House of Many Colors: Casa Vicens, Barcelona

Image source: Accessable

Barcelona is the city of Gaudí.

The first place we visited in Barcelona was Gaudi’s first project. Casa Vicens was designed and built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the Vicens family. Antoni Gaudi i Cornet (1852-1926) “is one of the most noteworthy figures in universal architecture.” The house is a marvel even before you enter, with its wrought iron palm leaf gates, ceramic tiled walls, and interesting doorways. The garden is planted in colors that coordinate with the house.

Gaudi was lauded for “his support for traditional architecture, along with his exceptionally ground-breaking genius both in terms of shapes and the building and structural systems of his projects.” He designed buildings where “the construction and ornamentation are integrated in such a way that one cannot be understood without the other.” Casa Vicens was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2005. ( https://casavicens.org/casa-vicens/)

Have you been to Barcelona? What did you think of the Gaudi architecture?

Palm leaf fence, ceramic-tiled walls, and unusually shaped doorway.

Wall of ceramic sunflowers and leaves.

Lantern with colorful disks in entranceway filled with texture, colors and patterns.

Vivid blue arched ceilings and stained glass windows.

Cool perspective and view of cherub sitting on a ledge.

Meaning and Miró , The Smallest Noise and Constellations of Sounds

Joan Miró, gouache, c.1934

Last in series of posts from Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.

I found many of Miró’s works intriguing for their artistry and for their meanings. As a writer whose Kidlit language is lyrical and seemingly simple, but actually layered with emotion and action, I appreciate knowing the thoughts that inspired the process.

When it comes to canvases saturated with one color, I have a harder time connecting to the work, but the meaning behind “Landscape” felt different–it’s like us as individuals in our lives or us as humans in the universe.

“Letters and Numbers Attracted by a Spark(V)” called out to me. Letters float in the sky and look down on water and earth. I wonder,

Do the letters which form sentences and tell stories that are derived from my imagination with the goal of resonating with children ever going to get a chance to come to life?

The depth of meaning in Joan Miró’s work springs from a desire to capture the essence of human existence. On a personal level, this desire also implied an affirmation of identity that arose from Miró’s strong connection with the land–with Mont-roig, the original source of his creativity. ‘It is the land, the land. It is stronger than I. The fantastic mountains have a very important role in my life, and so does the sky. It is the clash between these forms within my soul, rather than the vision itself. In Mont-roig it is the force that nurtures me, the force.’

Excerpts from Fundació Joan Miró

Landscape, c. 1968

“‘Silence is a denial of noise – but the smallest noise in the midst of silence becomes enormous,’ said Miró. As the only referential element, a blurry point acquires a powerful presence, but also makes the space around it resonate. Therefore the point reinforces the presence of the space while also emphasizing the weave, the material of the canvas.” (https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 2

Joan Miró

At the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I found the sculptures and enormous wall hangings as intriguing as the paintings. The museum has several outside areas as well as interactive art and a place for young children to explore and build. Kudos to including the kiddos! Just like the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, I’d return to the Foundation if I traveled to Barcelona again.

Miró insisted that art ought to be an extension of life and part of life itself…His increasing knowledge of ceramics and sculpture led him to cultivate some of these techniques using more weather-resistant materials…Beginning in the 1960’s he was particularly prolific sculpting in bronze. In Miró’s view, both sculpture and ceramics were closely bound to nature…Landscape claimed the last word: out in the open, his pieces interact with their surroundings and, to some extent, give back to the land that which has always belonged to it.

Excerpts from the Fundació Joan Miró

Hon, if you ever go, I highly recommend bringing headphones so that you can listen to explanations of pieces throughout the museum via your phone.

“Lovers playing with almond blossom,” resin, c.1975, These sculptures are models for the enormous sculptures displayed at La Defense, Paris.” Of the two people, “One is captured as a tall cyclinder with yellow and reddish regions, with a blue ball shape on top. The round blue shape is decorated with pre-historic style abstract shapes which would deliver symbolic meaning to this intriguing piece. There is then a second tall construction, with a pointed blue shape that leans away, though with a red claw-like feature which is placed around half way up. It could perhaps be a hand reaching out to catch the ball which sits on the other figure…” (joanmiropaitings.org)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 1

Joan Miró

Hon, I have lots to share from my trip to Spain. Our first stop was Madrid where our daughter is studying this semester. From Madrid, we took the high speed train to Barcelona. We saw so many different things from palaces to parks, churches to cobblestone street, and museums to mountains. So fun!

When I found out about the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I added it to my itinerary. Miró, a Catalan painter who combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy, wanted to create an international, interdisciplinary center that made art available to the public. He created the Foundation by donating the majority of his work which is supplemented by donations from his wife Pilar Juncosa, artist Joan Prats, and collector Kazumasa Katsutas.

The Joan Miró Foundation reminded me of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice because the artwork is housed in a smaller, interesting building set away from the center of the city. Whereas the Peggy Guggenheim Collection faces Venice’s Grand Canal, the Joan Miró Foundation, located in Parc de Montjuïc, sits on a hill with a gorgeous view of Barcelona.

The Fundació Joan Miró was created by Miró himself, at first principally with works from his own private collection, with a desire to set up an internationally recognised centre in Barcelona for Miró scholarship and contemporary art research, and to disseminate the collection. The Fundació opened to the public on 10 June 1975 and has since become a dynamic centre in which Joan Miró’s work coexists with cutting-edge contemporary art.

https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/foundation/

“Figure in front of the sun,” acrylics, c.1968
In this diptych, the figure in each painting appears in a celestial landscape accompanied by the moon in one and the sun in the other.
View of Barcelona from museum terrace, “Sun, moon and one star,” bronze and painted cement, c.1968
Image source: Fundació Joan Miró

Serene Scenes, Big Sur

Rushing River. Gentle Giants.

Right after New Year’s, I started a series of posts called Serene Scenes with the intention of “keeping the fresh air and wonder of nature’s beauty inside me.” I hope to find many more places to slow down, take deep breaths, and concentrate on my thoughts and wishes. I’ll share them when I do.


Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Hubby and I were hoping to see redwoods, but where? “On the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the peaks of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park tower high above the Big Sur River Gorge, where the Big Sur River enters this popular park. Walk along the banks of the river and among the redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders and willows.” CA.Gov

The Big Sur River “is a relatively small river added to the federal system by Congress in 1992, as part of the Los Padres Condor Range and Rivers Act, which protected 84 miles of wild and scenic rivers and more than 400,000 acres of wilderness in California’s iconic central coast region.” https://www.calwild.org/portfolio/fact-sheet-big-sur-wild-scenic-river/

Hiking through the park, we marveled at “Colonial Tree,” which has a circumference of 31 feet and is estimated to be between 1,100 and 1,200 years old. Many more of these astoundingly tall trees tower up and out of the forest canopy.

I loved the redwoods and felt the gentle giants had stories to tell. Before we walked down a path at the end of our hike, we came across a stand of redwoods set up on a hill. Thick undergrowth covered the ground, so I climbed on top of stones and stumps until I stood high up in the middle of the trees. I touched their warm, bumpy ridges and listened. It felt like they were listening to me, too, even though I hadn’t spoke a word.

For all the panoramas, beaches, cliffs, parks, Big Sur is inseparable from the majesty of the Redwoods. Beyond their might and height, the Redwoods are a spiritual presence. Often they grow in circles as if a family, and form a center that seems to drain all sound of man and forest. You stand in the center of a grove and the stillness is almost mystical. If you have never experienced what we describe, make sure to never pass a grove on a hike, go inside it, sit on a log, close your eyes. It will change you. 

Outspoken Traveler

Hon, have you seen redwoods? What did you think?

Learning About Lapland

Image source: Orange Smile

The first time I posted about Lapland was when my daughter Morgan contributed animation to a very cool six-and-a-half-minute video. Available on Vimeo, “Santa is a Psychedelic Mushroom” explores Laplandic folklore surrounding the origin of Santa.

Another daughter, who is currently studying abroad, spent the weekend in Lapland. She flew from Madrid to Helsinki and from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, with the goal of seeing the Northern Lights. She and her friends crossed into the Arctic Circle by riding on a giant sled pulled by a snowmobile! Fun!

Cool Lapland Facts:

  • Arctic Circle “The Arctic Circle is a circle of latitude that runs 66°33′45.9″ north of the Equator. It marks the southernmost latitude where the sun can stay continuously below or above the horizon for 24 hours–these phenomena are known as the Midnight Sun in the summer and the Polar Night (“Kaamos”) in the winter.” https://www.visitrovaniemi.fi/love/arctic-circle/
  • Midnight Sun “Because almost all of Lapland lies above the Arctic Circle, summer means that the sun (or more accurately daylight) doesn’t go away for between two and four months, depending on how north you venture. In northernmost Finland, the sun just circles in the sky all day and all night. Farther south, the sun may dip behind the fells or trees, but the sky remains bright.” https://www.lapland.fi/visit/only-in-lapland/land-of-the-midnight-sun/

  • Polar Night “Polar night happens only in the far north and south, and only during the magnificent Arctic winter. Sometime around late November, the northernmost reaches of Lapland get their first taste of polar night when the sun struggles more and more every day to rise. Until one day it doesn’t. Instead, the horizon simply glows for a few hours at midday. Virtually all of Lapland sees polar night by the solstice, December 21. As the snow piles up, January and February offer stunning polar night and polar twilight vistas, as the blank white landscape reflects the deep warm colors of midday. In late January, the sun finally returns for a few minutes above the northern border, marking the end of true polar night in Lapland.” https://www.lapland.fi/visit/only-in-lapland/polar-night-colors-magical-time/

Unfortunately, there was too much cloud cover so my daughter didn’t see the Northern Lights. Maybe another time. And maybe I can come!

Hon, have you seen the Northern Lights? Where did you travel?

Traveling to see the Northern Lights on a giant sled pulled by a snowmobile.

Campfire in the Arctic Circle.

Serene Scenes, Santa Cruz Wharf

Hannah and Morgan on the Santa Cruz Wharf

The Barking Was Not From Dogs!

If it hadn’t been rainy and chilly, I’m sure the Santa Cruz Wharf in California would have been teeming with people. Since it was practically deserted, we got great views of the beach, amusement park, and Monterey Bay. Hannah heard barking and guess what, hon? Sea lions were resting under the wharf. Cool!

Extending a half mile into the Monterey Bay, situated between the colorful Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the surfer-filled waves of Steamer Lane, the Santa Cruz Wharf offers some of most thrilling views along the California coast. At 2,745 feet, it’s the longest wooden pier in the United States, resting on over 4,400 Douglas-fir pilings. Built in 1914, the timber centenarian continues to offer a timeless Santa Cruz experience. Stroll its wooden walkways-ideally with a cup of clam chowder in hand-and discover fresh-seafood eateries, local gift shops, nature and history displays, fun seasonal events, and of course, those famous barking sea lions.

Santacruz.org

Have you been to Santa Cruz? What did you do you there?

Santa Cruz Wharf, Image source: City of Santa Cruz

Looking back at the beach.

Sea lions under the wharf.

Image source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

Serene Scenes, Sunset in Santa Cruz

Snowy Egrets in Natural Bridges State Park.

Sun Sets in the West

Rainy and chilly weather didn’t stop us from visiting Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, CA. The sun broke through ombre grey clouds and lit up the sand where Snowy Egrets foraged for end-of-day snacks. Shore birds, most likely Double-Crested Cormorants and definitely Brown Pelicans, rested on top of an arched rock, one of the “natural bridges” the park is named for.

Natural Bridges State Park is also known for its’ tidepools, coastal grasslands, wildflowers, and Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve, where monarchs overwinter from about October to January because of “the area’s mild seaside climate and eucalyptus grove.” (CA Dpt of Parks & Recreation)Though Hubby and I visited the Preserve, we didn’t see any monarchs. We’re wondering if the chilly, rainy weather drove the butterflies further south.

Santa Cruz, which is Spanish for “Holy Cross” and is 70 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles north of Monterey, has an interesting history.

In 1769 the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola discovered the land area which is now known as the City of Santa Cruz. When he came upon the beautiful flowing river, he named it San Lorenzo in honor of Saint Lawrence. He called the rolling hills above the river Santa Cruz, which means holy cross. 

Twenty-two years later, in 1791, Father Fermin de Lasuen established a mission at Santa Cruz, the twelfth mission to be founded in California. Across the San Lorenzo River, in what is now known as East Santa Cruz, Villa de Branciforte was established It was founded by the Spanish as one of three civil settlements or pueblos in California. The other pueblos were San Jose and Los Angeles. Villa de Branciforte later merged with the Mission Santa Cruz community across the river. 

By the 1820’s Mexico had assumed control of the area and within the next twenty years, Americans began to arrive in great numbers. California became a state in 1850 and Santa Cruz County was created as one of the twenty-seven original counties. 

By the turn of the century logging, lime processing, agriculture, and commercial fishing industries prospered in the area. Due to its mild climate and scenic beauty Santa Cruz also became a prominent resort community.

City of Santa Cruz

Serene Scenes, Pacific Coast Highway

Ocean, land and sky meet for miles on the West Coast.

Iconic Roadway. Gorgeous Vistas.

Happy New Year! I’m starting this year’s posts with views from my recent trip to California. The ribbon of highway that’s Route 1 hugs the mountains while topping dramatic cliffs that drop down to the Pacific Ocean. We of the East Coast (Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York Connecticut) aren’t used to seeing undeveloped coastline. The drive is breathtaking.

I’m hoping to keep the fresh air and wonder of nature’s beauty inside of me, to breathe deeply and visualize whenever I need to slow my heartbeat and find some moments of inner peace.

Wishing you the same, hon.

California’s coast-hugging Highway 1 is what dream drives are made of. The iconic roadway—which extends for more than 650 miles from Dana Point north to Leggett—offers endless vistas overlooking the Pacific, with plenty of redwood trees and wildlife sightings along the way. The most well-known (and photographed) stretch runs along California’s Central Coast from Santa Barbara to Monterey, passing by the unspoiled coastline of Big Sur.

VisitCalifornia.com

Starting the Year & Ending it With Hope

HOPE sculpture in Manhattan by Robert Indiana

At the start of 2021, I shared art from a visit to the MOMA in “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” and I’m ending the year with a similar feeling of contemplation. Hon, here are three masterpieces that invited me to stop and study, think and feel, and to hope.

This is the last of the “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” at least for now. I hope to get back to the MOMA, the MET or any other place where creativity, inspiration and peace of mind resides. Shout out to Lyn Sirota who shared a September 13, 2019 program on TED Radio Hour NPR called “How Art Changes Us.”

Marc Chagall, The Lovers, Oil on canvas.

Gustav Klimt, Hope II, Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece, Oil, sand, and paper on canvas.