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Exploring the Meeting Point Between Natural and Mechanical Forms: The Art of Graham Caldwell


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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We answer a question from a listener about a place called Hell's Kitchen…

Play music by Chris Daughtry and his new rock group…

And report about a new American artist.

Graham Caldwell

Graham Caldwell is a young artist who makes magical and unusual sculptures out of glass and metal. This artist does not want to make glass art that just looks nice. He wants to push the limits of this material.  He likes to explore the meeting point of natural and mechanical forms. Critics are praising his imaginative and bold sculptures. Barbara Klein has more.

Graham Caldwell makes many of his glass sculptures in his workshop near Washington, D.C.

There, you can watch him put red-hot liquid glass on a metal stick ca lled a blowpipe. He expertly forms the glass in different ways by blowing air through the blowpipe opening. He can stretch the glass into long shapes or let it hang down so that gravity does the work. But Caldwell's art is not usually just one single piece of sculpture. Each work is made up of many similar parts.

Graham Caldwell recently had a show at an art gallery in Washington.  One work was made up of pointy glass pieces that looked like the shape of elephant tusks. They were attached to the wall by round metal bases.

Caldwell arranged these sharp, curved pieces in a circle so that all the points were going in the same direction. It looked like the open mouth of an angry sea creature.

Another work was made up of many slightly different silvery glass forms that looked like tear drops coming out of the wall. Each glass drop reflected the silvery shape next to it. When you stood near the rounded forms, you could see yourself and the whole room reflected in the glass.

Graham Caldwell said the piece is about the "intelligibility of reflections."  This striking artwork keeps you looking, wondering, and exploring.

Hell's Kitchen

Our VOA listener question this week comes from Hungary.  Monika Fogl asks about a neighborhood in New York City called Hell's Kitchen.

Hell's Kitchen is on the island of Manhattan.  It is between Thirty-Fourth and Fifty-Ninth Streets west of Eighth Avenue all the way to the Hudson River.  Dutch immigrants settled in the area in the late sixteen hundreds.  Back then, it had green fields and small rivers.  The Dutch called the area Vale of Flowers.

How did the area get the name Hell's Kitchen? There are several possible answers.  Some people say it was the traditional name of a building in the area.  The building was in bad condition and the people who lived there were very poor.

By the eighteen hundreds the area had become a dangerous place to live.  Many poor Irish immigrants lived there.  Fights and other crimes were common. People lived in dirty, crowded buildings that the owners did not take care of.  The area had many factories, including slaughterhouses, where animals were killed and sold at food markets.

In the eighteen sixties there were riots in Hell's Kitchen to protest the government's order forcing people to serve in the military during the Civil War.  White people attacked black people, whom they blamed for the war. Many people were killed during the riots.

Some people think the area was named Hell's Kitchen around that time.  It could have come from Americans who knew of a poor and dangerous neighborhood in London, England called Hell's Kitchen.

There is also the story of a police officer named Fred who worked the area in the eighteen seventies. Fred and his partner were watching a fight among people in the neighborhood. The partner said, "The place is hell itself."  Fred answered, "Hell's a mild climate.  This is Hell's kitchen."

In the nineteen thirties, the Great Depression made the poverty in Hell's Kitchen even worse.  Many factories in the area dismissed employees.  Port companies and slaughterhouses closed.  Many people were forced to live on the streets because they could not pay for housing.  Many others left the area.

But new immigrant groups continued to arrive in New York, seeking a better life. Many Puerto Rican immigrants settled in Hell's Kitchen.  The nineteen fifty-nine Broadway musical "West Side Story" was set in the area.  It told about two young lovers torn by ethnic conflict between their Puerto Rican and white groups.

The area has experienced a renewal over the years.  It has many art galleries and restaurants. And it is close to Broadway Theaters.  Hell's Kitchen has in fact been home to many young actors. There are also several broadcasting operations for television and radio in the area.

There have been efforts to change the neighborhood's name to Clinton, after a former New York governor.  But efforts to keep the name Hell's Kitchen are equal in strength.

Chris Daughtry

The television show, "American Idol," has been the most popular program on American television for the past few years. Young singers perform on the show each week. Three judges comment on their performances.  Then the viewers at home vote for their favorite.  The singer with the fewest votes leaves the show.  The winner gets the title, "American Idol."  But what happens to the singers discovered on the show after the competition ends?  Faith Lapidus tells us about one "American Idol" loser who has become a big winner.

Chris Daughtry competed on "American Idol" a year ago.  But he was voted off the show. He is now the lead singer of the rock group called Daughtry.  That is also the name of the band's first album, released last November.  It has sold more than two and one-half million copies. Here is the first single from the album DAUGHTRY.  It is called, "It's Not Over."

Chris Daughtry is twenty-seven years old.  He was born and raised in North Carolina.  He wrote or helped write ten of the twelve songs on the album. Here he sings, "What I Want."

Critics say Chris Daughtry has become the best-selling musician in the United States. This is not bad for a singer who was a loser on "American Idol."  We leave you now with another song from DAUGHTRY.  It is called, "Home."

I'm Doug Johnson.  I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange, Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.

Send your questions about American life to mosaic@voanews.com.  Please include your full name and mailing address.  Or write to AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.


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Source: Exploring the Meeting Point Between Natural and Mechanical Forms: The Art of Graham Caldwell
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