Friday, May 23, 2014

::{ travels }::

To celebrate finishing my Ph.D. coursework I decided to visit Europe.

Paris, Madrid, and a 1/2 day in Toledo, to be specific.

Last Fall I applied for an international conference in Paris that I forgot about until February when they asked me why I hadn't responded to their email about my paper proposal.  Yikes.  After discovering that their email got lost among library reminders and textbook requests, I quickly responded to the organizers, applied for some grants, then left for France about a week after the semester ended and my grades were turned in.

Since I was already going to be over there, I decided I needed to visit Spain.  I can't explain why, but for a number of years (including the year I lived in Scotland, until the last month when I had run out of travel time) I never had any desire to visit Spain.  STUPID.  So, so stupid - especially considering that I know Spanish better than German or Dutch, and certainly better than French.  Anyway, the trip to Spain was the highlight of this excursion and I hope you enjoy the pictures.  Please consider this my anti-selfie tour.  I don't like selfies and even though I took some, I still can't stand them so I'm not going to post them.  That being said, most of these pictures are people-less, and all but one or two are Kristen-less.  Even though my dad always taught me that photos are better with people, I figured something is better than nothing.

So here we go...

This is the Institut National d'histoire de l'art (INHA) building where the conference was held in Paris.  It was gorgeous, and the classrooms weren't numbered, but instead were known as the salle Giorgio Vasari, or salle Walter Benjamin, or Jullian, etc.

I walked all over the place while I was there and found this small apartment building rather aesthetically pleasing.

This family had hired a professional photographer to follow them around Paris (I don't actually know that, but it makes for a good story.  However, the photographer did have an assistant carrying around professional equipment, so I don't imagine I'm too far off).  Anyway, I loved the photos with the umbrella.  Paris in the rain was actually really pretty.

The Louvre!  It used to be one of my favorite museums...until I saw the Prado.  =)

More Louvre, from a different spot.

Inside the Louvre near the inverted pyramid.  Since I didn't have people to photograph, I had to try and do other fun things with lighting and angles.

This room contains the Marie de Medici cycle by Rubens (completed in the 1620s) - political propaganda at its greatest.  The French hated Marie - she was an Italian foreigner who married Henry IV so Rubens had his work cut out for him to please the patron while not patronizing the rest of the country - a brilliant artist and a cunning diplomat.

This is a modello for the Triumph of the Eucharist tapestry series that I've been working on for a few years now.  Rubens made a modello for each of the twenty tapestry designs that ended up in a convent in Madrid.  For a sense of scale, the modello is about 2'x3'.

This is what kills me about the Louvre.  Well, not the Louvre, but more the people that go to the Louvre.  Do you see the picture hanging in the middle of the wall on the bottom row near the man in the blue shirt and the woman standing with her back to the wall?  That is a hugely famous painting by Titian, a hugely famous Italian Renaissance artist.  NOBODY IS PAYING ANY ATTENTION TO IT!  Do you want to know why?

Because on the other side of that wall is the Mona Lisa, which everyone flocks to while ignoring everything else nearby.  I took pictures of people taking pictures because it cracks me up every time.  The Mona Lisa is against the wall that you can't see here, but the two figures on the far left are the museum guards protecting the painting and keeping the chaos to a minimum.  As soon as people take their photos (from quite a distance), they walk around the wall leading into the space in the picture above, and walk right past the Titian.

The steps leading up to Montmartre...

Which leads to one of my very favorite places in Paris - Painter's Square!  It's a little square that is tucked away in Montmartre, but it's a short walk (right around the corner, really) from the Sacre Coeur basilica.  Painters used to come out and set up their easels where they would paint outdoors, and you could buy their canvases on the spot.  It's changed quite a bit since I first visited this little spot, and now it's mostly caricature artists who feed on the tourists.  It's still really pretty and fun though.

One of the cafes near the main square.  I take hoards of photos of scenes like this, because in the back of my mind I'm always transforming these scenes into paintings.  I'll get around to painting again after I graduate...maybe.

Sacre Coeur basilica that dominates Montmartre.

And here we have Notre Dame cathedral.  The puddles from the rain made for some really fun photographs.  People gave me a few looks when they saw me pointing my camera at the ground, but they got over it when they figured out why I was doing it.

I took a bunch of pictures of Notre Dame for Steve since it's one of his favorite buildings in Paris.

From across the Seine as the sun was setting.

Most of the bridges along the Seine are covered with locks like this.  It reminded me of Cinque Terre.

Inside Notre Dame.

And now we move on to Spain...

I hunkered down and spent 7 HOURS inside the Museo del Prado.
Holy moly - it is AmAZinG!  Words simply don't do it justice, and sadly, no photographs are allowed inside the museum, even without a flash.  Que triste!  Had I not nearly passed out from standing, walking, writing, and staring so long at all the amazing paintings in this museum, I would have stayed even longer.  The best part was that I made it to the Prado after I went to see the Convent of the Descalzas Reales (where the Rubens tapestries reside), and in the Prado they had a special temporary exhibition on the Triumph of the Eucharist series, with an awesome display of the modelli and tapestries together (4 tapestries and 6 modelli).  I was in heaven.

The figure in the statue is Velazquez.  The Prado's equivalent to the Louvre's Mona Lisa is Velazquez's Las Meninas.  I realize that I'm completely biased, but Las Meninas is so much cooler than the Mona Lisa!  Ahhhh!  I'm obsessed with the Prado.

Another entrance to the museum.

I went on a day trip to Toledo and decided to climb to the top of the bell tower in the Toledo Cathedral.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Who knows when I'll be back in Toledo so I figured it was now or never.

The flying buttresses.  I love flying buttresses.  They're a dead giveaway that you're looking at Gothic architecture as opposed to Romanesque, and they're just so beautiful!

I don't usually get good photos of stained-glass windows, but this one actually turned out pretty well with the angle and lighting.  This is inside the Toledo Cathedral.  I was mesmerized by the windows as well as the stone tracery.

My next painting....after I graduate.  =)  I love this photo.  It perfectly captures the streets of Toledo - they're narrow, colorful, and you can easily get lost as you wander through the streets and wind your way through the city.

This gateway is near the Alcazar on calle de Miguel de Cervantes.
So yes, you guessed it, that's a statue of Mr. Cervantes himself, welcoming you to Toledo.

The view of Toledo as you approach it from the train station.  Pretty fabulous.

After I got back to Madrid after visiting Toledo, I took a quick spin through the Reina Sophia museum in order to see Picasso's Guernica.  No photos are allowed in that portion of the museum, but as I was quickly strolling through the rest of the museum (modern art isn't really my thing), I came upon this work by Michelangelo Pistoletto.

I wrote a paper on Pistoletto's mirror paintings (this image is one of many in his series of mirror paintings), and thought I needed to pay homage to the semester I grappled with the concept of the tableau with a photo.  It's not actually a mirror, but highly polished steel, onto which he then applied a silk-screened easel and canvas.  I enjoyed working on these mirror paintings because my interests lie in illusion, engagement with the spectator, and the manipulation of space, so Pistoletto gave me a lot to work with and think about.

I made a quick trip out to the Madrid LDS temple, and even though I didn't have time to do any work inside, I'm still glad I got to see it.  I've always thought it was a really beautiful temple from pictures I've seen and it's nice to understand where the pictures I've seen of it were taken from, etc.

Not sure how I lucked out with such awesome skies and lighting, but I'm glad to have some nice photos from this whirlwind trip to Spain.

On my last day in Madrid, my host (I stayed with a fellow student's mother who lives in Madrid and let me crash at her place for three days) showed me around some of the scenic spots in the city, including the Buen Retiro Park.

The Glass Palace inside the park.

The other picture from the trip with me in it.  =)  Felisa asked if I wanted a photo so I took her up on her offer.  This is of the puerta de Alcala, near the main entrance to the Buen Retiro park.

This is the National bank of Spain, and they are currently hanging the banners of the two soccer teams that are competing for the title.

This is inside the last of the three museums I visited in Madrid, the Thyssen Bornemisza collection.  There were some great works that I wanted to see, but above all, I was dying to see this work by Jan van Eyck - the Annunciation diptych.  JvE is usually credited with the development of oil painting, which resulted in remarkable illusionistic effects.  There is a long tradition of a paragone, or competition between the arts - especially between painting and sculpture - and as you can see here, painting trumps all.  It is "schijn sonder zijn," or semblance without being.  The extraordinary effects of the oil paint medium allow it to appear as sculpture, like what you see here in this illusory grisaille imagery.  And these are not big works - each panel that you see (one with Gabriel and the other with Mary) is about 12" high and 5" wide.


A view of a portion of Puerta del Sol.  It's the central hub of the city - a lively place filled with tourists, vendors, street artists, cafes, etc.  It was fun to walk through, but it wasn't my favorite place in Madrid to be honest.

Back in Paris, this is the Hotel de Ville - the main government building in the city.  I met up with a friend from school and we had lunch together at a nearby cafe.  It was fabulous being with a native for a couple hours.  =)

When Steve and I were in Paris in 2010, it was January and it was freezing cold.  As a consquence, St. Chapelle was closed, which was really a bummer because I was excited to show this place to Steve - it's another favorite place of mine.  So the following pictures were taken to give Steve a taste of what we missed, and what I hope we'll get to visit on a future trip to Paris.

Three of the four walls of this small chapel (built by Louis IX in the 13th century) are covered in stained-glass windows.  It was built to hold two famous relics that Louis IX purchased, and which together cost more than the chapel's construction.  The chapel functioned as a reliquary itself with all of the amazing stained-glass windows.

Each window (there are 15 in total inside the chapel) is read from left to right and from bottom to top and relates stories from the Bible stemming from the book of Genesis up through Christ's resurrection.  My favorite panel is the one seen on the right side of this photograph (the camera doesn't do the colors justice, especially seen from a distance - amazing oranges and purples and reds stand out), which relates stories from Ezekiel.

I saw this flower market near the Cite metro stop after leaving St. Chapelle and had no choice but to take some photos. =)

The last thing I did in Paris before coming home was visiting Pere Lachaise cemetery.  I was staying nearby the cemetery, and wanted to check it out before I left the city.  I didn't take the time to find all of the graves of famous artists, composers, writers, etc. (think Chopin, Delacroix, Balzac, Oscar Wilde), but I enjoyed wandering through the streets, most of which looked similar to this.

I promise I'm not the only weirdo who really likes cemeteries.  There were a good number of people reading books on benches (myself included for a good chunk of my time there), walking with strollers, laying out on a blanket on the grass, and exploring the graves.

After a slight fiasco getting back to Columbus - I spent an extra night in Canada thanks to a delayed-flight-resulting-in-missing-my-connecting-flight situation - I was welcomed home by Steve, the Bug, and my oldest brother, Scott, who is staying with us for a week to attend a convention for work.

We're glad to have him here....and yes, he's already addicted to Jeni's ice-cream just like the rest of us!