bronze

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Right outside Rosenbad, the prime minister's chancery in central Stockholm, sits this homeless woman with the face of a fox, huddled in a blanket, with a baby animal, perhaps a fox cub, perhaps a teddy bear, in her lap.

The sculpture, a permanent installation on the granite sidewalk, is from artist Laura Ford's series Rag and Bone. In 2009, the city's newspaper by and for homeless people, known as Situation Sthlm, conducted a poll on where to put the statue; the winning location was this very public and political site.

The fox also has a single boot in her lap, into which passers by frequently drop euros.  People who are uncertain about dontating to living, breathing homeless people somehow feel that leaving money for a bronze fox is a good thing to do. That's the world we live in.

Posted by Ellen

She sits by the waterfront in Trieste, Italy, apparently texting or checking her Facebook, but actually sewing, or maybe knitting.

Not seen here: the other seamstress of Trieste, sitting and chatting alongside her.

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They go to market, of course. Above, in Tartu, Estonia; below, here in Philly at Reading Terminal Market.

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In the mid-nineteenth century, the area around the northern Japanese city of Towada was designated as imperial ranchland, devoted to raising horses for the samurai cavalry.

The most famous of these horses was probably First Frost, which Emperor Hirohito rode for propaganda purposes during World War II. The U.S. Navy claimed to confiscate First Frost but actually left it with Hirorhito's personal property. Admiral "Bull" Halsey had promised to ride Hirorhito's horse when the Americans arrived in Tokyo, so another all-white horse was substituted for a ceremonial ride through town, for propaganda purposes.

Towada recalls its heritage with bronze horses spilling out onto a main street designated officially as Government Administration Road, nicknamed Horse Road. There are also 151 cherry trees along the road.

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That's the Quiet Man with Norman, at the window of Delia Foley's tavern in Baltimore. He's quiet all right, albeit a little shrunken, not exactly John Wayne–sized. Still and all, anybody who's that solid and bronze has got to have a good, strong shoulder to lean on.

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Ron Baron's "Lost and Found," bronze luggage and seating, was installed in 2010 in a plaza outside a new Long Island Railroad station in Hempstead, New York.

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Last night, we saw a ram with a pomegranate in Fitler Square, Philadelphia.

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Philadelphia history is conveniently compressed: Benjamin Franklin flew a kite, then all those guys rang the liberty bell, and then Rocky Balboa ran up the steps of the art museum.

Today, Franklin is easier to find on an oatmeal box than on the city streets, and the liberty bell is cracked and silent. But Rocky? The fighter who never was, except, of course, in the movies? He's big and bronze and easy to find, right by the foot of the museum steps.

Tourists from all over the world seek him out daily, eager to pose for pictures with fists raised triumphantly, just like his. This group included my brother-in-law and his sons, visiting from Israel.

After their moment with the statue, the tourists run up the steps, just the way Sylvester Stallone did in the movies. But you may recall that when Rocky "really" was training for that first fight and running all over town, it was wintertime. He wore a hoodie and sweatpants, and we could see his breath.

This past Fourth of July weekend, the Rocky wannabes among the tourists–and they were legion, as always–were in shirtsleeves, if not shirtless. The sun was unforgiving, and the air was almost too thick and heavy to breathe.

But straight up the 72 steps everybody went, as their friends held up cellphones to record the moment. Entire tour buses emptied out to run up the steps. Children ran up with their grandparents. Dogs ran up with their people. Cyclists ran up with their bikes in their arms. Earbuds or no earbuds, everybody had "Gonna Fly Now" in their heads.

Search for "Rocky steps" on YouTube, and you'll find 86,500 results. Here's a nice short one in Spanish, viewed by more than a quarter of a million people.

The crazy part, of course, is that Rocky isn't real. People all over the world say his story in the movie is inspirational, proving somehow that even a nobody, just another bum from the neighborhood, can beat the best.

"I will do the stairs on my 50. birthday, december 2013," wrote one of the inspired people. "From germany just for one day. It's crazy, but it's a dream since 30 years. In all of us there is a rocky...."

At the top of the steps, some people feel ready to take on the world. Some of them propose marriage. Some of them go on into the museum, eventually. All of them turn around at the top and look out over the city, just like Rocky, and raise their arms high and then . . . probably they start thinking about cheesesteaks.

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The bronze leg of the sculpted woman here appears to have graffiti on it. The bronze head of the man appears to have a seagull on it.

The people appear poised to run into the surf near the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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He is "Le Grand Van Gogh," cast in bronze by sculptor Bruno Catalano.