Sky and I met up for a photo shoot yesterday after I dropped David off. I had in mind a weird place I see along I-45 North when I am working in that area, but we had to improvise. The place I was looking for seems to be a storage yard for carnival rides as I pass it on the freeway, but all of the rides were gone, so we went to my backup location, China Bear.
I have passed China Bear numerous times as I fly by on I-45, but it is unclear exactly what it is until you enter the rather large compound. It turns out that China Bear is a Chinese buffet restaurant with a twist. It is attached to a rather extensive art gallery and bonsai nursery. Judging from the online reviews, the food is so-so, but the contents of the art store are incredible. I love this shot of Sky, she looked very French and artistic taking photos in her black coat and jeans.
A large statue of Quan Yin rests between the restaurant entrance and the bonsai garden, and a fountain trails all around the building and is very well stocked with Koi. Because of the cold, they all seemed to huddle around the entrance near one of several water falls. We did not lack for a variety of interesting things to shoot before entering the building.
Sky and I were completely unprepared for what we found when we entered China Bear. We could see a store off to the left side of the lobby, and I expected to find the typical Chinese souvenirs you might find in a restaurant gift shop, but as we walked through the store, we found several large show rooms connected one after the other. One was two stories tall and contained a large crystal chandelier hanging over all of the art and statuary on display.
There seemed to be several types of art that the purveyors of this establishment favored, statues, paintings, and things made of either natural stone or wood. One of the most interesting to me was the collection of wooden statues and furniture. Most of the pieces appeared to be carved from burled wood and roots. I loved the face on this old man, who looks like he was carved from a thick tree trunk.
This peacock is about my height, and seems to be carved out of an intricate root system of some ancient tree. There is also a chair sitting in front of the peacock, also carved out of a root system of a tree. There were geodes larger than I had seen before, that made me wonder if they were real or manufactured. Much of the art and artifacts found in this strange gallery was on sale for thousands of dollars. There was no rhyme or reason to the items, so we saw antique dulcimers along side cheap paper fans.
Sprinkled throughout the showrooms were numerous depictions of The Last Supper in a variety of mediums. I have seen oil paintings and pressed cardboard prints of this scene before, but this was the first time I ever saw The Last Supper pressed into tin and painted -pretty tacky, but I am sure there is a buyer out there who will love it.
This is one of the stranger finds in the very eclectic art collection. This picture looks like something that should be sold on the side of the road out of the back of a van along with some velvet paintings of Elvis and panthers. The collection was so vast and strange that I half expected an old Chinese man in a Fu Manchu mustache to step out from behind one of the statues and offer me a mogwai.
We stepped outside one of the showrooms and walked along the bridges and walkways around the winding fountain and I discovered this odd pair just before we wound down our shoot and went to Kubo's for sushi. I'm not even sure what these guys are supposed to be, but they were hidden, along with some strange little statues of penguins, under some bushes in the garden area. I think we could visit this place twenty more times and find new and strange things to photograph each visit. I hope Sky posts her photos, this time. I would love to see what she was able to capture on this outing (hint hint ;) ).