Water Lilies

During the last 30 years of his life, French Impressionist Claude Monet spent many hours in his garden at Givenchy.  His eyesight clouded by cataracts, Monet created one painting after another of his beloved water lilies, producing around 250 oil paintings of the flowers.

I found these water lilies in the Rodin Garden at the North Carolina Art Museum in Raleigh.  I love the quiet peacefulness of the garden and was struck by the beauty of the water borne plants. I spent a few minutes watching the little blue dragonflies touch down on a lily pad, only to take flight again a few seconds later.  It was time well spent.

Water Lilies

Awilda & Irma, NC Art Museum

This ethereal work of two heads- a mother and daughter- by award winning Spanish artist Jaume Plensa  was installed at the North Carolina Museum Park in April 2017.  The wire mesh construction and size make it difficult to determine race or gender, creating a kind of universal portrait.

Plensa’s art has been exhibited worldwide, from Sweden, Spain and France to Chicago and, now Raleigh.

Art amazes me.  I love the way the artist can make these 13-foot tall steel mesh heads feel fleeting and lighter than air.  The expressions on the closed-eyed faces also impart a dream-like feel.  Finally, due to the mesh construction, the sculptures seem to change as you view them from different angles.  I never tire of looking at them.

Awilda and Irma 2

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park

North Carolina folk artist Vollis Simpson didn’t start creating his whimsical sculptures until he retired.  Making use of his skills as a mechanic and using rigs he developed as a house mover, Simpson began creating huge kinetic sculptures out of scrap metal.  The creations were based on weather vanes and handcrafted “whirligigs” that could be found on barns and in yards across the South.

Simpson’s art has been widely recognized.  Four of his whirligigs were displayed in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games.  Museums from the North Carolina Art Museum to the Folk Art Museum in New York City have displayed his sculptures.

Simpson passed away in May 2013, at the age of 94.  A month later the North Carolina House and Senate designated his whirligigs as the State Art of North Carolina.

The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park was opened in December 2017.  The park has about 60 of the colorful whirligigs, which were relocated from fields of Simpson’s farm.  It can be almost hypnotic to watch the many moving parts slowly rotate in the wind.  We visited on a sunny day, but the park has special lighting so that at night the many reflectors attached to the sculptures catch the light and recreate the effect of car lights reflecting off the whirligigs as they drove past in the dark.

Whirligig Park 1

Cloud Chamber, NC Art Museum

This interesting little structure is called Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky and was designed by British artist Chris Drury.  It’s an interactive artwork.  You enter the chamber, close the door and sit quietly in the dark until your eyes adjust.  There’s a tiny hole in the roof that serves as a pinhole camera.  Once your eyes adjust you can see the trees that surround the Cloud Chamber projected on the walls of the chamber.  It uses nature to create art.

The Museum Park at the North Carolina Museum is full of interesting artwork.  There’s also an amphitheater where moves are shown and concerts are held.  We’ve had some wonderful evenings at the park, watching a movie while, many miles away, lightning puts on a free light show against the clouds.

Cloud Chamber

José de Guimarães Exhibit

Born in Guimarães in 1939, José de Guimarães is one of Portugal’s most important artists of contemporary art.  His art is exhibited all over the world.  The small art gallery at the Dukes of Braganza Palace is dedicated to the city’s most famous artist, and has a great selection of his work.

Art Exhibit

Gulls, Nazaré, Portugal

There’s art of all sizes and styles in Portugal.  These little sculptures are on the wall at the fortaleza.  They’re simple and colorful and a bit whimsical and perfect for a view of the beach from the fort.

Fortaleza Gull Art

Solarization

This photo was a happy accident.  I have hundreds of photos, many of which are nothing special.  I was experimenting with this using Color Efex Pro 4, a part of the NIK Collection, a series of plugins for Photoshop.  I usually just use the plugins to clean up and enhance photos; it’s rare that I radically change a photo.  In this case, though, I was able to take an ordinary photo and turn it into something much more dramatic.

Solarized Cabin

Graffiti, Aveiro, Portugal

There’s street art, with varying degrees of sophistication, all over Portugal.  It seems that wherever there’s a flat surface someone will mark it.  I saw this wall while walking back from a visit to Aveiro’s old train station.  I find the face intriguing and just a little creepy.  I don’t know the significance of the face, but it’s interesting.

Aveiro 2

Surf Monument, Nazaré, Portugal

There are statues and monuments all over Portugal.  Most of them memorialize people and events from Portugal’s history.  The statue in Nazaré, on the road to the Fortaleza, is probably one of the strangest monuments in Portugal.

The statue, named Veado and created by Portuguese sculptor Adália Alberto, was placed in 2016 and honors the legend of Nazaré as well as the town’s legendary status as the home to some of the best surfing and biggest waves in the world.

Veado

First, the legend.  In the fifth century, a monk named Ciriaco returned from Nazareth to the monastery of Cauliniana with a small wooden statue of Mary with the Infant Jesus which, by oral tradition, is said to have been carved by Mary’s husband, Joseph, the carpenter.  The icon remained at the monastery until 711, when invading Moorish armies defeated Christian forces.

Roderic, the defeated king, fled to the coast, accompanied by a monk, Romano, who carried the icon with him when the men fled.  When the two men reached the Atlantic, they separated, with Frei Romano living out his days, still in possession of the statue,  in a cliff-side cave overlooking what is now Nazaré.

Fast forward a few hundred years, to an early morning when a knight, Dom Fuas Roupinho, was hunting on the cliff overlooking the ocean.  The knight was in pursuit of a deer when a heavy fog suddenly descended.  The deer, blinded by the fog, ran over the edge of the cliff.  Dom Roupinho, realizing that he was very close to the grotto where the icon still remained, prayed to Our Lady to save him from certain death.  His horse, though blinded by the fog, miraculously stopped at the edge of the cliff, saving the knight from death.

So that’s the legend of Nazaré, and where the deer head comes from.  Now for the surfing.  Nazaré’s North Beach is legendary for the giant waves that come out of the Atlantic and provide some of the best big wave surfiing in the world.  In 2011, American Garrett McNamara set the world record by surfing a 78-foot wave at North Beach.  Two years later he shattered his own record by surfing a giant 100-foot wave at the same beach.

So now you know the two legends that inspired Veado, the statue overlooking Praia do Norte, in Nazaré.

Fado de Coimbra

Fado is the national music of Portugal.  There are two distinct styles of Fado.  Lisbon Fado tends to be a little more upbeat and can be sung by both men and women.  The songs can be about a variety of subjects and can be accompanied by instruments other than the traditional Portuguese guitar and classical guitar.

Coimbra fado is a different style from the Lisbon version.  Coimbra Fado came about when the male students of the university would stand below a girl’s window and sing love songs to woo a young lady.  Because of this local tradition, Coimbra Fado is much more restricted.  Only male students or former students of Coimbra University, can perform Fado and the singers are only accompanied by the Portuguese guitar and classical guitar.  The songs are mostly love songs, but occasionally protest songs are sung.

This beautiful sculpture, titled Fado de Coimbra, celebrates the city’s version of the national music.   The Portuguese guitar has morphed into the form of a beautiful young woman, who is both the inspiration and the recipient of the song.  It’s a beautiful way to honor the city’s version of this wonderful music.

Fado de Coimbra