29 October 2008

Images from My Project

So i heard complaints that the images on the .pdf weren't visible enough, and that the .pdf was inaccessible. So here is a .jpg of the statement, and here are the three images discussed therein.

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25 October 2008

First Critique at Metafora

Yesterday i gave my first presentation for critique at Metafora. It was a little nerve-wracking! We were given the theme of "The Tower of Babel (Culture and Identity)" as the basis for these projects.

My statement, with images included, is here (the link is to download a .pdf file). I got decent responses, there wasn't lavish praise, but nobody trashed me either or asked what the heck i was thinking. I wasn't totally happy with my project - what i said in my presentation was that the anger piece was particularly hard for me to work on, because i'm not angry much these days and it's hard for me to access that emotional place, not to mention that i don't really want to. I feel like in a way i've been there, done that, and to force myself back to it now, without a genuine impetus, would be artificial. I'm happy with the sculpture, which is shown in my statement in full, and the painting, also in the statement, but the collage piece (only a section is shown), i could toss. I like the approach i've taken with the painting, which is the same as a couple of other pieces i've done this semester. Using organic matter to "stamp" onto the page, using cutouts to work with negative space, etc. I really want to keep working with that type of imagery.

However, the next theme coming up is minimalism, and while usually, minimalism does not interest me in the least, i think it will be an excellent vehicle for a certain project that i started conceptually in August. I plan on working with the body casting technique - maybe some projection, too.

I got some very plush corduroy fabric yesterday, to make another pair of pants, and my plan was to cut and pin this weekend so i could jump straight to sewing on Monday, but i brought the wrong pattern home. Boo! I'm so very into the clothes designing at the moment, i hope i continue to have success and inspiration. There is a very upscale fabric store here in Barcelona and going in there is so exciting. They have so much beautiful, lush fabric - i want to pull everything off the shelves and roll around in it. The sequins! The silk! The lace! The pants i already made, while the hem needs to be let down, fit me perfectly and are exactly what i wanted, which i can never find in stores. Very pleased.

Aaaand tomorrow i think i'm going to Segur de Calafell, south of the city, to nanny for a few hours. Yay euros!

22 October 2008

Leading A Charmed Life

My mother and i often talk about how we lead charmed lives. Here's the latest example of mine.

I love Ani DiFranco, a folk singer who is politically outspoken, eloquent, and funny in addition to being an excellent musician. I've often said her music is like a portable therapist in the CD player. I saw her live for the first time the spring semester of my senior year of high school, and at least once a year since then. Though, i've listened to her less and less these days, as i've started listening to more dance music, trip-hop, and kirtan. I still always go see her when she's nearby, because she puts on an incredible (there's that word again) show. Last time, it was in Richmond, in July.

She came to Barcelona on Sunday, and i was a little sad, because tickets were outrageously priced, and i'd decided to pass. A friend of mine from London was coming in for the show. When he called me, i said i wasn't going because i didn't want to spend the money on a ticket. "Well, we can't have that!" he said, did a little string pulling, and somehow got me on the guest list! So i got to see my 11th Ani DiFranco show for free, in orchestra seats. And, it was... incredible. Of course. No matter how much i see her, she still makes me laugh and cry. She's recently had a baby, and her songs about her daughter are so sweet and poignant.

Also, the woman who opened for her, Anais Mitchell, was also pretty awesome. She didn't play long enough for my taste, and i usually find opening acts annoying. The only other exception i can think of is the guy who opened for Ani in DC, a slam poet. He was great too.

Anyway, yes. Charmed life.

Friday i give my presentation/defense for my project. The theme was the Tower of Babel, and afterwards i'll post my statement here.

20 October 2008

Rome 3: Sistine Chapel and The Colosseum

The last day in Rome, which i need to post about so i can move on to the exciting happenings of yesterday, began with Katrin waking me up at 11, with some nonsense about the Sistine Chapel. Oh! Right, that. Yes, i do want to go see that. Okay, i'm up, i'm up.

We took a bus from where we'd been staying with our host, Matteo, to the center of Rome. This took a long time, though we weren't actually that far away. And what they say about Italian drivers extends to both bus drivers and METRO drivers. We finally got there and took a train from there to the Vatican, which is on the far west side of the city. From the train station we walked and walked until we finally saw the city walls, and soon we were standing in front of St. Peter's! I'm not Catholic, but i've studied this stuff so much, it was very cool to finally see it.

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We followed a long train of signs pointing the way to the Sistine Chapel, which is inside the Vatican Museum. Katrin and i both used our outdated student IDs to get the discounted entrance, and followed yet another long train of signs to get to the chapel itself. The palace of the Vatican is like a rat maze, it's quite impressive. We tried very hard not to get distracted on the way there, and were pretty successful except for when we encountered the old maps, which both of us were very into.

We finally made it to the Sistine Chapel, which was just as amazing as it's reputed to be. It was also absolutely PACKED. I'm sure you've all seen it, so i won't go overboard with the pictures (which i wasn't even supposed to take...), and just post this one of my favorite panel, The Expulsion from Eden:

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After we'd made it to our destination, we were free to get distracted in the rest of the museum, though hunger kept us from tarrying overlong. I was impressed by the papal jewelry, which was too gaudy even for me, and Katrin and i were both amused by this hysterical "artwork," entitled, i am not making this up, The Mute Swans of Peace.

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A gift to the pope from, who else? The United States. Sigh.

Our hunger drove us from the Vatican back into Italy (we did not need our passports), in search of pizza. We succeeded, though i was being needy Nancy - the Italian ATMs refused my card repeatedly. Apparently i needed some kind of special chip in my card, and they couldn't do anything without it, so i had no access to cash. I'll take Katrin out for dinner in Paris or something when i'm there. Anyway, this was our post-Vatican snack:

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Incredible. You know, French food is supposed to be so wonderful, and it's pretty good for the most part, but nothing really outstanding generally speaking. I think they get a little too focused on being fancy. Italy is a different story. The pizza lives up to its reputation as well as the ice cream and the pasta.

My time in Rome was drawing to a close, and so Katrin and i parted ways. She wanted to relax and i wanted to see some other things, so i headed on and saw this thing - you might know it:

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I didn't go in, seeing as it was quite costly and i was short on the paper kind of money. I'm a little sad about that, actually. Next to the Colosseum is the Foro Romano - less talked about, more impressive.

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Again, you had to pay to get up close, so i skipped that, but i walked around the perimeter of it and ooh-ed and ahh-ed. The roads going around between the Forum and the Colosseum have ruts in them that are track marks from chariots. Chariots! Rome is really old.

At that point it was time to head for the airport, so i grabbed one last gelato (of course), and that was that.

You know, i almost didn't go. I was on the phone with Matteo only hours before my flight was scheduled to depart telling him i was probably not going to come. And for whatever reason, i changed my mind, and i can't even express how glad i am that i went. Though i suppose my effusive blog entries speak for themselves.

17 October 2008

Rome Part 2

The next day i slept quite late to recover from my early flight and a couple of little-sleep nights in a row. I awoke to a kitchen full of tasteless Italian bread (they don't use any salt!) and Nutella, jam, and orange juice. Italian Nutella is the best i've ever had, and it really is different in every country (the US is the only one that has high fructose corn syrup).

Many more folks had arrived at the house, the DJ was already going, and the yard was covered with Burners draped about in the sunshine. I happily joined them, and we talked and ate and i met new people all day.

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Food appeared at random intervals, with no lack of vegetarian options after the fit we'd pitched the night before. Pesto pasta, cheese toast (again with the flavorless bread), fruit, potatoes... Katrin set up the lino cut table, and lots of people made prints. A station for making tomato sauce was set up out back, and everyone was gifted a bottle of homemade tomato sauce to take home (which the airline took away from me, tragically). The day was very pleasant and relaxing, and as night fell, things got more exciting, with the DJs picking up the pace and a heck of a dance party.

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One of the funniest things all night was the scene in the kitchen. Apparently the cooks decided there were too many people going in and out, so they barricaded the doorway with a table and if you needed something you had to place an order. They were making homemade tagliatelli, so we weren't complaining. The effect was very theatrical, the dining room was packed with shouting, wildly gesticulating Italians, and the kitchen was occupied by shouting, cooking Italians. It was quite the scene.

Well, i finally went to bed around sunrise after an amazing night, slept until 3 PM and then 3 hours later hit the road to Rome with Katrin, her boyfriend, and 2 London-based ladies. We stopped to visit some new friends in Calvi d'Umbria, who are starting an art community and run an "agriturismo," which is like a bed-and-breakfast, but with olive trees. We had an adventure trying to find the out-of-the-way place in rural Italy in the dark, but we stopped and walked around the village, population 900, and had gelato, which i deemed the best ice cream i'd ever had. I'm partial to nocciola (hazelnut), and it tasted more like frozen nut butter than ice cream. The town was utterly charming, the agriturismo ideal, and the wine plentiful! It grew late as we talked Burning Man, art, and voodoo, so we left in search of dinner. Italians eat late, as is common in Europe, but not as late as Spaniards, so we counted ourselves lucky to find a pizza place open at 11 PM. And this was no drive-thru - we had a full meal, from bruschetta to (even more!) wine and sparkling water, pizza, dessert, coffee, and lemoncello. We were the last customers of the night, but they were not about to expect us to have anything less than a fabulous meal. Oh, darn!

We eventually made it to Rome, where we were staying with one of the people who had hosted the party in Alviano. I hit the hay immediately, for the next day was to be filled with sightseeing in a busy city...

15 October 2008

Rome is Really Old

So, i got well enough to put myself on a plane and fly to Italy! I was there for four days, and there's so much to tell i may have to split this into two entries. But i'll start from the beginning. Also, i took 150 pictures, so i'll link to most of them instead of posting them all here.

The impetus for going to Rome was for a "Burning Weekend," a weekend long party out in the country near the city for European Burner types. I arrived in Rome early on Friday, and was to meet up with two women from the group who would hang out with me and then go with me on the train to Alviano, a nearby town closest to the party site. They were just getting on the bus when i arrived, so i figured i would look around some while i waited, and then meet them in an hour. I took myself to get a sandwich, see a Baroque/Romanesque cathedral (Santa Maria Maggiore), and have some gelato. No chance of avoiding gluten in this country! I got totally distracted and when i finally looked at my phone, it had been an hour and a half and i was late. But just then i recieved a text message from them saying they were also late... ah, Europeans! They fit my attitudes towards time perfectly.

We finally rendezvous'ed at the Spanish Steps. Helen (English/Irish) and Aurelie (French) were emissaries from the party organizers, and we also met Katrin (German). The four of us bonded quite quickly, and were pretty inseparable for the whole weekend. I was delighted to find that both Aurelie and Katrin live in Paris, so now i've got some friends there!

Our first project was to go to art stores to find supplies for making linoleum cuts, which was Katrin's project for the weekend. We strolled leisurely around Rome, popping in and out of art stores, stopping for a panini and wine, until we found a place that had what we needed. They also had this incredible counter where they would custom blend oil paints! I just about keeled over. Just look at those pigments!!

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I also spotted some very funny and well done street art.

After our art store expeditions, Katrin went in search of flip-flops, as it was quite warm and she was wearing tights and boots, and the other three of us headed for the Trevi Fountain, which somehow i'd never heard of. It was incredible!

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It's "good luck" to throw a coin in, but i don't know about that guy next to me, who was pulling money OUT of the fountain!

We headed to the train station after that, and had a really fun train ride to Alviano, where we waited for Massimo to pick us up in his tiny European car. No one was at the house yet, so we dropped our things off, and then went to another little tiny town nearby to get food and wine. Katrin and i walked around looking at things - she loves these little cars, which are like enclosed scooters, and they're everywhere in Italy. After groceries, to get wine we went to a winery! It was the first time i'd been to one, and they actually opened it after hours for us, so we got a private tour. I was such a total tourist, everywhere with my camera, but it was SO COOL.

We tasted wine (Aleatico, Merlot/Sangiovese, Grechetto, and Malvasia) and and took back six very large bottles. I thought the wine was amazing. I could really taste the difference between the wines, and they even had a white wine that i really really liked. I thought it was some of the best wine i'd ever had, and we paid less than 2 euro/liter! After we got back in the car, the Europeans were all like, "Yes, well, it is not so good, this wine, but it will do." Ha!

We drove back to the house - and by way, what they say about Italian drivers is VERY true - and other people had started to arrive. The sound system was getting set up and dinner was cooking. We opened the bottles of wine, and i started meeting lots of really amazing people, including a group of Americans who are starting an art community between Alviano and Rome. The DJs got going and people were dressing up and dancing, and the kitchen was full of Italians shouting and cooking. Dinner took forever to cook, and though i and another vegetarian had reminded them continuosly that we needed food too, and they'd assured us there would be something for us, when they finally spread out the polenta, just dumped it on the table, the meat sauce was dumped all over the top of it, and their answer to our indignation was to scrape off the sauce and call it vegetarian. No thanks! So we made some pesto pasta ourselves, and it was quite delicious.

I have to say, the pasta was incredible. Okay, obviously, it's Italy. The bag i opened was Barilla, the same thing i can buy at Food Lion in Virginia. But it is NOT the same stuff inside! I couldn't even believe how good it was.

This is already long, so i'll stop here, and write more in the next couple of days.

(In reading back over this, i realized how may times i've said something or other was "incredible." I don't mean to be hyperbolic, but it was all very awesome. Maybe i need a thesaurus.)

08 October 2008

I'm Sick!

I have a horrible cold. I almost never get sick, and so it really throws me for a loop when i do. My nostrils are taking turns being totally stopped up, my head feels like it's full of bubbles, and every time i swallow my ears pop. I have no energy, no appetite, and i'm all achy too. Yuck! I'm taking care of myself the best i can but there's just not much you can do for colds.

I hope it clears up soon, i'm supposed to go to Italy day after tomorrow!

04 October 2008

Markets and Bakeries

Though i don't have a gigantic budget here in Spain, my nannying jobs are keeping my life comfortable, and provide me with cash to spend at the markets. I *love* the vegetable markets, the small bakeries, and, oh my goodness, the recently discovered flea-market.

Most weeks i go to the large central market on La Rambla, La Mercat de la Boqueria. It's incredibly famous, and the first ten feet across the whole front of it is always crammed full of tourists, taking pictures of the unusual fruits and the amazing spreads of nuts and candies. The vendors there at the entrance sell cups of squeezed juices, all combinations, for 1 euro, and not-tiny packs of sliced fruit for 1 euro as well. Well, the ones in the very front are sometimes 2.50, but if you go on back a stand or two, you find the cheaper stuff. Most of the produce, even the fruit, comes from Spain, elsewhere in the Iberian peninsula, or somewhere in Northern Africa. I usually buy enough vegetables for at least a week for under 3 euros! It's not a market for haggling, but i love shouting in Spanish over the noise to the vendors. I love the whole experience.

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Today i went to the market at Glori├Ęs, which is a massive flea market. It's not as big as El Rastro in Madrid, which seems to go on for miles, but it's a pretty good size. There's everything there, from chandeliers to sunglasses, piles of old clothes to new boots that probably came from the black market. I'm not interested in the vendors there who have stuff that's wrapped in plastic, made in China, and bulk ordered. But oh, the junk vendors! I didn't buy anything, because i don't have a home to decorate, but if i did... The stuff there was just amazing. One of my favorite things was the boxes and bags of old coins. Rubbed flat pence, pesos, the old European currencies, probably things older and more foreign. Lots of stuff salvaged from old buildings. I just love the sense of all the stories laid out there on the tables. One man had a massive pile of old silverware for sale, and he stepped right in the middle of it to get to the other side of his booth! At one point, i wandered out of the "official" market area and into the street market, where there were lots of people selling things from blankets on the sidewalks. Definitely a more eclectic range of things, but just as interesting. The most interesting and hilarious part was at one point, someone at the end of the row shouted "Agua!" and there was a sudden scramble as all the sellers scooped up their things into their blankets, tossed them over their shoulders, and shouted, "Agua!" to each other. The cops had shown up. I was amazed at how fast they'd moved! I suppose you have to have a permit of some kind to sell things that they didn't have.

Now, the bakeries. This is something i never really experienced growing up in small town USA. We had a local bakery, but they were, in my memory, mostly donuts and cakes and sweets. The bakeries here are every ten feet and they have baguettes, croissants, magdalenas (kind of like cupcakes), meringues, and depending on the place, different varieties of sandwiches, pastries, pizzas, and so on. Palmeras are one particular kind of pastry that seems to be "native" to Spain, they're everywhere and probably my favorite. Same kind of flaky dough as a croissant, but shaped into a heart and crunchy/chewy with some kind of glaze on. The one closest to school, Forns Enrich, is the one i've visited most often. Forn is Catalan for oven, and pa is bread, so most bakeries are called some variant on one or both of those words. Anyway, Enrich has incredible stuff, including whole wheat bread, which isn't always easy to find. They also have a house specialty pastry called a Tarragonina. The dough is like a cross between a palmera and a croissant, in a braid or a twist, and both ends dipped in chocolate. It is incredible.

Now here's the problem. I seem to have some kind of intolerance or allergy to gluten, the protein found in wheat. I had stopped eating it for seven months before i left the states in order to get a skin problem under control, and when i would eat it, the skin problem would flare up AND i would get feeling bad, with particular problems of heartburn. Ick. Since i've been here, i've been ignoring those two things, eating gluten in moderation, a few times a week if that. Unfortunately, the other day it got so bad i couldn't ignore it, so i'm going to have to lay off for a while. I did find some gluten-free stuff in El Corte Ingles, but it's expensive and not very good. Sad. Maybe once a week would be a reasonable amount to have a sweet pastry. Ironically, it seems to be the whole grain stuff that results in the worst reaction! Fortunately, there's a sandwich shop right around the corner from my house that sells gluten-free bread with their entrepans - the best Catalan word ever. It literally means "between bread."

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's Saturday night and i have some serious dancing to attend to!