Travels With Gloria

Finding beauty mile by mile.

Tag: wanderlust

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:

MAXXI

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?

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Fridays on Etsy: Reading Rainbow

I have a fascination with old travel guides. I’m fiercely jealous of this guy, who recently published a book about traveling through Europe with a 1963 edition of Europe On Five Dollars A Day. Envy aside, though, old travel guides are often beautifully designed and filled with hilarious moments wherein someone laments how hard it is to find American cigarettes in France. Seriously, international guidebooks of the sixties are OBSESSED with how to get your home brand of cigarettes abroad or carry them into the country yourself despite customs laws. I’m pretty sure the Duty Free phenomenon can be traced to some dude who just wants his damn Lucky Strikes.

I’m not entirely sure that this book is about lesbianism. It being the fifties, I’m leaning toward the idea that probably it’s just a book about riding a bike through the Netherlands. Which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Regardless of whether I’m a dyke on a bike or not. Ahem. Anyway, you can find out whether there are any sapphic allusions for a mere 8 quid and whatever they’re charging for international shipping these days.

Four Days In Paris. Via Etsy seller RetailDreamer.

Who doesn’t want to spend four days in Paris? I’ve never been (saving it for some future time when I am in love), but this vintage pamphlet and map make me want to change my mind. I mean, it’s only six hours from JFK to Charles De Gaulle.  And I could do the whole thing in barely a long weekend! I’ve never been to the Louvre. Or Versailles. Or the Champs Elysees. How could I possibly have put it off for this long? For $9.99, you, too, could re-evaluate why you’ve been waiting to visit Paris. Or perhaps you could recherche temps perdus, if you’re into Proust and have been to Paris already.

1903 Baedecker guide to Southern Italy. Via Etsy seller MoreLooseEnds

Maybe you’re not into Paris. Maybe you’ve always wanted to visit Sicily, Capri, Pompeii, or Naples. And maybe you want to do it before the war. Both wars. Maybe what you want is not so much a vacation, but a Grand Tour. In that case, this 1903 Baedecker guide to Southern Italy is exactly what you’re looking for. For only $30, you could take a mental journey through all the places we bombed in World War II, all the ancestral villages of all the Italian-American immigrants, and all the most chic places to spend the winter if you’re Coco Chanel or James Joyce.

So, I guess that’s another Friday with Etsy. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

So, I hear you’re moving on

Still from The Art of Pho. Illustration by Julian Hanshaw. Image courtesy of Submarine Channel, via flickr.

Illustrator Julian Hanshaw and animator Lois van Baarle have collaborated to create a love letter to Saigon in the form of what I can only describe as an interactive animated web comic. The Art of Pho follows the journey of a creature called Little Blue as he masters the titular soup and makes discoveries about his past, human nature, and life itself. It’s part movie, part video game, and all gorgeous.

I kind of wanted to cry a little at the end. But maybe I can blame that on the cold I’ve been battling all week.

With Sketchbook In Hand

Winter afternoon in the Almaden Coffee Roasters, Suhita Shirodkar. Image via Shirodkar's blog, Sketch Away: Travels With My Sketchbook.

Special Thursday bonus post!

A few weeks ago, in my post on affordable art and ephemera souvenirs, I linked to the Etsy shop of someone whose name I could only find listed as Suhita. In my searches for interesting stuff to feature in my Friday Etsy posts, I’ve come across more of her work.

Then, today, a breakthrough. I subscribe to the fab.com flash sale site (highly recommended), and Suhita’s work popped up there today! It turns out she has both a last name and a blog where she sketches all her adventures. You should check it out.

Hurry, boy, it’s waiting there for you

In the audience at the Festival Au Desert in northern Mali. Photo by Alfred Weidinger, via Flickr.

Rock stars of the eighties cared a lot about Africa. There was “Heal The World”, “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, and “I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City”.  There were also more aesthetic influences, for example Paul Simon’s album Graceland.

And then there was Toto. Created neither to raise awareness for the plight of the oppressed nor to celebrate a rich cultural heritage, Toto’s song Africa managed to jump on the eighties sub-Saharan bandwagon with a vague global outlook and paternalistically nonsensical lyrics. I could break out all the reasons this song is abhorrent, but I’ll let Steve Almond do it instead, in this hilarious reading from Tin House Magazine‘s tenth anniversary celebration a few years ago:

 

Even if your pop music tribute to Africa was a little more well-meaning — or at least well-crafted — than Toto’s ode to Mount Kilimanjaro rising over the Serengeti (by the way, it doesn’t), there was a strong chance that it was performed by white people, or at the very least by people who had never actually been to or lived in Africa.

It’s perverse that for Americans to get behind African social causes and artistic contributions, it had to be done under the guise of whitebread normalcy. As opposed to, I don’t know, making Fela Kuti the international megastar he deserved to be.

 

It’s good that Paul Simon shared some of the credit with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and I think this weird intermediate period in American and British pop ultimately led to the more diverse musical landscape of today. But how many singles did “Do They Know It’s Christmas” sell compared to anything ever released by Miriam Makeba or Ali Farka Toure?

Sidenote: before I die, I’m going to the Festival Au Desert in Essakane, Mali. It’s a three-day music festival celebrating peace through music. Bono made a surprise visit this year, which I suppose means it’s officially jumped the shark. But I don’t care, I still want to go. Maybe 2013 is my year…

The past is a Yakov Smirnov joke.

1961 USSR postage stamp celebrating Yuri Gagarin's space flight. via Flickr.

I have a fascination with Soviet Russia, especially the aesthetics of the USSR from the 60’s through the fall of the Iron Curtain. Call it ostalgia if you want. I’ve always wanted to visit Russia, even nowadays when obviously most reminders of the Soviet days are long gone.

I think it comes from the mystique of the Soviet Union as “other” when I was little. I remember taking a theater workshop when I was like seven years old (yes I was always a dork) where we were given the improv prompt “what if a Russian kid moved to your town?”

The teacher was really mad when I said I would ask him what it was like in Russia and try to become his friend.

Via Coolhunting.

Of course, now ostalgia is trendy. A museum of Soviet arcade games recently opened in Moscow.

There are also two recent books on design behind the Iron Curtain. Iron Curtain Graphics is a book of Romanian communist poster and propaganda design, while Made In Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design is an exploration Russian product design.

A Krugozor cover from 1964. Via krugozor-kolobok.ru

My favorite Soviet product, though is Krugozor, a music magazine published from 1964 through 1991. It came with a flexible record, though I’m having trouble finding out exactly what was on the records. A 99% Invisible podcast episode dedicated to Krugozor claims that the records included sound effects and music, and that somehow the editors were allowed to include rock music. Which sounds weird to me because rock was apparently censored or at least stifled in the Soviet Union at the time. Then again, I’m not up on my Soviet policies on Rock n Roll through the ages — maybe it was only later issues of Krugozor that included that sort of thing, during Perestroika.

It’s really difficult to find out exactly what Krugozor was or what it included, because virtually everything I can find written about it is in Russian. This definitely adds to my fascination with it. If I could read Russian, I would probably discover that Krugozor was the Soviet equivalent of Readers’ Digest, and it would cease to be interesting.

Another Krugozor cover, this time from 1971. Same source.

Sidenote/pointless quasi-proustian reminiscence: For years, there was a Taaka Vodka billboard featuring Yakov Smirnov on Veterans’ Memorial Boulevard (AKA “Vets”, to the extent that I just had to look up the actual name of the street) in New Orleans on the way to the airport. My mother’s parents spent most of the 80’s living in Cameroon, so Driving To The Airport was always a momentous occasion. I will always ever so vaguely associate world travel, the Cold War, AIDS, terrorism, apartheid, Ronald Reagan, and Duty Free, with Taaka Vodka. For no reason other than that this billboard happened to exist and perfectly symbolize everything my five year old brain didn’t understand about the world. (I still totally don’t understand Duty Free.)

In Which I attempt to connect all my crushes to Portland, Oregon

Robert Mapplethorpe has nothing to do with Portland. I just love this photograph more than everything in the world. Photo by Mapplethorpe, of course, via the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

I’ve had a crush on Portland for a long time. Thanks to its use as the setting for the Ramona books, it wouldn’t be hyperbolizing to say I’ve always wanted to go to Portland. After reading this Cool Hunting feature on Ampersand Gallery, Portland is back at the top of my list not just because it’s the dream of the nineties, but also as a place to look at art.

Ampersand Gallery, Portland, OR. Image yanked from coolhunting.com.

Sorry, guys. I have to post this. It’s a credit to Carrie Brownstein that this song is not just funny and true, but actually good:

 

In other art and video news, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about art collectors lately. Who even knew there were multiple docs about art collectors?

The classic choice is Herb & Dorothy, the story of a postal worker and a librarian who became major collectors of minimalist art in the 60’s. In addition to the powerful narrative, there are interviews with art world megastars like Donald Judd and Chuck Close.

And then, suddenly, Netflix was recommending arts documentaries right and left. Due to my obsession with Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the downtown scenes of New York in the 1970’s, I had to watch Black White + Gray, a doc biography of Sam Wagstaff, who was an important photography collector and Mapplethorpe’s lover. In addition to scratching my Just Kids itch, I was fascinated by the way that people from different parts of Wagstaff’s life had such oppositional views of who he was. There were homophobic Society types, art historians who thought Mapplethorpe was a total gold digger, and Patti Smith being her usual awesome self. It’s rare that docs about relatively uncontroversial figures like Wagstaff convey conflict that way, so I thought that was an interesting approach.

Both of the above films — and many more arts documentaries! — are available streaming on Netflix.

P.S. In researching this post, I discovered the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, which has a website full of beautiful images.

Other People’s Travel Snaps

Woman at a bus stop. Photo courtesy House Of Mirth.

It started when I worked in the art department.

We did a lot of photoshopping on the TV series I worked for, and as an art department PA, photo research was a large part of my job.

New Zealand. Photo by trailofants, via Instagram.

It was the early days of Flickr. People would upload just about anything, unwatermarked and in huge resolutions. And thus I discovered that other people’s vacation photos (the less interesting, the better) made great backdrops for times when the script called for our actors to be photoshopped into Beijing, Washington, or Key West.  This is terrible karma, I know.

Woman on bridge. Photo courtesy House Of Mirth.

Even though I don’t get paid to peruse travel snaps on Flickr all day anymore, I still love them. Sometimes when I’m bored and feel like I’ve come to the end of the internet, I’ll run a Flickr search on places that top my bucket list. Instagram and Pinterest are making this odd form of armchair wanderlust even easier.

The best random travel photos, however, are the ones that trickle down from another era, shot on Brownies and Polaroids, printed on actual photo paper, and stuck into albums with those neat little corners. I try not to buy too many; it seems creepy to have an apartment full of photos of other people’s relatives. But I love to dig in the piles of snapshots at flea markets, and every once in a while if I find a really perfect one, I’ll take it home.

Mumbai cityscape. Photo by jimeryjem, via Instagram.

 

Mexican souvenirs. Photo courtesy House Of Mirth.

 

Tip of the sombrero to Jaunted, where I discovered the Instagram travel photos that inspired this post. Hours of vintage photo browsing (and shopping!) are on the agenda over at House Of Mirth.

The Fruited Plain

Airship Brand Oranges. All images in this post courtesy of the Smithsonian.

This is a label for a crate of oranges But it doesn’t just say FRESH ORANGES, or BEAUTIFUL ORANGES, or even CALIFORNIA ORANGES.

It says “Airship”.

This was no mere box of citrus fruit, it was a dream of a better life. In the future, the label seems to say, you’ll go wherever you want, and on the way, you can eat an orange. And in the first half of the twentieth century, in Orange County, CA, the future was now.

Airship wasn’t the only brand to use wanderlust-inducing images to sell citrus fruit. Every citrus growing concern, from Sunkist to the Ventura County Citrus Association, had its own mouthwateringly illustrated crate label extolling the promise of California, the new American paradise. Making lemonade or peeling an orange wasn’t just a way to get your daily vitamin C. It was a destination. Buy this fruit and be transported to a warmer and sunnier place, where there’s fruit on the trees year round, and everything is fresh.

All Year Lemons, Fillmore Lemon Association. Dig how, when fruit is depicted, it's usually drawn individually wrapped. Like a present. A citrus present.

 

Sunkist California Dream. Check out the proto-Disneyland in the background!

 

Passport Lemons. It's rare that a lemon makes me want to forget blogging and go play around on Kayak Explore instead.

 

Ramona Memories. Remember that time you took a bite of lemon meringue pie and were instantly transported to a hacienda, where this girl did unmentionable things to you? Yeah, that was great.

 

Then there’s this gem, which has nothing to do with wanderlust but is trippy as all hell. Seriously, this vies with the Sunmaid Raisin maiden for mind blowing illustration in marketing.

No, you have one! OMIGOD IM HAVING A BAD TRIP (studies show citrus fruits are unlikely to be hallucinogenic)

 

By the way, apparently the Smithsonian has blogs. This post was inspired by a six-part series on their new design blog all about the use of design to market citrus fruit to Americans. I mean, that’s what the series was about. There are hopefully going to be all sorts of other neat things on the blog, very soon. There are also blogs about history, archaeology, film, science, dinosaurs, and a million other cool subjects you’re probably interested in. Who knew?

Magic Carpet Ride

Turkish carpets are big business. The first thing you read about when you flick open a guidebook to Istanbul is tips for dodging rug salesmen.

The problem with this?

I love carpets. Unlike the vast majority of visitors to Turkey, I actually want a Turkish carpet. I just can’t afford one.

So I did the next best thing and bought a kilim. A kilim is a flat-woven rug that’s more rustic and “tribal” looking than a traditional Oriental carpet.

It turns out kilims aren’t actually that cheap, either. My carpet seller guy showed me some unbelievably intricate Armenian pieces that run upwards of $700. Even in rustic handicrafts, I apparently have champagne tastes.

So I cut a deal. It turned out that for $60, my carpet salesman was willing to part with a very basic floor model from Kayseri, an industrial city known for cranking out Turkish carpets by the millions.

If you’re desperate for your own Turkish carpet and don’t have a trip to Istanbul planned anytime soon, it turns out West Elm is now selling one-of-a-kind floor coverings from around the world. They’re made with ethical labor practices (something I’m not sure I can claim for my $60 Spice Market special), and aren’t really that expensive compared with what a bland beige American-style area rug will run you.

Maybe you share my love of carpets, textiles, and handicrafts, but you still can’t afford a Turkish carpet no matter what. You could knit up the American handicraft equivalent from this pattern. Add a stripe or a fringe, and you’ve got something a lot like a very simple knitted kilim.

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