Livraria Lello, Porto

Another stop on our Portugal trip was a visit to one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello e Irmão.  Opened in 1906 by brothers José and António Lello, the bookstore is now a protected historic building.  Famous for its interior, the building’s Art Nouveau exterior is no less impressive.

Livraria Lello has, in recent years, become an attraction for fans of the Harry Potter franchise.  Rumor has it that J.K. Rowling was so inspired by the beauty of the library’s central staircase that she based the fantastical staircases of Hogwarts on them.   Livraria has fully embraced the notoriety, even occasionally hosting Harry Potter themed “Dinner for Fans” nights.

There are negatives to all the attention, though.  The bookstore has become crowded with tourists visiting the site that inspired Hogwarts rather than coming to buy books (and yes, I realize that I was one of those tourists).  Access is now controlled by a doorman and the bookstore has begun charging an admission fee (which is refunded with any book purchase).

For me, the bookstore was so crowded that our visit was much less enjoyable than I had expected.  Bookstores are something to be savored, lingering over the shelves to discover something new and interesting.  I’m not sure how people manage to actually browse the bookshelves at this point.  I would have loved to experience this beautiful bookstore before the notoriety.

Lello Interior 5

São Bento Railway Station, Porto

One of my favorite stops on our Portugal trip was São Bento Railway Station in Porto.  Opened in 1916, Porto’s train station is one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world.

The vestibule of the station is what makes it so special.  Over 20,000 azulejo tiles adorn the walls.  The tiles are the work of Jorge Colaço, an important Portuguese artist who specialized in painting large murals using azulejos.  The walls are covered with blue azulejos depicting scenes from Portugal’s history.  Polychromatic tiles border the ceiling and show scenes from the history of transportation in Portugal.

São Bento Railway Station may look like a museum but it’s a working railway station with lines to Braga, Guimarães, and Aveiro as well as being the starting point for the scenic Douro Line.

Sao Bento 6

The Beyond, Part 3, NC Art Museum

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The Beyond, an exhibit that celebrates the art and influence of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, was recently at the North Carolina Art Museum.  O’Keeffe’s art was on exhibit as well as the work of artists who were influenced by O’Keeffe.  This is the third part of my visit to the exhibit.  You can read the first two parts at the links above.

Just as O’Keeffe’s work spanned many different styles and subjects- from landscapes to florals to pure abstracts and even sculpture- the artists whose work is on display with O’Keefe’s are varying in style and subject.    The three artists here are interesting because of the cultural influences that come from their multi-ethnic backgrounds.

Negar Ahkami is an Iranian-American artist who mixes Persian art and cultural traditions with modern influences to create wonderfully fantastical art.  Her painting, The Source, is a great example.  You can see references to the tile art and the elaborate architecture of the Middle East as well as the storytelling traditions of Persia.  You can also find the American influence in the beach scene, where sunbathers enjoy a day with the city’s skyline behind the.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition of a Western scene that would not be acceptable in most of the Middle East against traditional Persian influences.  It’s a beautiful work of art.

 

Californian artist Anna Valdez has been influenced by her experience at archaeological excavations, where she used sketch books to record and map her findings.  The two works on display as part of The Beyond are still-life that act as a visual record or catalog of the scene.  The O’Keeffe influence can be seen in the use of the deer skull in this beautiful painting, titled Deer Skull with Blue Vase.

I love Kim Garza’s paintings.   The Mexican-Korean artist celebrates the female figure in a way that’s not often seen these days.  The figures in her work are browner and rounder than is commonly pictured.  I’m a big fan of Colombian artist Fernando Botero, and Garza’s paintings have that feel.  As I said, the paintings celebrate the female figure and, in all her paintings, the women are having fun rather than just posing as a subject for the artist.  Her painting Ping Pong is a great example.  The women, are round, naked, and enjoying life.  I love the feeling of joy Garza’s art puts forth.  We should all be this happy.

Monica Kim Garza- Ping Pong- 2016-17
Monica Kim Garza- Ping Pong- 2016-2017

While The Beyond has moved from the North Carolina Museum of Art, it’s making its way around the country and is currently on display at the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut.  It’s well worth seeing and, if The Beyond makes its way to a museum near you, I recommend you go.  You won’t regret it.

The Beyond, Part 2, NC Art Museum

For part 1, click here.

The North Carolina Art Museum recently hosted an exhibit of work by American artist Georgia O’Keeffe and and contemporary artists whose work was influenced by O’Keeffe.  There were some really nice works, some where you can see how O’Keeffe’s work influenced the artist and some that, frankly, I felt was reaching to find common ground.

Let’s start with a couple where I can actually see the influence of Georgia O’Keeffe.  First up is this wonderful painting by American and Israeli artist Sharona Eliassaf.  Eliassaf, like O’Keeffe, is fascinated by her surroundings, and the city landscapes of New York are some of her favorite subjects.  This painting, entitled Stars to Dust, Dust to Stars, is reminiscent of  O’Keeffe’s New York paintings.  I love the bright colors and the art deco influence.

It’s interesting to compare Loie Holloway’s paintings to those of Georgia O’Keeffe.  Holloway acknowledges O’Keeffe’s influence on her art, especially in the abstract sexuality in their works.  O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers were, according to art critics, modernistic paintings of female genitalia.  Holloway’s favorite subject is genitalia, although in abstract form.  Here’s The Land’s Part, from 2017, by Loie Holloway.

 

Canadian artist Caroline Larsen’s works are quite unique.  Larsen applies the paint much the same way a baker applies frosting to cakes, using piping bags and squeezing the paint through metal nibs onto the canvas.  The result is beautiful work that is reminiscent of beading.

Like O’Keeffe, Larsen draws inspiration from the desert.  In Larsen’s case, she focuses on the little man-made oases that spot the desert.  While the two artists works are quite different, I find it interesting that, despite the different styles, the buildings in both of these works share similar colors.

Kim Keever’s abstracts are reminiscent of O’Keeffe’s floral paintings.  I like the muted colors of Keever’s photographs, which are created by pouring pigments into a large tank of water.  Because of the fleeting nature of the pigments, Keever has to work quickly to capture the smoky, dreamlike images.  His work is quite beautiful.

Matthew Ronay is a New York-based folk artist who hand-carved sculptures are both whimsical and beautiful.  Ronay acknowledges O’Keeffe’s as an inspiration.  His abstract sculptures can be rocks, plants, or body parts.  In this way, his art is like similar to O’Keeffe’s abstract works.  I love the colors and the fluidity of shape in his work.

There are so many beautiful works in the exhibit that I’ll continue with a third post soon.