Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 14

My final days in Madrid were spent in the studio, figuring out how to pack up and ship my artwork back home, and completing visits to the Prado and Reina Sofia museums as well as the Palacio Real and the Catedral de la Almudena.

When I studied abroad at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas-ICADE ten years ago, I took an art history class that was held most of the time in the Prado, so I feel strong nostalgia not only for the artwork inside but also for the rooms and building itself.  The Prado has a shocking amount of masterpieces for the size of the collection.  It's always interesting to me how even when I've seen the pieces in person as well as via reproduction, I'm still hit every time I go with how some artists really suffer in reproduction while others are assisted by it.  A guard stopped me fairly early on and pointed out that on my guide it says in a tiny icon on the back that no photos are allowed, so unfortunately you won't get to see any of my own photos of Bosch's salon, or Velazquez's Bufones series, but I actually wasn't warned at the very beginning so I can share a couple images with you!

The Reina Sofia allows photos in all its exhibitions except the "Pity and Terror - The Path to Guernica" Picasso retrospective.  Though I respect its historical and artistic significance, I don't really emotionally connect with Picasso as much as other artists and pieces in the Reina Sofia anyway - I am, for instance, somehow always surprised by the engrossing, varied details and the meticulous brushwork of Dalí.  There were also a large number of temporary exhibitions featuring a range of artists including several contemporary ones.

No photos were allowed in the interior of the palace, but the Palacio Real is a really interesting space - on the one hand, the wallpapers, stucco decorations, and much of the decor is over-the-top and stands up to modernity just fine; on the other, some parts have suffered more than others.  The ballroom/dining hall floor has seen better days, and some of the furniture seemed worn and small - in fact, so did a few of the rooms.  Overall, though, the effect is pretty regal particularly when focusing on the Salon Gasparini or the Throne Room.  

The Catedral de la Almudena is right next door to the Palacio Real, and though the interior of the cathedral is nice, my favorite part (where no photos are allowed to preserve the holy atmosphere) is the Capilla del Santísimo which is inlaid in mosaic tile by artist and Father Marko Ivan Rupnik.

My flights back home were great - though American Airlines had in their infinite wisdom chosen to use a plane with no personalized in-flight entertainment on the cross-Atlantic trip over, they did use a super teched-out plane on the return voyage.  The windows tinted and untinted electronically, and the personal monitors in the seat backs had the most complex navigational information system I've seen as well as a surfeit of television and movie selections.  I unfortunately didn't manage to get an aisle seat, though, which my knees really felt, but I did get asked to move from my middle seat to a window seat across the plane and happily complied so I could at least not be penned in on both sides by people.  Plus my new seat neighbor was a nice guy.  I was fairly worried the whole day as my connection in Dallas Fort Worth was only two hours, which is cutting it really close, but fortunately everything - passport control, baggage claim, customs, security - went smoothly and decently quickly and I made my next flight on time.  That plane also had personalized in-flight entertainment, weirdly enough, as it's quite atypical on such short domestic trips.  American Airlines, I do not understand you.  Please to have personalized in-flight entertainment on all the longest trips first and then if you can on the rest it would be a nice perk.

I landed, my luggage came out in order, and my amazing colleague Susan came and picked me up!  I am home!

The Advocate Article on My LASM Exhibition

Remember the Polymers in Art Through The Centuries exhibition I'm participating in (thanks to my friend Dr. John Pojman) at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum (LASM)?  It opened March 4, 2017, and was slated to run until June 4 but was extended through September 3 due to the success of the exhibition.  The Advocate, Louisiana's largest daily newspaper, recently published an article on the show, "LASM's exhibit explores the mix of art and science," including a photo of my pieces in the slideshow imagery at the top as well as text about my work.

If you're in the Baton Rouge region and haven't stopped by the exhibition yet, you've still got almost a month!

The Pursuit Blog Post for the 4th of July

I've been so busy that I haven't posted any articles that came out featuring me or my work, but I'm belatedly getting around to it now!  The Pursuit, the LSU College of Science blog, published its post "Science That Glows at LSU: Happy 4th of July!" written by a friend of mine, Dr. Paige Jarreau, which features my artwork and Dr. John Pojman's 3P QuickCure Clay!

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 13 - Exhibition Shots

Here are a handful of exhibition shots of the interactive sculptures and artist statement/exhibition text from my Quinta del Sordo exhibition in Madrid.

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 12 - New Artwork!

Seriously, I've been really hard at work here creating lots of new artwork!  

I went to see the Zoo Aquarium de Madrid a couple weeks ago, mostly because I remember it being huge from when I visited it ten years ago and with unusual access to some of the animals like the giraffes, bears, and wallabies.  They've tightened up some of their security since, though I still saw patrons feeding peanuts to lemurs and bears despite the signage (I saw that ten years ago too, but also saw a wallaby with an entire bagel and giraffes also being fed peanuts by the crowd!), and it still seemed big but not quite as huge as it did when I was younger.

I typically don't paint zoo animals; I prefer to paint animals that are local and/or native to the places I'm inhabiting, and I also don't think I get very unique perspectives on many zoo inhabitants unless the zoo is one of the few that has surprisingly close access to the animals.  However, this time around despite less access than I remember (though still on the more access side of zoos), a giant anteater had escaped from his enclosure and was having the time of his life in the green space between his enclosure and the public walkways.  There was still a small fence between him and the walkways, but honestly, the fence he escaped from was much more difficult to surmount so while he could've escaped full-stop, I believe he just preferred the green space to that of his desert-themed enclosure.  If I'd wanted to, I could've touched him, but I didn't - both because I'm a good zoo visitor, and also because he was a fighter!  Peahens, unaware of his escape, were pecking around happily when he ran over and began repeatedly charging them.  He did that until they hid behind some bushes and then he happily commenced wandering around the green space, digging and eating in the grass.  I watched him for a while and then went off to other parts of the zoo; I returned a few hours later and he somehow got his girlfriend out as well!  I think the Zoo must know they can escape, but I'm honestly surprised it's allowed since unwise guests could really cause a problem quite easily with the anteaters...

Watching him enjoy himself so much (and having an exceptional amount of access to him), it felt like I actually did get a real glimpse into his character.  I left wanting a souvenir of the experience, and in my mind there's no better souvenir than painting him.

Dominion, acrylic on canvas, 25x39 3/4".

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 11 - New Artwork!

I really like how this piece turned out.  A number of people have asked me about the background/paper, and yes, I did paint the background as well including the darker spots - the paper started off white.  But no, I didn't handmake the paper, though it is artesanal!  I bought it at Jeco here in Madrid.

The Ninth Hour, acrylic on paper, 11 3/8 x 15".

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 10 - New Artwork!

Here's my second interactive sculpture!  It's had less time for the algae to grow on it, but so far I'm liking it.  With the snails piece, having them entirely underwater wasn't necessarily a "death sentence" for the snails as a number of species of snails are aquatic.  There are no aquatic pigeons, though, so I made this one to have its head jussssst above the top of the container.

I didn't take many in-process photos of this one primarily because a lot of pieces to this one were really delicate while uncured (the feet, the beak, the tail and wing tips) so I was mostly gently cradling it while sculpting and then went straight into curing it.  But to the right is a photo of it post-curing but pre-powdering.

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 9 - New Artwork!

This painting of two sparrows I'm not completely happy with; I started the piece out with a composition I liked, but then some parts of it got away from me and I had to tear the paper down in size to correct it.  Tearing it down fixed those issues, but now the scale of the sparrows in relation to the overall paper size is out of whack to me.  So it goes sometimes - I think if I float mat it with a very large mat of maybe 2-3" it might turn out alright in the end.  In Their Own Minds, acrylic on textured paper, 18 1/8 x 13 3/4".

Quinta del Sordo Exhibition!

My exhibition, titled "In the Dark" (in Spanish), associated with my Intercambiador ACART residency is opening tomorrow evening!  I haven't been able to take a photo of the second sculpture I made yet for various reasons, but the show will have two interactive sculptures of mine as well as five paintings (two of which I just finished and also have yet to post online!).   The exhibition will be held in Quinta del Sordo here in Madrid, Spain, and will be up from July 20-28th.  Here's the exhibition card:

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 7

I've been not posting as many text-based journals from this residency mostly because I've lived in Madrid before and this is a longer residency than I'm used to (the first one that's two months long), so I have fewer touristy desires than normal and I can spread them out more.  Also it's been so insanely hot so much of the time that the studio often seems more appealing anyway!  Other day-to-day things that occupy my time include occasionally going to the Chueca district to buy art supplies (it's also the gayborhood, interestingly) and similarly studio-related errands.  This all makes me very productive but doesn't provide as much material to journal about. 

However, I haven't yet covered that while Fari was still here, we took a day trip to Segovia on the recommendation of a local Spanish acquaintance who told me that it was her favorite nearby town, even besting Toledo.

Segovia lived up to her claims so much that I'm surprised I didn't go there ten years ago - it has a Roman aqueduct dating to around 112 AD and what is I think the most beautiful cathedral exterior I've ever seen.  It also has a castle that inspired Walt Disney, called the Alcázar of Segovia, which had three trees of nesting storks out front (!!).

Interestingly to me, Segovia doesn't have any specific touristic goods apart from a meat entrée; Toledo for instance is well known for its metals including steel, gold, and silver.  Segovia really doesn't need any as the city itself is sufficient to draw tourists, but I can't help but feel they could make more money if they perhaps sold special tapestries and other cloths in a nod to the past industry of cloth-making there.

Other than that, one night the stadium next to my apartment building had a famous Spanish singer, Alejandro Sanz, doing a twenty-year-retrospective concert; while we could hear it, we couldn't hear it; the audio was too distorted from that distance.  I did photograph the fireworks, though!

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 6 - New Artwork!

Here's my second fox kit painting.  I'm titling it Nativity in part due to the suggested mountainscape in the background which mirrors the homeland of this particular fox kit.  This piece is also acrylic on canvas and is approximately 22.5 x 32".

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 5 - New Artwork!

Here's my first painting featuring a fox kit I met while in Portugal.  City Solstice, acrylic on canvas, 14 5/8 x 22 5/8".  I'm not 100% certain, but given the very thin margin I left, I think I'll be framing it (ugh, the cost though!).

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 4

Some random observations:

1) I am quite tall for the Iberian Peninsula (both Portugal and Spain).  Headrests on buses and cars hit me in the back and I tower over pretty much all of the women and many of the men.  I'm only very slightly taller than average (5'6" with average being 5'5" for women) in the USA, so it's weird feeling so very tall.

2) Madrid is a dog city.  I noted that when I was here in 2007, too, and I love seeing all the dogs.  I get to pet and play with a few particularly friendly ones, too, and that's grand.  I do wish it was less of a dog poop city, though.  Many people do pick up their dog's poop with little baggies and toss it away appropriately, but many also do not.

3) Travelers' diarrhea is really unpleasant.  I kept getting it here the first few weeks and can't figure out what the precise culprit is.  I feel that since I lived here once before (admittedly ten years ago) it is wholly unfair that it keeps happening (three separate occasions thus far).

4) Madrid is getting ever so slightly better with vegetarianism, but it's still very hard to be vegetarian here if you want to eat out.

5) Despite having lived here before and this being the case in other cities I've done residencies in as well, I'm still not entirely used to shops closing from 2-5pm.  I like the European mindset toward work-life balance, but I'd prefer shift workers such that the stores could stay open.

6) If you live without A/C in constant 100-103*F weather, having one day that's overcast and merely 96*F feels markedly better.

7) Many Spaniards really don't speak English.  I do speak enough Spanish to get along, but Fari doesn't speak any Spanish and I think she's surprised at how much it hinders her here - for a big European city like Madrid, the proportion who don't speak English is probably higher here than almost anywhere else of a similar size.

8) The flat I'm in has no microwave, no oven, and no pot with a lid.  This severely hampers what I am able to cook.  I'm also nervous that eating fresh fruit and vegetables is part of what's contributing to the traveler's diarrhea.  As a result, I'm eating out a lot.

9) People drink non-alcoholic beer here surprisingly often.  I typically only see it on offer in Muslim-run restaurants in the US.  I only drink decaf coffee, so I get liking the taste of something but not the drug within it - but the cheap beer served everywhere here, Mahou, is to me not something I would prefer to other drinks without the alcohol...

10) There are more Asian immigrants here than ten years ago - a lot more.  I used to walk around with an Asian friend in 2007 and people would scream "china" and run over to stare at her like she was in a zoo; nowadays there are "Chinese bazaars" on almost every street run by Asian immigrants.

11) There's a couple species of invasive small green parrot here.   The more common one, the Argentinian parrot, has a very loud, annoying call.  They're surprisingly hard to pin down in photos, but I've encountered them a few times.

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 3 - New Artwork!

When I skyped with Juan about coming here, he mentioned that some of my work that interests him the most are my interactive plant pedestals.  I really enjoyed making those, but I made those in graduate school - a period in which I spent almost all my time making artwork and had access to a large woodshop and other facilities as well.  Now that I teach and often only really produce work during the summers and while on residency, it's much simpler to create more transportable (and easily exhibitable, which is a bonus) two-dimensional work.  I've started to push back at that limitation already - my pieces that I made in France are so delicate that showing anywhere other than locally is pretty difficult, and the sculptures I made earlier this summer in Portugal are even more fragile due to the found branches and lichens I used.  I decided I'd take Juan up on the challenge to create some new interactive plant pieces, and began brainstorming even before leaving for Europe.  

The clay I helped Dr. John Pojman create, 3P QuickCure Clay, is waterproof, and that's an angle I've been wanting to explore for a while.  I decided I'd like to create a sculpture that I'd then house in a glass container underwater, and as algae grew in the container, as algae tends to do when provided with water and sunlight, the sculpture would become partially or totally obscured - except I would coat the sculpture in a glow-in-the-dark powder and provide viewers with a black light to set the sculpture aglow.  Even back in Portugal, I'd briefly toyed with the idea of sculpting Balancing Act (my painting of a tower of snails), but then I thought I'd save it for this project instead.

So when I started work in the studio, I began sculpting snails.  

A sculpture is different from a painting, though, and in order to have the 3D version of the tower actually stand on its own, I couldn't have the bottom snail be upside down.  I didn't want them all to be upright, either, though... so I decided to have one snail be on its side and have that snail be on the bottom of the tower in a nod to the potential instability of all the rest.

After assembling all my individual snails into a tower, I hastily patted some glow powder onto it and cured it (the tower was moderately unstable while uncured).  I thought the amount of glow powder that actually adhered to the clay wouldn't be sufficient for my purposes, so after thinking about it for a day, I sprayed it several times with an aerosol satin varnish and each time before the varnish dried I added the glow powder to it until I felt I had a fairly solid coating.

As all this was going on, the fountain water I had collected from the Real Jardín Botánico had been sitting in the window, slowing growing more algae.  Once the sculpture's coating seemed dry, I put it into a glass vessel I had purchased from a Chinese bazaar and poured the fountain water (and some additional tap water) in.

The piece will hopefully be ever evolving as the algae grows, but it's already far enough along for me to share some photos!

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 2

On Sundays in Spain, many shops are closed.  There is, however, a giant market that is held every Sunday called the Rastro.  It spans many city blocks, with tents selling various types of clothing, books, movies, magazines, antiques, jewelry, and more.  Various bars and bakeries in the Rastro stay open as well to cater to the crowd.  I told Fari we had to go there my first Sunday (which was my seventh day in Madrid), since she hadn't even heard of it.  We went to the La Latina metro stop on Line 5 of the metro, and entered the Rastro.  Fari thought she would want to shop for different things than I did, so we set up a time to meet back at the metro stop and then parted ways.  Since I knew I would come back perhaps every Sunday or at least several more, I mostly just browsed and took stock of what was offered in multiple places and what was more unique.  By the time we met back up, I'd only purchased a small antique Spanish tile - I spent six euro on it.  Fari had purchased a few things, though, including a decorative Indian sheet, a pair of pants, and a loose housedress.  I had gotten to our meeting place slightly before her and had time to check my phone for any vegetarian-friendly places nearby, so for lunch we went to a small place called Pura Vida.  I really liked it - they give you a free tapas plate of vegetarian paella with a drink order and we also split a trio of salads with bread.  

The following day was when Intercambiador ACART held our artist presentations, wherein interested members of the public can come listen to us talk about our artistic practices.  Fari and I were joined by a South American artist named Tamara who has a studio space in the newly opened studio we visited a few days previously.

After another day in the studio (I'd spent a fair amount of time there already in the previous days), Fari and I took a day trip to Toledo.  I've been there before back in 2007, but it was great to see it again.  We spent most of the time there taking in the huge cathedral (with artwork by a number of great artists including El Greco), eating lunch, and just wandering and shopping around the streets between the cathedral and the downtown square.  Fari and I ate and shopped independently, mostly because she was starving and left the cathedral earlier than I wanted to so she could get food.  I ate at a vegetarian restaurant called Madre Tierra which I had googled, and had a very experimental salad with a frozen goat cheese that basically tasted like normal ice cream.  It was interesting and I am glad for the experience but I wouldn't reorder it!  We did manage to quickly poke around the monastery right toward the end, though, and there was some sort of honoring of recent doctoral candidates happening which was quite neat.  Neither Fari nor I are great with directions, though, and we also had to locate and catch a bus back to the train station, so we headed back.  In the end, we didn't get lost and we caught our bus right away, so we got to the train station way too early - a little less than two hours early!  But our feet were sore, most of the tourist attractions and even some of the shops start to close around when we left anyway, and it's better to be early than miss your train!

Intercambiador ACART Residency Journal 1

I arrived in Madrid at night on June 5th, and got a quick tour of the flat.  It's on the fourth floor, but luckily there's an elevator, so I didn't have to haul my luggage up four flights of stairs!  I have two roommates - Felipe and Farzane.  Felipe is a photographer and graphic designer originally from Venezuela who has been living in Madrid for some time in part due to the current political and economic crises happening in Venezuela.  He is not actually taking part in the residency, but there was an extra room available and he needed a place to stay.  He will live with me for my whole two months.  Farzane, who goes by Fari here since her full name is somewhat difficult for Westerners to pronounce correctly, is participating in the Intercambiador ACART residency and is from Iran and will only be here for one month, as two-month visas are very difficult for Iranians to get. There are supposed to be four artists every two months, but they could only find three (Fari, me, and someone else) for June-July and then that third person cancelled at the last minute due to a family death.  This is why Felipe is staying with us, and the residency directors are looking for someone (or two) to come for July.

The residency is jointly run by two directors - Juan and Marta.  Juan seems to be the primary day-to-day contact, though.  The studio we use is about a half-an-hour walk or metro trip (around 15 minutes of walking that way, though) away from the flat and is shared by around ten local artists as well.  One of them is a British expat named Will who tags along on most Intercambiador ACART outings.

Since Felipe and Fari got here first, I got the second-to-worst room in the flat, but it's better than the last available room and I got to do the Portuguese residency which is what made me a few days late, so I'm okay with it.  I may take Fari's room when she leaves at the end of June, though!

The first few days I took it pretty easy (just buying groceries and visiting the studio, really), particularly since my body seemed to take a little umbrage to the new water... Plus after my second day, a heat wave hit Madrid and we all started sweltering - it's been above 100*F every day since my third day here.  There's no A/C in many places here including in the flat.  The studio is below ground, though, and stays fairly reasonable, so it really encourages me to go there!

On my third day here I visited the Real Jardín Botánico.  It has some really nice outdoor gardens, but the highlight for me was, as usual, the greenhouses.  They had a greenhouse for palms, another for orchids and tillandsia, and yet another for cacti and succulents.  I also helped myself to some algae-ified water from one of their outdoor fountains - I'll tell you more about that in my next new artwork post!

I next took a trip to two different art opening receptions on my fourth day, and really enjoyed the second one which was an opening for an art magazine's third edition which focused on feminism and exposed me to some new names and pieces.  I also attended a studio opening the following evening and met a really nice artist named Andrea Hauer whose pieces are also very strongly within the world of "women's art" and were a nice follow-up to the magazine.

The next day, Juan, Will, Fari and I all took a late afternoon car ride about an hour north to a very large manmade reservoir lake to swim and cool off a little!  It was a real hike to get down to the lake from where we could find parking, though, and then a bit of a rock climb down to the beach - my foot was not super pleased but it made it in the end.  The lake was really pleasant to swim in - it was super clear and fish would swim around you if you stood still on a submerged rock.  As we headed back the guys decided we should take a detour to a dinner party.  When we arrived, though, it became clear that Juan actually didn't know the address specifically and only knew the general area.  After wandering around for a while, we headed back to the car to go get our own dinner elsewhere, but once we got to the car again Juan suddenly realized he had the address all along and we went back.  By the time we got inside, though, it became clear there was very little dinner to be had!  I was starving, as the lake plans had been sort of sprung on me and I didn't have time to make a lunch to take along and we weren't able to buy more than a couple pieces of fruit and some nuts near the lake.  Fari was in the same boat.  After a little over an hour, we told Juan to take us home so we could actually get some dinner - by the time we got home, it was 1am!