse into flat feet, and are the root of foot pain, back pain, knee pain, hip pain, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.

The authority was Dr Dudley J Morton, who wrote the book (literally) on feet, conditions and surgery back in the 1920s. It seems that a long second toe (or, to put it better, a short big toe), even though it may be classical and beautiful, Roman or Greek, it is nevertheless a foot abnormality called “Morton’s Toe”. The treatment of which is a small easily-made and carefully aligned pad. – is a brilliant site, a long read, but excellent and worthwhile. I found this there:

“…In the first paragraph of the Reader’s Digest article [April 1939 issue], Morton wrote:

‘Aching, pain galled feet are among the commonest afflictions besetting mankind. Seven of ten persons suffer from foot alignment of varying severity ranging from the nagging discomfort of corns to total disability from broken down feet’

“Morton went on to say that then, as now, millions of dollars are spent annually on corrective shoes or other devices that are of questionable benefit in healing the foot.

“As always, he stated the two principal reasons for foot problems are the short first metatarsal bone and/or the hypermobility of the first metatarsal bone. He continued to explain how to treat these conditions by putting a pad or a platform under the first metatarsal bone.”

This is where my research got confusing.

According to wikipedia,  a pronated foot is one in which the heel bone angles inward and the arch tends to collapse and flatten in order to absorb shock when the heel hits the ground, and to assist in balance during mid-stance.

However, I think I rotate my heel outward, because my shoes show wear on the outside. To put it another way, I am more “bow-legged” than “knock-kneed”. As the opposite of pronation is supination, then I must have what they call underpronation/supination.

On the other hand, – describes it quite differently; here, pronation is when the foot is a loose “bag of bones”, and once it has hit the ground, it locks by changing from pronation to supination to push off the ground before relaxing back to pronation again.

They say that if the foot hits the ground and doesn’t lock properly, pronation continues – and so this is called abnormal pronation or overpronation (there’s no underpronation)! When you try to push your weight off a bag-of-bones foot, you compensate however you can — causing all sorts of ailments and pains. Morton seems to have found that a short big toe is a toe that continues to move when it should not (hypermobility) — this is the continued (abnormal) pronation when your foot should be locked tight in supination for pushing off the ground. Morton’s patented toe pad corrects this hypermobility and gets your foot into supination at the proper time.

It is a seriously confusing issue. Either I believe wikipedia (that I have underpronation or supination), or that I have  a short big toe that  stops me getting to supination because I am in overpronation!

Which ever of these two opposite results, I must give thanks to my antecedents’ genes; I have classical Roman feet. There’s nothing I can do about it, but it has resulted in a LOT of pain over the years.

Now when I look at a statue’s feet, I wince for these poor souls, suffering the way I do everyday. No wonder Rome fell like so many arches in so many feet.




[Picture of Alexander Stoddart working on a bust]It was extraordinary. It really was. Back in the early 1990s Glasgow was basking in it’s year of culture and garden festival.  Architects Page and Park built the Italian Centre and kicked off the whole idea of a new quarter to the city — an addition to the arrondissements municipaux for Glasgow, what-is-now-known-as the Merchant City. The crowning glories of this building are the commissioned statues by Sandy Stoddart.

Imagine — a massive classical statue was transported from a workshop in Paisley to Glasgow city centre — traffic was in disarray!

I really admire Sandy Stoddart as a sculptor, but mostly for rebelling against the rebellion, for being true to sculpture – and that for me is incredibly important; this is not 2D, not a painting or illusion, this is grand public sculpture, and I have always held that genre aside for special respect and attention.

I like that Stoddart slags off Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst.  I like that he did excel in the modern ways before calling a halt and going full-out for the ancient traditions.

From Wikipedia:

Stoddart went, aged seventeen, to train in fine art at the Glasgow School of Art where he studied from 1976 to 1980.

There he settled on sculpture and initially worked within the modernist vogue.

Stoddart has recalled an epiphany moment several times: when, after finishing a riveted metal pop-art sculpture (praised by his tutors) he found a bust of the Apollo Belvedere,

“I thought my pop-riveted thing was rubbish by comparison. It’s extraordinarily easy to pop-rivet two bits of metal together and extraordinarily difficult to make a figure like the Apollo, but I thought I had to try.”

Stoddart wrote his undergraduate thesis on the life and work of John Mossman, an English sculptor who worked in Scotland for fifty years. His work remains an influence on Stoddart.

Stoddart graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, first class, though he was demoralised by his peers’ ignorance of the art history: “the name Raphael meant nothing to them”.

He went on to read History of Art at the University of Glasgow.

Afterwards, he worked for six “difficult” years in the studio of Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Although Hamilton Finlay is considered one of the most important Scottish artists of the 20th century, Stoddart profoundly disagrees with his working methods:

“Finlay was the godfather of a problem that’s rampant everywhere today. He called the people who made his work ‘collaborators’. What we call them nowadays is ‘fabricators’. They’re talented people who are plastically capable, but they never meet their ‘artist’. They’re grateful, desperate and thwarted.”

Sandy’s work is just wonderful, and I actually love that people don’t even realise that this style still lives, that new works are around — the statue of David Hume on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh and more.  Most folks I guess would imagine these to be Victorian.

I like his work, I like his approach and I like his attitude.  His statues enrich where I live, and are quickly assimilated into the background — which is nevertheless a grand background.  The Second City of the British Empire deserves Alexander Stoddart’s work!




[Picture of the artist Louise Bourgeois]Louise Bourgoise is nearly 100. Wow.

What an artist, what a sculptor.  She’s French, but really  — now — American; she lives in New York. She represented the United States at the Venice Biennale back in 1933.

Everyone will no doubt think of her as the spider sculptor, especially as she did the inaugural exhibit of the Tate Modern in London (Bankside Power Station’s Turbine Hall) in 2000.  That was something! Called Maman, it is just breathtaking.

Maman spider sculpture Tate Gallery Bankside 1999

It is stainless steel with marble eggs, and I once considered planning a road trip to visit the bronze copies dotted around the world from the Guggenheim in Bilbao to the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.  There’s even one in Havan Cuba, and another in Tokyo!  What an excuse for foreign travel — collect the set!

It was on loan for eight years before being bought for 3.2 million quid in 2008.  Louise promptly bought a Townhouse mansion in Manhattan for 4.75 million dollars, I mean, come on — she’s 98 and then she hits the Big Time — there’s inspiration. After her husband’s death, her career took off — from the 197os on, building and building… and I find her fascinating as a result.

It is NEVER too late, and you are NEVER too old!

I adore her piece entitled “The Arch of Hysteria” (Tate, 1993):

[Picture of The Arch of Hysteria by Louise Bourgeois]

I guess it helps if you know the original meaning of hysteria. This is one of those examples of best work done well beyond youth, and as I get older, I find that a comfort and an inspiration.  Go girl!