Travels With Gloria

Finding beauty mile by mile.

Month: May, 2012

Seven Roman Art Spaces And What They Are Good For

Laocoon And His Sons. In the collection of the Vatican Museums. Image via Wikipedia.

Good for Seeing Slides from Art History class live and in person:

The Vatican Museums

Remember that time you had to take a quiz on all the different philosophers depicted in Raphael’s School of Athens? Yeah, I’m trying to block it out, too. If you look back on that time fondly — or maybe just want to get in a little Anatomically Incorrect Madonna And Child action —  the Vatican Museums are for you. It’s plural because there are different collections within the museum complex. Don’t worry about it.

The Calling Of St. Matthew. In the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome. Image via Wikipedia.

Good for getting lost in the Caravaggio of it all:

The church of San Luigi dei Francesi

Maybe you don’t need to see all the important paintings ever. Maybe you just want to see a few really perfect ones. In that case, seek out this tiny church behind Piazza Navona which holds three works by Caravaggio depicting the life of St. Matthew. They’re counter-reformationtastic! Snarking aside, the ability to just wander into a nondescript parish church to stare at art of this caliber is one of the great pleasures of a trip to Rome. If you like this sort of thing, you should also try to schlep over to see Bernini’s Ecstacy of St. Theresa at Santa Maria della Vittoria.

A detail from the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini. Image via Wikipedia.

Good for when you’re thirsty:

Fountain of the Four Rivers

This Bernini-designed fountain at the center of Piazza Navona is another world-class artwork you can see for free in Rome. Even better, Roman water is potable, so theoretically you could even get something tangible from the art. That said, Piazza Navona is pretty crowded, and it might be difficult to get at the fresh water spewing out. If you’re dead set on drinking from a work of art, try Il Facchino, a smaller fountain near the via del Corso which is rumored to have been sculpted by Michelangelo. It looks a lot like a zombie, which is probably not Michelangelo’s fault.

Palazzo Barberini, Rome. Photo by jmj2001, via Flickr.

Good for pretending you’re fabulously wealthy and it’s the 17th century:

A tie between the Villa Borghese and the Palazzo Barberini.

Rome is one of the best cities for public art, but a lot of that art was commissioned privately and meant for the enjoyment of a select few. Pretend you’re one of those few at either of these private homes which have been turned into government-run museums. The Borghese has more famous art and is in the middle of a manicured park which you can imagine is your sweet country estate, but the Barberini is less crowded, which keeps the fantasy alive. It’s your call.

Where is our place? Installation by Ilya Kabakov in the collection of MAXXI. Image via MAXXI.

Good for forgetting you’re in one of the oldest cities in the world:


Tired of all those Old Master paintings, sculptures of writhing naked people, and baroque architecture dripping with swirly bits and fussy details? Zaha Hadid’s long cold drink of a contemporary art gallery in Flaminio is the answer. The collection includes work by Gerhard Richter, Kiki Smith, William Kentridge, and other folks I’m kind of obsessed with.

House of the Vestal Virgins, Roman Forum. Photo by Arboreality, via Flickr.

Good for facing the whole Rome thing head on:

The Forum

Dude. You’re in motherfuckin’ ROME. Like, Ancient Rome. The Eternal City. The capital of the world for a solid millennium. Emperors, gladiators, togas, and the first Republic ever. This city is so important I just let myself use a total of four sentence fragments in order to describe it. What are you doing looking at a bunch of poncey installations when you could be in the Forum checking out temples and triumphal arches and the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated? I mean, why did you even come here, anyway?

It’s always such a thrill

Pacman street art by Invader. My best guess is that this is Bilbao, but I’m not entirely sure. Photo by kurtxio, via Flickr.

January of 2004 was frigid. There’d just been a huge snowstorm, and the sidewalks of Long Island City — such as they are — were frozen over with a solid layer of ice, like a skating rink. I had just moved into an arts collective called Flux Factory, on 43rd Street between the Sunnyside Rail Yards and the Pathmark supermarket on Northern Boulevard*.

“See that Space Invader looking thing kind of over next to the front door?” my new friend and roommate Phunquey asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“It was made by this French guy who goes around the world putting them up, like graffiti but made of tiles. In any city you can look up in some random place, and you’ll notice one.”


Close up of the Space Invader at the old Flux Factory space on 43rd Street, Queens. Photo by JoshBousel, via Flickr.

Space Invader, or just Invader, as he’s known around the art world, had done a residency at Flux Factory the previous summer and christened the building with his work. I might have seen them around New York before then, or the tile installations might have been yet another addition to the guerilla public art I was beginning to be fascinated by. People like Banksy or Shepard Fairey, or an artist I dubbed Neck Face after his tags around the East Village. The mysterious phrase “Egg Yolk” was scrawled on the mailbox near my old apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The era of the anonymous street artist had arrived.

Seven years later I was in Rome, visiting my college friend Gillian. We wandered the eternal city, visiting the house of the Vestal Virgins, churches filled with Caravaggio paintings, and a Victorian gelateria decorated like a marble birthday cake. Here and there amid the centuries, Gillian would say, “hey, look, it’s a Space Invader!”

A Space Invader in Manchester, UK. Photo by erokism, via Flickr.

The futuristic pixels of grafitti were a perfect match for Rome’s aggressive pastiche of different millennia. Tile is an old medium, cold and hard but still organic. And the Invader designs themselves are somehow both forward-focused and backwards-looking.

No city is a better setting for an Invader than Paris, however. As the artist’s home base, according to Wikipedia (of all places) it’s “the most Invaded city to date.”  The following video, made by Raphael Haddad with music by Toby Screamer, follows the faceless Invader through the streets of Paris as he installs several new pieces under cover of darkness. It’s weirdly visceral, almost surgical, with quick cuts of Invader applying mortar and caulk, placing his ladder, slapping tiles into place, ripping off the protective plastic coatings, et voila! Paris is Invaded yet again.

Via Booooooom! and TWBE.

*By the way, Flux Factory lives on in a new Long Island City space, on 29th Street. You should check them out!

Fridays On Etsy: Around The World For Mother’s Day

Please never do this to your child. From the collection of the British Library, via the Ugly Renaissance Babies blog.

We’ll get to the Mother’s Day gift ideas in a moment. First, a short aside.

Guys, the project I’m working on is about to start shooting, which is to film production as December 23 is to Santa Claus. Though I’m efficient about my writing schedule, the prospect of working 70 hours a week, moving apartments later this month, volunteering at Great GoogaMooga, attending a slew of mandatory social engagements, and writing five substantive and properly spell-checked blog posts a week is becoming an obstacle to my sanity. I’m going to cut down to two or three posts a week for the month of May. This will probably mean no Fridays On Etsy till June. But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere! I’ll be back to five days a week next month.

Anyway. You wanted to buy your mom a nice jet-settish present for Mother’s Day. Here are some not-entirely-dumb ideas.

Image via Etsy seller WoolTrousers.

If your mom is into either typography or quirky languages, you can’t go wrong with this set of vintage Czech Mother and Father mugs. Save “Tatinkovi” for Father’s Day next month, and you’ve got one of hell of a deal at $6 per parent.

Image via Etsy seller Revvie1.

Did your parents run off and elope at Niagara falls? Does anyone even do that? If your mom did, this silk Niagara Falls scarf would be a great memento of that exciting time. Unless it all went to shit. In which case, don’t give her this. Note that this scarf is for the Canadian side of the falls, but for a mere $14, it’s close enough.

Photo via Etsy seller BagsByTravelHer

Is your mom one of those jet-setting Frequent Flyer Miles business travelers? She’d definitely enjoy this African Fabric “Travel Wallet”, AKA “pretty cool clutch with lots of pockets”. There are lots of other fabric patterns available, but I picked this one to show you because African fabrics remind me of my mom. She spent pretty much the entire decade of the 80’s in a dashiki. Not because she was a Black Panther or anything, but because my grandparents lived in Cameroon and brought back all kinds of cool stuff when they visited. Back to the matter at hand, this guy is on sale for $18.90!

Image via Etsy seller SilkPurseSowsEar.

Maybe your mom is the kind of mom who misses her family when she’s on the road. Which I hope is most moms? But maybe not? Unlike most jewelry designed for moms to flaunt their fecundity, this Family Tree Locket is actually beautiful jewelry you can wear in public without people thinking you’re a Michelle Duggar wannabe. It’s 16 quid plus shipping from Britain.

We are all related.

Ta'leef Collective, Fremont, CA. Photo by Bassam Tariq.

For the past two years, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq have spent the month of Ramadan traveling to mosques across the USA. Visiting thirty communities in thirty states (including both Alaska and Hawaii), they’re gradually documenting what it means to be Muslim in America today.

They’ve sparred with an Olympic fencing hopeful in New Jersey, sung Arabic songs with a hafiz (someone who has memorized the entire Quran) in West Virginia, and broke the fast with the Muslim women of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Here are a few photos of their journey.

Prayers at a women's shelter in Baltimore, MD. Photo by Bassam Tariq.

Basheer Butcher, a Muslim convert from the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota. Photo by Bassam Tariq.

The higher the hair, the closer to God.

A Christian shrine in Kerala, India. Photo by Alexander Nagel

When most people think of India, they think of Hinduism. But India is a very diverse country, religiously. Traveling through the countryside, you’ll see typical Hindu temple architecture, but you’ll also see mosques, Sikh gurudwaras, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and even churches.

A Tibetan Buddhist shrine in Darjeeling, India. Photo by Sara Clarke.

Each has its own distinctive form of architecture, though there are endless variations in different regions as well as between city and country. All of these religious buildings are equally likely to be either old-style or modern, globally classic or designed in the vernacular of that part of the country. And then you have the wild cards, where someone decided, “hey, I’d like to design a temple to look like a lotus blossom!” or whatever.

Another Keralan Christian shrine, India. Photo by Alexander Nagel.

NYU Art historian Alexander Nagel recently returned from Kerala, where he photographed these groovy modernist churches. He’s under the impression that they are a reaction to classical Hindu temple architecture. I’m not so sure — Indian ideas about religion, art, and culture are too complicated for that. Also, Christianity has had a long history in Kerala. It’s not as simple as “out with the old, in with the new.”

A dargah, or Muslim shrine, in Hyderabad. Photo by Eric Parker, via Flickr.

Also, a lot of his photos look like shrines rather than proper churches. Which complicates matters further, since Christian streetside shrines are a relatively indigenous thing in India. They’re not really like anything else, and so there’s no architectural template for them. If you’re starting from scratch, why not get as wild as you want? These also don’t look too different from Christian, Muslim, and Hindu shrines I saw all over India. They’re more space-aged, it’s true. And maybe that’s where Nagel’s thesis comes in.

I wish I knew more about Christianity in Kerala.

What it meant to be young

Photo by Jim Jocoy.

As a Mad Men fan, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the moment that a new kind of zeitgeist begins. In its first three seasons, the aesthetic of the show (true to the period, of course) felt really fifties. Season four, which takes place in 1964 and ’65, suddenly starts to feel like the sixties. Right now — 1966 in series time — suddenly, the sixties are happening!

In the late 70’s, Jim Jocoy had a day job in a copy shop. By night, he wandered the San Francisco punk scene, shooting portraits of his fellow club kids. It was the beginning of a new aesthetic.The eighties were being born, just like the sixties are finally being born on Mad Men right now.

It’s interesting to see what people are wearing in these portraits. Suddenly, the jeans are skinnier. The shoulders are boxier. There’s no more avocado green and burnt orange: it’s all black and white and red and neon

In 2002, Jocoy’s photos were collected in a book called We’re Desperate, which includes essays by Thurston Moore and Exene Cervenka. I highly recommend that you search it out. If you can’t track down the book, you can find more photos from the West Coast punk scene at Wine & Bowties.

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