Thursday, June 30, 2011

El Greco's Light

Haunting and strange elongated figures writhe against backdrops of ominous clouds. Saints, apostles and Spanish noblemen inhabit the canvases of El Greco. Their pale flesh gives the impression of another world - a moon-lit realm where Heaven and Earth touch.

Domenico Theotokopolous, better known as "El Greco" or "The Greek" spent most of his career in the little town of Toledo in Castille, Spain.

Since Toledo is close to Madrid, Nicole and I took a day trip to Toledo to see the El Greco House/Museum. Many of his important religious and civic works are here.

El Greco has become one of my favorite artists - fusing together the Byzantine iconography that he learned in his native Crete, and Venetian painting, which influenced him during his years in Italy. He is a truly spiritual painter, re-creating space and reality in a way that is sublime yet believable.
One can clearly see the intensity of Byzantine icons in the faces that he paints, and the saturated color and sensuality of the Venetian masters.

Although he faded into obscurity during his lifetime, he was rediscovered and celebrated by the Romanticists and other movements of the 19th century. El Greco was innovative beyond his time, and he planted a seed that would bear fruit centuries after his death - I myself am among the fruits of his influence.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Toledo, Spain

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Madrid and its Most Luminous Painter

This week I had the joy of visiting the home and studio/museum of Joaquin Sorolla in Madrid. His home complete with its lush gardens was his own private and isolated world of inspiration.

I have long admired the exuberant light-filled paintings of this 19th c. painter, and it was meaningful to see them in person amidst their original context of Spain, as I fully appreciate how Sorolla captures the soul of Spain in all of it's boldness, color, pride and grit.

Weathered Andalusian peasants and fishermen stare out from his canvases as well as high society figures and his own wife and children.

Each painting is a symphony of color harmonies, and executed with confident bravura brushwork that exemplifies his technical mastery.

He perceives so keenly the distinct hour of the day that he depicts - celebrating the
specific light quality and array of colors that accompany it.

Truly a painter of the stolen moment, Sorolla's love for life and sensitivity to his surroundings animates each of his compositions.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Madrid, Spain

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mom and Spain

Mom's visit in Paris: a week full of great art and delicious conversation, food, and laughter. In usual fashion, she adds color and life to every experience - an amazing privilege to share my last week in Paris with her. Our daily escapades included everything from photographing old cemeteries to flea market shopping.

We mused over our favorite paintings in museums, people-watched in cafes, explored hidden corners of the city, and stayed up 'til the wee hours of each morning swapping stories and sharing our artistic endeavors, hopes and fears. On Monday she boarded a plane back to the US while I boarded a plane to Spain. We parted ways filled with lifelong memories. A true friend, she sharpened each experience, and every event deepened our bond.

Today I arrived in Madrid with my traveling companion Nicole, whom I met in Paris.

So far we have visited Barcelona and Granada - two distinctly different but equally beautiful cities. Barcelona is an exotic beauty, but much more 'gritty' than Paris.

I have never seen so many intensely colored and dreamlike gardens and parks.

The architecture was fitting, as Barcelona is home to all of the major works Antonio Gaudi - one of the world's most outlandish and visionary architects. Nicole and I took a guided "Gaudi bike tour" to see the city and to gain deeper insights into Gaudi's works. Organic curvilinear forms reminiscent of coral and sea tides sweep across his structures, along with exuberantly colored tile mosaics that fit the setting of Barcelona's Mediterranean coastline and tropical flora.

In my own work, I hope to emulate the bold and playful rhythms that characterize Gaudi's work.

We took a night train to Granada - home of La Alhambra - a fortress holding the glorious remains of Moorish reign in Spain; a rare and precious historical era of peace between Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities.

The palaces of the Nasrid Sultans and the accompanying gardens and fountains have inspired poets, authors, and artists for centuries. I couldn't help but be transported to another place and time amidst the Arabesque botanical forms and Quranic poetry carved onto the pure white marble surfaces alongside intricate tile mosaics.

These palaces are, as intended, an earthly representation of the Heavenly hereafter that awaited the faithful.

As an added bonus, we unknowingly arrived in Granada on the Catholic feast day of Corpus Christi- and just in time for the procession. It was an incredible spectacle to see Andalucian people in all their pride as they enact this ritual parade with its flourish, color and symbolism.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Madrid, Spain

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June in Paris and a Surprise Visitor

Paris always leaves me wanting more, and it seems that the more time I spend here, the more I want to discover and unlock its secrets. In the beginning I naively thought two months would be enough... My return flight to the US was May 31st, but here I sit in my new little Bohemian apartment in Montmartre for the month of June.

Since my Latin Quarter apartment was already rented out for June, I had to uproot and find a new place for this month. Thanks to Craigslist, I found this little studio - subleased by an artist/travel photojournalist. As soon as I saw the paint on the floors, I was sold!

It is on the ground floor that opens onto a beautiful little courtyard. The light is superb.

As happy as I have been here, it depressed me to move out of my old apartment and neighborhood. Paris is so communal - one becomes quickly attached to the locals one encounters daily. I already miss the girls who worked at the boulangerie at the end of my street, and the jovial guys who own the Moroccan restaurant on my block who stood outside smoking and complimenting my outfit every day. It's the little things, you know?

I couldn't help but feel a bit isolated and, well... blue. But all that is soon to change - as my mom arrives for an 8-day visit tomorrow morning! Thanks to a generous and spontaneous gift from my very thoughtful dad, she has a plane ticket to Paris for a week of unforgettable memories soon to be made!

In painting news, I have started this somber little painting (work in progress)

A dear friend posed for it. This simple, austere and contemplative composition is directly inspired by one of my all-time favorite paintings in the Louvre, Hippolyte Flandrin's "young male nude seated" (below).

I have had the pleasure of spending quality time in front of this lovely treasure in person.

What a week - Looking back with gratitude, looking ahead with eager expectancy....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Paris, France

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Medieval Library in Glass

On the last day of Betsy and Linda's stay in Paris, we took a train to Chartres to see the Our Lady of Chartres Cathedral, said to be one of the most magnificent Gothic cathedrals in Europe, renowned for it's hundreds of stained glass windows. It was very moving to stand in this place that has survived so much assault and weathered the ravages of time. (my little Chartres homage below)

Our brilliant and entertaining British gentleman tour guide is a scholar and author on Gothic cathedrals. He likened the windows of Chartes to books in a public library; They are full of history, symbols, theology, stories from the Bible, and biographies of the saints; But instead of text, they are encoded in beautiful jewel-toned stained glass. Like eager children, we craned our necks gazing up at the windows as he unlocked these stories for us.

This Cathedral has it's own remarkable story of surviving adversity. After a fire destroyed much of it in the 1100's, it was attacked and defaced again in the 1600's at the hand of anti-religious during the French revolution. Finally in 1939, when France went to war against Germany, all of the windows were removed and shipped to a hiding place in the south of France to escape air raids. She stands triumphant today - offering her stories and wisdom to all who enter.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Chartres, France