Open For Business: Truman Road

My visits to my dad involved a trip across town from Kansas City to Independence.  While my routes vary a lot, I often drive on Truman Road.  It is just wonderfully urban.

I particularly love this corner store East of downtown on Truman Road.  The storefront is covered with cartoon characters.  I never could figure out the name of the store, but it appears that it sells hats, CD’s and “skull candy”?  Seriously.  I don’t know.  The owners came outside to see what I was doing, but seemed pleased that I considered their art worthy of attention.


These gentlemen were hard at work.  They appeared to be having fun as they worked. When they saw me, they waved and let me take their photographs. their work stopped for a moment.  They were in a good mood and so was I.




Tapestry Or Sculpture: It is Clearly Fine Art

If I thought I had any understanding of African art, this sculpture by Ghanian artist, El Anatsui, caused me to reexamine by perceptions.  Shimmering like silk, the 350 pound work of art is currently being installed on a wall in the Bloch Lobby at the Nelson-Atkins. It is entitled Dusasa I.

Described by the museum as a tapestry-like sculpture, it is 39 ft by 26 ft and weighs 350 pounds.  Constructed from recycled aluminum bottle tops and the strips that encircle the bottle necks, the artist and his assistants flattened the thin metal before beginning their artistic work, fastening the metal strips to create this complex quilt-like pattern.

The Dusasa I donated to the Nelson by the William T. Kemper Foundation.  It is one of many works the Foundation has donated to the museum.  The donation reflects the impeccable standards of both the William T. Kemper Foundation and the Nelson.

For Kansas City residents it is another reason to visit a home-town treasure.  For anyone living outside the Mid-West, it is one more reason to visit the heartland.



More Wall Art from Kansas City’s East Side

Meg and I agree we have a lot to celebrate.  Today I want to celebrate and share more of Kansas City’s graffiti.  My weekly adventures often provide we opportunities to find new murals throughout our urban community.  These paintings were found just barely Southeast of downtown.  The artist or artists plying their trade on this freshly painted wall obviously love color.  There were at least half a dozen individual paintings extending from one building well into the alley just East of Grand within a 7 minute walk to our center city.

“Feminines” is almost certainly the artist’s signature on this wonderful rendition of a mythical bird.

While renditions of death are very unusual on wall art, this skull seems to smile from the wall.

The shocking pink on this final mural adds to the festive nature of this block in Kansas City.

Live in a city?  Hope you enjoy the wall art where ever your route takes you.  It is, in the best sense, the people’s art.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It has been a wonderful year and here at Shifting the Balance we have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve had an exciting year working on the campaign. Our kiddos (the dogs) are all in good health. Mum and Terry are happy and healthy. Two of my cousins welcomed healthy baby girls. All of my friends are enjoying their lives…..the list goes on.

A Thanksgiving [1] memory to share: Keeping with Mum’s recent photo of Greece, I thought I’d share my Thanksgiving memory from 2004. I was studying abroad in Leicester, England, and I didn’t really have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with. So who came to my rescue? Freida, of course. Freida and George are two of our friends from Kansas City growing up. They were both from Greece, moved to the States when they were first married, and then decided to retire back to a beautiful little village about a year or two before I was studying abroad. Well, Freida invited me to stay with them for Thanksgiving, and it was the most wonderful trip. Seeing Freida and George was such a delight, and even more heartwarming was the fact that Freida sought out the makings of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. For me! In Greece! [2] We had turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans. She even found pecans. It was a perfect Thanksgiving, and for that experience, I will always be grateful.

Wherever you’re spending your Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful day, and remember to be thankful for those around you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meg and Ann

[1]  Photograph thanks to “”

[2]  Terry’s painting by Mike Savage, reminds us of times in Greece, overlooking the Mediterranean

In Search of Dvarapala

Mysteries are just facts waiting to be discovered.  Since research is as exciting to me as sports are to some of my friends, I love a mystery.  Taking a hiatus from family research, I was trying to come up with a project.  The one that came to mind was  staring me in the face, literally.  It combined Indian history, religion and art.  Perfect, I said to myself.

Over 30 years ago I stumbled on two wonderful little statues in a small antique store.  They were a bit pricey for my recently out of law school budget.  Fortune smiled on me.   I was the only customer who fell for these unusual pieces.  Months later, I returned to the shop. Both statues were still there.  They were discounted and I took the plunge.

I was told the statues had been salvaged when a Hindu temple was destroyed.  They were supposedly purchased by an interior decorator who traded them to the antique dealer as partial repayment on a loan.  I took them home, tried to research them, gave up and put them where I can enjoy them!

The most interesting of these statues (don’t tell the other one) is pictured below:

It is a wonderful carving but other than the dealer’s story, I had no real understanding of his significance.  Technically, he is a “wood & polychrome” statue, meaning only that he is painted in a variety of colors.  It is obvious he has been repeatedly repainted, suggesting only that he is not new and, perhaps, that he was designed more for utilitarian, than artistic, purposes.

A lot has changed in 30 years.  I realized with the internet I should renew my search.  I began by searching terms including Hindu statue, guardian, Hindu art and Indian art.  Eventually I came across the term “Dvarapala” [1] meaning guardian deity, door guardian or wrathful deity. Dvarapala is associated with the temples, shrines  and monasteries of Buddhism, Taoism and Hindu religions.  They are found in such countries as India, Burma, Tibet, Malaysia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and China.  These guardians have played a significant religious role throughout much of the world for over a thousand years.

Initially the images of Dvarapala I found on the internet were massive stone or bronze sculptures of ferocious warriors.  Ultimately I came upon a reference to more benign sculptures and continued my quest. Finally, I googled “Dvarapala, 1800s” and discovered this wonderful late 1800s statue, also identified as “wood polychrome”.  The Jaipaul family donated it, with other Indian and Tibetan sculptures, to the Allentown Art Museum, [2] in 2000:

While certainly of finer quality than my own statue, the similarities satisfy me that my home and family are well protected by a Dvarapala.  I promise to treat it with the respect it deserves as a representative of a deity not my own.


[1]  In Buddhism “Dharmapala” identifies a wrathful  protector who, similar to the Dvarapala, often guards a monastery or other religious building.

[2]  Allentown, Pennsylvania

The Art of the Wall

In years past, teenagers snuck out at night with paint brushes and spray cans to create what was generally mediocre, if colorful, graffiti under bridges, on vacant buildings and sometimes the sides of churches and schools.

Without question the world of graffiti has changed.  The murals I see on my drives through urban Kansas City are often exquisite works of art that appear to have been the work of artists hired by business owners to create colorful displays on the exteriors of their buildings.  Even the texture of the bricks beneath the designs adds to the visual impact.  It is, in effect, graffiti “grown up”.

When I happen upon a particularly colorful design, I find I alter my route to and from work just to see the art over and over again.  I regret only that I am unable to identify the artist so I could praise them by name on this post.

At least I can honor these urban artists by sharing their creative designs with our friends.  In Kansas City, at least, art finds its form in these creative, incredibly colorful, urban designs.  Aren’t we lucky!

In Honor of our Readers in India and Tibet

Eastern cultures are so rich with history, religious belief, the arts and education.  As a result of Meg’s posts on Natasha’s wedding ceremonies, we have a fair number of readers from India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Singapore, Bangladesh, Indonesia–the list goes on.  We are grateful for your interest in our  blog.

From time to time we would like to share some of the wealth of art and wisdom that originates from cultures other than ours.

A good friend, born Catholic, has spent a lifetime studying Eastern religions and acquiring art, primarily from India and Tibet.  His collection, primarily of Buddhist sacred and less sacred, carvings, fabrics, and decorative objects, surround you throughout his home.  Because he has attempted to capture the environment of a shrine, he uses dim lights and wraps his statues in beads, strings of light, fabric and other symbols of respect.  I will include posts on our blog that include photographs of his collection.

He is not a wealthy man so he is not competing with museums in his acquisitions. That in no way diminishes the beauty of the art.   The cultures reflected in these works are truly to be treasured:

Buddhist (and Hindu) female deities are generally crowned, serene in demeanor and adorned with beads.

Tibet’s fabrics are often ornate and generally rich with color and design.  Tibet clothing can be quite lovely, with ceremonial clothing full of color, intricate design and elaborate headgear. In the West we are fortunate to see examples as banners, wall hangings and prayer flags. Even such examples give us a sense of the beauty of their design.

While I love the beauty displayed from various works of art.  I am grateful for corrections as I stumble with identifying various deities and ornamental items.  Please feel free to correct me or to provide us with additional information.

We wish you well.

Just Mom and Her iPad Camera

Terry, Meg and I first visited Ambergris Caye, Belize, in October, 2003. It was a marvelous trip.  We stayed at a small condominium complex, “The Palms”, near the center of town.  We so loved our experience that we purchased this wonderful, and inexpensive, oil painting depicting the main street running through town.  It accurately depicts Rubie’s Hotel and Ruby’s Cafe, (yes, different spellings), as well as the surrounding buildings.

Because this painting is vivid and colorful on its own, I decided it was a perfect vehicle for checking out the special effects possibilities on my iPad camera.  Who would think modern technology can create such a variety of images.  All it takes is a willingness to explore the possibilities of “Photo Booth” on your iPad–or your Mac–for that matter.  The special effects options run the gamut from “Squeeze” to “X-Ray”.  For these photographs I chose “Squeeze”, “Twirl”, “Kaleidoscope”, and “Light Tunnel”.  Here are the results:



“Twirl” again:


“Light Tunnel”:

Aren’t they fun.  If you have a Mac of any sort, give it a try!  Happy Saturday.

The Itsy, Bitsy Spider Grows Up

We all remember the song The Itsy, Bitsy Spider.  While I can’t identify the writer of this classic children’s song, Iza Trapani wrote a children’s book by the same name, all about that spider.

I cannot help but believe that if that itsy, bitsy spider had grown up, it would look much like this spider, a bronze sculpture cast in 1997 by the artist, Louise Bourgeois. It sits on the lawn of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art,  a short walk from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Mid-Town Kansas City.

Behind her, poised on the museum wall, is the “bitsy” version of the Kemper’s Spider.


Benjamin Franklin is one of our nation’s most beloved and celebrated founder. Truly a leader of men, he was a diplomat to France, author of the original Poor Richard’s Almanack, authored portions of the Declaration of Independence and was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. And that is just the beginning of his talents and accomplishments.

Noted for both his eloquent descriptions of life and government, he could be witty, pithy and wise.  This wonderful sculpture of Franklin, created by George Lundeen, [1] sits by Latte Land on the Country Club Plaza.  Feel free to sit with him for a while.  There is plenty of room on the bench.

                                                   Where liberty dwells, there is my country [2]

[1]George Lundeen sculpted this wonderful bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin.  It is a warm representation of Franklin, one of a series of similar sculptures, large and small.  Lundeen’s creations include national heroes, child athletes, newspaper boys, Native Americans and others are charming and seem to capture the spirit of our national character.

[2] Widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin