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.

Georgia O’Keeffe, The Beyond, NC Art Museum

Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the most influential artists in America.  Known as the “mother of American modernism”, she’s most famous for her paintings of flowers and her landscapes of her adopted home of New Mexico.  The recent exhibit at the North Carolina Art Museum did a great job of showcasing her art as well as the art of young painters who have been inspired by O’Keeffe.  Here we’ll focus on O’Keeffe’s work and will touch on the works of the other artists in a future post.

O’Keeffe was born in Wisconsin in 1887 and, after several years teaching throughout Virginia, South Carolina and Texas, she moved to New York in 1918 after meeting photographer Alfred Stieglitz.  Stieglitz promoted and exhibited her art and the two developed a personal relationship that eventually led to their marriage in 1924. Though they remained married until Stieglitz’s death in 1946, the couple separated when Stieglitz began an affair with photographer Dorothy Norman.   The infidelity was the impetus behind O’Keeffe’s move to New Mexico.

georgia o'keeffe

O’Keeffe career spanned many decades and, despite failing eyesight, she continued working well into her nineties.  She passed away in New Mexico at the age of ninety-eight and her ashes were scattered at her beloved Ghost Ranch, her home since 1940.

While O’Keeffe’s long career saw her work cover a great many subjects, there are a few for which she is best known.  Her flowers earned her early fame, possibly helped by art historians who felt her flowers were metaphors for female genitalia.  I guess if people can see the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast, anything is possible.

georgia o'keeffe- petunias- 1925

While married to Stieglitz, O’Keeffe spent time at his home at Lake George as well as in New York City.  Her modernist paintings from this period are quite interesting.  Her work was inspired by her surroundings, both at Lake George and in the City.  This painting of the Radiator Building is a great example of her work from the period.  The dark colors and sharp angles are a big change from her flowers.

georgia o'keeffe- radiator building, night, new york- 1927

After her move to New Mexico, her the land around her became her focus.  She loved New Mexico and her art shows it.  Landscapes, animal bones and even rocks became the subjects of her paintings.  This is probably the time period O’Keeffe is best known for.  I’m not sure what I like best from this period.  The landscapes are great but the paintings of animal bones are very surreal and appeal to me.  Here’s Horse Skull with Pink Rose.

georgia o'keeffe- horse skull with pink rose

My Backyard, from 1937, is a prime example of her New Mexico landscapes.

georgia o'keeffe- my backyard- 1937

A couple other O’Keeffe works that were part of the exhibit caught my attention.  First, an untitled sculpture stood out because O’Keeffe wasn’t known for sculpture.  The one on exhibit was striking.

georgia o'keeffe- untitled sculpture

Finally, her abstract paintings were quite stunning.  I really like abstract art and O’Keeffe’s were great.  I loved her Abstraction Blue from 1927, but I was especially drawn to the title piece of the exhibit, The Beyond, from 1972.  O’Keeffe was in her eighties at this point, and her eyesight was failing.  This painting was one of her last oil paintings and is beautiful.

georgia o'keeffe- the beyond- 1972

There were many interesting paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe exhibited as part of The Beyond.  There were also many paintings and sculptures by artists inspired by O’Keeffe.  I’ll highlight some of them in the next post.

 

 

 

The Royal Palace of Coimbra

For many years, the Portuguese royal family lived in Coimbra.  The first king, Afonso I, is buried in the Santa Cruz Monastery, and the city was the home of the Portuguese House of Burgundy.  Their home was the beautiful Royal Palace of Coimbra, now the Old University of Coimbra.

University.jpg

The University is one of the oldest universities in the world.  Originally established in Lisbon in 1290, the university was originally moved to Coimbra in 1308.  The university was moved between Lisbon and Coimbra several times before moving permanently to Coimbra in 1537, where it was permanently installed in the Royal Palace.

There are several beautiful spaces in the palace that harken back to the days when the Royal family lived here.  The Great Hall of Acts was once the Throne Room of the Royal Palace and the room where, in 1385, King John I was proclaimed king of Portugal.

Great Hall

Portraits of the kings of Portugal line the walls of the Great Hall.  Interestingly, there are a few exceptions.  The three Hapsburg kings- Phillip I, Phillip II and Phillip III- are not to be found here.  From 1581 until 1640, these three kings, Spanish by birth, ruled Portugal.  The Hapsburg rule ended when John II, Duke of Braganza, claimed the throne as the great great grandson of King Manuel I.  The rule of the Hapsburg dynasty is still, after many centuries, still a sore point with many Portuguese.

Another great space in the palace is the Private Examination Room.  This was originally the king’s private chamber and sleeping quarters.  As a part of the University, the room was where doctoral candidates underwent a private oral examination.  Portraits of the University’s rectors line the room.

Private Exam Room

The Arms Room houses the weapons of the Royal Academic Guard.  Today, the weapons are used only during formal ceremonies such as the formal beginning of classes and the investiture of a new rector.

Arms Room

There are plenty of other great spaces to explore at the University beyond the walls of the Royal Palace.  The Joanine Library and Saint Michael’s Chapel are not to be missed.  The University is a great place and well worth the time you’ll spend exploring.

Lines and Shadows

These two photos- one of the Atrium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the other of The Grove Arcade in Asheville, North Carolina- have a similar feel.  I like the way the light coming through the overhead windows create a shadowy grid in both pictures.

At the Met, the shadows fall high on the structure and emphasize the openness of the atrium.  The shadows seem to cast a protective net over the atrium, protecting its occupants from the outside world.  You’re still aware, though, that despite the beautiful natural light, the park-like feel of the atrium is, in fact, artificial.

Art Museum
Atrium, Metropolitan Art Museum, NYC, 2004

The Grove Arcade is a much different space.  The shadows fall directly below and onto the floor, and the heavy lines of the shadows seem to guide you along the arcade, while the narrower cross shadows direct you to the shops on either side.

The natural lighting gives the arcade a much larger, more open feel, which, as you can tell from the photo, is not the case.  The arcade is long and narrow, and would be quite dark if not for the overhead windows.

grove arcade i, asheville, 2008
Grove Arcade, Asheville, 2008

I find the juxtaposition of the natural light and greenery with the man-made structures quite interesting.

Candida Höfer in Mexico, NC Art Museum

German photographer Candida Höfer has been exhibiting her large-scale photographs of building interiors since 1975.  In 2015, she toured Mexico, photographing beautiful spaces of iconic Mexican buildings including the National Museum of Art in Mexico City, Teatro Juarez in Guanajuato and UNESCO World Heritage Site Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara.  Her photos constituted the Candida Höfer in Mexico exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

hospicio cabanas ii
Hospicio Cabañas, in Guadalajara, 2015, by Candida Höfer

An interesting aspect of Höfer’s photographs is that the interiors are usually devoid of people.  Considering that the buildings are very busy public structures, she’s presenting an unusual view of them.  Another aspect of her photography is that she usually shoots the interiors straight-on rather than from an angle.  This provides a formal a formal composition to the spaces.

juarez theater iii
Teatro Juarez, Guanajuato, 2015, by Candida Höfer

Not all of her photos are large format or large scale.  This photo of a simple doorway is a great counterpoint to the majesty of her larger photos.

passage ii- 2015
Passage II, 2015, by Candida Höfer

As a photographer, I find a lot of inspiration in Höfer’s work. Being a bit of an introvert, I’m much more comfortable photographing buildings than people.  I also started college as an architect student before changing direction.  Höfer’s photos give me a quality and beauty that I can strive for in my photography.

national museum of art- mexico city ii
National Museum of Art, Mexico City, 2015, by Candida Höfer

The exhibit was organized by Galería OMR in recognition of the Mexico-Germany Dual Year and is touring the United States.  While the exhibit is over at the North Carolina Art Museum, it moves next to the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City, where it will be on exhibition from February 2nd through March 16th.  If you’re interested in photography, you’ll like the exhibit.

 

 

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.

cynthia dagnault- light atlas 2015
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.

cynthia dagnault- light atlas- detail 2
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.

cynthia dagnault- light atlas- section
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