Tag Archives: arte

Luchador Last Supper

Chris Parks’ skateboard deck art of Jesus and his apostles shown as luchadores is awesome! And just in time for Easter. (More and better photos here.)

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Mi chanchito : Art museum patron is sucker for adorable pig

So I was down in Forest Park yesterday to check out Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea at the St. Louis Art Museum, and it was great. The show includes dozens of pieces of Mayan art related to the sea, rain, animals, and the gods that have never been shown in the United States before.

There are crocodile sculptures, funerary statues, duck-head vases, a pelican head…frankly it was a bit overwhelming because almost every piece has a rich mythic backstory and is executed with fine and complicated detailing. The whole time I was mesmerized by geometric configurations, stories of gods emerging from sharks, the idea of a cosmic turtle, and just how lovely a bloodletting ritual could be. Honestly, I need to go back to take it all in more fully. But I’m running out of time because the show is only in St. Louis until May 8…and then the world ends in 2012.

But it wasn’t until I hit the show’s gift shop that I became a true sucker. Usually I fly right past all the goodies laid out to tempt museum goers, but not this time. Delicately placed on a pedestal at the front of the store was a basket of adorable three-legged ceramic pigs from Chile called chanchitos. The name comes from the diminutive of chancho, which is a word in parts of Latin America for “pig” (both the four-legged version and the guy who your mother always warned you about). Normally the word chanchito refers to a piggy bank, but the chanchitos at the art museum were ceramic art obejects made in Pomaire, Chile that are exchanged between family and friends as good luck symbols. I was smitten and had to have one. And personally, I don’t think there is a luckier or more attractive swine than the one my wife and I picked out of that sales basket. (Though this Facebook page would take issue with us.)

Chanchito con sus nuevos amigos

Bringing our chanchito home made me do a little more investigation into Pomaire. The village is about 60 km west of Santiago and is home to some really amazing potters and pottery studios. It is also famous for its almost two-pound empanadas. My goodness, it’s almost lunch time and I’m ready to book a flight to Chile right now! (Here’s a great blog about the cuisine of the village and how to cure any cooking vessels you might buy there on a future trip.)

(Five-minute video en español on pottery arts in Pomaire).

Ron English on the border

Ron English is deliciously subversive with his art. He throws billboard-sized bombs at advertising design and brand culture through public (often illegal) art that twists images of Ronald McDonald, Mickey Mouse, and Joe Camel into cancerous agents of obesity, disease, and brand subservience. If you’ve seen Morgan Spurlock’s film Super Size Me, then you’ve seen his work.

Here’s a short film about the man:

Recently English decided to play an April Fool’s prank related to the immigration debate through a series of works that popped up at the US-Mexico border. Below is my favorite…though I fear that some in the US will take it seriously and want this sign permanently installed at all border crossings.

Edimburgo Part I : Romero Place

I was lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in Scotland last month, mostly in the capital city Edinburgh. While there, I was comfortably bunking in a quiet residential neighborhood near the University of Edinburgh. On more than one occasion, I made my way along Dalkeith Road, in order to reach Holyrood Park, a picturesque green space with towering hills and great views of the Royal Mile, the Scottish Parliament, and the Queen’s residence in Scotland. The University’s Pollock Halls of Residence are situated on Dalkeith, so I passed by them several times during my visit. But I must have been staring at my feet for the most part because I didn’t notice that one of the halls is named “Romero Place” until my last day in the city.

Even then, my first thought was only that it was just a strange name for a place in Scotland. A British friend told me that a lot of Italians live in Edinburgh, so I figured the residence hall must be named after some generous Italian immigrant who perhaps attended the university or served in its community in some capacity. But then I noticed a relief sculpture embedded in the stone wall near the name plate.

Campesinos collecting culture from a tree that appears to be rooted in the body of a man? Very odd.

Then I noticed the inscription surrounding the image.

Que mi sangre sea semilla de libertad y la señal de que la esperanza será pronto una realidad.
Let my blood be a seed of freedom and a sign that hope will soon be a reality.

The quote is from the Salvadoran martyr Óscar Romero. And I immediately felt like an idiot when I realized that the residence hall was named after this great defender of human rights. How had I missed this when I had passed by the building so many times before?

Archbishop Romero’s story is an interesting one. He grew up in a relatively poor family but didn’t take to his father’s wishes for him of becoming a carpenter. He entered the priesthood instead, and actually spent the early years of his career not as the social justice stalwart we remember Romero as today, but as a believer in church hierarchy and the separation of religion and politics. While he was climbing the ecclesiastical ladder, he was considered a conservative and far from a friend to devotees of Liberation Theology. There was actually a great deal of consternation among the political left when Romero was named Archbishop of San Salvador. But Romero had greatly reconsidered his politics and philosophy before taking on that important place in the Salvadoran church’s hierarchy. He had witnessed first hand the neglect of poor while serving in his previous position as Bishop of Santiago de María, and he had become conscious of the ruthless slaughter of individuals who stood in the way of power. Now in a position of authority to speak out against such atrocities, he did so and became a marked man. Ultimately, Romero was gunned down by the Salvadoran right wing on March 24, 1980, while he was in the midst of performing a mass at a hospital. With the saintly leader now gone, all hell broke out in El Salvador, and the country fell into a twelve-year-long civil war.

Romero’s work for the political freedoms and human rights in El Salvador has since become immortalized in the arts. A sculpture of his likeness fills a prominent place in the Gallery of Martyrs at Westminster Abbey in London. Songs and poems have been written about him. And Raúl Juliá even portrayed the Archbishop in the 1989 film Romero.

But I’m still trying to figure out why this particular residence hall in Edinburgh bears his name. Is there a special connection with the university? or the city? All I know is that I wish I had lived in a dorm named after a human rights champion when I was a freshman in college.

Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos) : a film by Pedro Almodóvar

I finally got my wish the other day and saw Los abrazos rotos. While it’s not the perfect success of Almodóvar’s last film with Penélope Cruz—the Cannes darling Volver—, it delighted this viewer just as everything else produced by the Spanish director has.

Almodóvar draws inspiration from Hitchcock with the film. Los abrazos rotos is a stylish thriller with a story that unravels as the viewer travels back and forth in time. We start in the present with a blind Spanish screenwriter named “Harry Caine,” who is cared for meticulously by his agent Judit and her son Diego. But a visit from the son of an old business associate of Caine’s sends the film tumbling back into the sordid events of the 1990s. Caine was still Mateo Blanco then, an up-and-coming film director working on Chicas y maletas (Women and Suitcases), which happens to be remarkably similar to Almodóvar’s own film Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)—a movie everyone should see. In fact, the same set is used for Chicas y maletas as Almodóvar used in Mujeres.

Blanco’s film consumes him, particularly because of its star Lena Rivas (Cruz). On film, she’s a plucky Audrey Hepburn look-a-like. In real life, she’s a woman trapped by the repercussions of her difficult decisions in life. Rivas is the mistress of Ernesto Martel, a businessman who produces Blanco’s movie and who’s son shows up at Harry Caine’s apartment years later. Blanco is infatuated with Rivas. And the tensions between Blanco and Martel, a jealous and controlling lover, quickly escalate and are heightened by the presence of Martel’s son, a burgeoning director himself who is filming a documentary about the making of Chicas y maletas. Martel Jr.’s raw footage is viewed daily by the paranoid and manipulative Martel Sr., who goes as far as to hire a lipreader to decipher the conversations between Rivas and Blanco that happen behind the camera.

How does Blanco go blind? Why does he call himself Harry Caine? What becomes of Rivas? Why does Junior come calling on Caine/Blanco years later? Well, you’re just going to have to watch the film and follow the circuitous route to those answers yourself.

Found Gem : Spanish Pronunciation Illustrated

Poking around the stacks in the library this week I found a slim volume sandwiched between two thick, underused Spanish dictionaries: Spanish Pronunciation Illustrated by J.P. FitzGibbon and J. Merino. I immediately fell in love.

The petite volume was published in 1963 and doesn’t appear to have seen any more printings after that. A quick search around the internet reveals only a few copies for sale (2 on ABE, for instance, and both of them are in the UK). The book goes through all the sounds in the Spanish language, using example words and sentences to give the user practice with each. The fun part is that all the sentences are written in a rhyme-y, sing-song-y, and hilarious way and are accompanied by illustrations. It’s kind of like Edward Gorey made a Spanish primer.

Ana anda hasta la casa.

El militar pinta la piña.

La niña pide la silla.

Laura va hacia la farmacia.

Esta tela tiene tinta.

Está en la peña con mucha pena.

Of course, the illustrations are the best part of the book. As you can tell from the above image, they’re awesome! Simple and humorous, they’re by the Portuguese artist Lima de Freitas. According to this article (as best as I can make from the Portuguese), he lived from 1927 to 1998 and illustrated over 100 books, including Aquilino Ribeiro‘s translation of Don Quixote. There are also a couple of Quixote illustrations in this book, by the way. If I weren’t such a morally upright boy, I’d keep this little gem for myself. Alas, one day soon it’ll be back on the library shelf…gathering dust.

Matador : a film by Pedro Almodóvar

Someone had the brilliant idea of playing Pedro Almodóvar’s newest film Broken Embraces in San Luis only at 1 in the afternoon on weekdays. Because Almodóvar is an unknown director??? He’s only won an Oscar, two Baftas, and a zillion festival awards in his career. The film stars Penélope Cruz for goodness’ sake. Anyway, how many people can make a 1PM screening on a weekday? Not me, unfortunately. I’m just going to have to wait for it to come out on DVD. In protest, I watched his 80s film Matador the other day and currently have a slew of his films in my Netflix queue. (I bet you wonder how that’s a protest. Trust me…it is.) To further pour salt in my Almodóvar wound, I could only find a version of Matador‘s trailer with Dutch (I think?) subtitles. But you’ll get the idea.

There are a few Almodóvar films that I’m meh about; Matador is not one of them. It’s also not the film with James Bond, if that’s what you were wondering. The movie centers around several characters: a guilt-filled bullfighting student (played by an incredibly young looking Antonio Banderas), the student’s overly religious mother, a hobbled retired bullfighter, a lawyer, a model, and the model’s downright weird mother. Sheesh! At least one of them is a murderer. Why and how I’ll leave to you. Typical for Almodóvar, the film is deep with color and humor. It’s also a bit Hitchcock-esque, if I’m allowed to say that. Watch it.