Cynthia Daignault, Light Atlas, NC Art Museum

We had the opportunity to view Cynthia Daignault’s wonderful large-scale artwork, Light Atlas, as part of the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit, the Beyond, at the North Carolina Art Museum.  Daigault is an American painter known for multi-part installations of paintings that follow a theme.

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Light Atlas by Cynthia Daignault

Light Atlas began when, during a conversation, Daignault realized that she could name the works of 100 men whose work defines America, but couldn’t think of a single woman whose work did the same.  In 2014, she started off on a year-long journey to explore America and to create a record of her experience.  She traveled along the outside border of the country, stopping every 25 miles to document, through sketches and photos, what she saw.  The trip covered 30,000 miles and created a virtual 360-degree portrait of the United States.

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Detail of Light Atlas by Cynthia Daignault

Daignault used her sketches and photos to create 360 small paintings that show all aspects of America, both the beautiful and the, at times, mundane.  It’s an interesting work of art and one the proves the adage that the whole is greater than the parts.  Light Atlas could easily keep your attention for hours, which, in these times of short attention spans, is not an easy task.  If you have the opportunity to view Light Atlas, it’s well worth the time.

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One section of Light Atlas by Cynthia Daignault

George Rickey, Three Red Lines, NC Art Museum

One of the North Carolina’s Art Museum’s newest pieces, Three Red Lines is a kinetic sculpture by American Sculptor George Rickey.  The graceful red arms slowly move back and forth in an arc.  It’s a beautiful sculpture and the slow arcs of the arms can be mesmerizing.

During World War II, Ricky worked worked in aircraft and gunnery systems and became interested in mechanics and movement.  He combined his art training with his love of mechanics to create large kinetic sculptures that moved with air currents.  His work has been exhibited around the globe including in Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

The work, along with sculptures by Spanish artist Joan Miró and American artist Ellworth Kelly are on loan from the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

george rickey- three red lines

Our Lady of the Pillar, by Eça de Queirós

José Maria de Eça de Queiros is considered one of Portugal’s greatest writers.  He’s most famous for his novel The Sin of Father Amaro, first published in 1875.

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National Library of Portugal [Public domain]

Our Lady of the Pillar, originally published in the Gazeta de Notícias in 1895, is a fantasy story set in Seville Spain in the fifteenth century.  Don Rui de Cardenas, a devotee of Our Lady of the Pillar (the Blessed Virgin Mary), falls in love with the beautiful Dona Leonor, the young wife of wealthy nobleman Don Alonso de Lara.

Although Don Rui is smitten with Dona Leonor, he can’t so much as catch her eye as they enter the church.  He gives up on his love and devotes himself to honoring Our Lady of the Pillar.

Don Alonso, meanwhile, hears that a young man has been pursuing Dona Leonor and, being quite jealous, has her removed to their estate at Cabril, some ways outside Seville.  Don Alonso, enraged at a misperceived infidelity by his young wife, holds her at knife point and forces her to write a letter to Don Rui, professing a love for the young man who, in reality, she has never really noticed.

Don Alonso has the letter delivered to Don Rui, in an effort to lure the young man to the estate, where Don Alonso’s plan is to murder him as he enters Dona Leonor’s bedroom.  I don’t want to give away the story, so I’ll just say that the story takes a fantastic twist at this point.  This short story is well worth reading and is one of Eça de Queiros’ best works.

Our Lady of the Pillar is a free download at Project Gutenberg.   Enjoy.

Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s First King

Much has been made of Portugal’s influence on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  Rowling was living in Porto when she began working on her wonderful series of books, so it’s no wonder that Livraria Lello, the beautiful bookstore in Porto, inspired Diagon Alley’s premier bookstore, Flourish and Blotts, as well as Hogwart’s wonderful moving staircases.

Another potential Portuguese influence on the Harry Potter series may be the legendary Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal.  Born in Guimarães in 1106, Afonso Henriques was the son of Henri of Burgundy, a French noble, and Teresa of León, the daughter of King Alfonso VI of León and Castile where Portugal was, at the time, a county.  While Afonso Henriques was not a wizard, his French and Galician parentage could make him Portugal’s “half-blood Prince”.

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Statue of Afonso Henriques in Guimarães

Afonso Henriques took the first step towards Portuguese independence in 1128,  when his army defeated Galician forces, led by his mother and her lover, Count Fernando Peres de Trava, in the battle of São Mamede.  Afonso’s fight to make Portugal an independent kingdom reached an important point in 1140 at the battle of Valdevez, when Portuguese forces defeated the army of Alfonso VII of León.  The victory led to Alfonso VII recognizing Portugal as a kingdom with the Treaty of Zamora.

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The battle of Valdevez depicted on the wall of São Bento Railway Station in Porto

The victory over Alfonso VII’s army was an important step towards independence, but it wasn’t until 1179 that Portugal was recognized as an independent kingdom, and Afonso as king, when Pope Alexander III issued a papal bull recognizing the kingdom.

Afonso Henriques, now Afonso I, made Coimbra his residence, where he funded the construction of the Santa Cruz Monastery and the Sé Velha, or old cathedral, and is buried in the Santa Cruz Monastery.   Afonso Henriques died in 1185, after leading Portugal for 46 years as the country’s first king.

Old Cathedral
The construction of the Sé Velha, or old Cathedral, was funded by Afonso Henriques

Understandably, Afonso Henriques is a Portuguese hero and his legend has not dimmed in the 900 years since his birth.  Portugal’s first king is honored with statues and paintings throughout the country.  He has also been the subject of several postage stamps, including this heroic likeness from 1940, which commemorates the 800th anniversary of Portuguese Independence.

Portugal Anniversary