Sunday, July 5, 2020

Basilica of Agliate

On our last day in Italy, we had a driver take us from Bellagio on Lake Como back to Milan where we would spend the night before our flights home.  One of the stops we made along the way was in the village of Agliate where an ancient church was located.  The Basilica of Agliate is also known as the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul and it dates to shortly after the year 1000.

Most of the frescos on the wall are badly faded.  It would be wonderful to see some of these restored.

This fresco of the Virgin dates to the second half of the 14th century.

There were two places in the floor where glass had been installed so visitors could see the original foundations dating to Roman times under Emperor Julian the Apostate.

Next to the church was the Baptistry.

Inside the Baptistry were more frescos.  You can see that the three above are badly faded but this last one of the Deposition of Christ dates back to the 14th Century and still has lots of color to it.

It was an interesting place to visit that probably does not get a lot of visitors from other countries.  All of the signs and printed literature was only in Italian.  I'm glad our driver suggested this stop along the way.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Pioneering Spirit

I'm fascinated by early pioneers who had the tenacity to homestead some of the most desolate pieces of land. One such character was Cabot Yerxa who spent his youth traveling the world and studying in Paris. He acquired 160 acres of land in 1913 and began homesteading.  He was 30 years old.  What makes his story more remarkable is that the 160 acres is located in what is now Desert Hot Springs California, a place that often sees temperatures greater than 115 degrees (46c).

Cabot's first order of business was to get water on his land and he did that by hand digging  a well with a shovel and pick.   In the process, he discovered the hot springs that spurred the development of spas and resorts and eventually the city of Desert Hot Springs.

He began building a Hopi inspired pueblo from repurposed materials and things he found in the desert.  In 1945, he opened his creation to the public.  He continued working on the pueblo and hosting guests until his death in 1965 at the age of 81.

After Cabot died, his wife moved back to Texas where she had family and the property was abandoned for a period of time.  Fortunately, a friend acquired the property and repaired some damage caused by vandals and eventually donated the property to the city.

Today Cabot's Pueblo is open to the public and operated as a museum by the city of Desert Hot Springs.

In 1978, this 43 foot, hand carved totem was added to the property.  It was carved from a single log by artist Peter Wolf Toth.  It is called "Waokiye" or "traditional helper" in the Lakota language.

I love finding these interesting bits of history scattered across the country.  It's amazing what you will find when you get off of the beaten path (or the freeway).

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The "Old West" Can Still be Found in Arizona

Today I'm taking a spin all around the state of Arizona to point out the places where the true "old west" still exists.  Some places like Bisbee (above) use that old west charm as a way to attract tourists.  And, it works.  They come here to see an old west town and they soak up the atmosphere while also enjoying the arts community that has settled here.  The main street is full of galleries and interesting shops.  Bisbee is located in Southern Arizona not far from the border with Mexico.

Next door to Bisbee is the old town of Lowell which has pretty much dried up and turned into a ghost town.  I loved exploring this town and I posted about my visit here twice before.  You can see those posts here and here.

Another southern Arizona town that serves up its old world charm with a lot of fanfare is the city of Tombstone.  This city has taken full advantage of all things western.  You'll find it all here, stagecoach rides and gunfights are regular events.  I wrote about visiting Tombstone here.

The town of Coolidge has also managed to retain some of that old west charm.  Just outside of town is where you will find the ancient ruins called Casa Grande and in spite of that historic attraction, this town seems to dying slowly.  The last time I drove through here, most of the shops were closed and boarded up.

Another town that is looking a little rough around the edges is Superior Arizona.  It's another town that is tied to the copper mining industry.  While copper is still being mined in Arizona, it is not as active as it once was.  I don't think anyone will be staying in the old Magma Hotel in the future.  I posted about this colorful town here.

You'll find every modern convenience you can think of in the city of Cottonwood but, when you drive into the historic old-town district you take a step back in time.  The old Cottonwood Hotel still operates today but, when I visited three years ago, it was booked already.  Cottonwood has become a a wine destination with a variety of wineries located here and around the city.  I wrote about my visit here.

I did get to stay in true historic hotel in Williams Arizona a few years ago and I enjoyed it very much.  Staying in a historic hotel means you have to compromise on some things, but the experience is almost always worth it.  I wrote about my stay at the historic Grand Canyon Hotel here.

Another Arizona city where the old meets the new is Winslow Arizona.  Made famous by an Eagles song, there is now a statue of a man "standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona" and a flat bed Ford just happens to be close by.  I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't know what song I'm talking about but, if you need a refresher here's a guy singing it on this very corner.

I've had several posts from Wickenburg Arizona because it happens to be the place where the annual Cowgirl Up art show happens.  Well, it was annual until this year when it had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.  Wickenburg has managed to retain its old west charm without making a big fuss about it.  I did a post about the city's western atmosphere here.

I saved the best one for last.  The town of Florence Arizona does not market itself as an old west tourist stop but it certainly has everything it needs to be just that.  It's located between Phoenix and Tucson but far off of the main roads between those two cities.  In other words, you have to make an effort to get here.  If you like the look of a truly western town without the crowds, it's well worth a visit.  Take a closer look here.

As you can see, the old west is alive and well in Arizona.  You can find reminders of it in every corner of this colorful state.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Pompidou Centre

I can remember the very first time I caught a glimpse of the Pompidou Centre in Paris some 20 years ago.  It actually stopped me in my tracks.  I thought, what on earth is this strange looking building.  It looks like it's still under construction.

However, it wasn't until my short, 42 hour visit to Paris back in 2016 that I actually ventured inside this most unusual looking building.

The Pompidou Centre was named for George Pompidou who commissioned its construction.  It was designed by architects Richard Rogers, Su Rogers and Renzo Piano and completed in 1977 in what is called a high-tech architectural style with all of the infrastructure located on the outside of the building.  It is the first major example of this type of inside-out  architecture.

The building houses the Museum of Modern Art, a Public Information Library and a IRCAM, a center for music and acoustic research.

Because my time was so limited, my visit inside was short.  However, the night before I had joined my friends for drinks at the ultra-modern Georges on the top floor of this center.  I wrote about that adventure here.

I also spent some time walking around the Stravinsky Fountain located right next door to the Pompidou Centre.

I enjoyed looking at all the whimsical sculptures in the fountain that were created by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Sainte-Phalle.  They were designed to represent themes and works by Ingor Stravinsky.

All the while I was enjoying the fountain, I was being watched by this very large gentleman.  It's a mural that was painted in 2011 by Jef Aerosol and named "Chuuuttt!!!" which translates to "shush".  I was very quiet the whole time I was there so no worries.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Villa Carlotta......The Inside

I was impressed with Villa Carlotta from the moment I stepped through the doors and was greeted by this huge statue of Venus and Mars.  The statue by Luigi Acquisti dominates this entry room called the Marble Room.

All around the room along the walls were plaster reliefs paying homage to Napoleon's deeds.  The room is a great beginning for this beautifully maintained villa.

The villa was built near the end of the seventeenth century and was sold in 1801 to a noble Milanese family.  In 1843, the family heirs sold the villa to Princess Marianne of Prussia who gifted it to her daughter Charlotte upon her wedding to Duke Georg II.  Despite the early death of Charlotte in 1855, the duke and his family stayed on at the Lake Como estate adapting it to changing needs.

This room was redecorated in 1901 and is called The Views Room.  I loved the painted ceiling.

The Napoleonic Room contains a series of prints that highlight the feats of Napoleon Bonaparte in both peace and war.

In a room called the Hayez Room, this painting by Francesco Hayez dominates the room.  It is called "The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet" and was of course, inspired by Shakespeare.

Another dominating painting was located in a room called the Sommariva Room named for the early owner of the villa Giovanni Battista Sommariva.  The painting is by Jean-Baptiste Wicar and is called "Virgil Reading Sixth Canto of Aeneid".  In it the emperor's sister faints as she listens to the verses that evoke the death of her son Marcellus.  Her brother Augustus supports her while other guests hush the poet who is standing to the far left.

In the Palamedes Room stands a statue by Antonio Canova.  It portrays Palamedes, a hero of Greek mythology who is celebrated for exposing the deception of Ulysses when he feigned madness to avoid taking part in the Trojan War.

Crossing the central hallway, we toured the less formal rooms like this dining room.

And, Duke Georg II's studio.

The second floor hallway led to rooms like the master bedroom.

And Princess Charlotte's Room where I saw this picture of the Princess and her three sons.  

Villa Carlotta is an exceptional place to visit. From the beautifully lush gardens to the impeccably maintained home, it is well worth a visit for anyone visiting the Lake Como area.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Villa Carlotta....The Gardens

It seems like we toured many different villas while we were in the Lake Como area of Italy last year but this one stands out as my favorite.  The gardens were huge and beautifully manicured and the inside of the villa contained exceptional art and beautiful furnishings.  For today's post I'm going to concentrate on the gardens which we toured before entering the villa.

You can see one fountain in the first photo but, there were several others leading up to where the garden paths began.  One of those fountains was home to a large cluster of turtles.  I couldn't resist photographing the two who looked like they were sharing an intimate moment.

The paths were marked along the way and they led to several different garden areas.  One of the first was the cactus garden.  It was full of plants that are very familiar to me and it almost seemed strange to see them thriving in such a lush environment.

The next area was a section carefully landscaped and planted with a variety of flowering plants.  It was a patchwork quilt of pretty blooms in all shades.

But, my favorite stop was a place called the Valley of the Ferns.  This picture just doesn't seem to do it justice.  You almost need to be able to stand there and listen to all the birds singing and water in the stream trickling down the narrow canyon.  It was like how I would imagine a rainforest sounding with all kinds of bird calls and the rustling of leaves.  I stayed in this spot for quite a long time enjoying the peaceful sounds of nature.

Well manicured bushes and lawns created many photographic scenes.  

At different places we could view more sculpted gardens on different levels.

And, little patches of flowers seemed to pop up in all kinds of unexpected places.

As we got ready to tour the inside of the villa, we had an opportunity to look down on that fountain at the front of the villa.  It was just as pretty from above as from below.

Next week I'll take you on a tour of the inside of the villa.  It was impressive from the moment we walked through the doors.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Small Museum, Impressive Exhibits

Last week I did a post about the Laguna Beach Art Museum and the wonderful exhibit I saw last year when I was there.  This week I'm following up with a few photos from some past exhibits.  Above is an exhibit from 2014.  

This painting intrigued me because it seemed to tell a story.  It was painted by F Scott Hess and it is called "A Piece of Cake".  It's a scene from a party he attended in L.A. back in the mid-80's when a woman arrived late in the evening with a confusing story to tell.  He painted it mostly from memory of the incident.  If you are interested in the story, click here for a full description.

In 2015, the exhibit was stark my comparison to the year before.  It was an exhibit of the work of Marcia Hafif and artist who was searching for ways of painting beyond abstraction.  She directed her attention to pigments and made a series of single colored paintings designed to be exhibited in a way that makes the exhibition itself a work of art.  I can certainly see that working.

In 2016, I found the exhibit of Peter Krasnow's work to be simply mesmerizing.  The portrait of the artist featured on this title wall was painted by his friend Edward Henry Weston.

Krasnow was an interesting fellow who shunned the excitement and energy of the art world and because of that he is virtually unknown to most people.  His paintings are full of patterns and colors and his sculptures are almost puzzle-like.

I particulary liked this one  called "The Symbols."  In 2000, Krasnow's estate made a bequest of 147 paintings, 57 sculptures and almost 600 works on paper to the Laguna Beach Art Museum.  The gift included an undisclosed amount of money with instructions to create an exhibit and catalog of the work.  The task was finally accomplished with this superb exhibit.

This last group of work was from 2018 when the theme was "Art Colony: The Laguna Beach Art Association 1918 - 1935.  The paintings were by different artist who were members of the ever expanding circle of artists in the area.

The works were in a variety of styles and subjects but they all display and exceptional amount of talent and skill.  The exhibit filled the museum with beautiful works by artists who began the whole art scene that the small community of Laguna Beach is known for.

The Laguna Beach Art Museum might be small but I have to say it is masterful at producing exciting and interesting exhibits.  Often they feature artists I had never heard of before but whose work I've found interesting, inspiring and stimulating.

I certainly hope that I'll get to visit there again when life returns to some type of normal routine.