Gallery-Hopping and Art Fair Shopping

After a weekend of seeing so much art my eyes started to water (below is only the beginning of it,) I felt almost divinely inspired to create. And create I did for the remainder of the week! After seeing the woven folk harp (pictured below) by Iven Stein, I remembered a beautiful but broken accordion that’s been lying around my house in want of repair, and I decided to spend my time and energy on the beauty of the instrument itself, rather than futily trying to mend the broken sounds that come from something I can’t even play (though, between by efforts to embellish it outwardly I have been teaching myself to play a few Yann Tiersen songs, one of my favorite composers who writes quite a bit for the accordion). But enough about me. Take a look at some of my favorite pieces from the Independent Art Fair, The Pulse NYC Art Fair, and some Chelsea galleries, and see what inspires you.

 

Andy Warhol

 

Damian Stamer

 

Heather Gwen Martin

 

David Antonio Cruz

 

Michelle Muldrow: “Delirium”

 

Close-Up of Michelle Muldrow’s “Delerium”

 

Close-Up of Michelle Muldrow’s “Delerium”

 

Tara Donovan

 

Tara Donovan

 

Polixeni Papapetrou

 

Cody Hoyt

 

Josh Dorman

 

Robert Kushner

 

Robert Kushner

 

Robert Kushner

 

Robert Kushner

 

Ben Wolf

 

Isen Stein

 

Christina Empedocles

 

Christina Empedocles

 

Christina Empedocles

 

George Rahme

 

Trey Speegle

 

Let me know if you were as inspired as I!

 

Emily

More Pictures from the Studio

A skateboard designed by Baechler

 

Four works on paper

 

A portrait of Donald by Andy Warhol; he still hasn’t even unwrapped it from its paper!

 

Another portrait of Donald picking his nose by Andy Warhol, also still wrapped in paper

 

Some completed and one unfinished sculpture

 

The kitchen in the studio and one of my favorite of Donald’s sculptures

 

Two unfinished sculptures

 

Two unfinished sculptures, in different stages of process

Week Two at the Studio – Emily

I think it’s safe to safe I’ve accomplished a lot since last Friday.

I supported Planned Parenthood amidst a thronging crowd of 6,000 liberals and lesbians at Foley Square; I bought a new book by one of my favorite authors… and finished it; I had at least three, long, romantic conversations with strangers (and knowingly broke the most widely quoted rule of childhood); I went to a gallery opening in midtown, and another in Chinatown; I watched an almost painfully philosophical animated film about dreaming (no, not Inception) and later the Oscars (though not Inception); I went to a newly opened gallery show and met the artist (and his two pet goats, who wandered around as part of the exhibit); I walked behind Lady Gaga and made funny faces for the paparazzi taking her photographs; I composed a print to later be signed and completed by my boss, and I walked around the almost never-ending Armory Art Fair with the wisest possible of constant companions (Baechler himself).

A wise writer would have broken it up; just editing leaves me breathless.

For those of you that skipped the dense paragraph at the top, I’ll start with Saturday.

I woke up fairly early Saturday morning, with high hopes of making it to the start of the Planned Parenthood Rally in Foley Square, where one of my favorite bands (The Mountain Goats) would be supporting one of the  most deserving causes (Planned Parenthood,  which was proposed to be cut from governmental spending by the GOP to reduce the deficit and *punish abortion-lovers and baby-killers,* although, at least in my opinion, there would be far more abortion if women couldn’t have access to the free and accessible healthcare and sex education provided almost exclusively by Planned Parenthood).

Long story short and more sarcastic, the stimulus bill (and the improvement of public transportation and roadways) caused my subway to take me halfway through Brooklyn en route to Lower Manhattan (making what should have been a 15 minute ride a 50 minute one), and losing me my face-time with John Darnielle, lead singer of The Mountain Goats. *Whine!*

It was not all bad, though. The ill-placed track work gained me a friend – a beautiful young Parisian girl just as lost as me, if not a little more. She was headed for City Hall as well, (City Hall was the closest subway stop to my destination) on her last day of touring the city before heading back to France and school. We talked about our schools, (she was in 12th grade as well), and our plans for the future, as well as tipping each other on the most important unseen parts of the city.

We said goodbye under a rainstorm of pigeons, as she headed towards the Brooklyn Bridge with her Leica, and me towards the rally with my Holga. (Photography was, as we learned, a shared interest).

Despite missing the Mountain Goats, I did get to see a really wonderful Ukulele  player (Nellie McKay) and an endless string of liberal politicians and grateful patrons of the organization, as one after another they stood and spoke about their tireless devotion to Planned Parenthood.

After the rally, I wandered uptown, browsing through SOHO’s Broadway, and traipsing through the aisles of outsider boutiques and Chinese wholesalers (you can’t beat Pearl River… I got the most beautiful silk robe for $30!), until I reached Union Square and The Strand used bookstore, or, as I like to call it, Heaven.

I could write novels about looking through all the novels in there.

Most significantly, though, I bought the book A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore, whose short stories I’ve been digging up from all my old New Yorkers, and I met a dashing playwrite over a copy of Kafka’s Selected Short’s, who composed for me a lengthy reading list, among other things, and invited me for coffee.

The day ended tiredly, with sore feet from all my walking, and giddy smiles for all I’d seen and done.

Sunday and Monday we’re duds, with too much sleep and lazy movies, split up only by a little more laziness and Oscar-watching (Natalie Portman – how fabulous!), as Donald was out of town  and there was little to be done. I did get some painting done, though, finally remembering how airless my basement studio was after hours of paint fumes started to get to my head. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember much from that day! Oh well; Tuesday was marvelous.

Donald didn’t come into work again on Tuesday, though I had expected him to (as one assistant says, in the art world you have to choose between a boss who’s always there and always looking over your shoulder, or one who’s so laid back he’s unpredictable), so I stayed in, working on my artist’s book and helping photograph some of his earlier works.

Afterwards, I met up with two friends to see a gallery opening in midtown, where we talked laconically to the different artists involved and busied ourselves with observing the hipness of our surroundings, as I’ve spent much of my time here doing.

We finished the day with the tastiest Mexican food I’ve had in a while, and a sleepy train ride over the river to New Jersey, where shut-eye prepared me for the rest of an ever-intensifying work week.

Wednesday started off with a bang, as I went with two of my coworkers to their friend Darren Bader, who was showing at the Andrew Kreps Gallery in Chelsea. His work was fresh and interesting: a mixture of painting, sculpture, photography, music and film that captured the stark humor of the surreal and extraordinary, topped off by a pair of friendly goats that wandered the studio as we looked. I met Darren and took a photograph with him before walking back with the others, who had excitedly taken an artist’s book of his and fliped through its pages.

We stopped in Whole Foods before returning, and talked deeply about our impressions of Darren’s works. Once back, Donald had arrived, and we got to work photographing and cataloguing a bottomless pile of prints, each one intriguing and frightening and funny.

A bit later in the day, Donald took me with him again to Pace Prints, the printmaking studio that has been helping him with a series of monoprints to be shown in May at their associated gallery in Chelsea. Almost immediately, as I stood watching him compose the first series of woodcuts to be printed, he asked me if I’d like to compose one. Duh!

I happily arranged the carved, wooden faces in the jigsaw-like manner that he was using, choosing some of my favorites from the heaping pile on the table next to me. I quickly realized how much harder his job was than it looked, as he whipped out one after another before I’d even placed the core faces.

‘I’m done!’ I called, and he came over, smiling, and adjusting them only slightly, before giving me an approving look and tracing their shapes on the plexiglass to be printed. The other assistants congratulated me jealously as they saw my finished work, and I tried to hide my gloating pride.

(Two prints in the works, the bottom one I composed)

(The photo on the top shows two assistants re-touch some of the prints before signing, and the print on the bottom-right was composed by me)

Thursday, like Wednesday, started excitedly, as I walked behind the uncharacteristically normal-looking Lady Gaga on her way into Fuse NYC, a music television production studio, and dodged the mosquito-like paparazzi as they flocked around her, and, by proximity, me. Thank god I’m not famous.

I waited around the studio as Donald had meetings with various collectors and art dealers for our promised trip to The Armory, a relatively new, but increasingly important art fair on the piers of the Hudson River. The Armory takes up all of piers 92 and 94, and has, by now, spilled out into many smaller art fairs and shows across Manhattan.

While overwhelming, the Armory was incredibly inspiring; it encompassed in just two piers basically everything going on in contemporary art around the world, as well as a great deal of modern and post-modern works by almost every famous name in the business. And to have Donald as my tour guide – it can’t get any better!

(Works at the Armory. From top:  Rachel Feinstein, Jean Pagliuso, Henry Darger, Pablo Picasso, ???, ???, ???, Alex Katz,Philip Pearlstein)

All in all, my week has surely been one to remember, and as I’m sure you’ve seen, one with lots to talk about (I’ve left out so much even still!).

Tonight I’m off to see a coworker in an original musical called ‘Upon My Word,’ which she described as a ‘victorian sex comedy’, and later this weekend, I hope to check out a few of the fringe festivals happening around the city in the wake of the Armory.

I’m sure you’ll hear more from me soon!

– Emily

A View from the Inside

Sculptures, exhibition posters, and inspiring images tacked to the wall near the studio’s entrance. The cart on the lower left is filled with prints waiting to be signed.

 

Part of a finished painting and an early drawing as seen from a sitting area in the studio’s great room.

 

“Feet,” a print done by Baechler while still at Westtown School

 

Four paintings waiting to be completed

 

Early sculptures of Donald’s, and scans of source material to be used in later paintings

 

A relatively empty studio after a tour with MoMA’s collector’s group.

Week One at the Studio

Emily here –

I like to think that 90% of writing is living, and these past three days have been full of it.

After my return from Barcelona, I had a few hours of catchup before starting the next day with my commute to New York City, where my art teacher helped me find an exciting internship in the artist Donald Baechler’s studio, where the other assistants and I help him with his paintings, prints and sculptures, along with various bookkeeping and organizational tasks. Like all of the other assistants, I am an artist (though still, in many ways, aspiring) and I look to Donald as a sage of sorts: he is an extremely prolific painter and is highly respected both inside the art world and out.

Donald’s work can be seen in the Whitney Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Fine Art, the Philadelphia Museum, and in countless other museums across the world. He has had almost innumerable solo and group exhibitions worldwide, with his work selling for almost ungodly amounts to the worldly elite (I saw in looking through inventory that even James Brown owns a painting!). More even than the numbers, though, Donald’s character demands respect. His quiet wisdom endears him to anyone he meets, while his Quaker sensibility puts them at ease, drawing even the least learned to his adroitly perfected level.

Starting Wednesday morning, my internship gradually turned from general introductions and thumb twirling to interesting conversations and independent organizational help: most of which meant sorting and unpacking the hidden clutter after a group gallery tour with the Museum of Modern Art in NY. I discussed: recent works by Vik Muniz and Christian Marclay, the state of NGOs in Haiti and across the world, and a recent article in The New Yorker that explored Scientology from an insider’s perspective, all while I was bent over a long, wooden, Chipotle-covered table with Donald and the other assistants. They invited me to gallery shows that they were having or were going to, and offered to show me their own studios whenever I had the chance.

I finished up work at 7:00 and went to meet my friend Allegra, once a classmate of mine at Westtown, who’s now living in the city with her boyfriend. We went to the ever-chic Ace Hotel, for some of the best cappuccinos in Manhattan, where we reconnected over the bustle of the lobby. The ambiance was incredible: a seductive vocalist purred along with the half-hidden jazz band, undulating in perfect harmony with the crowds and the talk and the rolling laughter. I capped my first day with vegan dumplings and a sleepy train ride back to New Jersey, wishing more than ever I didn’t have to leave so magical a place.

Thursday was spent with Donald at Pace Prints, the print studio associated with the Pace Gallery (which, according to Donald, is among the five most important galleries in the city), where we worked on a series of ‘crowd’ monoprints. The crowd is a subject matter relentlessly reworked by Donald; because of its versatility it’s become one of my favorites of his subject matters. For this project, Donald made a series of nearly 70 woodcut faces and skulls (‘Just two eyes, a mouth and a nose,’ as he says), which were arranged like puzzle pieces, inked, and printed on handmade paper. Most of the faces were layered with Chine Colle, a process that glues rice paper under the ink and onto a page during the printing process. This gave the opportunity for the negative space of each face to be a different color, despite the monochromatic inking.

My job during the majority of this was to cut the different colored rice papers to fit the templates of specific heads before they were printed. I was able to choose the color that I thought would best suit each face, and that would correlate with the colors of the surrounding faces. While tedious, the job was fun and collaborative; I met lots of interesting, young printmakers and I learned much more about a medium that I’d though I knew almost everything about. More importantly, though, I felt like, while discreetly, the job I had was making an important mark on the final product, as if it were a signature of sorts.

Thursday’s workday ran late as well; after leaving the studio at 7:00 I ran to Utrecht to pick up supplies before walking to the East Village for dinner with Allegra and friends.

Today was the quietest day of them all; there was only one assistant in the studio other than me, excluding Donald’s personal assistant, who stopped in for a few hours this morning. With no significant work to do, I worked on personal projects until Donald arrived at 2:00 (I arrive around 11:00), and chatted with the other assistant.

When Donald arrived, he talked to us for the majority of the time, showing us pictures of paintings sculptures that he was interested in buying or that he held in high renown. Towards the end of the work day, I helped him sign an edition of prints he’d made while he was in Barcelona a few years ago, which he wants me and one of the other assistants to begin cataloguing in coming days.

After work, I went with Erin, a coworker, to the opening of a show that she and another coworker were in at the Canada Gallery. The opening was packed with exotically-dressed twenty-somethings and smelled like stale beer, but it had a feeling of general excitement and creativity. The show was a collaboration of 20 artists, who made a highly conceptual film, and displayed with it pieces of unrelated art.

A bit overwhelmed by the density of strangers, I left rather quickly, taking the subway back uptown to Penn Station, from where I headed home. Once home, I met with a few friends in their apartment down the street, and we listened to jazz music while talking about our plans for tomorrow, which you’ll hear about soon enough!

Until then,

Emily

Too Many Live Oysters…

Good thing I wrapped up the city in two days…

My last was spent either in bed or running for trash cans!

NOTE: don’t trust raw/live food in foreign countries 😀

 

But other than that, I just got home, safe and sound!

Healthy and looking forward to my first day of work tomorrow with Donald Baechler.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

-Emily

A City in Two Days

2/19

Greetings, again, from Barcelona, where our second day of exploration is coming to an end.

After a light breakfast and our first round of café Americanos, we met our driver and tour guide for the day, Jordi (named for the aforementioned St. George, patron saint of Barcelona) and set off to explore the outskirts of the city.

Jordi, like Toni (our guide from the previous day), is an upbeat local, who seemed to have close personal friends almost everywhere we stopped. Somehow even friendlier than Toni, Jordi had a million things to talk about, from the most vivid details of nearly every building and property in the city to his favorite mountain biking trails and parks. We spent nearly four hours in the backseat of his Volkswagon, in addition our short but frequent excursions into gardens and roadways for better views and pictures of our surroundings.

My favorite of these views were two hospitals, one dilapidated and out of use, named La Rotunda, and the second a turn-of-the-century, nine-block hospital compound named Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. La Rotunda stood out from its well-kept neighbors with its picturesque, faded clay walls and shining, mosaicked tower. Wedged between bus stops and breifcased pedestrians, it looked almost forgotten in all its beauty and mystique. The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, an urban center in comparison, was a more obvious architectural triumph. Because of its sprawling layout, its multiple, specialized building accompanied a more modern emergency care center, where different specialists and general doctors collaborated to heal patients quickly before sending them to the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. Despite being obscured on four sides by walls and intricate iron gates, it looked like an oasis of palm trees, succulents, and towering, decorative brick domes. “When you have time, you must go there!” Jordi exclaimed in all seriousness, as I wondered bewilderedly what excuse might get me inside the long-term care unit of Barcelona’s largest hospital.

After Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, we climbed the narrow roads to Park Guell, another of Gaudi’s triumphs. Once there, I ascended staircase after staircase into a bustling, open-air market, filled to a crowd with photo-happy tourists, blanket vendors and performance artists. During my climb, I passed a series of beautifully organic fountains and stone walls, which were balanced by the eccentricity of Gaudi’s curvaceous, abstract walls and sculptures, flanking a cavern of tiled pillars. The pillars created an echoing den, filled with tourists listening to the native musicians and performance artists, and reflecting the rainforest-like sounds of red-green parrots and frogs in the lush forest surrounding it. More even than the garden, it was these sounds that moved me, as if Gaudi himself had ordered the animals to call in accordance with the buxom, flowing lines and flowery decals of Park Guell.

We finished our tour atop Montjuic (named either for an ancient Jewish cemetery or the Roman god Jupiter, depending on whom you ask), where we had a beautiful lunch at La Terraza. The restaurant sat cliff-side, where its multi-level terrace patios faced all of Barcelona and its slow descent into the sea, making for a breathtaking view.

After a lunch of freshly squeezed apricot juice and ‘crunchy baby goat lasagna’ (I’ve made it my goal to eat the most preposterous meals I can find on every menu, so far with mouth-watering results), we walked down the little, tree-lined street to the Fundacio Joan Miro, where I spent hours wandering the white hallways, fervently drawing out my sketchbook and colored pens every time I saw something memorable, which happened more often than not.

In addition to one of the largest permanent collections of Miro’s work, the museum had a large selection of noteworthy modern art, and was exhibiting an impressive show dedicated to modern British paintings (including one of my favorites by Lucien Freud).

The majority of Miro’s work in el Fundacio was sponsored by the art enthusiast John Pratt, founder of the gallery in his name, La Galleria John Pratt, which has exhibited work by Donald Baechler, with whom I’ll be spending the rest of my Senior Project on returning to the states. In seeing the work collected in the Fundacio, I saw the common thread of abstract modernism and expressively drawn and painted works of art, which in many ways reflected the beauty of Baechler’s paintings and prints.

After fully exploring the museum, we took a tram down the mountain, and shopped our way up Passeig de Gracia until our bodies ached from the day’s walking. At eight, we were the first patrons in the restaurant (dinner usually doesn’t start until around 10:00 on weekends; our ‘early’ dinner was a clear sign that we were tourists), and chatted in English with the waiters while they served us a variety of their favorite tapas.

2/20 We are in the home stretch. With only one full day before another seven-hour flight (dios mio!), and a to-do list that’s been almost completely crossed out, Barcelona is slowly becoming a memory, or at least the beginnings of one.

In the past three days, I’ve visited La Casa Batallo, La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera, Montjuic, Park Guell, La Fundacio Joan Miro, Museu Picasso, Santa Maria del Mar, the Barri Gotic, Las Ramblas, Barceloneta (Barcelona’s old city, with an ancient execution square, Roman aqueducts and city walls and an endless maze of narrow streets), Palau de la Musica Catalana, Parc de la Ciutadella, and countless shops and restaurants. I’ve tried new foods and adapted to Catalan customs (especially sleeping late and staying out and about at night!); I’ve even learned a few words of Catalan to sprinkle into my Spanish! More than anything else, though, I’ve laughed. When you’re here, with the warm sun browning your skin and the breeze catching your hair in every direction, it’s hard not to.

We started this morning early, before even the breakfast cafés were open (which happens at the earliest, at 9:00). We walked through the empty streets, avoiding the half-full wine glasses and bottles that littered the street like dead soldiers after a raucous Saturday night, until arriving at Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia.

The basilica rose up from the surrounding gardens like a giant drip-sandcastle, with intricate, blistering facades and magnificent yet unfinished towers. When inside, light poured in through the beautiful stained-glass and clear windows, trickling through the tree-like pillars to the people below.

The Sagrada Familia is known for its foresty feeling, as each twisting pillar erupts into a carefully spiraling golden ratio of branch-like arches in the vaulted ceiling. As Gaudi once said, “The tree outside my studio is my greatest teacher”; he channeled his fascination with nature and the outdoors into an abstractly organic, almost indescribable architectural style, which remains completely unmatched even today, nearly 100 years after his death.

After Gaudi, we walked a few blocks to Barcelona’s old city, also known as Barcelonetta. Barcelonetta was once a walled city created by the Roman Empire as a Mediterranean port. With nearly 700,000 people living in a space only seven new city blocks square, it was a vortex of infection, crime and disease controlled almost exclusively by the Catholic Church.

Now, with most of the walls torn down, the remains of the old city have become living relics, filled with beautiful little shops, narrow passageways and laundry lines zig-zagging from building to building.

In one of these narrow passageways was the Museu Picasso, a beautiful, medieval stone building filled with the drawings, paintings, sculptures and ceramics made by Picasso while he was studying in Barcelona. While I’ve seen countless Picasso exhibits, this was one of the few that truly showed his humor and versatility, and his constant fluctuation of artistic style. Mixed among somber, realist paintings were almost pornographic sketches and decorated advertisements, on which he drew moustaches and excessive body hair on the female models, and perverted little men dancing around them with cameras.

With my sister bored with the quiet walking tours of museums and historic sites, my mom and I left her with my father and went to explore on our own.

After a light meal of Udon soup and ‘Very Good Rolls’ (we had a choice between either the ‘Good Rolls’ of the ‘Very Good Rolls’, and made the obvious decision), we walked around Las Ramblas (a touristy district near old city) and the Barri Gotic, one of the oldest churches in Barcelona, with a beautiful Mediterranean courtyard and an elevator to see the view from its roof.

Feet hurting from so much walking, we returned to the hotel for a siesta before visiting La Casa Mila, Gaudi’s apartment building which was also known as La Pedrera.

La Pedrera, only a block from our hotel, is still occupied today by a few of its original tenents, but three floors and its rooftop terrace have been opened to the public as a referential museum of Gaudi’s work and the changes taking place in Barcelona while he was creating them.

Finally, after a long and inspiring day, we met together one last time for drinks and tapas at a restaurant down the street. Thanks to the variety of their tapas, and the traditionally small portions, we all tried almost everything on the menu, including an almost ridiculous amount of dessert (we made up for our meagerly-portioned meal with a triple-serving of desserts: hot chocolate cake in orange sauce, the always delicious crème brulee, biscotti, solidified (jellied) g&t with lemon sorbet, and chocolate crème and crackers with oil and salt).

Leave it to Barcelona to surprise you with the unexpected, and always keep it sweet.

Hasta Luego, Emily

The Dragon House and Gaudi’s Spain

Today marked the official beginning of my journey with my family to Barcelona, Spain. I travelled thirteen hours into the future, from Thursday afternoon until Friday morning, and managed, somehow, to still have energy enough to explore. After getting off the plane we were met with an overly enthusiastic driver named Toni: a nearly indistinguishable Spaniard with olive skin, short, brown hair, flattering stubble and prominent, bony facial features. As he drove us the half hour from the Barcelona Airport to our destination, Hotel Majestic on Passeig de Gracias, he excitedly discussed with us the happenings of his city, and the recent ups and downs in terms of Barcelona’s economy and tourism.

On our drive, I was immediately struck by the mixture of classical and modernist architecture both inside and outside of the city. From Gaudi to graffiti, every building glittered with humanity and creative ingenuity, not to mention a plethora of multicolored, divinely inspired mosaics. On leaving Toni and the world of Barcelonan automotive transportation (most of which is run by Mercedez Benz, Volkswagon and Audi, a fine example of the comparatively blasé sense of American quality… but that’s another story), my senses overloaded with the vibrancy of my settings. If nothing else, Spain is sexy. It’s well groomed, it’s generous, it’s exciting. It stays up late, and it knows how to make you smile.

After a much-needed espresso and selection of tapas, we checked into Majestic and unpacked our luggage to join the rest of the city in their mid-morning siesta.

Our hotel is on the Park Avenue of Barcelona. It shares a building with Chanel, and a block with Hermes and Louis Vuitton. Sitting on the balcony outside of my room (almost every room or apartment in central Barcelona has a balcony; as Toni described it, “They chop off the corners of buildings for all those beaaaautiful terraces… who wants a window?! No one wants a window. You must go outside and be a part of the street”), my vision was overwhelmed by the constant whirring of motorcyclists and picture-snapping tourists, leggy-models and Armani-clad homes.

We reconvened after our early morning siesta on the roof of Majestic, where my sister was dying to visit the swimming pool. To our surprise, the roof was a thousand times as splendid as our little rooms and balconies; the azure pool glimmered in the sunlight, reflecting the mountainous, city-wide view that circumnavigated it. A bartender brought us snacks and drinks as we leaned over the latticed railways towards  La Sagrada Familia, Montjuic and the Mediterranian, breathing deeply the smell of lilacs, orange trees and palm growing on a terrace beneath us.

As the sun peaked in the sky and the locals rolled out of their beds, we jostled our way across the street, weaving between bicyclists on community-loaned bikes, subcompact cars, motorcycles, and all of the endless picture-taking tourists. Like many of the tourists, we headed for the line into La Casa Battlo, a private home designed and renovated by Antoni Gaudi, the riotously popular local architect and designer of La Sagrada Familia (as yet unfinished), and the controversial La Casa Mila (also known as La Padrera), both of which I hope desperately to tour before my time here is through.

I like to call La Casa Battlo ‘the dragon house.’ It was built as a testament to St. George who slayed the dragon (the patron saint of Barcelona) and the multilevel house serves as a functional shrine, encapsulating their infamous battle. The dragon’s spine curves its way up the banisters and walls of the curvaceous, asymmetrical house to the roof, where it dips and peaks under George’s cross-shaped sword as it’s ultimately defeated. On either side of the main stairway, which circles around a beautiful, blue mosaic atrium, are hallways and smaller stairways that are indistinguishably bony and rib-like in their curved, white arches and spirals, which are meant to depict the bones of the dragon’s previous victims.

Antoni Gaudi; La Casa Batallo

As is many other masterpieces of Spanish architecture, La Casa Battlo is naturally lit, with its atrium and windows gushing with Barcelona’s clear sunlight. When approaching the outdoors, though, the brilliancy of light is almost overwhelming. In taking photographs and making quick sketches, I was entranced by the interesting shapes Gaudi used in his windows and towers, which cast brilliant highlights and shadows across the space, as if the spaces themselves were imposing their voices upon the viewers and the floors and walls around them. I remember standing on the roof, watching as the shadows of an iron-barred window slowly cast themselves over a tourist photographing the terrace below. He snapped the picture and walked away.

I walked away, too, but not before capturing the little circle of shadowy black on the clay floor. I think that Gaudi’s magic reflects, and even promotes the magic I see in Barcelona. It is as though even the mundane is brought to life, reflecting the everyday as if in a funhouse mirror. Everything is slightly distorted, and looking makes you think.

I was telling my father, in a little bagueteria, about the power that South American and Spanish writers have had on me, about the reality I’ve found in their unbelievable stories. Barcelona is like that; Gaudi is like that. It wouldn’t be quite as magical if it followed any standards; it wouldn’t be as real if it made any sense.

With love from Barcelona,

Emily

2/18/2011

An Artist Looking for the Edge

Hi all!

I’m Emily, a senior from Summit, NJ, counting down the days until my senior project begins! Because visual art has been an important part of my life since childhood, my goal for this spring is to learn what it’s like to be a part of a larger art community, by surrounding myself with professional painters and studio artists, and by exploring New York City and Barcelona’s renown museums.

My project was initially going to be spent living at home and commuting into New York City, where I’ll work as a studio assistant for Westtown alum and professional painter Donald Baechler, whose work can be seen at http://baechlerstudio.com . While that’s still going to happen, my list of possibilities has only grown with time! Christmas brought a surprise, 5 day vacation to Barcelona, Spain, where I can combine my love for artists like Miró and Gaudi with my interest in Spanish language, which I am taking at Westtown.

Once back home, I will rendezvous with Donald, who has offered me a chunk of his 2nd floor studio as my own studio space in exchange for working as one of his studio assistants, where I will work with Donald and other artists to build up layers of collage that Donald will later paint pop-art-esque designs over.

In addition to working with Donald, I hope to also spend time visiting some of my favorite New York museums and assisting my godfather and his partner in their floral and party design business, Ron Wendt Designs (ronwendtdesign.com) where they design high-end weddings, corporate events and private parties for esteemed clients like Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Hermes, the New York Stock Exchange, and many others.

Meanwhile, I intend to blog and create work of my own, both in the visual journals and artists books that I create, and in paintings and prints inspired by the diversity of my surroundings.

All in all, my senior project is going to be a cacophony of creativity and inspiration, helping me explore the boundaries of what it means to be an artist and decide whether the life of an artistic professional is the life for me.

Thanks for subscribing, and I hope to have much more to say in two weeks!

-Emily