Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Photographer of the Supernatural

Everytime I've considered giving all this up - this strange little online journal - I manage to get a reminder of why I shouldn't.

I once told my friend Mina that I was giving up - privately archiving everything here and then making it vanish. Her response was pure commonsense:

That's ridiculous. Write every day if you want to. Or, abandon it for months. Just leave it there until you are ready to write again. Don't think of it as an obligation.

Then there is misteraitch. I've never met misteraitch but his weblog is fascinating and well-loved and one of the few I still bother to read. He manages to prove that weblogs can be about more than just navel-gazing or about linking to the same inane things everyone else is linking to. Giornale Nuovo stands apart as a well-curated library of the extraordinary and under-explored.

Finally, there are the emails I've received and the people I've met. When Claudia, of O Mundo de Claudia mentioned she would be visiting San Francisco, I offered to show her around. I had always been a big fan of her writing and photography and observations. (Her weblog, like mine, is linked to by misteraitch - creating essentially a small circle of journals whose themes tend to be the underbelly of culture and arts, the exotic and the mysterious and the sublime sense of the unknown)

I discovered several things about Claudia. Firstly, she is like her weblog - a cultural explorer, a lover of the artistic and the curious. She also has at least two superpowers that I know of:

The first is that she has some secret power amongst the spiders. They seem to know when she is around and react strangely to her presence. If she sees one, as she did on one of our walks, she will pick it up by its little legs and drop it onto her arm and study it.

The second is that she can take photos of dreams. Not unlike, I suppose, those Victorian photographers who managed to snap pictures of ghosts. Here, for example, is a photo she snapped of me, and of a woman who was running at the edge of my imagination. A perfect capture.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera

The story of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo is now well-known. The whims of popular culture has rescued this pair from obscurity, especially Kahlo who up until recently was no more than a footnote in the history of Art. (In my opinion, Kahlo's art, imbued with genuine suffering, will outlast Rivera's)

Rivera has always been well-known but he was but one of a holy trinity of Mexican muralists. The other two were David Alfaro Siquieros and Clemente Orozco. Of the three, I'd always preferred the bolder style of Siquieros and considered Rivera to be more showman than artist - like a Mexican PT Barnum (both in audacity and proportions). Siqueiros could be extreme in a way that Rivera could not - I certainly can't imagine Rivera painting anything like Siquieros' "Echo of a Scream"

Still, I had always dismissed all of the muralists - I love the grand format but the style has always seemed to obvious, too full of easy symbolism. I've always preferred their contemporary, the modernist Rufino Tamayo who fused abstraction with Native symbolism and has produced works that are both gorgeous and vivid with color but can also be terrifying and inexplicable. I've never been able to exorcise the image of Tamayo's primeval hounds from my imagination.

"If I could express with a single word what it is that distinguishes Tamayo from other painters, I would say, without a moment’s hesitation: sun. For the sun is in all his pictures, whether we see it or not: night itself is for Tamayo simply a sun carbonized."
-Octavio Paz

There are no works of Tamayo here in San Francisco that I am aware of. But, Rivera and Kahlo paid a visit here. San Francisco is where they remarried. And Rivera had a chance to creatively vandalize some of our walls. The mural at City College is one I have not seen in person. I have seen the image before but had never noticed one thing - Right in the center of the mural, standing as if she is either joining or dividing two worlds, stands Frida Kahlo.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I dont know what this means, this juxtaposition. The antique and the modern clash on the rooftop of a neighbor's house. It is only visible though from a hidden staircase.

I've also started taking photos of colorfields - large expanses of pure color. I've discovered that this works best when there is some small imperfection in the field - an object, a speck, an impurity. The enormity of the snow field is best seen as a contrast to the footprints of a small animal which has wandered through. The sky seems limitless as a field of blue intensity, broken only perhaps by a white wisp - a tiny roving cloud.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

"In Italy, the magnetism of museums is irresistible. Last June the Roman Institute of Psychology released the results of a national study involving 2,000 visitors that found 20 percent of them had embarked on an "erotic adventure" in a museum. Also according to the study, a Caravaggio painting or a Greek sculpture is more likely to lead to sex than works by Tiepolo or Veronese. The experts have even compiled a hit parade of Italian museums, listing the institutions in order of their ability to awaken Eros. This state of emotional arousal has been called the Rubens Syndrome, a term derived from the sensuous, superannuated nudes painted by the Flemish Old Master.
This isn’t the first examination of the emotional response to art to have been undertaken in Italy. In 1989, Professor Graziella Magherini, a Florentine psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, made her name with the publication of The Stendhal Syndrome, addressing clinical instances of queasiness, disorientation, heightened sensitivity, and panic in people confronted by great works of art or architecture. Some skeptics have attributed the Stendhal Syndrome to fatigue in the age of mass tourism. But the basic difference between the Rubens Syndrome and its nobler forebear is simple—while Stendhal merely makes you swoon, Rubens makes you go out and act on your feelings."

-from a past issue of ARTnews

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bernini's Armadillo-ish

Bernini's rendition of an Armadillo
from The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi