Fuchsia

Fuchsia

Trumpet flowers

Trumpet flowers

Leaf

Leaf

Calla lilies

Calla lilies

Trees

Trees

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Face

Face

Crow

Crow

Hands

Hands

The end

The end

It was a rush to the finish, but I did complete this project by the end of the year as I had hoped.  Time for new projects in 2017.

 

Happy New Year!

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Old house

Old house

In Profile

In Profile

Brad Craft, bookseller, reading "A Christmas Memory" at the University Bookstore

Brad Craft, bookseller, reading “A Christmas Memory” at the University Bookstore

Self-portrait of Chuck Close

Self-portrait of Chuck Close

I aspire to paint portraits someday, so I was thrilled to learn of the Chuck Close exhibit at the Schack Art Center in Everett, a city just 30 minutes north of Seattle.  I discovered that seeing his work in person is much more revealing of his techniques than seeing his work reproduced in books.  How creative is his vision!  Looking up close, you can see the myriad marks and dabs and even fingerprints that looked at from afar form recognizable faces.  It is magical.

“Painting is the most magical of mediums.  The transcendence is truly amazing to me every time I go to a museum and I see how somebody figured another way to rub colored dirt on a flat surface and make space where there is no space or make you think of a life experience.”
— Chuck Close

Chuck Close exhibit at the Schack Art Center

Chuck Close exhibit at the Schack Art Center

“In my art, I deconstruct and then I reconstruct, so visual perception is one of my primary interests.”
— Chuck Close

Chuck Close exhibit, Schack Art Center

Chuck Close exhibit, Schack Art Center

Portrait made of tiny colored dots

Portrait made of tiny colored dots

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I think portraits are fascinating.  It seems universally agreed that eyes and faces are the mirrors of the soul, so there are layers of meaning beyond physical resemblances.  What face(s) do you present to the world?  What anyone sees seems a bit of a mystery.

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.”
— St. Jerome

“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.”
— William Shakespeare

” . . . every portrait with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.  The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion.  It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.”
— Oscar Wilde, from The Picture of Dorian Gray

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This portrait of Lesley was composed of inked fingerprints.

This portrait of Lesley was composed of inked fingerprints.

Detail showing fingerprints

Detail showing fingerprints

What do Close’s portraits reveal about himself?  His unique vision is shaped in some manner by what he calls his “learning disabilities.”  He says, “I think I was driven to paint portraits to commit images of friends and family to memory.  I have face blindness, and once a face is flattened out, I can remember it better.”

I think his portrait of Georgia was one of my favorites in this exhibition:

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Like his name suggests, one ought to look “close” and then not-so-close to experience the wonder of his works.

 

“The face is the soul of the body.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Culture and Value, translated by Peter Winch

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I thoroughly enjoyed the Seattle Art Museum’s new exhibit, “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic.”  Wiley’s gigantic canvases depict portraits of people of color, whose oversized presence is dignified and regal.  Wiley paints realistic images in a world where abstraction seems more trendy and modern.  But he succeeds, I think, because he puts his models in settings you would normally see in classic, European paintings — and this twist is both humorous and thought-provoking.

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There is something compelling about Wiley’s portraits.  He captures something of their soul in their stances and attitudes.

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So much character is revealed in these portraits.

“I read the face, I saw and contemplated it to the point of losing myself in it.  How many faces to the face.  More than one.  Three, four, but always the only one, and the only one always more than one.”
— Helene Cixous, from “Coming to Writing,” in Coming to Writing and Other Essays, ed. Deborah Jenson

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“To paint the same head over and over leads you to its unfamiliarity; eventually you get near the raw truth about it . . .”
— Frank Auerbach, from “The Art of Frank Auerbach”

“When you’re trying to make a portrait of somebody you know well, you have to forget and forget until what you see astonishes you.  Indeed, at the heart of any portrait which is alive, there is registered an absolute surprise surrounded by close intimacy.”
— John Berger, Understanding a Photograph

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The exhibit includes some of Wiley’s stained glass and sculptures — he’s a multi-talented artist.

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If you are in Seattle, the Kehinde Wiley exhibit is worth a visit.  It runs through May 8th at the Seattle Art Museum.

People-Watching in Spain

October 27, 2015

“There are few things more delightful than to have nothing to do in a strange city and enough money to do it pleasantly, to sit and watch people and to wonder about them . . . The Spaniards can sit for hours just talking, or, if alone, doing nothing, with the mind’s engine shut off, just coasting pleasantly.  This immobility is a wonderful gift, like the ability of a dog or a cat to go to sleep at any time.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

Street scene, Seville

Street scene, Seville

“Happy, happy Spain, where there I always time to sip coffee and where to be busy is not a virtue.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

Man reading a magazine at an outdoor café, Seville

Man reading a magazine at an outdoor café, Seville

When you travel like a tourist spending at most three or four days at a single destination, and especially when you don’t speak the language, it is difficult to penetrate the culture or have meaningful connections with the locals.  When you sightsee at the major, must-see sites, you mix mostly with lots of other tourists.  That is why I get a little thrill when I notice a slice of real life, individuals and families going about their business in their home towns and paying scant attention to camera-wielding intruders.

Of course, the locals might be enjoying some of their city’s treasures along with the tourists.  Sometimes it is hard to tell them apart.  But I bet those hundreds of people taking selfies were tourists busy documenting that they were HERE.

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The major tourist areas also seemed to attract the “rosemary ladies,” who solicited donations in exchange for a sprig of rosemary.

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It is fun to people watch and speculate about the lives of those who cross your path.  Everywhere in Spain, elderly women walk arm-in-arm with a middle-aged companion.  Are they mothers and daughters or daughters-in-law?  Why are there seemingly more elderly women than men?  Isn’t it wonderful that they still get out and walk the streets for shopping or their daily constitutional?

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Or is this just a tradition, the multi-generational social outings for women of a certain age?  (After all, even Picasso sketched two women walking.  “Walking” by Picasso, 1899, from the collection of the Picasso Museum, Barcelona:)

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There weren’t as many smokers as I expected, but we did notice higher-than-usual numbers of women in Madrid who were smoking on the streets.

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Woman smoking on balcony

Woman smoking on balcony

And cell phones are ubiquitous, just as they are in the States.

On the train to Alcala

On the train to Alcala

Men seemed to gather in bars.

“It is a truism that Spaniards believe there is nothing more important than family life.  In fact, they would probably rather show allegiance to any kind of family than to the State.  For most Spaniards, the need, outside family, is met by the local bar, a place where one might spend at least an hour a day with friends.”
— Miranda Franca, Don Quixote’s Delusions: Travels in Castilian Spain

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Playing cards in a park, Barcelona

But sometimes men gathered in parks, such as these card players in Barcelona.

This family was dressed to the nines for a restaurant lunch in Triana:

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“The only people in Spain more powerful than the mothers are the grandmothers.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

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And kids and teens in Spain are like kids and teens anywhere.

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Here are a few more photos capturing the ordinary life and people of Spain:

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This waiter in a Sanlucar restaurant asked me to take his picture.

This waiter in a Sanlucar restaurant asked me to take his picture.

Ink sketches; portraits

Ink sketches; portraits