The PICASSO Art & Arena exhibition opened yesterday in St. Augustine. The show celebrates the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Juan Ponce de León. The show is also the first of many exhibitions planned as part of the St. Augustine’s 450th Commemoration.
The PICASSO collection includes 39 original pieces created between 1929 and 1961, on loan from the Picasso Foundation in Malaga, Spain. They provide insights into one of the artist’s main themes: bullfighting. Bullfighting was a revered tradition in Spain, Picasso’s home country. Curator Maria D’Adamo told of Picasso’s fascination with the sport’s trilogy: the matador, picador and the bull.
The exhibition in the Visitor’s Center is set in the round, like a bullfighting ring, with two large photographic reproductions of spectators defining the space.
One of the highlights is a series of 11 lithographs, created between December 1945 and January 1946. They begin with a realistic drawing of the animal and succeeding works gradually reduce the strokes into a cave like primitive drawing. The final lithograph is only a few lines, but still recognizable as the animal.
I believe the bull series will appeal to both adults and children because they can clearly trace the transformation. Picasso said, “It took me four years to learn to paint like Raphael, and a lifetime to paint like a child.”
An intriguing 20-minute video is displayed on the rear wall showing Picasso painting on glass. The viewer gets to watch a work of art come to life right in front of their eyes.
In addition, the show includes some of the prolific artist’s ceramic pieces and illustrations composed for books. A timeline of Picasso’s life helps the visitor understand the stages of his artistic lifestyle.
San Antonio‘s most sacred and historic site will always remain the Alamo, but the popular River Walk flows an economic lifeline through the heart of the city. Restaurants, cantinas, shops, business and museums thrive from tourist and residential traffic rolling along the five-mile Paseo del Rio.
A little known and surprising story that saved the Texas waterway goes to none other than a few simple puppets. When a devastating flood hit the city in 1921, a disaster control plan was devised to prevent future damage and loss to the business district. . The goal was to drain the river and divert it through a storm sewer — then pave over paradise.
Thank heavens the clever minded Conservation Society came up with a brilliant idea. The organization performed a captivating puppet show which pulled the heartstrings of city hall commissioners and focused attention on San Antonio’s natural wonder. Afterward, Society members took the civic leaders on canoe rides designed to convince them to rescue the river. It worked.
The massive construction project commenced in 1939 and was completed by the WPA in 1941. The meandering oasis provided San Antonio with green parks and two parallel sidewalks. The water depth of the Venice-like canal ranges from just two to four feet, so there isn’t much danger if anyone falls in. However, about 2,000 partying patrons or klutzes per year take a plunge, likely begging mercy to avoid the $200 fine.
A 35-40 minute cruise on the River Walk remains a must for any tourist. Riders board either an open air water taxi or sightseeing barge while tour guides retell history and interesting trivia along the two and a half mile course.
A recent $74 million Museum Reach extension was completed in May, 2009, including a new lock and dam. The additional mile and a half from Lexington to Grayson Street included $11 million dedicated to privately funded art-projects. The San Antonio River Foundation commissioned eight artists to create site-specific art installations spaced around eight bridges.
At the Lexington Street Bridge, British artist Martin Richman installed reflective, suspended elements that dance in the breeze, scattering flashes of color like glittering prisms. I’ve seen similar dangles made into earrings, but must admit, the reflections were pleasing.
As visitors pass beneath two bridges at McCullough and Brooklyn, groups of shimmering steel-mesh panels on either side come to life and change colors. Our tour guide claimed that nearby pedestrian traffic creates even more stimulating effects.
Sequenced speakers under the Jones Avenue Bridge pitch “sound sculptures” from artist Bill Fontana’s blend of recorded and live broadcasts. I heard what sounded like nothing more than typical morning birdsong. Perhaps I don’t have an artist’s ear.
My favorite section of river art was the school of larger-than-life fiberglass fish suspended above the water and below the Interstate 35 overpass. Philadelphia artist Donald Lipski was the brainchild behind these whimsical creatures which reflect onto the river below. Very cool!
The tour guide also said that a sunset water taxi provides a memorable way to see the new River Walk art installations. The magic hour of twilight — a photographer’s preference — brings out the artworks’ full charisma and beauty. And then after darkness falls, indulge in libations and dinner from the varied culinary establishments along the banks as the art installations glow luminously in the background.
My hometown, Jacksonville, Florida is divided by a river, but the immense width of the St. Johns River dwarfs the petite San Antonio. In this case, however, the compact is superior because much of San Antonio’s charm and tourist traffic are indebted to the secluded ambiance of River Walk–and the legendary puppet show.
Today’s post will concern the Sistine Chapel, a site not included on the official Angels & Demons tour in Rome. To visit this famous church you must get a ticket for the Vatican Museums, then wait in a long line. However, much of the book takes place in and around the chapel, so we will add it to the blog tour.
“Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea
of what one man is capable of achieving.” –Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 1787
I own a book listing1,000 Places to See Before You Die, and goodness knows I live to travel… but truly, there are only a few locations that sustain unquenchable fascination and bring deep personal meaning. Such is the case for me and the Sistine Chapel.
Perhaps the film, The Agony and the Ecstasy starring Charlton Heston made an early impression on my psyche? My curiosity peaked by a man who excelled in art, sculpture, architecture and was also an inventor and poet. Whatever reasons…I retain a love affair with the Renaissance, Michelangelo and his work.
I understand not all are interested in art, but I doubt anyone could enter the sacred shine and not be awed by Michelangelo‘s achievement. The Sistine Chapel is simply one of those places that must be seen firsthand.
Surprisingly, the space is rather small. Built between 1475 and 1483 for Pope Sixtus IV, the structure was to match the size of the biblical Temple of Solomon, 40.93 meters long by 13.41 meters wide. The floor is covered in multi-colored inlaid marble. However, the vaulted ceiling covers 5000 square feet, a measurement to which I relate.
The ceiling was originally painted as a blue starry sky. Great artists were called in to decorate the walls: Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio, and Signorelli. They painted scenes from the life of Moses and Jesus and portraits of popes.
Twenty-five years later, Michelangelo was commissioned to redecorate the ceiling. He didn’t want the project, tried to refuse, and who can blame him? He considered himself a sculptor, but Pope Julius II commanded him to paint. So, for four years, 1508-1512, he climbed the scaffolding to fresco scenes from the Old Testament, sometimes working sixty feet above the floor. What he created became one of the world’s greatest masterpieces.
Michelangelo worked in fresco, the application of paint to wet plaster, requiring rapid skill. He used the technique of trompe l’oeil to create beams and architectural structures that fool the eye, they don’t exist. The upper ceiling tells nine stories from Genesis. Surrounding these large scenes, he added images of prophets and sibyls on marble thrones. In all, 336 figures are featured on the ceiling.
When a visitor finally enters from a side door, time is limited. People strain their necks to see high overhead, do backbends or lie on the floor. (Lying is frowned upon by the guards.) Find a spot on a bench, if possible, to lean backward with head support.
To attempt to describe the overwhelming aura of the room is impossible. The energy, the detail and three dimensional feeling is incredible. The video at the end of this post may help but I repeat, you must just go and see for yourself.
At the age of sixty, with failing eyesight caused from painting the ceiling, Michelangelo returned. Pope Clement VII commissioned ” The Last Judgment,” on the high altar wall.
This huge work, much more somber in tone, shows Christ on Judgment Day. The Savior lifts souls up to heaven and others are damned to hell. Michelangelo includes a self-portrait, his face on a limp body which Saint Bartholomew carries toward God. I personally prefer the ceiling art to The Last Judgment.
Recently, from 1980 to 1994, the Sistine Chapel’s art was meticulously cleaned and restored, a painstaking process using computer analysis. The restoration included removing several “modesty” drapes that had been added over some of the nude figures. Specialists worked on the frescos for about 30,000 hours, the entire process taking twice as long as it took Michelangelo to paint them.
Art historians protested and debates were heated, but the project continued, reviving the vivid colors that had dulled with time. The end result of the restoration continues to be controversial.
So now, let’s finally get back to the Angels & Demons story: In early chapters we learn the pope died and a conclave is called. Conclaves are held in the Sistine Chapel. The College of Cardinals, clergy from around the world, meets in secret for the purpose of electing a new head of the Catholic Church.
The cardinal’s ballots are burned after each voting session. If white smoke blows from the chimney on the roof, the world has a new pope. If the smoke is black, they reached no decision and the Cardinals remain locked in as the conclave continues.
Contrary to popular knowledge, conclaves were not always held in the Vatican. In fact, the cardinals were first sequestered during an election in Viterbo, Italy, about an hour from Rome. Following the death of a pope in 1268, they couldn’t agree on a candidate and were locked in to try to hasten the vote. (Mimi visited Viterbo in 2008 and will write about this tale in upcoming weeks.)
But, our heroes, Langdon and Vittoria, are in danger. A bomb-like canister of anti-matter is hidden within the Vatican . Should the conclave begin? The countdown is on; the race to locate clues leading to the lethal device continues…