Granada Flamenco

On the night of January 18th, the class and I attended a flamenco show in the “gypsy caves” of Granada. After reading Melissa’s post on the flamenco of Seville, I’m reflecting on how different these two performances were. Firstly, the venue was quite literally a cave. The dancers and musicians performing at its mouth, while we the spectators sat along the walls and against the back of the enclosure. This set-up created a catwalk for the performers to move up and down, which was very different from the stationary stage performance in Seville. This made for a new take on flamenco, it was much more performative in the sense that the dancers were using more of the space and directly engaging with the audience. Our classmate Nia was even pulled up to dance!

The walls of the cave were decorated with multicolored lights and photos of past flamenco performers across generations. Already, I knew that the elements and manner of this setting would make for a much more exaggerated version of the flamenco we had seen in Seville. This flamenco seemed to employ elements of drag. The women wore heavy makeup and had feminine padding beneath their elaborate costumes. It reminded me of an article called, Invoking “The Native”, by Jane C. Desmond. This article explores the “authenticity” of modern Hawaiian tourism, primarily surrounding hula. To compare hula and flamenco, they are both cultural dances which are now presented and marketed in a certain way to appeal to contemporary tourism. The article ascertains that true authenticity doesn’t exist, and that observing any cultural practice as an outsider automatically makes it disingenuous to the original practice or art form. But I digress, it was still very fun! I say all of this because I find it so fascinating how the performers present their own version of flamenco while still keeping its central elements of rhythm, collaboration, and storytelling.

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First Impressions of Barcelona, 19 January 2019

As earlier recorded by fellow classmates, on January 19th, we took a short flight from Granada to the large city of Barcelona. The first impressions of Barcelona were that it felt worlds apart from Granada. Mountains, a flowing river, and Moorish influence ultimately surrounded Granada. Barcelona, on the other hand, had a big city feel with less natural elements and more tall buildings and expensive shopping streets. Essentially, Barcelona had more of the “big city feel” which actually made it more similar to Madrid. It was interesting to mentally compare Barcelona to Madrid because both cities are large, modern cities, yet they had differing energies.

I found the opinions of my fellow classmates to be in favor of Barcelona over Madrid. It made me wonder what exactly it was that made many of us prefer one city to the other in just one day. From my first day in Barcelona, I can conclude that the city feels a lot more open and essentially less claustrophobic than Madrid in the way that the streets aren’t as narrow as the ones in Madrid. Madrid also had tall buildings, yet they were arranged in more of a way that made me as a visitor feel a bit boxed in. The facades of the building also seemed to have a lot of charm. I enjoyed observing the balconies with beautiful ironwork that twisted and curved in whimsical shapes.

The highlight of my first day was lunch. A small group of us stumbled upon a cute Paris-inspired bakery known for its people-shaped donuts. We enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches, freshly squeezed orange juice, and of course, a cute donut. During my walk to lunch, I noticed that our hotel was on Paris Street. Along this street were multiple Paris-themed eateries similar to the café we had lunch at. Despite landing in Barcelona on a chilly, overcast day, I look forward to the sun emerging during our stay here. Hopefully, we will be able to enjoy the eye-catching architecture and the beach in the sunlight.

  • Brooke Caldwell



Salvador Dali

Day Excursion to Figueres: 22 January 2019

We started off our morning with a two hour bus ride to Figueres Spain. The little town is located near the border of Spain and France. This small town is home to the famous artist Salvador Dali whose museum we were there to visit. The town was noticeably small and the main attraction was the museum. When we arrived at the museum you could clearly see the surrealism in his art. There was a whimsical and dreamlike feeling you felt when stepping out of the bus and in front of the museum. I was personally curious to see what art was inside.

The outside of the red building was decorated with a bread pattern around its walls and egg figures aligning the top of the museum. Upon entering the museum we entered into a circular shaped walkway with windows creating a focus on what was in the center of the museum. This was an interactive exhibition, inside the fishbowl entrance was a car with a metal woman statue standing on the hood of the car. We inserted a coin in the machine next to the car and it started raining green rain inside.

After that, we went to a large room with a collage painting but if you looked through binoculars it was a painting of President Abraham Lincoln. The next interactive work of art we saw the Mae West room. Dali made a 3-dimensional living room. From a distant angle, the furniture was used to create the face of Mae West. Her red lips were the couch, eyes two paintings on the wall, her hair, and earrings were curtains. Dali arranged furniture mixing it with art.

The next interesting interactive art piece was famous paintings recreated by Miro that were reflected in a mirror. The paintings were tweaked a bit and there was something to them but I didn’t understand the message. I asked other students if they understood the point of the paintings being on two different ends of a box divided and reflected by a mirror and I also got confused responses.

One of the final interactive pieces was a green hologram. It was of three men sitting at a table drinking but if I moved to the left the man in the center changed to the Meninas, Princess Margret, I don’t know the meaning of this but it was really cool.

Overall the museum was really cool although I did not understand the message of all the art he created. The walkthrough was fun and interpretive to the audience. The museum was a unique experience 🙂

Oh My Gaudí

Our final day in Spain was given to us to decide how we wanted to spend it, and for me that meant exploring Barcelona’s Park Güell, a place I’ve dreamed of visiting ever since seeing “The Cheetah Girls 2,” which features much of the major landmarks of Barcelona. The Park was a visual delight for the art history student in me, and though it was a long journey to reach the Park, with several metro stops and a loooong couple of uphill slopes to navigate, it was more than worth it because I’m basically a Cheetah Girl now.

The day was sunny and gorgeous, like out of the “Sound of Music,” and I loved sitting on the benches tucked away in the corners of the park and listening to the conversations of visitors streaming in and out of the courtyard. It was a magical moment. Though a bit of the park was under construction, and we couldn’t access some of the mosaics, luckily most of the site remained accessible to us. Our ticket gave us unlimited time to wander and explore the park, so Ramya, Jennifer and I spent a perfect afternoon taking pictures and enjoying the day.

In a month full of perfect views, this picture above may be one of my favorites. I took this on one of the hills framing the park, offering a panoramic view of the city. I had to stand there for a long minute taking in te forget-me-not blue sky. Truly, this pic doesn’t do it justice!

Above are some of the aqueducts that encircled the park. We could clearly see the influence of Greek and classical architecture on Gaudí’s design. I loved how there were so many palm trees, too–I almost felt like we were back in California!

Ramya, Jennifer and I spent forever trying to figure out what exactly this building is. There was a large playground and groups of children nearby (I think they were on recess while we were there–super cute), so we assumed that it was a school? If so, it’s certainly the most splendid school I’ve ever seen.

To wrap up the day, we explored the shops of Las Ramblas (most of them were far beyond a college student price range, but nonetheless were so much fun to explore), and we finished with a last class tapas dinner. I’m not going to lie, I got a bit teary-eyed during our final dinner. Our class has become such a community, and I will miss everyone (not to mention the Strawberry Daiquiris!). This experience has made tangible my Spanish heritage and this country has stolen my heart. There is no doubt I’m coming back!

In other words–hasta luego! Sophie

Gaudí: Sagrada Familia

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Today, before we left, we heard Brooke give a presentation on Antoni Gaudí and his architecture. In the process of building the cathedral, he was hit by a tram which put a hold on the process of building for a while. We got onto the metro after the presentation and went to the Sagrada Familia. It was beautiful and it was much different than all the other cathedrals we have seen. The cathedral is very tall, with a tree in the middle front area with doves on it, representing life. The doors had life and colors on it as well which is different than other cathedral doors we have seen. We stood outside and admired the front of the cathedral as we were told about the details that Gaudí put into it. There was so much detail that it was hard to even notice each thing. We walked into the cathedral and it was just as beautiful inside. The stain glass windows were different than other cathedrals. On one side was cool toned colors while the other side of the cathedral had warmer colors. This was for when there is sunrise the sun would shine one side of colors and sunset on the other. We walked towards the back and the doors had words on them which again was different than other doors in cathedrals. The coolest part i think is that Gaudí incorporated Jesus’ life in the back part of the cathedral and even put a sculpture of himself in it. The story of Jesus can be seen from left bottom to top in a zig zag formation. There is a box of numbers on the cathedral and what makes it special is the numbers always add up no matter which direction you add it up to. We then looked at the museum area of the cathedral that gave us facts about the Sagrada Familia and the models of how it is supposed to look once finished. -Izabela Nuñez

The Magic of Miró

Today marks the final museum visit of our month in Spain! While it is saddening to think our exciting journey through España is nearing its end, we couldn’t have picked a better place to wrap up our study of Spanish Art. El Fundació Joan Miró paid homage to Miró’s life and work, and on a personal note, I think this museum visit has been my favorite of the trip (except for perhaps the Prado–which was absolutely massive and captured so many art periods that it’s really impossible to make a comparison).

Miró is a surrealist painter, and his work challenges us to embrace uncertainty and become artists ourselves through filling in the (intentional) gaps of his work. Unlike traditional paintings, in which all elements of the picture appear to be on the same visual plane, Miró’s works are often purposefully staggered, with some figures appearing to recede into the background while others are pushed towards us. The result is that the elements in his paintings appear to be in conversation with each other.

The challenge in appreciating Miró is reconciling our instinctual desire to ‘find the story’ in his paintings with the natural incompleteness of them. His paintings are often sparse, and he yields much of the space of the canvas to the viewer–and in that blank space is liberation or frustration, as we can interpret his work in a myriad of ways. As Clarice and I discussed today, Miró is not a painter for the complacent or faint of heart. His work requires alertness to appreciate, because we have to do so much of the meaning-making for ourselves—but in a playful way. One of my favorite parts of our visit today was seeing the caravan of elementary schoolers oohing and aahing at the art alongside us. I loved seeing the delight and wonder on their faces as they looked at the paintings, and observing them helped me to understand Miró even more. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that playfulness actually accomplishes things! Play has been described as the work of childhood, the state where the greatest learning occurs. Great scientists and spiritual leaders often are similarly playful, and in the process they make connections others don’t or can’t see. Miró clearly falls into this category, and this playful, irreverent quality made his work especially delightful for me.

It has been fascinating to consider Dalí and Miró in conversation with each other. Like Dalí, Miró plays with us as viewers, but he does so in a joyful and compassionate way. To be truthful, Dalí IRKED me. I was sooo not a fan. His work made my skin crawl, and as much as I tried to find little seeds of joy in his art all I felt was a vague sense of nausea and unease. (I know many other people in our class loved him, and on the bus ride back I couldn’t help but wish he had ‘clicked’ for me the way he seemed to for others.) I’m sure Dali was intentional in provoking this kind of reaction–it’s clear that he venerated the grotesque, and for him, provoking discomfort was a part of the artistic progress and a measure of the success of his work. But while Dalí toys with the viewer in a way that is designed to be unsettling and uncomfortable, Miró aims to promote wonder. For me, there was no question about who I resonated with more.

Hasta luego! Xoxo,

Sophie

Dali Theater Museum

Today we visited Dali’s Theater-Museum in Figueres. Dali was a surrealist artist that played with the human form, shapes, objects, and optical illusions in his artwork. The best way to describe the museum is playful. His artwork called for the viewer to bend their imagination to see what he was depicting. Often, the picture would change as you got closer. Below is a peacock that is easily legible from afar. Yet, as you get closer, each of the feathers are an eye. Ian remarked that it looks like Dali felt as if he was being watched. 

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     A trademark of Dali’s was the way he played with human form. He drew a portrait of Picasso as if it were a bust in the old Roman style. At first glance, all I could think was that it was incredibly bizarre. For some reason, though, I was compelled to continue looking at the photo. Although there was a hole in the eye and a spoon jutting out of Picasso’s mouth the portrait was evidently of a human. The bones in the neck and exaggerated jaw line made it unquestionably a drawing of a man despite Picasso’s ear resembling the horn of a goat. From Picasso’s chest, there sprouted one small white flower which reminded me of the highly debated flower we saw in Picasso’s Guernica back in Madrid’s Reina Sofia. A lot of his artwork when I stared for long enough revealed a deeper meaning.

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     Some of his artwork was incredibly hard to capture in a picture. One of my favorite pieces of art was a sculpture of a cross made out of cubes with an upside down sculpture hanging from the ceiling. The cross was human sized and when you look at it from straight on, the middle cube is open with a crucifix hanging in the center. Once I saw the crucifix, I immediately thought the upside down sculpture was St. Peter, who was crucified upside down since he thought it was unfit to die the same way Jesus did. In this sculpture, he played with perspective because  the only way to see the crucifix was to look at the work front on. 

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     Beyond Dali’s artwork, we saw a glimpse of the kind of person he was while he was alive. Salvador Dali was named after his older brother who died at a very young age. As a tribute to his brother, in some of his pictures he draws two small figures often holding hands in the background. The taller one represents Dali’s older brother who died before Dali was born while the shorter one represents Dali.

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     Dali grew up in Figueres, which is a little over an hour away from Barcelona. The town was small and poor, so as a tribute to the city he built his museum there to attract tourists and therefore money into the city. Immediately, the museum captures people’s attention because of the outrageous exterior painted red, adorned with yellow bulbs, and decorated with large eggs along the ceiling. The museum is worth the drive outside of the Barcelona to experience the bizarre, fun, and intelligent Dali Theater-Museum.

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