Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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A road winding to the top of a North Carolina mountain is the entrance to Oz, a 1970s theme park that closed less than 10 years after it opened. Back when it started, the Land of Oz would attract up to 20,000 visitors a day, but now the Yellow Brick Road is missing some bricks, and the Wicked Witch’s castle is empty.

Grover Robbins developed the Beech Mountain theme park as a way of attracting families to the  resort town. Robbins never lived to see his masterpiece, dying at the age of 50 of bone cancer only six months before  the park was complete. The park opened on June 15, 1970 with Debbie Reynolds making an appearance, along with her daughter, Carrie Fisher. In its  first summer 400,000 visitors came to the Land of Oz.

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The Yellow Brick Road wound its way through the park, leading tourists to a replica Emerald City (destroyed in a fire), Dorothy’s house, the castle of the Wicked Witch and the Munchkin village all accurately recreated on over 450 acres.

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After a decline in amusement park visitors in the 1970s and a lack of modernization and updates in the park itself, the Land of Oz closed in 1980. The park was left to vandals and decay, but there was enough interest in its restoration that it was eventually restored as a private garden in the Eagle Mountain community built at that property near the top of Beech Mountain.

The park does open to the public one week-end a year in the beginning of October.

http://www.ourstate.com/north-carolinas-land-of-oz/

Snow Cave in Kamchatka

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This surreal-looking ice cave is located on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. With very little snow, and a hot summer huge snow melts occured. As a result, a passage was formed in the snow was leading to the cave formed underneath.

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At the entrance, the ceiling is thin enough for light to break through giving unique effects. The colored lights aren’t a computer trick, but are the result of sunlight streaming through the ice into the hidden world below. When you get further away from the entrance, the arch of the cave becomes thicker, and less sunlight comes through it, but you can still see unreal spans of form and color.

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The snow caves of were formed by hot springs flowing from a volcano. The Kamchatka Peninsula, in the far east of Russia, is a region of extraordinary natural beauty with  large symmetrical volcanoes, lakes, raging rivers and breathtaking coastline.

(photos by Denis Budko, Marc Szeglat, Michael Zelensky and xflo:w)

Tree Troll of Kim Beaton

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Seattle-based Kim Beaton with the help of 25 volunteers built a 12-foot tall tree troll out of completely non-toxic materials. In 2006, the artist and a team of volunteers spent 15 days creating a unique tree troll out of papier mache, wood, metal plates and other materials. The sculpture looks realistic if that is possible, but it’s the friendly face inspired by her father that gets your attention.  In about forty minutes after waking from a dream about her father, she had a rough sculpture that said what she wanted. The next morning she began making phone calls, telling her friends that in 6 days time they would begin on a new large piece. Fifteen days after starting, they were done.

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The flexible building material was developed by the University of Michigan and has been used to improve earthquake resistance in structures. Beaton molded it around plywood to make the sculpture. The strength of the material meant people could enjoy the sculpture without risk of damage. Resembling something from “The Hobbit”, It’s public art and people should touch it and kids can play on it. The troll has been given a coat of buttermilk, and blended moss and lichen, in the hope of attracting further growth.

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Beaton moved from Montana to New Zealand to work on The Hobbit with Weta Workshops.

http://kimgrahamstudios.com/

Fine Art of Body Painting

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You might not see it right away, but is this really a frog, or something more? The brightly colored image is actually five naked women decorated by body painter Johannes Stoetter to look like a tree frog. With the models perfectly positioned it’s hard to see where there is a separation of their bodies.

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Stoetter, started body painting in the year 2000, creating  scenes turning human models into objects found in the natural world, including rocks, trees and animals. The artist is a fine-art body painter from Italy who uses his talent of blending his subjects into their surroundings so well that they disappear.

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These works of art, which can take eight hours to complete, have earned Stoetter the world body painting title.

http://www.johannesstoetterart.com/

Showmen’s Rest Circus Cemetery

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Here the clowns have stopped laughing, the acrobats no longer fly, and the music has quit playing. Everything is quiet here, but now in immortal life, the show must go on. The small town of Hugo, Oklahoma,  the winter home of the traveling circus since the 1930s, has become the eternal home for some who have spent their life under the big top.

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A section of Mount Olivet Cemetery called Showmen’s Rest, is bordered by sculptures of elephants on granite pedestals and each grave is designed to show the circus skills of the performer. Here they will remain forever performing under a timeless Big Top.

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While these lie in quiet slumber, the rest of the city celebrates their legendary past with clowns, elephants, and death defying stunts. Children watch with delight as performers practice their impossible feats. Adults are held spellbound by the show overhead.  This small Oklahoma town has a history more unique than any other in the state.

http://www.okgenweb.org/~okchocta/cemetery/showmans_rest.htm

Ray Caesar Surrealist

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Ray Caesar is one of the most notable digital artists of our time. He is also the mind behind some of the most disturbing surrealist art.  He is a Toronto-based artist with works that have been in high demand over the past decade. Caesar is unapologetic about being a digital artist in an art world that sometimes sneers at using the computer for creating fine-art.

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Caesar’s portraits usually include abnormality and fantasy in a dismal setting of sexual suggestions. His works captivate some and turn others away. Onlookers have described his work as both grotesque and beautiful at the same time. Besides being a gifted dream-weaver, he is without a doubt one of the most influential surrealist artists of our day.

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http://www.raycaesar.com/

Shell Grotto Of Kent

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The Shell Grotto, an English tourist attraction in Margate Kent,  is a 70-foot underground passageway, decorated with around 4 million seashells. According to the story, in 1835 James Newlove lowered his son Joshua into a hole in the ground that had appeared during the digging of a duck pond. When he came out, he told his father about this underground tunnel covered entirely in seashell mosaics. He had discovered the Shell Grotto.

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Actually, many different stories about the discovery have been told and may not have involved duck ponds and small boys. By whatever means he did find it, James Newlove clearly saw the potential of his find. He installed gas lamps to light the passageway and three years later opened it to the public, coming as a surprise to the locals , as the place had never been marked on any maps, and nobody knew about its existence.

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Debate of its origins has raged ever since the first paying customers went down the chalk stairway. Everything from an ancient temple, to a meeting place for a secret society or a wealthy family’s “folly”, that they were known to build for their amusement. At first glance the Grotto’s design just adds to the confusion, with shells creating swirling patterns and symbols. There are any number of explanations as to the meaning, trees of life, phalluses, gods, and something looking like an altar. However, there’s only one fact about the Grotto that is indisputable, that it is a unique work of art that should be preserved, whatever its origins.

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Despite the multiple theories going around, no one has been able to solve the mystery of the Shell Grotto. Today, shell mosaics once again cover the entire 2000 square feet of the grotto and a team of conservationists is making sure this unique tourist attraction will be around to amaze and astonish visitors for years to come.

http://shellgrotto.co.uk/

Parisian Nightclub ‘Les Bains’

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Originally built as a public bathhouse in the 19th century, Les Bains-Douches would eventually be reborn as one of the hottest night clubs in Paris known simply as Les Bains, a destination for celebrities including  Mick Jagger, Johnny Depp and Andy Warhol.

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After some second rate re-construction in 2010, the building was closed down and considered a safety hazard. Buildings in France are rarely torn down, so  it will however be gutted and be completely rebuilt on the interior. The owner Jean-Pierre Marois, turned  the building over to 50 street artists who have been working since January to turn the building into an extensive display of artwork.

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Unfortunately the former nightclub is closed to the public, but photographers were allowed in to shoot many of the artworks in progress. Shown here is just a small selection, go to Les Bains “One Day One Artist” to see more of what was captured.

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http://www.lesbains-paris.com/

Dancing with the Green Fairy

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Absinthe with it’s natural green color has been referred to as the Green Fairy. This anise-flavoured spirit is made from the flowers and leaves of wormwood, green anise, sweet fennel and other herbs,  and because of it’s high alcohol level is normally diluted with water. With a slightly bitter taste, it is often  poured into a glass of water over a sugar cube on a perforated spoon, some of which were elaborately designed for this purpose.
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Absinthe was said to be both a narcotic and an aphrodisiac. It was adopted by the bohemian Parisian culture of authors and artists who claimed that it stimulated  creativity. Absinthe’s legends caused it to be banned in most of Europe and North America. It took nearly a century before it’s reputation could be restored. In 1988, France lifted its ban on absinthe, but it wasn’t marketed under its real name again until 1998. Studies have proven that the ingredients have never been hallucinogenic, but it’s effects were due to the fact that it is 140 proof. Absinthe doesn’t come cheap, priced at about seventy dollars a bottle. Absinthe’s long past is the stuff of legend whether true or not.

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http://www.absinth.com/

 

Terra Cotta Warriors

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In 1974, a group of farmers digging a well after a winter drought in northwest China, unearthed fragments of a clay figure, that would turn out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times. They didn’t know it at the time, but the bronze arrowheads and pieces of pottery the farmers were going to sell in their village were part of a legend. Found near the unexcavated tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the self proclaimed first emperor of China, an underground army of life-size terra cotta soldiers and horses, was found, hidden for more than 2,000 years.

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Fast forward to 1995. In Katy Texas, the construction of the Forbidden Gardens was announced. The army was replicated in one-third scale on 80 acres of former rice land outside Houston. Six thousand soldiers stand ready on a stretch of land about the size of a football field.  When it was first under development, it was considered to be a 20-year project that would include a hotel, a 60-foot pagoda, a system of colored ponds, a waterway with boat rides and a Chinese-themed water park. The clay used to make the terra-cotta soldiers was said to come from the Chinese province that produced the originals, and the tiny palaces were built of Chinese wood.

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The museum closed in 2011 to make way for a new section of a controversial ring road. With the Grand Parkway slated to cut right through it, the 80 acres was about to become very valuable freeway frontage. The soldiers could not be moved being permanantly afixed to their bases. It’s not feasible to save the Forbidden City. It will probably be destroyed because the liability is too great to leave it there.

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http://terracottawarriorexhibit.com/