Tag Archives: art

Iconic Frida Kahlo: A Look Inside Her Closet

Frida Kahlo is iconic. I have described her as the 20th century’s Virgin of Guadalupe. Her legend endures. The Huffington Post has just published a photographic essay by Ishiuchi Miyako of her personal belongings, along with letters and photographs, first revealed decades after her death.

These clothes and other life’s artifacts — letters, corsets, altered shoes to correct the leg length difference of childhood polio, family photographs — are part of a temporary show at Casa Azul where Frida and Diego shared a life together.  So popular, it will continue and you will see it as part of our fall 2015 educational arts programming.

Diego_Frida_July2014-101 Diego_Frida_July2014-107 Diego_Frida_July2014-103

Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera in Mexico City: 3-Day Art History Tour. Click this link for complete program itinerary. This weekend walking tour also includes visits to Casa Azul and Museo Dolores Olmedo with transportation.

Choose Your Dates:

  1. September 24-27, 2015.
  2. October 22-25, 2015.
  3. November 12-15, 2015.
  4. December 3-6, 2015.

Come solo, with a partner or friend. Norma Hawthorne Shafer accompanies all programs.

Visit for the weekend. Make it a getaway. Make this trip part of your Mexico City travel plans. Stop here with us and then go on to other parts of Mexico or wrap up your Mexico trip and explore Mexico City with us before returning home. This is a great orientation to Mexico’s art, history and culture, and to become more familiar with Mexico City .

Diego_Frida_July2014-99 DiegoFrida4Group2-35 Diego_Frida_July2014-100

A Glimpse of Dali’s Jewelry: Surreal Glitz and Glam in Figueres, Spain

As you may have guessed, I’m back in the U.S.A. recovering from jet lag in my sister’s NoCal home, though missing my morning cup of Spanish espresso. Fuerte. Muy fuerte. My body is still in the state of “Does anyone know what time it is?”

We love those ruby red lips to wear. Would you?

We love those ruby red lips to wear. Would you?

Memories of Spain are swirling in my brain, especially the glitz and glam of Salvador Dali’s gem encrusted jewelry creations on exhibit at the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, a 15-minute train ride beyond Girona.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-14 Dali Theatre Museum_24-13

Dali’s relationship with his place of birth is powerful, deep and intense. He rescued and restored the burned out theatre across from the church where he was baptized, and where he held his first exhibition as a painter. The museum is his personal design based on his own aesthetics.  It holds the representative range of all his works created during his lifetime.

The connotation of limp clocks. You guess why.

The connotation of limp clocks. You guess why.

This is why you go to Figueres and then on to Cadaques-Port Lligat, to explore the persona of Salvador Dali as translated through his art and antics.

Dali Theatre Museum_Green

The museum brochure advises visitors to take any circuitous path through the museum if they wish — there is no chronological order to a visit. You get to create your own surreal experience, according to Dali’s non-plan.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-10

Travel Tips, What We Did and Should Have Done

Car Rental: we rented a Europcar online in advance and picked it up at the original downtown Figueres train station knowing we wanted to drive north along the Costa Brava. Fortunately, we arrived at the old station. We didn’t realize Figueres has two train stations, one for the AVE high-speed train and the older downtown station that serves mid-distance (older) trains. So, when we wanted to return to Barcelona on the AVE, we had to return the car to the original station and then take a taxi to the high-speed station. An added expense of 17 euros. Europcar does not serve the Figueres AVE station. To get to Cadaques on public transport is difficult.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-19 Dali Theatre Museum_24-4Sleeping: we booked and pre-paid for a charming bed and breakfast country inn online in advance using Booking.com. We thought, oh, great, a countryside experience. The inn is about 15 minutes beyond Figueres in a small rural village with one pub/eating place. We arrived early evening with the intention to spend two nights, but the inn was located on the curve of a main side road with constant traffic, so with little sleep we decided to leave the next morning, visit the museum and head for the coast.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-9Visiting Dali Theatre-Museum: If you arrive early, parking is plentiful in the adjacent garage. We didn’t need tickets in advance here but you might depending on season and time of day. The main entry is opposite the church on the square. Don’t miss the jewelry exhibit. It’s easy to miss since the metal door is obscure and is through a separate entrance. Your museum ticket includes admission to this part, too.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-11 Dali Theatre Museum_24-22Dali’s wife and muse, Gala, appears in many of his paintings. In this one, above left, is she fragmented or defined as floating eggs? Eggs as Dalian symbolism appear everywhere.

Recommendations: In hindsight, I would stay two nights in Girona, rent a car there, drive to Figueres in the morning and go directly to the Dali Theatre-Museum, and then go on later in the afternoon to Cadaques and spend at least three to five nights there.  It takes about an hour to drive from Figueres to Cadaques and road signs are good, although the road is narrow and curving. Pay attention to the roundabouts. It stays light until well past 8:30 p.m.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-7Salvador Dali is an enigma to me. I see and understand his creative genius. I question his non-political position in the face of two wars that destroyed his country and most of Europe. Surrealism was both an art and political movement. By eschewing politics, did he further his artistic career more than any other contemporary? More than Picasso or Joan Miro?

Dali Theatre Museum_24-5 Dali Theatre Museum_24-21

Many in the arts world called Dali a fortune seeker, greedy.  In response, he created the Avida Dollars necklace, shown above left, as a snub to the critics.  His jewelry is one more testimony to his creativity and skill to reimagine the ordinary in a spectacular way. And, what can we say about those ubiquitous eggs?

Dali Theatre Museum_24-8 Dali Theatre Museum_24-15

Let’s just create a Cadillac that rains on the driver and passengers each time the umbrella that floats above opens, to say nothing of the ship that floats alongside in the air. A buxom figurehead adorns the car hood, protecting all who ride.

Dali Theatre Museum_Cadillac Dali Theatre Museum_24-2 Dali Theatre Museum_24-23

Where is your imagination?

Dali Theatre Museum_24-24  Dali Theatre Museum_24-3

 

 

 

Artist Salvador Dali at Port Lligat, Girona, Spain

Port Lligat on Spain’s Costa Brava, is a niche in the rock wall coast line of the Mediterranean Sea, just around the bend from Cadaques. This tiny fishing village is where surrealist artist Salvador Dali lived and painted for most of his adult life.

Dali_27-3

We ended up here more or less by accident, since we had booked no hotels in advance between our visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres and our last three nights in Barcelona before returning to San Francisco. Our only plan was to rent a car and go.

Dali_27-2

This was both wonderful and a mistake. Wonderful because our path took us to Cadaques and Port Lligat, two glorious, sun bathed Mediterranean villages hugging two coastline coves.  The mistake was, without planning, we hadn’t bought advanced tickets for the Dali house admission, so we didn’t get in.

Dali_27-10 Dali_27-9 Dali_27-4

No matter! The gardens and views are amazing and there are plenty of surreal sculpture installations to capture the imagination, including a baby grand piano spilling its guts.

Dali_27-6

The house is perched on a rock hill overlooking the sea. It is studded with olive trees, outbuildings, patios and flowers planted in teacup pots. Videos give visitors a complete art history into Dali and his wife Gala’s life here, along with all the idiosyncracies of his controversial life, politics and religious views.

Dali_27-11 Dali_27-14

In front of the swimming pool, designed a la a surrealist’s view of the Alhambra palace complete with lion fountains, a Pirelli tire sculpture frames the famous Mae West lips sofa. All visitors take their turn posing on the sofa for a photo.

Dali_27-27 Dali_27-24

Dali and his wife Gala bought the small fisherman’s cottage in Port Lligat from his childhood nursemaid. He developed and expanded it over the years, and it became the place he retreated to. The rock outcroppings of place take on surrealistic forms in his paintings.

Dali_27-17 Dali_27-20

Lips are a Dali icon. In the 60’s he made ruby studded gold lips worn as a pin. If you want, you can buy a glass knock-off in any of the affiliated museum shops along with moustache adorned t-shirts and Dali-designed perfume bottles. The man was definitely an entrepreneur who capitalized on his reputation and his talent.

Dali_27-15 Dali_27-19

The surrealists discredited him. Leftists disowned him. Priests embraced him. Socialites basked in his aura. Hollywood gave him entrée. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine at age 32. Sigmund Freud was his hero.

Dali_27-18

Art critics weigh in about his apolitical position of the Spanish Civil War. Some say everything he did was sexually and psychologically motivated. Others say he was an exploiter and showman. He was said to have applauded Franco’s assassination of his good friend, poet Federico Garcia Lorca as a surreal moment of life.

Dali_27-16 Dali_27-13

Whatever you think of Salvador Dali, his work is astounding and a visit to his birth place of Figueres and the Dali Theatre Museum is a must if you go to Barcelona. It’s only an hour north by AVE fast train going 200 km/hour.

Dali_27

We hadn’t planned on going to the beach because we are no longer sun worshippers. But, we needed a respite from visiting so many cities (Barcelona, Bilbao, Granada, Girona, Figueres) and historical/architectural points of interest.

Dali_27-26 Dali_27-8

Cadeques turned out to be the perfect place to settle for three nights. I would recommend longer. Five days wouldn’t be too long! More on Cadaques to come. Everything about being in a white-washed Mediterranean village is true. In Spain, it’s even more true because of the food and the people, to say nothing of the leisurely strolling and shopping.

Dali_27-23 It’s a dog’s life, too. Not just for Salvador Dali.

Dali_27-7 Dali_27-22And to know and feel the Mediterranean, I took off my shoes and put my feet in the beautiful, clean, clear water and walked the curve of the shoreline.

Dali_27-25

 

 

Wide Angle View: Antoni Gaudi’s Basilica Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Awesome. Inspiring. Surreal. Transformational. Meditative. Astonishing. Captivating. Beyond imagination. Crazy. No words can adequately describe the Basilica Sagrada Familia in Eixample, Barcelona, Spain.

Sagrada FamiliaBest53-10

You can learn more about this architectural wonder by reading works of art historians, cultural pundits and architects than you can from me. So, I won’t say much more than this is Gaudi’s interpretation of God’s majesty and homage to the sacred family of living beings who inhabit his kingdom.

Sagrada FamiliaBest21-3 Sagrada FamiliaBest21-17

Smack dab in the middle of this astonishing sculptural masterpiece is the Christ figure, arms outstretched, body on the cross, suspended under a canopy of lights. Is the architect asking us to suspend all disbelief?  He floats above us, naked, exposed, soaring and protected under an umbrella or cloud of gold. Color dazzles the interior through stained glass windows.

Sagrada FamiliaBest21-10

The supporting columns are like tree trucks with limbs holding up the cavernous ceiling. It is a phantasmagorical dreamscape that can only conjure up what the imagination beholds.

Sagrada FamiliaBest53-38

I arch backward, look up, see the bones of dinosaurs, the hull of a ship, the backbone of man, the spines of sea coral, cut glass, anemones, the eye of god.

Sagrada FamiliaBest21-18 Sagrada FamiliaBest21-16

Gaudi lived and worked during the Art Nouveau-Modernism, Impressionism and Cubism eras. Once a strong supporter of the Anticleric movement in Spain, he embraced his renewed Catholicism with a fervor. The Basilica, unfinished, is his testimony to unwavering belief.

Sidebar: At about the same time that 19th Century anticlericalism gained a more solid footing in Europe, in Mexico, anticlericalism became the rallying cry of Mexican reformists with the confiscation of church property in 1824.Sagrada FamiliaBest21-13

Before we left the USA, I put out a call for advice about which lens (or lenses) to take. I was inclined to take only the lighter weight 50mm prime for my Nikon D7000 camera. I am trying to learn how to travel lighter. Thanks to advice from Lynn Nichols and Steve Zavodny (who is a pro pho), I relented and brought along the Tamron 11-16mm and the 17-55mm. Thankfully!

Sagrada FamiliaBest21-11

Most of the photos on this post were taken with the wide angle Tamron lens so I could capture the magnitude of the space.

Sagrada FamiliaBest21-12 Sagrada FamiliaBest21-4

We bought tickets in advance from the USA in order to avoid lengthy waits in line and chose to visit the Passion Tower, one of two that is open to visitors. After spending about 45 minutes in the sanctuary we rode an elevator to the top of the tower (at our appointed time), then returned to spend another two hours inside for reflection and photographs.

Sagrada FamiliaBest21-2

By the time we left it was after 2 p.m. and time for tapas at La Catalana, just two blocks away.

Two Photo Workshops Coming Up in Southern Mexico!

Sagrada FamiliaBest21-9 Sagrada FamiliaBest21-20  Sagrada FamiliaBest21-21 Sagrada FamiliaBest21

There is a lot of construction going on now. Huge cranes towering above are moving man and machinery as another tower is under construction. Many of the facade mosaic ornaments are covered in protective gauze. Heights are dizzying. Views from the tower top are magnificent. It’s like being in the turret of a medieval castle.

Sagrada FamiliaBest21-19

Compare and contrast with Mexico? The art nouveau movement spawned the European romanticism of Mexico City’s renaissance during the Porfiriata. Catalan architects designed and built here. Examples include stained glass ceilings and construction techniques in the Palacio de Hierro and the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico. Rivera brought his classical European training back to Mexico and adapted it to begin the Mexican muralism movement along with Siqueiros and Orozco.

Contact me if you are interested in a Mexico City art history tour:

Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

Sagrada Familia-34

Critics Sidebar: Our taxi driver had an opinion. He said the Sagrada Familia is a commercial tourism venture and not authentic to the original ideals of Gaudi. Since the building was unfinished when Gaudi died at age 74, it’s completion has been left to architectural interpretation of Gaudi’s original drawings which were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. He recommended we go to Montjuic to see the real Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia-45 Sagrada Familia-33 Sagrada Familia-44

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Murals of Abelardo Rodriguez Market, Mexico City

The fresco murals painted by Diego Rivera‘s disciples on the walls of the Abelardo Rodriguez Market in Mexico City are a historic art treasure at risk. Most on the first floor are deteriorating, peeling, fading, etched by attempts of graffiti at knife point, hidden by stalls, storage areas and obscured by dust.  Yet, they are a must-see.

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-21

The disciples of Rivera came to Mexico City to learn from the master.  Many were political idealists from the United States like Pablo O’Higgins who later became a Mexican citizen, the Greenwood Sisters — Marion and Grace, and Isamu Noguchi.

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-15

The murals are a backdrop to a bustling city market where vendors sell mostly everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, poultry, dairy products and household goods. There are comedors and juice stalls. Pull up a seat.

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-6 The Girls

Be greeted by giggling pre-teen girls who are on vacation this week from school and are tasked with babysitting while their parents tend the stalls. Yes, they are on Facebook. And, yes, I shared this photo with them.

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-5 AbelardoRodriguezMkt-19

Pull up a seat to order a chicken taco or hot pozole. Most barely notice, if at all, the frescos that were painted in 1936. This was a time of political discontent, growing fascism, and the crisis of a worldwide economic depression.

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-36

Naguchi mural is a bas relief sculpture

Then as now, Mexico City was an international hub for artistic expression and the Big Three — Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco attracted young artists who wanted to take part in the Mexican Muralist Movement, born from a strong tradition in the graphic arts and especially the work of Jose Guadalupe Posada.

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-33

Marion Greenwood paints the second floor stairwell at the back of the market

Today, we are on an art history quest, Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, accompanied by an art historian who knows her stuff!

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-18

Today, we went to the Abelardo Rodriguez Market, but not before first visiting the Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP) and Colegio de San Ildefonso, where we saw the earliest frescoes of Rivera, Siquieros and Orozco.

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-16

My friends Cindy and Chris are with me on this art history adventure. I stayed with Chris and her husband Jeff after my knee replacement surgery in North Carolina last November. This is Chris’ first trip to Mexico.  Cindy came to Oaxaca seven years ago but has never been in Mexico City before. Today we walked almost 12,000 steps according to my FitBit.

abelardorodriguezmkt-26  AbelardoRodriguezMkt-32

The muralists took risks. Their work was political commentary and a call for change: better health care, equal rights for women, a fair wage for workers with better working conditions, elimination of exploitation and a social system that provides food and shelter for families. They foreshadowed World War II in their work.

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-38 AbelardoRodriguezMkt-20

And in honor of Chris’ new favorite food, huitlacoche, I post the following photo:

AbelardoRodriguezMkt-17

Huitlacoche, corn fungus at its finest!

If you are interested in bringing a small group of friends to Mexico City for this art history tour, please contact me.