A visit to Frida Kahlo’s studio

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This gallery contains 14 photos.

Frida Kahlo‘s home and studio, La Casa Azul in suburban Mexico City has been renovated in time to celebrate her 107th birthday. On the second floor, one can visit her studio just as she left it when she died in … Continue reading

Color ecstasy — the Holi Festival

holi.handMarch 17, 2014 was marked with two ecstatic celebrations where color plays an important role.  One, St. Patrick’s Day, has long been identified with the color green.  But in the Hindu world, the arrival of Spring is greeted with a mad riot of colors during the festival of Holi.

Celebrated in India and other nations with large Hindu populations, it welcomes the end of winter with wild ceremonies.  During this Festival of Color, men and women chase each other through the streets and throw handfuls of bright pigments or squirt colorful paint on each other.   Crowds of revelers sing and dance in town squares as priests with huge hoses spray magenta, blue, or red paint from above.  Young and old, rich and poor have fun together and no one is immune from being doused with color.  Even tourists who find themselves in the midst of the festivities will soon be drenched in wet paint by young children with spray bottles.  By mid-day, the air is filled with dense clouds of color and the smell of sweet perfumes added to the pigments.

Each year spectacular pictures of the Holi Festival are published in newspapers and magazines around the world.  Below is a gallery of some of them (click on a picture to go to slide show).

[Text from The Power of Art, Chapter 2.]

“Looking” at the Mona Lisa

Sergio Velayos/Flickr

Crowd surrounding the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.
Sergio Velayos/Flickr

I recently became upset (or cranky as my family would say) while reading about a broadcast last week on NPR’s Morning Edition.  It featured a Princeton Sociology professor who tried to determine whether it was quality or chance that made an artwork successful.  [After analyzing the data he collected, he concluded that as long as the work met “a basic standard of quality” it was chance that made art famous.]  But another pointless attempt to quantify art wasn’t what disturbed me, it was the photograph of the crowd around the Mona Lisa accompanying the article.

A scene like this can be seen just about any day at the Louvre, with visitors of different ages and races pushing to get a better view of da Vinci’s most famous work.  Yet, if you examine the photograph closely, can you find anyone actually looking directly at the painting?  One can excuse the guards, whose job is to look the other way (though their poses appear sadly indifferent to the masterpiece in their midst).  But even though some of these tourists have traveled thousands of miles at great expense to reach this room, most are looking at the Mona Lisa through the low-resolution screen of their phones or cameras. [Through a glass darkly, indeed!] Others are looking intensely at the results of a snapshot or showing it to a friend. Some are leaving the scene, satisfied that they have captured their prey and moving on to collect others.  I was excited when I noticed the young man on the right actually looking directly at the Mona Lisa, until I realized he was also listening to music with his headphones.

Of course, the large number of people, a layer of thick bullet-proof glass and two rows of barriers do not encourage quiet contemplation of a great work of art.  But the more I look at the photograph, the more I think that it is our celebrated technology enabled global culture that is the most significant barrier these visitors are facing.  Maybe what I read as the guard on the left’s indifference is actually justifiable disdain.

No, no, we’re art historians.

lasmeninasAfter spending nearly 7 hours today at the Prado in Madrid and seeing many incredibly great and famous masterpieces, our first moment inside remains my favorite.  Just as Susan and I were leaving the security scanner, a woman with a badge approached us.  What follows is the actual dialog:

Woman (in heavily accented English): Do you want a guided tour to see the most important sites of the Prado in one hour?

Us: No, no, we’re art historians.

Woman: Toilets.  Right downstairs.