Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gorgeous Gaudi & Marvelous Miro!

We arrived in Barcelona last week and are staying in a little apartment, with our dear friend, across the street from the impressive Sagrada Familia church, by architect Antoni Gaudi. We have seen a lot of amazing buildings and churches on our trip but this one was the most breathtaking. The interior ceiling is amazing. The construction of the church began in 1882 and still continues today. The construction was hampered by the loss of Gaudi's building plans in a 1936 fire. However notes, models, published plans and photos, still exist and have guided the construction to this day. Once the church is finally complete it will have will have 18 towers: 12 dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists, one to Jesus and another to Mary.

We also visited Casa Batllo, a huge house built in 1877 and refurbished and redesigned by Gaudi in 1906. The building is privately owned and the owners have generously opened it up to the public. The entrance fees assist with the maintenance of this lovely building. Everywhere you look there are functional and beautiful design elements that are far ahead of their time. The building is in an organic art nouveau style with elements of nature emulated through out. The role of light is highlighted with the well placed windows and use of glass. The tiniest of details, such as door handles, are beautifully designed.

We spent a day walking through Parc Guell, also designed by Gaudi. The park was originally an (unsuccessful) housing project but is now a park for all to enjoy. The park is full of of Gaudi structures and two houses designed by other architects. Gaudi lived onsite from 1906-1926 in one of these houses, built by Francesc Berenguer, which us now the the park museum full of furniture and other items created by Gaudi. The park was very busy and up a steep hill. It was well worth the taxi ride up, rather than a sweaty trek.

The other artistic highlight of Barcelona is the expansive Joan Miro museum. Ever since I saw his 1924 painting "The Birth of the World" at MOMA in NYC, Joan Miro has been one of my favorite modernist artists. The Barcelona museum did not disappoint. The lovely museum building, designed by Josep Lluís Sert, wonderfully houses the diverse Joan Miro collection, as well as exhibits by other artists. I was amazed by the variety of Miro's work including large scale textiles, paintings, drawings, murals, sculptures, mosaics etc. The museum also had two informative video presentations.
I enjoyed getting to know some of Miro's early, realism work, such as The Farm.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see the amazing mercury fountain, created by another of my favorite artists, Alexander Calder. Calder was commissioned by Spain to build the sculpture as a tribute to the rich Spanish mercury mines. It was to be displayed at the 1937 world's fair. It was mesmerizing to watch the surreal looking mercury sparkle as it leapt, pooled and slid down the sculpture, as if by magic. Of course we now know that mercury and it's fumes are toxic, so the sculpture is housed behind glass. To check out a video of it in action see below (although it does not adequately capture the in person experience)!

For me Joan Miro's modernist work is the reduction rather than the abstraction.
It is the essence of the world, the line, the spine, the elements, the building blocks. It makes me feel a deep sense of interconnection with humanity and the universe. Often art is thought of as a modern human creation but I see art has universal and timeless. I also see examples in nature all around us; fractals, colorful bowerbird nests, or the the intricate sand piles made by burrowing crabs, to name a few. When Picasso gazed upon the ancient cave paintings at Lascaux he declared: “We have invented nothing…" The caves rediscovered in 1940, house amazing paintings that are estimated to be 20,000 years old. Even more amazing, in 1994 The Chauvet Caves, were rediscovered also containing amazing paintings estimated to be 30,000 to 33,000 years old! The chauvet caves were the subject of a wonderful documentary titled "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"/. You can see the trailer below.

The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. ~Pablo Picasso

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Friday, June 8, 2012


We decided to leave Plum Village after the first week of the 3 week retreat, as it was not what we expected. We have arrived in the charming seaside town of Biarritz, near the border of Spain. We have a lovely apartment overlooking the sea and will be here for a week.

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