Page 3 of 3

Pamplona Unbound

20140607-094955-35395627.jpg
I have a crush on Pamplona.
Pamplona is seductive. In fact, the whole journey I’ve had nothing but good luck. People have helped me. Small dark men are courtly and helpful. My hotel is beautiful. I see swallows over tile roofs and hear peacocks calling at night and roosters in the morning.
And when I got to Pamplona, the whole city was engaged in a local Black and Red night, with concerts on every corner, and dancing in the street. You can’t describe it: a euphoria and a warm wind, everyone smiling.

20140607-095310-35590609.jpg
Best of travel: a room with a view, travel luck stays strong, easy connections. I watch the stream of pilgrims go by and know I’ll be joining them tomorrow.
Worst of travel: traveling alone, there’s no one to watch the pack or carry my passport and money. I have to drag the pack into every bathroom. I used to give Scott my passport to carry. No more. I’m in the “training” stage of the journey where I have to constantly check my money belt, securing my phone, etc. Yes, I’m sometimes lonely, but I already feel captured by Spain… happy prisoner.
My room has a view over Roman and Navarro forts, to the hills, where I’ll head tomorrow. Buen Camino, Suzanne

20140607-100936-36576149.jpg

20140607-101252-36772184.jpg

Where a pilgrim begins

I started this pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela last year in September– in my mind. They say that the pilgrim way begins right from your front door. The post below was written in September 2013 when I first decided to start. In the meantime, I have bread dipped in Spanish olive oil, and walk among the twisted oaks of Spring Lake. Join me as I walk, write, sketch, and wander in the land of bull, oak, red wine, relics, grails, and pilgrims. Suzanne

Toward Compostela: A Pilgrim on the Starry Way

I called my niece Rachel Welsh, who is, conveniently enough, a scholar of the Middle Ages, to ask her advice on this crazed idea I had to walk the length of the Camino de Santiago.  She said, “You’ve already started your pilgrimage.”

My front steps, a winding path through an arch towards the sky. My front steps, a winding path through an arch towards the sky.

In the Middle Ages, you started from your own front door, or perhaps from the steps of your local cathedral.  Rich or poor, doing penance for sins or seeking your fortune, man, woman or child– you started where you are.  And so here is my own front door on this bright September day in Northern California, the wind whipping the rain clouds and the first reluctant leaves along the pavement. A little glitch of the light entered— a protective travel spirit?  It is the first day of fall. Or this might be the real start, the chair…

View original post 32 more words

Pompeii Winter Day with Toy Cameras


Pompeii, December. We stepped off the train from Naples into the first rain of the season, Vesuvius wreathed in fog. The ancient wagon ruts filled with water, but we could still use the stepping stones in place for two thousand years. It’s a large city, a grid of named streets, fast food counters, offices, fountains, floors, stores, a harbor, rich and poor homes, bread ovens, baths. Interrupted business is everywhere evident… those businesslike Romans! Wild dogs slept sadly on the cold stones. We bargained for a 10-euro umbrella for two. The rain worked to our advantage; we had a lot of the site to ourselves. It was a day for ghosts and images brought in on rainclouds and reflected in puddles. Pompeii!

Myth Notes:  Pompeii is  a web of Greco-Roman mythology, with a dash of Isis from newly-conquered Egypt.  It was wine country (Dionysius/Baccus/Silenus) and was on the coast (Posiedon/Neptune).  I think the Romans would have been appalled at how we got so much information on Roman culture from Pompeii; it was a hick commercial village far from the centers of power in Herculaneum and Rome.

Studio notes:  I’ve done Holga, Lomo, and pinhole toy photography for many years.  We chose to take the Lomo Fisheye and Lomo Sprocket Rocket with us, as they used 35mm film rather than the more awkward– but more fun– 120 mm film.  At airports now , many security guys have never even seen film.  I hand-carried it in a ziploc bag without film containers.  It always caused consternation and dismay in the security lines.  What the heck is film?

Lomo Sprocket Rocket Camera
Lomo Fisheye Camera

Happy Couples and Girls with Horns: Archaic Art Friends from Rome and Naples

This is my image of true love: looking into the light of eternity, together.

The Etruscan “Happy Couple in the Villa Giula museum  in Rome used to be painted and draped with fabric.  They had wine glasses and perfume bottles in hand and were reclining and eating at the same time– wonderful.  She had her earrings and jewelry on originally too.  This is the most famous of the tomb sculptures and is still incredibly moving for its feeling of affection and love. Not to mention the great “dos”, his and hers.

Then, the Romans invaded, and everyone started thinking about money, real estate, commerce.  Look at the new portrait of the married couple, Roman-style! Brood, worry, and scheme… not much trust there. And no more damn reclining in married portraits.

When not buying something or conquering someone,  in their spare time the Romans loved their soft and ahem, harder , images of sex.  This is a sweet one from the Secret Cabinet of Pompeii, a collection of erotic/ironic art  in the Naples Archeological Museum.  We did get in, though the guidebooks report this is often dicey.  It was deserted.  I think there’s a basic misunderstanding about what was erotic and what was common during the height of the Roman Empire.  Phallic-shaped signposts, lucky charms, and house decoration: common and boring.  Wall-painting series of  “menus” showing different sexual activities you could choose in the brothels, especially if you’re illiterate: interesting, erotic, naughty, not boring.  She’s light and he’s dark, showing the power of the guy, or something; this painting convention continued through the Renaissance and later in erotic scenarios. It’s Pan and his goat, but she seems happy.

Girls with Horns!  What can I say?  You can check my Mythic notes at the bottom for more ideas.  Here’s an Egyptian version of girls with horns.  They seem to have water buffalo horns, an image seen still in Naples because of their wonderful water-buffalo mozzarella cheese.  You buy it from the deli, little balls swimming in a salty sea, and carry it home in a tied plastic bag like goldfish from the fair.  Mozarrella alone is a “secondi piatti”– main dish– in Naples.   It’s grilled a bit, served with bread, and that’s it.

And now some Pompeiian paintings of girls with horns.  The “encaustic” they used included wax, but the paint actually used soap (lye-based) as the “caustic” medium binding the pigment  to bond with the walls.  These are not frescoes– the plaster was dry.  These are wet, slippery paint layers.  They then used the hot wax to seal the walls as a varnish on top, which they could buff to a high shine.  The first girl definitely has horns; the second may be more of a crescent moon, perhaps Diana.

Horns or crescent moon?  What say you?

For the last happy couple, Scott and I, the morning after our arrival back, at the IHOP at 6AM.  We are not reclining and eating, like the Etruscan couple, but you see a soft upholstered booth, coffee, empty plates and cups, books, and happiness.  Good enough.

Mythic notes: I saw a lot of images of  Europa on the Zeus-Bull.  She was taken to swim on Zeus-Bull’s back through the Straits of Bosphorus– Bosphorus means ox-crossing– dividing Europe from Asia/Turkey–in other words, the Straits of Istanbul.  Europa and Io merge women with bull or cow, and then put them in water– a river or sea.  They might be a holdover from a more ancient cow -goddess, or metaphors for mass migrations and settlement of cattle people, but I just thought that the girls with horns were cool.  The Romans idealized the Nile as a source of fertility;  Roman matrons would buy vials of Nile water at the local Isis-temple  and douse themselves with it to increase conception.

Book notes:  The Social Animal by David Brooks was a great buy.  It’s trending sociological research, carried by his  made-up, somewhat borg-like characters named  Harold and Erica.  The characters provide a framework for reporting findings from everywhere.  Intriguing.  Many are saying that the creative/artistic mind is the big money earner in our new world. Well, let’s hope.  He lets Erica do art after she retires, and there are a few pages on the latest social research on music, painting, and other arts.   Recommended for a rousing non-fiction read and a juicy idea source.

Studio Notes:   I’ve done large paintings of both Europa and Io as abstractions.

My Marble Buddies: Hanging with Sculpture in Rome and Naples

Three weeks in Italy! I felt like I was dipping my toe into a river of souls.  It was a time of borderlines and thresholds: old year to new,  marble to flesh, ancient streets filled with modern people, and classical beauty in the faces of people arguing, eating, buying stuff, driving Smartcars. The ancients seemed to live,  and the Christmas crowds of elegant Italians seemed temporary flickers haunting the alleys.  Meet some of my marble buds. 

The Capitoline Walls… this guy is great.  Is he a David figure?  To us he looked like he had 400 years of saying “Hey, Sailor” to his credit.   Cocky.  Just sayin’…

 

An achingly blue winter day, and I couldn’t tear myself away from the brilliant negative shapes against the stone. Youth and horse… stunning  contained force, and a tremendous face.  I like the entire Capitoline hill, and this museum piazza was designed by The Big Mike, Michaelangelo.

Capitoline Hill, sunset from the museum cafe terrace.  Murmurations of starlings, kinetic.  The whole Hill was formerly a nest of  state oracles and seers.  They liked the elevation so they could interpret flights of birds.  Nowadays the seagulls have invaded.   Oddly, they fly at night in the city, shrieks and white forms soaring in the darkness, a bit ghoulish.

 Classical sculptures are virtually all knockoffs—copied from ancient Greek sources, now lost— or propaganda for the ruler du jour.  Some mighty bodies were made with removable heads so the next Caesar could just screw his own on.  The head of Constantine below is 5 feet high, so the whole sculpture, with pedestal and base, might have been 50 to 70 feet or more.   Statues of this mass can so easily verge on  Facist architechture.  But they impress.  Think of Lady Liberty!

What has that flawed eye perceived in its time? Think, too, of paint and decoration, fabrics and jewels originally draped around the sculpture.  The marble we see now is more a bone structure.  Ripped from their original colored and decorated context, they become evocative collage pieces.  But some still shine. I felt that it wouldn’t take long to develop a real relationship with them.  The more we like them, the more they come alive, like any so-called “object”, I suppose.  I’ll miss hanging with them.

Next: Happy Couples and Horned Gals: More Archaic Art Friends from Rome and Naples

My Desert Vacation 2: Petroglyphs and Premonitions

Grey Magic, acrylic combined media on paper, 10" x 10", Suzanne Edminster

Premonitions, by definition, come first. But, like ancient oracles, you never know what they really mean until you get there.

In hindsight, this little painting foretold our desert trip. I did this in October as a collage painting demo. Now it strikes me how much it is like the petroglyphs we saw at Painted Rock State Park, just outside of Gila Bend, Arizona, in late November. In fact, there’s a lizard spirit slithering gila-like through it.

Petroglyphs are the abstractions of the ancients. Were they a semi-precise writing or language, like heiroglyphs? Religious spirit encounters: “Hey, the Deer Dancer possessed me here!” Maps?

It’s interesting how there seems no real distinction between realism and abstraction in petroglyphs.  The deer with bulging belly seems so obviously pregnant, but the squared-off labyrinth delights  in the design-play of geometric abstraction.

Petroglyphs are vigorous and melancholy at once.  Here people met, prayed, danced, hunted, ate, and spent days and weeks creating with what they had– stone and imagination.

Boo!

My Desert Vacation 1: Angels in IHOP and Dead End Beauties

Angel of the Special, 5" x 7", Suzanne Edminster

How do we stay in touch with our art on the road? 

You don’t need to produce profound masterpieces, but it helps to ask the spirit that drives your art to go on the road with you: playfulness, or abstraction, or folk art, or even food.  It needs to be a break, so serious work should be avoided.

I took the Sprocket Rocket, but those old-style film photos will take a while to develop.   I enjoyed the play of my sketchbook… seed ideas seem to be what it’s about when you travel. It’s not good to be too ambitious, as anyone who has a pile of blank notebooks and sketchbooks lying around can tell you.

Floating Condiment

The “Angel of the Special”  in the IHOP picture was a statue across the highway that I could see from our booth.  The Floating Condiment was an extension of the notion of an angelic diner. Or maybe we had just been traveling too long, or had something funny in the syrup for the  Pumpkin Pancakes.  These little sketches, done in around 7 minutes each,  make me feel relaxed and at ease.  It seems to be important to paint them at the moment of making.  I never complete the ones where I say “later” to the color. 

Beyond the End by Suzanne Edminster

The desert clears my head.  I like the monotony, and the inverted feeling of the landscape… with so little as a classical focal point, it practically begs for a kind of X-ray vision, an aboriginal approach.  I’ll write more on this in the next petroglyph post. The apparent “Dead Ends” of the desert lead to new perception.  Little or large things, sometimes quite alive, wiggle on up to communicate.

Daniel in the Lion's Den by Suzanne Edminster

I try to use the camera to record what I feel more than what I see.  These little arti-facts, the images, stir the pot.  We didn’t eat at Tonopah Joe’s after all.  We were invited to an impromptu, delicious potluck .  We ate in a reclaimed building near El Dorado Hot Springs with a fire outside and the stars really close. This beautiful meal, in the company of wanderers, was a real tribute to American hospitality.  We found  great Thanksgiving bounty, on the road and off; in the middle of desolation, a sudden bloom of fellowship.  For me, that’s the essence of the desert– a radical clarity of heart.

Mythic News: The Desert is the place where prophecies and prophets thrive.  Revelations abound, whether they come from an old desert hermit or a UFO visit.  Cowboy heroes themselves have a sort of monk-like quality.  First the White Hats fix the bad guys, then vanish, eaten by the endless horizon. The West is the place of death and sunset, and I did have the sense sometimes of crossing a great monotonous Purgatory.   But it is also the land where one can see forever.  Vision is both challenged and purified.   After all that, a cool beer tastes really good.