C.Y. O’Connor Horse and Rider

Charles Yelverton O’Connor (11 January 1843 – 10 March 1902) was an Irish-born engineer who found his greatest achievements in Australia, before tragically committed suicide. His life has been commemorated in monuments across Australia, but his death is remembered by a bronze horse and rider who peek out of the waves off the coast of the beach where he died. Born at Gravelmount, Castletown, Meath, Ireland, in 1865 he migrated to New Zealand, where he worked initially on the locating and survey of a route for the first dray and…

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‘Imaginary Elephants’: the sculptures created by a 17th-century artist who had never seen an elephant.

We are in Japan. The Tōshōgu Shrine complex of Nikkō is popular for its architectural and sculptural beauty, including the Three Wise Monkeys and the “Sleeping Cat”. Another among its hundreds of sculptures is commonly referred to as “Sōzō-no-Zō”, literally the “Imaginary Elephants.” The sculpture is located on the gable of the Kamijinko (Upper Sacred Storehouse or God’s Storehouse), where a pair of strange-looking animals grin with crescent-shaped eyes. The sculpture on the left is green and white, while the other is black and both are complete with golden tusks.…

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Katzenbalgen, the Monument to Homeless Cats

In Braunschweig, Germany, where the streets Hutfilter, Damm and Kattreppeln meet in the pedestrian zone, the most gorgeous, humorous and unconventional monument of the city has stood since 1981, the “Katzenbalgen” stele by Siegfried Neuenhausen, a former professor at the Braunschweig University of Art and one of the most outstanding personalities in Lower Saxony’s art scene. The monument is impressively large and looks like a high stele, on which a variety of bronze cats are fixed in different poses. All people who see the monument for the first time notice…

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Catemaco: the witchcraft capital of Mexico

We are in Catemaco, in eastern Mexico. Built on the shores of the eponymous lake, the town has a long history of fishing, even though nowadays, the town’s main economic activity is tourism. In the 1970s, tourism to Catemaco spiked massively owing to the fame of Gonzalo Aguirre, a renowned sorcerer who lived and practiced in the region. During his lifetime, Aguirre performed rituals for politicians, actors, and business leaders. He also organized a witchcraft convention that brought together the country’s top shamans for a black mass. After his death,…

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Why in Havana a nude woman with a fork mount a rooster?

We are in Havana, Cuba, and there’s a mysterious brass statue in Plaza Vieja: A woman sits atop her big, feathery mount, her voluptuous form completely naked except for the stilettos on her feet. A massive forks rests on her right shoulder. And the rooster, ever so stoic, gazes ahead. No one knows the meaning behind the unusual sculpture. Its name is “Viaje Fantástico”, so perhaps the woman heading off on an adventure to some sort of nudist dinner party? Or, as some online theories speculate, could it have a…

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Chloride, Arizona: a living Ghost Town~

Located just a short drive from the abandoned (and almost disappeared) town of Santa Claus, Chloride seems to resemble any kitschy Wild West village turned tourist trap. However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll find something that makes this ghost town stand out: a wonderfully unusual collection of junk art and a display of giant murals! The city is an old silver mining camp in Mohave County and the oldest continuously inhabited mining town in the state. Scientifically, chloride is an ion used to desalinate seawater into drinking water,…

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Greyfriars Bobby: the most loyal of little dogs, or a Victorian era publicity stunt?

An adorable scruffy dog looks out over Edinburgh, atop a granite fountain built in his honor. Popular stories said that this little skye terrier known as Greyfriars Bobby kept vigil at his owner’s grave for 14 years after his death. The best-known version of the story is that the dog belonged to John Gray, who worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a nightwatchman. When John Gray died of tuberculosis in 1858, he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, in the Old Town of Edinburgh. Bobby then spent the rest of…

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”The big fish” of Northern Ireland

We are in Northern Ireland, along the banks of the River Lagan in Donegall Quay, Belfast. “The Big Fish,” also known as “The Salmon of Knowledge” (Irish: bradán feasa), is a sculpture made from a mosaic of ceramic tiles representing a creature of the Irish mythology. The giant sculpture is based on a character from the tale “The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn”, which recounts the early adventures of Fionn mac Cumhaill, a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology. The story tells of an ordinary salmon that eats nine hazelnuts that fell…

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The Red Ghost of Quartzsite, Arizona~

Quartzsite, Arizona, is a small town with a passion for camels. Camels play a big role in this community’s history, so it’s no wonder that camel replicas pop up all over town. The town’s welcome sign is adorned with camels. Its graveyard is the final resting place for Hadji Ali, a camel herder for the U.S. military. The most recent addition isn’t new. It has simply returned from the dead. Or, in this case, the scrap heap! Just off of the 10 freeway sits Georgette, a scrap metal camel and…

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The Devil Heads that loom over the village of Želízy in Czech Republic.

A macabre sight awaits hikers exploring the pine forest above the village of Želízy in Protected Landscape Area Kokořínsko in Czech Republic: two enormous demonic faces carved into sandstone blocks, who stare visitors with their empty eyes. Created by Vaclav Levy (1820/1870), the sculptor founder of modern Czech sculpture, in the mid 1800s, the about 9 meters tall stone heads are known locally as Čertovy hlavy or the “The Devil Heads” and have been a local attraction for generations, while other carvings by the artist including artificial caves and scenes…

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The cyanometer that measure the blueness of the sky in Ljubljana centre

Cyanometers have been color-coding the sky since the late 18th century, however Martin Bricelj Baraga’s sculpture adds a really modern twist. Located in the center of Ljubljana, Slovenia, the monolithic structure blends art and science, measuring the blueness of the sky looking really stunning. Not only does cyanometer periodically capture images of the sky and measure them against the 53-shade color wheel toward the top of the structure, it uses the data to imitate it, changing color to blend in with the sky. Day and night, cloudy or bright, its…

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The “Indecent” little man on the church of St. James in Brno, Cze

On the southern window of Brno’s Church of St. James, the same church that houses Europe’s second largest ossuary, one sculptural element of the impressive structure seems somewhat out of place: an indecent little two-headed man cheekily displaying his bare butt to the world. This little guy is called “Neslušný mužícek” – the Indecent Little Man. There are two stories attributed to the little man, both involving the competition between the Church of St. James and the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul on nearby Petrov Hill, to build the…

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A Day Out: the Rundle Mall pigs of Adelaide, Australia

People passing through Adelaide’s Rundle Mall, Australia, may be perplexed to see four pigs hogging the pedestrian walkway. From the look, these four life-size bronze pigs, they are having a great day out at shopping center: one has his snout in a rubbish bin with a crumpled milk carton, orange peel, a half-eaten banana, apple core and a left-over sandwich. Another happily sits spread on the pavement, while still another comes running to join the fun. After their launch on 3 July 1999 led the Adelaide City Council and the…

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Monumental Kitty of Detroit, Michigan~

Although it may seem strange, one of Detroit’s most beloved felines isn’t curled up on a windowsill or lazing on on the knees of some more or less unlikely cat lady. In reality it doesn’t even purr, and look at motorists shuttling down a fairly unremarkable service drive en route to the freeway. It is a brick sculpture, with wide eyes and pointy ears, known as Monumental Kitty, and since 2010 has been charming drivers. It was created by the local artist Jerome Ferretti, who once worked as a journeyman…

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Woodstock Artists Cemetery~

A few minutes’ walk from the Woodstock Village Green, a zone often filled with lively music and art, there is a piece of green on a hillside filled with music and art, but in a little different way…….. This is the Woodstock Artists Cemetery, and its name came not from the founding family, who didn’t establish the cemetery with artists in mind, but from local residents who saw the place as a snobbish affront, a cemetery for the summer elite who fancied themselves too highly to rest for eternity among…

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