Finally! I’m in Caylus! After an airport hop in New York and eating my way through Istanbul, I flew to Toulouse. There I was meet at the airport by John McNorton, one of the program directors of DRAWinternational. We drove through the rolling green hills of Tarn-et-Garonne, a very agricultural region. Farms and pastures with sheep and cattle predominate. As we came over the ridge, the landscape became more dramatic, and I could see the mideval tower and chateau of Caylus.
After a quick tour of my accommodations in the acienne gendarmerie (barracks), I met another artist named Diane who is from Australia.
I helped Diane package her drawings to ship and got my studio set up. The studios are on the top floor (with the dark shutters), and the living spaces for the artists are on the middle floor (light shutters).
So much space ! So much potential…
We had dinner with the program directors John and Greta at their lovely home just a minute’s walk away. I plan to stroll around the town tomorrow and soak it in before drawing some more. And I go to the caves on Tuesday!
Just in time for the sunset, we arrive at our terrace top restaurant. The light was perfect, the city spread before us over seven hills, and the Bosporus sparkled and speckled with ships. As the sun dipped behind the pink clouds, Burcu and Behzat ordered meze for me to try. We had various types of hummus and babaganoush, shredded chicken, fresh feta, grilled liver, shrimp, octopus, and Turkish sausage. Unfortunately I can’t remember the names of all the meze but they were all delicious. This was accompanied by an endless supply of bread. I even got to try raki, a Turkish liqueur made from grapes and anise seeds. They mix it with water and ice and it’s very refreshing!
After dinner, I sampled at least four kinds of baklava and two other desserts. Elegantly served Turkish coffee helped me overcome my jet lag.
Next we went to the Sultanahmet, the historic and spiritual center of Istanbul. After waiting for people attending prayers to leave (it’s Ramadan), we entered the Blue Mosque. Built to mirror the Hagia Sophia, at least on the outside, the interior is covered with intricate and non-representational calligraphy, while the tiles contain 50 tulip patterns which have sacred meanings in Islam.
The Hagia Sophia is quite a bit older, built in 537 AD. It was the Greek Orthodox basilica, then the imperial mosque, and now is a secular museum. I studied the Hagia Sophia so much in art history that it felt like I was spotting a celebrity. The timing of my visit was outside of Museum hours, unfortunately, so I got a selfie with the well lit exterior. Some day I will be back to see the glorious inside with the Byzantine mosaics.
To be continued…
I started my adventure: I am on my way to France, but first I have a few stops. First I had a lay over in New York (I always long to stay, but I’ll be back in July). Next I crossed the Atlantic and two continents to Istanbul. There I was meet by my friend and gracious host Burcu.
As we whisked through the city (well, sometimes crawling because of traffic- Istanbul is booming as well as beautiful), she gave me a brief history. Istanbul is on the crossroads of history and continents. The wide, blue Bosporus winds its way between the city, half of which sits on Asia and the other half on Europe. On the highway near the ocean Burcu pointed out the crumbling but still massive Byzantine walls that fortified the city when it was the seat of the Eastern Rome. Out in the ocean equally massive cargo ships anchored at a distance, waiting patiently for their turn to enter the Bosporus, and hence, the continents.
Istanbul is such a fascinating mixture of old and new, I thought, as we drove on a freeway that went under an aqua duct. I contemplated the history: The seat of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, the hub for the Spice Road, the city that spans two continents. I realized I know so little about Istanbul and long to learn more.
To be continued in the next post…
This June, I will be an Artist in Residence at the DRAWinternational Institute in Caylus, France. http://www.draw-international.com
During the one-month residency, I will make large scale drawings that combine art historical and fashion elements with gestural self-expression. I self-funded this residency by selling my art and driving for Lyft and Uber. If you would like to help me pay for the residency, please consider purchasing my original artwork by clicking this link :
On September 1, I said goodbye to my lovely space at Spring Street Studios in Houston. Since then my life has been consumed by bubble wrap and boxes. I packaged my studio carefully, (each painting got a special box, as if I was making Christmas presents for myself) and shipped them across the country. They arrived soon after me to Denver, Colorado, which is my new home.
I am looking forward to to setting up a new artistic life in the Mile High City. Stay tuned for new developments !
I recently visited the Museum of Fine Arts to see a hero of mine: Peter Paul Rubens. In the 17th century, a member of the Spanish royal family commissioned him and his workshop to create elaborate and expensive tapestries for her favorite nunnery. The tapestries’ theological themes were meant to be a giant shout-out to the Catholic Church during the Post-Reformation. Rubens didn’t make the tapestries himself, but he made modelli, or oil-on-panel studies, which were used to visualize and fine tune scenes of Catholic glory for the tapestries. While the final products were impressive, the modelli captured my attention the most. The tumultuous tangle of figures, horses, and fabric were contained by the precisely painted architecture surrounding the scene. The classical columns looked like drudge work to me and I’d guess the workshop apprentices got that chore. But it did made me feel as if the scene took place in a tiny stage in front of me. I was impressed because this was point. The Church wanted art that was both awe-inspiring and accessible to the laypeople. I understood this theological stuff was a big deal at the time but I couldn’t help geeking out over these little guys. Ruben sure was good at this because his paintings are still captivating.
I found myself getting caught in the whirlpool of flesh. I noticed that he left some parts unfinished and let the panel texture and color act as skin tone. I admired the tiny but loose brushstrokes and it was clear that he was having a lot of fun painting. It looks like someone took Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel frescoes, gave them a good shake, and rolled them back together. I’m thinking to myself, “I want that!” Rubens never fails to get me excited about painting.
The tapestries looked stiff to me after that. That’s ironic because they were the whole point of this “I Heart You Favorite Nuns” project. I read on the wall text that the royals spent on the tapestries the equivalent of keeping an army fighting for an entire year. Whoa. (I tried to imagine how much art could be created with a military budget today and this threw me into a tizzy. I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate and I didn’t want to have a freak out moment in the middle of a museum and so I stopped thinking about it). Anyhow, I’m glad these Spanish royals splurged because I had some paintings to freak out about right in front of me.
And Rubens was a bad-ass painter.
Randy and I visited San Diego last December, 2014. The purpose was both business and fun. (Randy was taking a course on data metrics and analysis. He takes every opportunity to increase his skills for his job at Exterran. I am proud of him and also very grateful for the times I can accompany him.) During this trip, I had some time to myself to explore downtown San Diego. I noticed these two gorgeous Art Deco relief panels on a neglected building. I was utterly taken with two female figures. They reminded me of the sinuous beauties drawn by Alphonse Mucha during the turn of the 20th century Art Nouveau era. The movement of the slyth-like women contrasted with the linear, stark structure. I realized that I am drawn to similar contrasts and took this picture to remind me of my insight when I returned to my studio.