Tag Archives: sculpture

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

 

Oaxaca Folk Art: Jose Garcia Antonio Ceramic Figures

Jose Garcia Antonio, one of Oaxaca’s best clay sculptors, participated in the 2014 International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this July. This is no small accomplishment. This juried exhibition invites only the most accomplished artisans from all over the world to show and demonstrate their craft.

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Last Friday, we drove out to San Antonino Castillo Velasco as part of an all-day excursion to celebrate my friend Carol’s birthday. She wanted our first stop to be with Don Jose.

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It’s dark inside the studio, atmospheric. Don Jose works intuitively, feels the clay, feels his wife’s face, the faces of his children and grandchildren. He inspires creativity for those with physical limitations.

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While we were there, he received a call from TV Azteca in Oaxaca. They wanted to come out to interview and film him that afternoon. He is becoming very famous.

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I remember going to his studio years ago when not many knew about him and he was far off the beaten path, long before tour guides had him on their radar to bring clients there.

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I remember when we drove into the entrance of San Antonino and inquired from a moto-taxi driver if he knew where Don Jose lived. We paid the driver 10 pesos to lead us there.

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I remember when I bought a life-size figure of a Juchitan woman carrying a basket on her head, hips swaying, braids hanging, skirt flowing, knowing she was too heavy to ever bring back to the USA, and putting her in the home of friends until the Oaxaca home I was to live in was completed — years later.

Each time I visit Don Jose Garcia Antonio, I am amazed how his magic hands inspire and create work his eyes cannot see. Each time, I am tempted to add something to my collection. This time, it was a pig planter, which my travel mates called Wilbur.

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His daughter, Sara, makes expressive clay face-mask planters to hang on a wall. All the children work the clay. The grandchildren are growing up in this clay culture, shaping simple figures of butterflies, mermaids, and winged angels. Small treasures to pack into suitcases to remember the artist, his family and the experience of being in the arts and artisans mecca of Oaxaca.

How to Find Jose Garcia Antonio: Turn into the village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  Turn right on Calle Independencia. Turn left at the first street. Go several blocks. Look on the left side of the street for the clay lion on the roof. There you are!

 

Don Jose Garcia Antonino: In the Pottery Studio

If you blink you will miss the turn-off to the village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, just before arriving in Ocotlan de Morelos, where our friend Don Jose Garcia, known as the blind potter, lives and works. Some years ago, Don Jose developed cataracts and without expensive treatment, he lost most of his vision.

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Along with his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law, the family studio is a folk art haven for primitive pottery fired in a wood kiln that represents, for the most part, Don Jose’s vision of Oaxaca village life. He has magic hands and has taught his family well.

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Usually, people make this visit on busy Ocotlan market day Friday. Yesterday, Tuesday, it was quieter and we had the route to ourselves, except for the occasional donkey straying onto the highway.  During our visit we discovered hidden treasures: sculpted bulls, marigold decorated planters, face urns, regal figures of Tehuana women carrying bouquets of lilies, pregnant mermaids and proud couples entangled in dance.

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I always love bringing Oaxaca visitors here. The family appreciates the support and people are always mesmerized by the creativity. There are plenty of small things that aren’t too heavy that can be wrapped and brought home in a suitcase. I guarantee you will love the mermaids playing musical instruments and the jumble of clay figures everywhere.

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Allow a full day to go, return, visit and have lunch at Azucenas Zapotecas in San Martin Tilcajete.  You will want to stop at the women’s cooperative in San Antonino to browse the intricately embroidered blouses, at the wood-carving studios in San Martin Tilcajete, and look at Rodolfo Morales‘ stunning murals in the Ocotlan municipal building. If you have time, visit Abigail Mendoza in Santo Tomas Jalieza, too.

How to get there:  Travel down the Ocotlan highway.  Pass San Martin Tilcajete, the wood carving village. Turn right at the sign for San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Go to Libertad and turn right.  Turn left on Independencia.  Look for #24 painted on the door. On the roof are two large clay lions to guard the gate.  Knock hard!

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Shop Mexico–Josefina Aguilar Clay Figures, Oaxaca

Here is an amazing assortment from my personal collection of Josefina Aguilar clay figures for sale. Josefina is from Ocotlan, Oaxaca, and creates clay sculptures in herr home pottery studio on the road leading into town. She is famed for her whimsical interpretation of the world, including the life of Frida Kahlo.  I also have a few pieces for sale by her sister Guillermina, equally talented who lives right next door. What’s amazing is that I got all these back to the U.S. intact, whole, with no cracks or broken pieces!

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1. Calavera Lady with Purple Boa. $165. Signed Josefina Aguilar.  She stands almost 12″ high.  Blue umbrella is attached.  The boa is a series of purple glittery petals, and the detail work is extraordinary. In perfect collectible condition. Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It includes excellent packing.

 

 

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2.  To the right, Foxy Lady of the Night with Glitter Dress and Red Hair.  $95. Signed Josefina Aguilar. She is wearing a fox boa — indeed you can see the fox head and tail!  Her fingernails are painted bright red to match her hair.  The glitter is shimmering purple, and she sports a yellow flower in her hair.  Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It does include excellent packing.

 

Aguilar_42313_Frida-53.  Serene Woman with Flowers and Bowl on Her Head. $95.  Signed G.A.A. (Guillermina Aguilar). Stands almost 13″ high.   Stunning sculptural figure in natural clay, unpainted, holding a water bowl on her head.  The bowl is filagreed and is balanced and held on the head by two metal prongs that protrude from the clay braid.  The flowers and stars that decorate her body are also solidly held by metal rods that are baked into the clay. Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It does include packing.

Aguilar_42313_Frida-6 4.  Day of the Dead Calavera with Flowers and Bowl, $50.  Signed G.A.A. (Guillermina Aguilar) 9-1/2″ tall in natural clay.  That bowl rests securely on her head. She is a wonderful representation of the lightheartedness by which Oaxacans celebrate this October holiday — with marigold flowers, lots of good food and fond memories of their departed loved ones.  Price includes packing.  Does not include shipping or insurance.

 

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5.  Frida Kahlo with Three Monkeys.  $60. Josefina Aguilar.  I loved the sculptural quality of this piece which is why I bought it at Josefina’s studio before she painted and signed it.  Any collector would recognize it as pure Josefina just by the sculpting of the nose!  You can see how she attaches the pieces of the leaves and monkeys to the body with slip clay because this is a different color from the clay body.  Price includes packing. It does not include shipping or insurance.

Please send me an email to let me know you want a piece BEFORE you make a PayPal payment.  Include your shipping address and let me know if you want insurance.  I will confirm it is still available and send you an invoice based on your location and desire for insurance.  Thank you.