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Revisiting Italy…In My Mind and in My Work

DSC_0748Today’s post is a preview to my upcoming exhibit on display at Boswell Mourot Fine Art February 28 – March 5 and again March 21 – April 2, 2015. Upon completion of grad school, I briefly wondered what would drive me to create a body of work in addition to my commission business. The answer presented itself as I applied for, planned, and attended an artist residency in remote southern Italy. The experience provided enough inspiration to last a lifetime and fuel countless bodies of work.

So I see this show as a scratch in the surface, as a beginning to a lifetime of visually exploring ideas I’ve contemplated for many years, ideas that Italy poignantly highlights in a lavish display of architecture, art, sculpture, monuments, ruins, and relics. IMG_4053 DSC_0880DSC_0907 DSC_0381DSC_0087    DSC_1000

 

 

 

This body of work is an attempt to consider and communicate ideas. Specific themes surfaced repeatedly during my travel research: the passage or suspension of time; the strong influence of history in daily contemporary life; and, visual cues contrasting the ancient with the modern. For example, several paintings examine the presence and participation of inanimate objects (see below left image and consider the statue, the key, the chains underfoot, the cell phone, and the purse), such as religious relics and sculpture, in contemporary life. DSC_0755

In Italy, I began to see the omnipresent visual references to history as beacons of light. Details in stonework, in sculpture, in ancient relics and ruins allow the past to shine on contemporary life by guiding us with ancient clues, philosophy and lessons. This body of work examines visual evidence that seems to contrast modern life but actually surrounds, shapes and embodies today’s inhabitants of Italy. DSC_0742

Viewers of this new body of work can consider ideas about history in our their own lives. The work integrates figurative imagery with layers of text, pattern and drawings in a manner that both hides and reveals information, causing viewers to seek answers and ponder the abstracted space in which the figures exist. My hope is that the work invokes thoughtful contemplation for viewers, as it did for me during the creative process.

And if that all sounds like a bunch of artsy talk, take a look at the above painting and I’ll show you what I mean. I hope you will want to study the figures and ask, “Where are they? Are they together and do they know each other? What is their relationship? Is he in her past, present or future? What is that book in her hand? What is he writing? What does that text say in the background around the woman? Who are the faded figures and are they people in his mind, his memory? Is he writing about them? What are those architectural drawings fading into the background?” There are not always answers to these questions. The point is to consider the work, apply it to your own experiences and ask questions that keep you engaged in something, in anything! There is a Robert Rauschenberg piece at Crystal Bridges Museum and the label states his work is about “the effort of searching for meaning rather than specific meaning itself.” Look at the images in your world and in the art you see, and think. You might reconsider an issue on your mind, or see something in a new light. If my work can provoke this type of exploration, then I’ve had some measure of success.

Thank you for visiting! And please visit Boswell Mourot Fine Art in Little Rock, AR if you’d like to see the paintings in person.

 

 

Mary Sims angel

A long awaited visit to the David Lusk Gallery in Memphis

IMG_4826After years of hearing about this gallery and admiring the artist roster from afar, I finally got to visit the David Lusk Gallery this past weekend. The two current shows, by artist Mary Sims and artist Tyler Hildebrand are great examples of the effectiveness of seeing art in person, as opposed to viewing online photographs of art. First, seeing the materials in both shows had a much greater impact on my perception and interpretation of the work. Second, viewing the work in person allows the size of the pieces, which are for the most part larger than life, to impact the viewer’s feelings and alter the relationship between the viewer and the presented figures.

Mary Sims angelThe vibrant work of Mary Sims (1940 – 2004) combines what appear to be conflicting images, mythology and historical references in the current show “Zuma and the Bible.” There is a tension between people, and perhaps between races, as figures appear to be either dominant or subservient in each composition. Religious iconography appears, such as the yellow halo (seen above in “Dream a Little Dream”) but the woman stares boldly out at the viewer, changing the mood from holy to defiant, as if she were being forced to dress up as an angel. Each painting contains multiple pointing devices moving our eye round and round, which is helpful, as there are details to discover with each rotation. For example, I initially somehow missed the tiny people at the feet of the woman in “Her Daddy Gave Her Magic” (below) and my awareness of the little figures completely changes my perception of the large central figure. IMG_4807

These paintings are full of tension and contrast: the rich colors contrast the messages of indulgence, power and dominance; the intricate patterns and fabrics reference multiple cultures; the clothing within each painting indicates various periods of time (see the Egyptian head dresses with the garter belt and high heels below); and the strange interaction between animals and humans is at times comical as well as disturbing (see the little dog in “Ship of Fools” below). Viewing the paintings of Mary Sims is a way to feel simultaneously uncomfortable, bewildered and mischievous. These are each works one could spend a lot of time with, as if the paintings could change and grow with a viewer. As an artist, creating imagery that prompts discovery and rediscovery for a viewer is a personal goal and is one that Sims acmary sims.potapher_cornutohieves with provocative panache. ms.ship_of_fools

Tyler Hildebrand, an artist based in Cincinnati, delights, surprises and then disarms viewers with his show, “Granny Whitey: New Paintings, Drawings & Film.” The tone is set upon entrance to the gallery with actual shag carpet covering the floor and the presence of an old television, chair and full ashtray in the center of the gallery space. Visitors immediately know that we are trodding in someone’s memories of 1970s Americana.

Many of the paintings combine some type of consumption to the point of harm with a comical edge. IMG_4804Perhaps it is the presence of a child like drawn line that gives the pieces a certain humor and light mood. Additionally, most of the paintings are on found objects such as imperfect cardboard and old Dunkin Donuts boxes. But then the thick, bludgeoned, and sometimes bleeding bodies present a dark element. All of the figures are distorted with either enormous, elongated necks or no necks at all and bulbous bodies that seem to expand in uncomfortable proportions. It is as if the heads (our brains) are shrinking and the bodies are expanding causing the gross destruction of ourselves and each other. th.bowieAs I reflect back on the paintings, my smile at the quirky details fades and I realize how many of the pieces have hitting, bleeding, and fighting. For example, there are multiple images of guns, in collage style application or childish drawings. See the piece titled “Bowie” (here to the right): why does the man in bed have a machine gun? And what to make of “Wastin Away Again” (below)? Hildebrand provides these hints: the figure is too big for the enormous canvas, he has a tiny angry face much too small for his body, he holds a TV remote, and there is an empty speech bubble. th.wastin.away.again

My intention was to write more about the materials, such as pieces of scrap paper imbedded in the paintings, but the drawings and paintings on top of the found papers and materials dominates my response to the work. And finally, it occurs to me. Hildebrand is able to tackle a topic which I tried and failed* in my own work during an assignment in grad school: the portrayal of American consumer culture and what we are doing to ourselves physically and intellectually as we embrace fast food and immediate gratification. Perhaps because of my own preexisting interest in the topic, I am prone to see these themes in the work of Hildebrand. But the more I consider the details the artist presents (text such as “Where’s my Playstation?” and images of Waffle House, Cracker Barrel, beer cans, cigarettes, and violent acts when the figures don’t get what they want), the more I realize the brilliance of Hildebrand’s images and style. He doesn’t preach to us, he simply lures us in with a childlike technique that initially seems fun and light-hearted. However, stay a moment and consider the details – the visual hints such as blood and brand names – and the fun, youthful approach serves as bait luring the viewer’s thoughts to something pervasive and dark.

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Now that interstate construction is improving, I look forward to visiting the David Lusk Gallery for future shows. If they are a fraction as provocative as the work of Mary Sims and Tyler Hildebrand, it will be well worth the easy drive from Little Rock to Memphis.

Up next…

Lately, I’ve shared museum and gallery experiences in this blog. For the next entry in early March, I’ll write about my own recent body of work and will report on how the opening night lecture goes. For now, I better run put the finishing touches on “An Italy Experience: Reflections on Past and Present” scheduled to open Feb. 28 at Boswell Mourot Fine Art. Thanks for reading!

*here are two failed paintings where I tried to address manufactured food issues – I was told they are pedantic and offensive, which was not my intention.IMG_4832 IMG_4833

James Drake at the Blanton Museum in Austin, TX

A quick visit to the Blanton, worth every minute

I have the pleasure of driving through Austin at least once a year and one of my first stops, straight from I-35, is the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT campus. In need of a coffee and a walk, the moderately sized facility never fails to satisfy and is always a reprieve from the long drive. Add the varied special exhibits, and it becomes a slice of heaven after too many billboards and fast food signs along my route.

IMG_4567So, with only one day in Austin last week, I found myself making plans with my daughter and niece. When brainstorming good rainy day activities, I gave the Blanton a hard sell. Fortunately, these two budding artists were enthusiastic about the plan and off we went.

Sadly, by the time I post this, the exhibit, “James Drake: Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash),” has only a few more hours for viewers to experience as much excitement as I’ve ever seen in drawings (the final day is today, Jan 4). The exhibit showcases, pinned to the wall from floor to ceiling, 1,242 individual drawings which were the result of Drake’s commitment to produce at least one drawing per day for two years. At times the multiple drawings form a cohesive image and idea; other times, the individual sheets of paper flutter autonomously and create a random snapshot of the artist’s stream of consciousness as he moves from one subject to another, or repeats one item or type of subject in an effort to practice and better understand the object.

IMG_4569Often, Drake incorporates text into the drawings, which either emphasizes or contrasts the visual images. Sometimes the text appears in the form of commercially printed material and is glued directly on the drawing paper and used as a background underneath drawings. Some words are large and stenciled, some are tiny and hand written, reminiscent of a journal entry or personal reminder. The longer I stood in front of each large wall, filled with papers, the more I realized the vast variety of mark making – variety in subject matter, variety in value, and variety in materials. Drake seems to be working hard to determine the most effective materials and methods to communicate. He even uses some type of scientific graph paper with mechanically made lines measuring something (someone’s heart rate? some sort of geological movement?).

This variety reminds the viewer that meaningful marks can be made in infinite ways with multiple materials, all in the name of drawing and communicating. His work inspires me to think about how old the concept of mark making is…on walls, then tablets, then paper. As old as it is, drawing is as modern and futuristic as it is ancient. Drake manages to capture historic, traditional elements as well as contemporary applications of drawing, which I find to be one of the most fascinating and enjoyable results of the display.

IMG_4568Along that thought, what delights me the most, is the combination of traditional figurative work and all that other mark making. The presence of such variety creates an engaging and complex contrast. Yet, with all the variety, there is a simplicity, a calmness or orderliness to the chaos. There are few colors, mostly varying degrees of black and white, though sepia tones and red are integrated from time to time. And there is plenty of white space – empty areas that serve as calm spots amongst the high energy of the drawings. At times, Drake reminds me of the great artist and drawer, David Bailin, whose energetic compositions are unique due to an extreme and fearless fervor of mark making. Both artists are able to create abstractions and complex spaces in their drawings using a strange combination of figurative representation with lines that I can only categorize as “other” (think of the above mentioned graph paper with the seismograph like lines).

Had I stayed longer and more closely examined the drawings, the text, and the collage style imbedded papers, I would surely have a more thorough and thoughtful response to share. But the two little artists were hard to corral and off we went to the second floor* after immersing ourselves for a little while in the mind of James Drake.

Thank you for reading, and good luck getting to the Blanton before 5:00 pm today!

IMG_4585 *Regardless of the museum’s special exhibits located on the first floor, the second floor holds alluring treasures worthy of repeat visits, such as an exquisite Alice Neel painting, a meditative Adolph Gottlieb, and the installation show here, by artist Cildo Meireles.

A Spectacular Exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

DSC_0049 DSC_0050The buildings, designed by Moshe Safdie, present visitors with an architectural delight. The curved walls and linear roof lines form a jointed exoskeleton huddled like a cluster of dormant crustaceans in a watery valley. Regardless of what lies inside the magnificent hull, the outside is certainly worth a visit.

Once a visitor has marveled over the lush landscaping, the winding trails, the various sculptures and the materials forming the structure of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, she must remember there is much to experience on the inside, as well.DSC_0052

 

 

 

 

 

What lures my group up from Little Rock this time is the groundbreaking “State of the Art” exhibit of American avante garde artwork. Museum curators visited studios across the country and selected work by 102 artists for a diverse presentation of materials and ideas from the studios of today’s American artists.

While the crowds are not suffocating, there is a buzz in the air created by the excitement of numerous visitors. People seem truly interested in understanding the works and there are multiple audible “ah-ha” moments rippling throughout the galleries. A couple of the works try too hard to force found objects into an art context, such as the stack of sombreros on blowing fans reminiscent of Donald Judd’s Minimalist wall mounted rectangular forms. But who am I to say? Other visitors might connect with and marvel over that piece. There certainly is something for everyone, as an emphasis on materials (and variety of materials) is a strong theme in the show. Speaking of materials, an important distinction occurs to me as I consider the variety of pieces. This is an exhibit of what is happening in art studios across the country, not an exhibit of what is happening in the art business in our country. The curators seem to have no fear about crossing preconceived boundaries between fine art, craft and technology. DSC_0251 DSC_0257The end result is a presentation of work unfiltered through the business of art giving us a view of what artists, regardless of professional acumen, are making and saying. This is not to say all of these artists are emerging and undiscovered. Many of the artists represented are, indeed, established and already included in fine art museums, galleries and collections. But by visiting nearly 1,000 artists in all areas of the United States, the curators chose artists based on messages and materials and the show mirrors a cross section of what is happening in all types of studios, not just those who have risen to the top of an industry.

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As a painter, I am naturally drawn to many of the 2D pieces, particularly the figurative works of Vincent Valdez (see photo to the right), Delita Martin, and Mequitta Ahuja. Each work by these three artist conveys a strong sense of history and narrative. As with much great art, the pieces can be viewed multiple times with new observations and discoveries made each time.

There are a large number of video and installation pieces as well as an inventive use of materials, such as thread, plastic, glass, wood, recycled objects, and even smoke. DSC_0264Despite the alternative methods and use of materials, most of the artists succeed in communicating a message that can engage viewers, providing just enough information to allow us to “get” the piece, or at least ask relevant questions. To me, this is what makes the show wildly successful.

On the road trip home, our car held three visual artists and one writer, and boy, did we have lots of comments and questions. Despite a thorough visit, I’m ready to return, for one more look at the provoking and engaging exhibit, State of the Art.

NOTE: Below are snapshots of the helpful brochures which allow a wide variety of museum visitors to engage and appreciate the exhibit. I was tempted to work on the games below in the brochure meant for children!

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(Interrupted) Reflections on Italy

In conclusion…

Even the taxi ride to the airport was another grand tour of Rome. I don’t know what all we passed, but there is just too much beauty and history to see. After a two hour delay due to mechanical trouble, we are now airborne leaving Rome. The woman next to me is talking loudly to herself (in Hebrew?) as if we are all going to die indicated by her occasional English statement, “oh a God, oh a God. What is wrong with this airplane!? What is happening. WHAT IS HAPPENING? AYE AYE OH GOD!” I’m trying to make a soothing face and sound to help her simmer down. On top of her building hysteria, I think she might have some sort of bronchial infection or the whooping cough or something. I saw her pop a few pills and am praying they are for sleeping.

Though reflection may take a little more time and distance, I can’t help but to think about what this trip means to me, what I learned and how it impacts the way I think and create artwork.

I learned that most people are the same as each other. I learned that most people have some kindness in them. I learned that we are all impacted by the news, media, and literature we have at our disposal. I learned that McDonalds is doing a good job marketing and selling to Europeans. I learned that many people are jerks when on sidewalks and when it comes to waiting in line. I learned that the USA is in its infancy. I learned that short shorts with bottom cheek hanging out has spread across the globe as acceptable attire for young women. I learned that history is not past, it is living and breathing in every present moment and human thought and decision. I learned that art, philosophy and religion are one in the same and have the same source. I learned that communication can happen without words.

Not one time did I feel unsafe. Not one single time. I was nervous about pickpockets and guarded my belongings, but never did I feel unsafe. As a female traveling alone all over a country, I think this is of utmost importance. I am also extremely grateful that I never got sick, not even a stomach cramp! How fortunate! My knee, which has endured multiple surgeries, held up beautifully and never even hurt, which is unusual. I never even had a crick in my neck or a headache! So so so thankful!

Ok, my reflecting is made difficult by the aforementioned seatmate. From time to time, we read about these people in the newspaper when it gets bad enough…you know, the disruptive lunatics on airplanes. I suppose I should be grateful I’ve never had this happen before. I don’t even know where to begin…she has no sense of personal space, leans over and literally drapes her arm on top of my body. Keeps talking to me, though not in English, and she leans her head ONTO me. We are talking about physical contact here people. I know there are cultural differences with how people interact in crowded spaces but I am getting uncomfortable with this level of physical contact.

When lunch arrived, the stewardess asked if we wanted the chicken or pasta meal and my seat companion kept saying both. She and the stewardess went round and round about how she couldn’t have both, just one. Throughout the meal, each time a flight attendant walked by, the lady asked for a second meal. Eventually, she received another lunch and dumped the whole thing in her purse! Later she dug it out and ate it! She keeps offering me peanuts, which I suppose is nice but she leans way over and puts the bag in my face and I feel like she is tempted to suffocate me with a bag full of peanuts.

I am now TRYING to watch a movie (keep in mind, I’ve been on this plane for over 9 hours now with this woman). She gets up and down from her seat constantly and when people need to pass, she won’t move from the aisle. She asks for drinks when they aren’t serving drinks. I tried to take a nap, and I swear she intentionally poked me in the arm for the entire 45 minutes. When I finally dozed off, she reached across my body and opened the window and the bright light startled me and I was awake (she has the aisle seat and I am in the window seat). I finally gave up and she said something about how I needed some light on me.

As I awoke, I realized she has a full whiskey drink. Seconds later, the drink is empty. A few minutes later the drink cart came around, and she ordered another and the stewardess said, “another?” I don’t know how many I missed while dozing. Based on the fact that she just fell down in the aisle, I’m thinking she’s had more than enough. I’m watching my movie and she holds the glass IN MY FACE and says “whoo whoa whoa, wheezkey, wheezkey, wheezkey.” I’m serious, the cup almost hits my face. I managed to discreetly flag down a flight attendant who, seeing the distress in my eyes, leaned way over so I could whisper, “for the sake of everyone, I beg you to not serve her another drink!” The flight attendant gave me a knowing look and a confirmation nod.

The woman is such a prowler, I have a feeling if she wants a drink, she will wander the plane until she finds an attendant who will serve her one. She pokes at me and interrupts me constantly and asks strange questions. Ok, she just got her baggage down from the overhead and she AND the suitcase fell down onto her and a seated man in another row! He helped her up. Lots of commotion and very loud oying coming from her. She just crawled back into her seat…is poking me on the arm now pointing to her lips which are oozing blood! I suggested that she go to the bathroom to clean up and ask for ice. She came back and started poking me again while I am still trying to watch the movie. She wants me to look at her lips again and I think she wants to show me that the ice is helping.

Now she just asked me to look at a list of phone numbers, loan her my mobile phone and let her call her son. I told her I do not have inflight phone service. Now she is doing what she did with the lunch service. She waits a minute, and asks the same question again and again. “If i cood jus cawl me son!!!! Oye oye oye! I jeest need yuar phone ta cawl me son!” She is up again.

Ok, after reading the book, The Gift of Fear, I am finally learning to listen to my instincts, and I need to move. NOW is my opportunity because she is in the bathroom, or lord knows where. Ok, I just asked a flight attendant if there is another seat, ANYWHERE (I’m about ready to hide in the bathroom). At first, I sensed he thought I was persnickety. But I told him about a few choice moments and he said, “AHHHH! I’ve had my eye on her and have noticed her disruptive and strange behavior. Let me check on a different seat for you.” I packed up licketysplit and by the time he returned and said 19H, I was outta there. My new cabin is like a whole new world. Dark, civilized, quiet. My new seat mate is simply sitting and watching a movie. Three more hours (13 hours total on this plane due to a two hour delay this morning), and I am elated. I really don’t care how much longer we have, as long as I do not have to spend another moment with the deranged woman.

Oh my new seat mate is delightful. After an hour is silence (golden), she asked me for help with reading something in English. We ended up talking about her country, Greece, and she explained how she views the economic problems there. Because I get most of my  information from the news media, it was particularly interesting to hear her perspective on the Greek people, the education system and the general work ethic. Her fiancé has left the country to find a good job and she is traveling to see him and is distressed about their future together and whether or not it can be in Greece.

Now I am on the flight from Atlanta to Little Rock. Initial observations: people here are friendly and for the most part, courteous. People do not crowd each other or shove each other. People reach out and help each other like the person who just helped me get my luggage into the overhead bin a minute ago and the person who just helped two young boys traveling alone. People seem a bit more relaxed and less guarded. My friend, Joan, and I discussed these observations and she concurred, stating, “You should see England! We are all so puritanical, and like order and rules, manners and courtesy. It is in our history and in our genes.” Her comments made me think of my Danish friend, Cecilia, who observed that manners can be kind but also can be counterproductive to being honest and true to ourselves. She argued that her “Nordic sensibility” helps her speak openly, bluntly, and neutrally about her feelings and needs. Regardless of our nationality, striking a balance between self service and kindness toward others is an admirable goal and, for me, a work in progress. The people I encountered on this amazing adventure – whether from Italy, Scotland, Denmark, England, Iran, China, or Germany – lent kind words or gestures in their own cultural style and I am forever grateful.

To friends, family, peers and strangers who found this blog interesting enough to read, thank you for your interest and supportive comments during the past several weeks. Until the next adventure, or an intriguing art topic arises, Ciao!

LauraIMG_4020

Savoring Every Moment, A Final Day in Rome

I finally came to my senses and decided to take a cab instead of walking to the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna….and what happened? The driver took me to the wrong museum and it was the first time a lack of Italian really gave me a problem. Of course, I forgot my handy little dictionary and could only point at my map showing the driver that the museum is located north of Borghese Gardens. Regardless of the indirect route, it was well worth the effort. I saw art connected to, and inspired by art I’ve seen other places such as the Vatican. I saw some of my favorite artists such as Cy Twombly, Francesco Clemente,  Van Gogh, Alberto Giacometti, and Gustav Klimt. image image

One component that was especially eye opening, is the similarity in art themes, styles and materials used worldwide during certain periods of time throughout history. Though not all, much of the museum showcases Italian art through history as well as contemporary time and an incredible collection purchased at the Venice Biennial.

After a coffee at the museum’s Cafe Di Artistes, I walked through the park, regretting my neglect to reserve a ticket in advance for the Borghese Museum. Never the less, the park was beautiful and must have been quite a retreat from the city for the Borghese family. It is located high on a hill just north of the ancient city border, and the ancient fortifying walls still stand in an imposing manner. I ended the morning with a walk down to Piazza Popolo and down Via del Corso with a great lunch and break at a restaurant called Gusto.

It probably would have been wise to take a bus or cab, but once again, I couldn’t resist walking and headed toward the Coloseeum. For some reason, I feel like I’ve avoided this part of Rome…maybe a fear of the extreme crowds…once I arrived, I was SO THANKFUL that I’d read a tip about purchasing your ticket in the Forum entrance instead of the Colosseum entrance line, which must have had over a thousand people in it. There was NO ONE in the Forum entrance line and the ticket works for both sites. An additional bonus at the ticket counter was learning that entrance was free due to the date, the first Sunday of the month.image

imageThe sites were amazing but very steamy. I felt like a true tourist with my umbrella for shade, my camera on shoulder and a map in hand. Again, I’m a tad ashamed for admitting a reliance on Hollywood for historical reference, but seeing the movie Gladiator made my visions more complete while trying to take in the vast architectural and engineering feats of Ancient Rome.image

I continued on, though the heat was almost unbearable (and that’s coming from an Arkansan), past the Palantino Architectural Park, Circo Massimo and then toward the Tiber River and the Campidoglio. At this point, I began entering what was starting to feel like my neighborhood, and I did some gift shopping in Campo Di Fiori. To cool down and clean up, I visited the Museo Napoleonico, which is just south of Piazza Navona. The Palazzo turned Museo is very formal and full of furniture, drawings and portraits. For my taste, the highlight was a beautifully displayed modern fashion exhibit.

Despite all the churches I’ve visited and the fact that they blur in my mind, I couldn’t resist the St. Charles, particularly when I spotted a sign that read, “Have you prayed to the heart of St. Charles?” imageI need to do a little more research, but my guess is the container holds the preserved actual heart of Charles.

Afterward, for my last night in Rome, and in Italy, I had a nice dinner at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try, Cul-de-Sac, where I tried the escargot, and had the best Mista Salad thus far, followed by tiramisu.image imageThe escargot was so pretty, that the English family next to me threatened to steal it off my table! I’ve never been a big tiramisu fan, but my friend Ellis suggested trying it in Italy…which was good advice, it was SO GOOD. Of course, it was hard to head back to the hotel and I decided to go on one more walk to the Pantheon, which is magical around sunset. On the way back, I did a little souvenir shopping for my family and went to Bar Eustacia which reportedly has the best coffee in Rome. I can’t remember the name of what I’d ordered, something that starts with an M…metopanne, or some thing like that. It was a decaf espresso with chocolate and whipped cream and was HEAVENLY. So on this final night, I went all out and splurged, and it was worth it. It was all so very worth it.

Arrivederci!

PS a few extra pics along the wayimageimageimage

 

Palaces and Churches Galore, Opulance in Rome

After breakfast, I walked down Via del Corso toward the Piazza Venezia and visited the Palazzo Dora Pamphili (thank you for the suggestion, Cecelia!). A portion of this prominent family home is still lived in by the family, and a portion is open to the public as a museum showcasing an incredible art collection. There is an outstanding audio tour done by one of the descendants of the family who is a current resident.

So, you know how these churches hold various relics, some more macabre than others? Well, the private chapel in this family palace holds two preserved bodies, those of St. Theodora and St. Justin. During the 17th Century, the family obtained written permission from the pope to move the saints from the catacombs outside the city which were being ransacked by thieves. We weren’t allowed to get very close or take pictures, otherwise I would give you a look. Another jaw dropping moment occurred as I turned a corner and entered a small, guarded room. There in front of me stood the Velazquez painting of Pope Innocent X. As the story goes, the Pope was initially displeased with the painting because it truthfully captures him too well.

After the tour, I walked around the Trajan Market and Forum which includes the Trajan Column, another slide I remember from a recent art history quiz. Like the a Temple of Hera, it never occurred to me that I would be standing in front of the column trying to decipher the story told in the scroll reliefs. I made myself continue past the multiple museums, twists and turns and focus on my mission: the grand Santa Maria Maggiore. I did start day dreaming of bananas and finally stopped in a market – if you are in Rome amongst all that beauty, and all you can think of is bananas, then I guess your body is trying to tell you something. The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, located on top of Esquiline Hill, is known amongst other things, for its mosaics and large number of relics, such as a piece of the True Cross. The way the light fell into the lower chamber with the kneeling Pope Pious IX was glorious.

I accidentally took a wide circle off the beaten path (and passed the Piazza Vitorrio Park which was pretty though grungy) as I was trying to find Santa Giovanni in Laterano church. The first thing I noticed, once I arrived, was the sheer SIZE of this church. I mean, it is hard to understand how structures were made this big. There was a huge youth event happening when I arrived with lots of singing which was festive and pretty.

And then, continuing the church tour, on to San Clemente (thanks for the suggestion, Katie!). It is a church built on top of a church which was built on top of another church. As a visitor, one can descend all the way down 10 meters to the original structure, a groups of buildings dating back to the 1st Century, and see a still functioning spring and water system and rooms believed to be a Roman mint. There is also a group of rooms on the lowest level that from the 2nd to 4th centuries served as the seat to the Eastern pagan cult of the God of Mithras.

I’d heard that San Pietro in Vincoli would be hard to find, so I loaded up on coffee and struck out from the refreshing cool depths of San Clemente and continued on my pilgrimage. I made the effort to visit yet another church in order to find Michelangelo’s Moses sculpture and it was well worth the hike. He gleamed and almost pulsated, looking like he might stand up at any moment to declare something of great importance.image As a bonus, I got to the THE CHAINS worn by Peter when he was jailed. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, seeing the relics and the power they hold is something I find intriguing, as well as inspiring, to consider.image

Tonight, after a cold shower, I went out searching for food. I really can hardly emphasize how hungry I am most of the time. I think it is partly due to a different diet, but mostly I am famished because of this obsession to walk and climb and walk and climb and walk and climb.

For example, I fully intended in catching a bus first thing this morning and heading straight to one of my further destinations, either Santa Maria Maggiore church or Santa Giovanni in Laterano church. But I had trouble finding a bus ticket the had trouble finding the correct bus, and all the while I was headed in the general correct direction, and when walking you can take the time to peek in lots of surprise piazzas and churches and see the most amazing treasures, so I just kept going. The problem is that I was utterly exhausted about halfway though the day and still had so much to see…ah, the frustration of visiting Rome.

imageAnyway, because I can’t seem to stop moving, I’ve had a hard time sketching which was a strong part of my first two weeks in Italy. In Rome, there is such a tremendous amount to sketch, both indoors and outdoors and I am irritated with myself for not sitting down long enough to draw. Tonight, I grabbed my sketchbook and made a plan: Pick up a sandwich at a shop near Area Sacra Argentina, then walk down to the beautiful and well lit Piazza Venezia. I found the perfect spot, started my sandwich (famished AGAIN and trying to eat slowly so I wouldn’t choke), and a woman came up and asked the name of the massive structure in front of us. She and her parents were visiting from China (actually the women who approached me has lived in Berlin for twenty years and works in pharmaceuticals). They sat and visited with me for about 45 minutes!

imageThen I walked up stairs suitable for a giant whose legs each measure 8-10 feet long. And everything up there was so pretty! Spectacular! Then I found the famous Romulus and Remus sculpture that symbolizes the myth of the start of Rome…and then….ok, you get the point. Can you see how hard it is to sit still here? I have loads of photos that will provide inspiration for my art for many years and I wouldn’t trade my lovely conversation with Shanji and her parents for a small handful of sketches anyway.image

The climbs never end. When I finally drag myself back to home base after 14 hours of walking, I hike up 4 flights of stairs and my legs absolutely scream. There is a tiny elevator meant for those unable to take the stairs or with luggage and I am too proud to get on it. The people in this city literally trot up never ending stair cases with little effort and I won’t be the American tourist looking for the elevator. Plus, like they say, when in Rome…