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The Magnificence of Antoni Gaudi (or “Things to Marvel At”)

With Europe on my mind, and my daughter studying in Spain, I’m reminded of my fascination with Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Known for his engineering genius, there are so many elements at work in his work that he bursts the seams of any one title – except perhaps that of artist, whose buildings were his canvas representing a treasure trove of design and unbridled creativity. You look at them and think “How….???!”

Revered worldwide as one of the most important modernist style architects, Gaudi lived from 1852-1926. “Over the course of his career, Gaudi developed a sensuous, curving, almost surreal design style which established him as the innovative leader of the Spanish Art Nouveau movement. With little regard for formal order, he juxtaposed unrelated systems and altered established visual order. Gaudi’s characteristically warped form of Gothic architecture drew admiration from other avant-garde artists.”

To view Gaudi’s work is to see “thinking outside the box” at whole new levels. His extraordinary examples, many of which reside in Barcelona, are movement and dance; they’re sugar-laced monuments with creamy frosting; they’re marshmallows and gingerbread, sand-castles, stone, glass and iron; they’re original, dramatic, striking blends of angle and color.

I marvel at the boundlessness. Fantastic. Illogical. Stunning.

Dennis Sharp. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Architects and Architecture. New York: Quatro Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-8230-2539-X. NA40.I45. p61.
Muriel Emmanuel. Contemporary Architects. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980. ISBN 0-312-16635-4. NA680.C625 1980.
Images via Google.

Friday Night Book Club: A Love Letter to Art

I cheated on this one. It’s not actually one of our book club books, but I’m going to recommend that it become one – because if you take love, art, World War II and the south of France and put them together in novel form, it’s an almost guaranteed win for me.

In Lisette’s List, Susan Vreeland transports us to the years between 1937 and 1948 – from the onset of war, to an increasingly distressed French countryside, to the war’s aftermath, to Paris, to the rebuilding of hearts and souls and cultural treasures – and in the process, composes what amounts to a kind of lavish love letter both to art and to Provence. Known for her art-based novels (A Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, and The Forest Lover among my personal favorites), perhaps affection was her intent; if so, she succeeded.

With imagined conversations involving Pissarro, Cezanne and Chagall, and main character Lisette’s passion to “learn what makes a painting great”, with the tragedies of war and the luxurious, natural beauty of southeastern France, Lisette’s List paints a feast of color, tones and textures, lovingly framed by a well woven story that’s beautifully blended with a rich cast of characters. Added bonus: you might never look at a painting quite the same way.


September 11: Hope and Remembrance

At 9:00 a.m. on 9/11/01, I’d just come back from dropping my daughter at kindergarten. The sky was robin-egg blue, the air a perfect September calm. A neighbor screamed to me from her car, and the rest of the day was sheer horror.

Forty minutes away. Too close. Much too close.

That night we all gathered on my front lawn, a circle of candles and hearts and prayers.

You just don’t forget.

If anything good came from that awful day, it was that for at least a brief time we were one United States of America. We were all Americans. We all felt a pain in the pits of our stomachs, the lurching of our hearts, the constriction in our throats and tears in our eyes. We loved our neighbor, near and far, from cities to remote little towns, black, brown, white, yellow, red, gay, straight, male, female. We were family, wounded, and we grieved as one under our red, white and blue. We were proud, we were strong, we were honoring the brave and the lost and the taken. They were us, we were them. All across the country we were united by a devastation that reminded us that love, life, freedom – and each other – are valued beyond measure.

Our hearts softened towards each other – but I also think how sad that we couldn’t sustain that sense of camaraderie and pride when things calmed down. Routines reestablished. By necessity and will, we carried on. Yet within that carrying on, even while terror continues to loom like a disturbing alternative universe normal, we seemed to shift away from commonality and towards pockets of we are not them, they are not us. As if we can’t sustain loving our neighbor without sweeping tragedy to bring it about. (Weddings and funerals come to mind. Drama brings people together. Human nature?)

We argue on our right and left. We suffer politicians. I hear a lot of talk that doesn’t walk. I hear each news cycle replacing the last – yesterday’s shocking unanswered wrong overrun by today’s, and today’s by tomorrow’s. We numb. We medicate on electronics. Opinions aren’t debated, they’re spewed. We don’t listen. We don’t really see. The world is in shambles.  We seem very divided. Something is wrong here.

But for one day, maybe just an hour, maybe only 10 minutes ~ we’ll remember 9/11 and that flood of love and hope and “don’t you dare” will fill us up. We’ll be a united family for 10 minutes. We’ll remember why we love this place and the people in it. And maybe, just maybe, we can nurture that love and hope and integrity a little longer? Might the foundational idea that we are a free people nourish and inspire us just a little longer? That it’s worth fighting for?

Can we recognize that there is goodness here and that yes, there’s also some very ugly, very dark scary shit in the world and it’s up to each one of us to know the difference and take up the torch right where we are with a battle cry to spread a little more light, a little more love, a little more courage?

There are some amazing people in this world, and I’m lucky to know several who take up that torch every day with all their hearts. We all know them. They are sincere. Let’s all be more sincere. Let’s honor the brave, the lost and taken with some blessings. Be the blessing in someone’s day. Be present. Be good.

And I had no idea this piece of writing was going to go the way it did, but I hope we can use this memory to remember that at the end of ever day we’re all in this together. At the base of the fallen towers let’s continue to plant hope, and water it well.


Art and Tragedy: 11 Art Works from 9/11

Recent global events have been a harsh reminder of the savagery that exists in our world and how that brutality can, and does, infiltrate our daily lives. It is far-reaching and unfathomable; its senseless wreaking of horror and devastation is wearisome.

Our hearts ache, we mourn deeply. We are sickened. And yet, we have no choice but to carry on with our lives – life, by nature, urges life – and for us mere mortals, our battle cry might even be to “carry on”, to refuse to live in a state of fear. But we really don’t stop grieving for today’s, yesterday’s, or any tomorrow’s that may carry this awful weight of sorrow, anger and frustration.

And we don’t forget. It’s like a hard line drawn in time: Before and After. Here at home, every time an act of terror succeeds in killing, events from 9/11 come roaring back into our minds, like an unwanted but necessarily indelible imprint.

As such, I’m also reminded how the artists of our time process these events – and I’m particularly reminded of the 9/11 ten-year-anniversay retrospective exhibit I was honored to share with some remarkable artists on September 11, 2011; each artist contributing their awareness of the time as well as contributing to a broader, long-term healing.

Some of the art lifts us, inspires us. Some carries deep symbolism. Some fearlessly ensures we don’t forget. Some recounts and catalogues. Some of the artists are quite well-known, some are not. All are gifted statements and expressions from the heart.

A friend recently suggested I post some of that art again. I can’t say exactly why, but it seemed a good idea. I chose 11 pieces, simply because the number feels right, to honor the artists, and in some way the victims, and all who care to make a difference in this world of ours. (For all artists’ works from the 9/11 retrospective and full descriptions, you can view the online catalogue, here,).

And I say yet another prayer. That good wins. That love wins.
























The Gift of Maya

I cried today. I’m not a particularly weepy person, but tears came unbidden and I thought, how odd ~ to not just feel sadness but to actually cry at the loss of someone I never knew.

Yes, I admired Maya Angelou ~ very much. Her words rang with truth. Her wisdom rich, humble, freeing. Her voice strong, her heart rugged and full of light. Her journey brave. She inspired countless lives. She was beautiful and completely remarkable. But when did it become so personal for me?

I think it may have been that as the daughter of a poet, and an unsung poet myself, I felt a kind of kinship. A sisterhood of prose. A “she’s one of us” feeling. I remember when I heard her speak in front of all the world, I imagined my mother applauding from heaven to see a modern day poet make such a profound mark in our world. I applauded right along. She did it. Ms. Angelou sang her song out loud and the world listened! I beamed for her ~ and I suppose I also beamed in that moment for poetry.

Famous people live for a time, larger than life it seems; through them we feel things, we learn things, sometimes deeply, sometimes in passing. And then they die, just like the rest of us. Flesh and bones, blood and breath.

But occasionally their presence is eternal. Injecting itself into our lives for untold generations. I imagine Maya Angelou’s spirit falling in that category. She was a gift to us all; her brilliance here to cherish and embrace as long as we so desire.

As much of the world mourns and honors this amazing lady, and as heaven welcomes a new angel, I send out my simple thank you, Maya, for touching my heart.








So, I have a bunch of essays lined up, in various states of completion. The way a story comes to mind, then you get distracted by life or laundry or something, and you quickly jot down some notes so you don’t forget your brilliance – and then a few more days go by of other this’s and that’s demanding your attention, and in that span of time more ideas, more thoughts, more inspirations happen, (that you do or don’t jot down), and the cycle repeats until you realize you just want to be still for a little bit. Mindless.

Of course, this is where I might normally spew the wonders of meditation, but I’ll resist the temptation to be meaningful just this once. I don’t know why exactly – could be a loosening of the grips of an innate need to be mindful, purposeful, responsible.

Instead I’m going to share something interesting but frivolous, in that it really serves no purpose except to tickle the brain. And because it’s Wednesday and I’ve always wondered why it’s spelled so oddly. And because it’s the curse of a writer not to write, so I must write something.

And this is as far as I’m allowing my brain to go for now. (Good thing I jotted down my more impassioned thoughts, though, right? … so they can come marching forth again in all their splendor when I’m back in the mood for them … and less tired. Which, for better or worse, probably won’t be long, once I’ve meditated and such. But I’m veering towards meaningful again, so I’ll stop here and get on with simple, frivolously interesting.)


Why is Wednesday Spelled so Oddly?

Wednesday comes from the Middle English Wednes dei, which originates from Old English Wēdnes dæg, meaning the day of the Germanic god Woden. Associated with both fury and poetic inspiration, Woden thrived as an Anglo-Saxton god in England until about the 7th century. He also had a career in curing horses and carrying off the dead, and Wednesday is his day. Woden’s day has had various spellings – Wodnesdaeg, Weodnesdei, Wenysday, Wonysday, Weddinsday – but even Shakespeare’s quite sensible spelling of “Wensday” didn’t last. So in the end it turns out that (perhaps born from fear of his Woden’s wrath, or loss of poetry)  the “d” and the day remain. And now you know.


Some Doors I Have Known

There’s something about doors that makes me want to walk right on in, see what’s behind them, uncover a mystery, discover a history, a magical passageway, a hidden treasure. And the lavish architecture of Venice just intensifies that intrigue!

Of course, the truth is that sometimes (most of the time) I just have to use my imagination ~ but that’s not too hard with doors like these. ♥ Ah, what stories they could tell…




Thank you, Dr. King.


@ 1964, Norman Rockwell, “The Problem We All Live With”

Thank you for sharing your dream, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  For fighting the good fight. For lifting up the eyes, hearts and minds of millions with hope, peace, perseverance and integrity.

And Norman Rockwell, thank you for your brilliance.


Tuesdays with Chris: “What is Art?”

Chris Staley

Chris Staley

After a little hiatus for the holidays, our “Tuesdays with Chris” are back ~ and oh, you’re in for a treat on this one!  [And what is art to you? …]

(If you missed my introduction about Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate 2012-2013, you can read that here.)  Enjoy!