The List Piles.

I'm still thinking of Italy and Greece and all of the goodies I'll get to see. This month is dedicated to the Renaissance so I'm really getting to (re)learn all about these gems in advance. 
*It's been a long time since I took classes on the Rinascimento.

San Lorenzo (with projected facade), Florence.

Mocking of Christ, Fra Angelico, 1438, San Marco Monastery, Florence, fresco.

Of course, the Renaissance is not complete without the Greco-Roman world!

Nike, 410 BCE, Acropolis Museum, Athens.
Arch of Titus, Rome.

Constantine, Vatican Museum, Rome. 
Other things I'm excited about!

San Clemente, 1120, Rome.
St. Mark's, 13th c., Venice.
Rape of Proserpina, Bernini, 1621, Rome.
Really looking forward to seeing this. 
 Primavera (detail), Botticelli, tempera, 1480. Uffizi, Florence.

Daphni Crucifixion, 11th c., Daphni Monastery, Athens.
Monophysitism? Two streams? So many questions.

Pantocrator, 11th c., Daphni Monastery, Athens.
I never really studied Botticelli before having to teach it this week. I had no interest in knowing more about his paintings, despite their obvious beauty, mostly because his are some of the few Renaissance paintings that are constantly reproduced (and drained of their meaning). I am happy to say that I have finally become acquainted with both The Birth of Venus and Primavera and I love them. They are even more beautiful now. I can't wait, CANNOT WAIT, to see them together. That blue behind the personification of spring is stunning and gives me a weird feeling that I like. Also, I realized that I will be able to see the above mosaics in Athens. Oh!


Taravat Talepasand.

I discovered this artist while on a trip to San Francisco a few years ago. Taravat Talepasand is a young Iranian-American woman based in California.

Death to Bitches, Graphite and watercolor on paper, 2008.
Order of Lion and Sun, Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 2007. 
The Liberal Iranian, 2008.

Tradition Are As Follows, Graphite and watercolor on paper, 2008.

Reminds me of...Shadi Ghadirian.

Untitled, from Qajar Series, 1998.

And of course, my favorite Iranian photographer, Antoin Sevruguin, who actually was from the Qajar Dynasty. 

Looking good at Persepolis! c. 1860.


ITALY...GREECE...Only In My Dreams, But Not For Long.

Finally, finally after all these years of learning and looking from afar:


RENAISSANCE: Masaccio's Trinity, 1427, Sta Maria Novella, Florence.
RENAISSANCE: Masaccio's Expulsion, 1426, Brancacci Chapel, Sta Maria del Carmine, Florence.

PROTO-RENAISSANCE! Giotto, Virgin and Child Enthroned, 14th c., The Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
BRONZE AGE, MINOAN: Knossos Palace, 1800 BCE, Crete.
MINOAN: Knossos Palace, 1800 BCE, Crete.
RENAISSANCE: Alberti's Sant'Andrea, 15th c., Mantua.

Commitments have been made and for 30 days and 30 nights I will travel back in time to:


This includes works (most in situ!) from the Bronze Age, Antiquity, Byzantium, the Medieval era, the Proto-Renaissance and of course the Renaissance and even more and more! The Vatican, the Uffizi, the monastery at San Marco, the Pantheon, the Parthenon, Knossos Palace, Palladian architecture in Venice, maybe the lady in a red coat! Ah! I hope not!

I'm putting my lists together and planning to have several Stendhal experiences. Is there medicine for that? I need a suitcase full.

RENAISSANCE: Palladio's Redentore, 16th c., Venice.
BYZANTINE: San Vitale, 6th c., Ravenna.
Mosaics! Ravenna.
I can't even express how excited and overwhelmed and thankful I am. To my homeland!

24 Hours in NYC: 4 Museums, 3 Boroughs, 1 Magical Pizza.

With an hour by hour itinerary and dining spots mapped around each museum, Alex and I set out. First stop: the Morgan Library and Museum in Midtown. The Morgan claimed that they were pulling out their entire collection of Islamic manuscripts for this show. Their collection is notable, especially to me, since it includes this elephant illumination from the Manafi’ al-Hayawan.  

Isn't it Wonderful!
"The two interlocking and rather affectionate elephants shown here make up one of the finest of the forty-four large illustrations in the manuscript Manāfi˓-i ḥayavān (The Benefits of Animals). They are royal elephants, as seen from their caps and the bells on their feet. The text describes both the habits and medicinal derivatives of the animal. Among the former, for example, it is stated that the tongue of the elephant is upside down, for if it were not, it could speak, and that the elephant was called "barrus on account of its voice, whence the voice is called baritone." Among the latter—and these have not been tested by the Morgan—are suggestions that elephant broth is good for colds and asthma, that elephant dung (taken with or without honey) prevents conception, and that one dram of ivory filings will bring about conception." (The Morgan)

Two Gazelles and Two Mountain Rams
Ibn Bakhtīshū˓ (d. 1058), Manāfi˓-i ḥayavān(The Benefits of Animals), in Persian. Persia, Maragha, between 1297 and 1300, for Shams al-Dīn Ibn Ẓiyā˒ al-Dīn al-Zūshkī.

"Manāfi˓-i ḥayavān (The Benefits of Animals) ranked among the ten greatest Persian manuscripts, dates from the reign of Ghazan Khan (1295–1304), the Mongol ruler who ordered a Persian translation of the book. The Mongol invasion, culminating in the conquest of Baghdad, brought a new, Chinese naturalist style to Persian art. The text discusses the nature and medicinal properties of humans, animals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. On the right, two gazelles run in front of a steep, rocky mountainside, kicking up dust (derived from a misunderstood misty landscape model), while on the left two mountain rams fight on a fanciful Chinese-style bridge composed of colored rocks, with gold clouds in the sky." (The Morgan)

The Morgan has a great on line collection, follow this link to see all of these paintings in detail.

I was really hoping to meet my elephant painting on this occasion. Nervous, as if I were heading out for a blind date, I bounded into the gallery searching all over for it, the one. I got caught up by some other incredible miniatures of composite animals and flayed bodies until I found the image above displayed in a case. I recognized and admired the painting style, but the book was not open to the page I'd hoped to see! It was another remarkable page of animals, but how let down I was at that moment, kept away from a treasure that was so close but completely unattainable.

A Sun-bearing Peri Rides a Composite Lion
Mughal, Kashmir, probably third quarter of the eighteenth century

This show is worth seeing of course, as it is a rare occasion that these gems are taken from storage and allowed to share their magnificence. The Morgan also holds the Stavelot Triptych and is in general a fantastic place to spend an afternoon. 

True Cross Reliquary

After dark we headed uptown, walking along Central Park, toward the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our goal was to see Storytelling in Japanese Art, a collection of medieval and early modern Japanese illustrated handscrolls (emakimono). I loved reading these tales in one of my graduate seminars and it was thrilling to see the accompanying emaki at the Met. 

The Story of the God of Kitano Tenjin Shrine, Kamakura Period, 13th century. 

This tale recounts the afterlife of Sugiwara Michizane, a ninth century poet-statesmen, who after dying of a broken heart unleashes all kinds of weather related fury. Nichizo, pictured above, is sent on a journey to hell, where he meets the eight-headed guard monster, in order to placate Michizane.

The Tale of the Drunken Demon, Shuten-doji, Edo Period, 17th century. 

In this legend, Shuten-doji has a fatal habit of kidnapping young ladies. Raiko, a samurai, is dispatched to free the girls and eradicate the demon. In this scene, Shuten-doji, the largest figure, is surrounded by his demon underlings as well as Raiko and his retinue of samurai (they are disguised as monks). They are attending a cannibalistic feast. On the menu: arm and leg sashimi and blood. 

Frolicking Animals, Choju Giga, Heian Period, 12th century.

Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. 

In this tale, inanimate objects; spoons, chopsticks, and pots for example, turn into demons if they are not properly discarded.

A fantastic show. The works assembled here, some of the most important and well-known emaki, are a combination of permanent collection, local loans and loans from Japan. So unless you are planning to jet off to Asia, you should make a point to get to this museum. Another perk, the lengths of the scrolls with be periodically changed so that you can see different parts. I wish the Morgan would do something similar! Since we happened to visit on a Saturday where hours are extended until 9pm, we had the place to ourselves. We ran through some of the other sections with unbridled glee!

Rushing directly to Brooklyn after a day of museum exhilaration, we made our way to the legendary DiFara's Pizzeria in Midwood. I won't gush too much about our experience there, but it was memorable. It's a total dive in the middle of a wildly diverse and legendary neighborhood. We were running to meet our friends there and we ran right past it because from the outside (and the inside), it seems impossible that magical pizzas would be in progress. I have never seen pizza made with such care and affection. Neapolitan Domenico DeMarco, the main pizza guy and owner for about fifty years, makes each one, every day. On our two pies he: sprinkled top quality hand grated salty, parmesan, trimmed basil leaves from a fresh bundle, used an oil can to douse the entire thing with extra virgin olive oil. It was beautiful and it was delicious. Number one pizza, best of my life so far. But I haven't been to Italy. Yet!

The next day we ate leftover pizza for breakfast and happily ran over to the Brooklyn Museum for

An edited version of David Wojnarowicz's unfinished film, Fire In My Belly, 1987.

Another version with Diamanda Galas chanting the Plague Mass. 

From Rosa von Praunheim's Silence = Death (1990).

This NY Times article discusses the details around the removal of this film from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington. The decision stemmed from images of ants on a crucifix! Ridiculous. 

I enjoyed watching this film, it was disturbing and effective. Wojnarowicz filmed most of it while living in Mexico. There are momentary flashes of Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess of creation and destruction, which he would have seen in the National Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City. She wears a necklace of human hearts, hands, and a skull. Her skirt: made of snakes. She is badass. The concept of creation and destruction is central to Wojnarowicz's message. He died in 1992, age 37, from complications of AIDS. However, when he was making this, he did not know he had the virus. 

According to the NYT, Hide/Seek..."is the first major museum exhibition to focus on homosexuality and to trace some of the ways that same-sex desire — and unconventional notions of masculinity and femininity in general — have been manifested in early Modern, Modern and postmodern American art, as evinced primarily in portraiture." This is an important event in museum history and should not be missed.

Next stop: Queens! Cafe Triskell in Astoria for Breton crepes. A surly waitress/wife, who yelled upon our entrance, "can you just give me a minute!," French conversations loudly exchanged, delightful crepes made by the husband (and the waitress/wife warmed up later): this tiny cafe was an ideal spot for refueling for our next and final museum visit.

George Kuchar: Pagan Rhapsodies at PS 1.

I think Alex and I were both a little giddy about coming to this, on its closing day. We had attended a screening at Harvard a few months ago, George couldn't make the trip from California, but skyped in (see Alex's review here). We knew that something was not right. Sadly, he passed away only a month after that event. But what a legacy he left behind and I am thrilled to be aware of this mad genius. 

Kuchar was trained as a commercial artist, so we weren't surprised at how well he could draw. Still, it was a treat to get a close look at his small scale sketches and paintings. The exhibition included screening rooms for several of his films, one of which was Hold Me While I'm Naked. It's really terrific, check it out. There are many tender and awkward moments, there are parts that are romantic and sexy and there are a lot of parts that are tremendously weird and beautiful. There's no question that this is a true work of art. I love it.  


Organic Architecture Photo Essay: Fallingwater, Antoni Gaudí, and Vertical Gardens.

Fallingwater, Bear Run, Pennsylvania, Frank Lloyd Wright (American architect 1867-1959).
Designed 1935, built 1936-39 near the end of Wright's career, but still even before he conceived of the Guggenheim in 1943! 

This adventure was a thrilling stopover during a recent road trip which included visits to Pittsburgh. I've been wanting to get here for years and even though I lived in Philadelphia for so long I never made it until I moved north.

Here are some helpful terms and related concepts.
Organic Architecture: through forms and engineering, this style seeks to integrate landscape and structure to create harmony between dwelling and nature.
Arts and Crafts Style: artistic movement inspired by William Morris in England during 1860-1910, this style continued to influence artists internationally through the 1930's. Essentially this movement sought to eliminate industrial, machine made products in favor of those handcrafted, which would satisfy both the creator and the consumer.
Prairie Stylelow-pitched roof, overhanging eaves, horizontal lines, central chimney, open floor plan, clerestory windows
Cantilever: a beam or structure that is anchored at one end and projects horizontally beyond its vertical support, such as a wall or column. It can carry loads throughout the rest of the unsupported length. 

At Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright cantilevered a series of broad terraces (made from poured cement) out from the cliffside, echoing the great slabs of rock below. By using natural materials: the pre-existing land, wood and stone, and glass to let in natural sunlight, blending the division between interior and exterior, the opposition to mechanical industrial production is evident. 

The above black and white images were taken on C-41 film, which can be developed using color film chemicals. I like the tones this kind of film produces, not too much contrast or depth.
I also took some fun shots with my Holga camera.

I especially liked the open floor plan hearth room with a cozy fireplace on one side and the rushing water coming up to the hatch on the other.

Hatch with glass top allows the sounds and breeze from the river to enter the room.
Very Renaissance palazzo-esque.
Sweet mid-century library.

Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, 1852-1926, didn't necessarily integrate landscape with dwelling in the same way that FLW did. He was more interested in using organic forms in his structures. I got a chance to see many of his works of art last year in Barcelona (all photos are mine).

Casa Batlló, 1877. 

Sagrada Familia, started 1883, ongoing.

Nave ceiling.

Park Güell, 1898.

La Perdrera, 1906-10.

Vertical Gardens: These are living gardens assembled on the sides of buildings usually found in dense urban settings where green spaces are less abundant.

Vertical Garden, Caixa Forum, Madrid, 2009, Ecological Engineer Patrick Blanc (French, b. 1953).
I was lucky enough to catch this on my first trip to Spain and it was certainly memorable. The ultimate connecting of nature and architecture.