art

Bilbao Wow

I just arrived in Bilbao near Spain’s northern coast. Bilbao is the capital city of Basque country and it’s beautiful! Part of its charm is how it seems to have been engineered for humans. Walkers and bikers enjoy the wide path along the tree-lined River Nervion. The city’s mix of old and new architectural styles seem to complement each other, as if to say “of course we get along — we’re all Spanish.” Lots of public transportation, no traffic, sidewalk cafes everywhere. But the real stand-out in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry. There are so many reasons to love this museum!

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Lavapies, Madrid

On Friday, I went on a walking tour to see the murals in the neighborhood of Lavapies with Mimi and Gerardo, both artists themselves. I loved the mural behind them for its playfulness. You can see the reference to Matisse’s dancers in the top mural. Below, the mural is taking a poke at itself: the word “Spectaculum” means a place of entertainment and refers to the way street art can gentrify a neighborhood. So far, Lavapies retains its international not-gentrified character, and is full of immigrants from all over the world with a very strong sense of community.

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“Worldly and Nude, Freedom Against Oppression” at the Museo Reina Sofia

The Reina Sofia is Madrid’s modern art museum, with works by Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and George Braque, among many others. One of its current exhibits relates stories of the murderous oppression in Latin America during the past 100 years. You can read more about the exhibit here. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/jun/16/madrid-reina-sofia-latin-america-artistic-boom-enemies-of-poetry This painting by Roberto Matta appears to depict relief from the trauma of war by placing its ambiguous characters in a field of appealing colors, with a sense of balance and what appears to be a spot of sun. The painting is certainly a reference to Picasso’s “Guernica,” on display a few rooms away, which portrays only tragedy. You can read more about what inspired “Guernica” here. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/history-magazine/article/pablo-picasso-guernica-painting-history

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“Las Meninas” at the Prado

So….instead of writing my usual travel postings, I’m going to post one photo a day with a a little bit of context. Today’s photo was taken in Madrid’s Prado Museum. The painting is “Las Meninas,” by Diego Velazquez. It’s a very complex portrait of a Spanish family that creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures in the painting. I loved it even more after seeing the many ways Picasso deconstructed it in paintings that are exhibited in Barcelona. You can learn more about them here https://kimmie53.com/2020/03/07/catalunyas-many-free-spirits/#more-13292 or here https://www.infobae.com/cultura/2020/10/07/la-belleza-del-dia-las-meninas-de-pablo-picasso/.

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Bird Box

If you are a Norteno living in San Miguel de Allende, you either know Susan Page or you will at some point. Susan put San Miguel on the literary map when she founded the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in 2004. She and her husband, Mayer, also travel all over Mexico to collect Mexican folk art. This is the story of a wooden box I saw in one of their galleries.

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Ekphrasis

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci

When I’m traveling, I love finding unexpected connections between people and places and ideas. Like Ekphrasis — an ancient Greek thing that I learned about in Mexico for an event sponsored by Americans. (If, like most people, you haven’t been following along, I’m an American in Greece on my way back to Mexico). Ekphrasis is a literary work that’s about or inspired by a piece of art. Like everything Greek, the idea of ekphrasis goes deeper than that. But to keep things simple, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is ekphrasic because the story is built around Leonardo’s paintings, including “Vitruvian Man.” John Keats’ poem, “Ode on A Grecian Urn” is also ekphrasic.

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At the Pompidou, the Winners Are…

In English, the neon sign on the Pompidou says “What is there between us?”

If you come to Paris, be sure to visit the Pompidou at night. Gabe and I were there last night and the museum was almost empty. We didn’t feel rushed or distracted by crowds, so the museum was quiet, and the experience was intimate. What a privilege to be almost alone with some of the world’s most important modern art.

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How I Learned to Love Albuquerque

At first, I wasn’t crazy about Albuquerque. Miles and miles of strip malls, empty lots, parks with highway roar. Although the city’s Old Town is atmospheric, most of the stores sell junk, and the Old Town’s “best” cafĂ© served me a greasy chili rellano with a side of canned spinach. Wasn’t canned spinach banned in 1959?

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