gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Travel

Arthur Frommer on the healing power of traveling to Europe

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As often happens in my household, old papers, magazines, and brochures pop up because my mom is constantly going through things in an effort to downsize. I recently came across a travel magazine entitled “Planning Your Trip: Europe ’95.” That’s right, it’s from 1995. In it is an article by travel expert Arthur Frommer on his love for traveling to Europe because of its restorative power. I strongly identify with what he has to say, as I also find traveling to Europe rejuvenating, and just a few lines will give you a sense of why:

Some people take pills to restore their energy. I go to Europe. Some people go out dancing to lift their spirits; I go to Europe. To me, a week or so in the Old World is a restorative more powerful than any regiment of diet, medicine or exercise ever devised. It does me good to turn my back for a time on familiar scenes, and head for the gentler, slower, more traditional life of Europe. 

He goes on to talk about the old world charm, which more than simply being an endearing quality of Europe, actually truly connects us with history in a way that we cannot experience in the U.S. because of its young age compared to Europe – “This communing with the past – so much a part of the European travel experience – provides solace, and a sense of human connection and continuity that awes me.”

Featuring a picture of Café de Flore in Paris, one is reminded of the slowness of life in Europe and the afternoons spent at the café with an impeccable espresso or cappuccino and good conversation.

 

Cultural divides

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Over the past several months I’ve been conducting oral history interviews with Latino/a artists for one of my jobs. Some interesting and surprising conflicts have arisen that I definitely wasn’t expecting, and am even a bit bothered by. I consider myself a very open-minded person when it comes a variety of things like race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc., but what I’ve learned recently is that sometimes people can view this open-mindedness and willingness to engage with those who are different from us as a negative thing, and even a hostile thing.

To put things more concretely, I was speaking with a young Latina artist in Pilsen, the Latino neighborhood in Chicago, and she was bothered, insulted almost, by the fact that I wanted to explore the neighborhood, meet the locals, and try to have an authentic experience there. She proceeded to tell me that there was no way I could possibly have an authentic experience because I as was not Latina, I did not speak Spanish, and I did not grow up in the neighborhood. She said that the “authentic” experience I was seeking was clouded by any preconceived notions of what I thought her culture was about. She was frustrated that white people were visiting her neighborhood to see it for themselves and then trying to build it up because it was still affordable to do so. She opposed the gentrification process that was and still is happening in Pilsen, particularly in regards to the artist community. The artist community that Pilsen is now known for does not typically include the artists who have been living in Pilsen for decades. She felt as though these artists who have recently been moving into Pilsen are trying to replace the artists who were already there, and then pretending like they own the place. I can completely sympathize with the frustration with this kind of gentrification, but I do not think that someone who wants to explore a neighborhood and a culture with genuine interest should be lumped into the same category.

I countered all of this by arguing that not everyone who visits the neighborhood wants to replace what’s already there or try to change it. Some people are genuinely curious about other cultures, and not only curious but truly eager to learn more, engage with, and try to experience things with the locals. She was still insulted and offended by this proposition, insisting that there’s no way an outsider could have a genuine experience, precisely because he/she was an outsider.

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I left this encounter feeling so frustrated because I felt like she was prejudice against me, while I was not at all prejudice towards her. I was left feeling like there’s no way that two people who are fundamentally different from one another ethnically, which is out of their control, can come together and learn from one another. It was as if she encouraged segregation between cultures and as if she didn’t want to share her culture with anyone, nor learn about another’s culture. This was very frustrating to me because while I am a white American female, I was born in Europe and grew up there for the first eight years of my life. My mom has taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to people from all over the world for many years, and I myself am now teaching ESL as well. I also volunteer at a non-profit that helps Spanish speakers with a variety of things, where I help with their citizenship classes. I have friends from diverse cultures, and in fact I prefer to surround myself with people who are different from me because I feel that there is so much to learn from them. I definitely have a genuine interest in exposing myself to different cultures and experiencing things as they do the best that I can. So I too was insulted by her for not understanding this genuine interest of mine in wanting to explore her neighborhood and do as the locals do.

Although frustrating, this was interesting perspective to be confronted by, which made me think more about what I was trying to accomplish by surrounding myself or exposing myself to other cultures. Despite her pessimism and unwillingness to accept me into her neighborhood, I’m still all about mixing cultures because there is truly so much learn.

An experiment with Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophy

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As a Philosophy major as an undergrad, I read a little bit of Simone de Beauvoir, so when I saw this article about someone recounting their journey in her footsteps, I was definitely inspired. I’m not sure I could hike in the Alps for seven days in espadrilles…but this just proves how much of a badass she was. The author explains Beauvoir’s philosophy of not letting “her ideas succumb to reality” and that we can create what we want for ourselves and actually make it happen. She doesn’t agree with Beauvoir entirely in this respect, but she does acknowledge that it’s an interesting way of life to try for a short time:

It is a delusion to think that life has no wills but your own, or that you can thrive without the care and concern of others. But sometimes you can engineer a temporary condition, and produce a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance that uplifts you.

“Picture, if you will, Spain”

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To be a traveler  in the 21st century is to sometimes feel a sense of loss even before one leaves the house: The planet has been mapped with such an oppressive exactitude that it can often seem as if we’re living at a time when everything is knowable.

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This quote from a piece in the November issue of The New York Times Style Magazine struck me for its accuracy, but also its sadness. Social media, especially the rise of Instagram, allows people to snap and post pictures like it’s their job (myself included, I must say). While this gives individuals a great amount of creative freedom and allows their viewers to share in their experiences and see things they might not otherwise be able to see, it also robs people of having unique experiences of their own because they’ve already seen these amazing things and shared in your experience before having their own.

Musings from a recent New York Times Style Magazine

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Perusing through The New York Times Style Magazine is always treat for someone like me who loves all things related to aesthetics. These are some of the pieces and design ads that I most enjoyed in the September 25, 2016 issue!

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Marianna Kennedy

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Gan Rugs – design from Spain

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Cabins in the Woods

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Artists in Postwar France

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Bover lights from Barcelona

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Ikea Forever

 

An interior-lover’s dream – Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio

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I just went to the Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio in Lenox, MA and, as I’m someone who loves anything to do with interior spaces and art, it was simply a dream. The house is situated on a big wooded lot and it’s a ten-minute walk through a little forest from the parking lot to get to the house. A fairly nondescript building from the outside (as is typical of that modern international style), it is boxy, white, and has old metal frame windows. George Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen, the couple that built the house and studio, were both abstract artists inspired by Braque, Leger, Gris, and Picasso. The house is full of their own works, along with works by artists they looked up to.

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The entrance to the house includes a beautiful small circular staircase with an abstract black metal railing. On the curved wall behind the staircase is an abstract fresco painted by George Morris in vibrant colors. The dining room, off to the left of the entrance, was designed by Suzy Frelinghuysen and it is rather dark. There are only two small light sources, the idea being to use candles and the fireplace for light. On the way to the living, which is to the right of the entrance, is a little bar with very cool shelving along the curved wall for the liquor bottles. The living room has a leather-tiled floor, a spacious 12-foot ceiling, zebra print sofas, two frescos by Morris on the main wall, one on each side of the fireplace, and an abstract stone carving above the fireplace, also designed by Morris. Upstairs are three bedrooms and a small gallery space displaying works of art. The narrow hallway is also lined with abstract works of art. I can’t forget to mention Morris’s studio, which is a large space at the end of the hallway with lots of light. Now a gallery space that only displays works of art, it was once Morris’s studio where he, and probably his wife Suzy, spent a considerable amount of time working on their art.

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Because the couple was very affluent and of a certain social class, descendants of our nation’s founding fathers, they didn’t have to worry about holding traditional jobs and were able to focus their lives on painting and introducing modern art to the United States in the 1940s and 50s.

The house is a spectacular example of modern architecture and design and it was simply a feast for my eyes. Every turn and every room contain surprising and interesting details to gawk at. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the house, but you can see a nice gallery of the interior on the house & studio’s website. It’s definitely worth the visit if you ever find yourself in western Massachusetts!

Yale Art Gallery

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On my most recent trip out east, I went to the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, CT and it was such a nice surprise. Museums affiliated with colleges and universities are usually on the smaller side, but the Yale Art Gallery is impressive not only in size, but certainly also in the scope of its collection. The museum addition by Louis Khan is very nice, especially juxtaposed next to his design of the Yale Center for British Art (also a nice building and extensive collection). Here are just a few of my favorites from the collection!

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Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Valence with Grey Cloud

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Jacques Villon, Color Perspective (Horizontal) 

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Ando Hiroshige, Kanazawa in Moonlight (Buyo Kanazawa Hassho Yakei)

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Odilon Redon, Nasturtiums 

Christmas eats

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Undeniably, food is a big part of the Christmas holiday. This year, my family tried a new chicken recipe from The Kinfolk Table Cookbook, which is a marvelous book if you don’t know it. It’s actually one of the first recipes I’ve tried from this cookbook, but surely not the last, because, again, it’s a beautiful book filled with unique delicious-looking recipes. My mom and I also made our annual traditional trip to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, which we look forward to all year. The hot chocolate, spiced wine, crepe booth from Paris, and authentic German Christmas ornaments really pull at our heartstrings. Fortunately, we stumbled upon a French booth run by Catholic nuns, who were selling French pastries and desserts. Not only were the nuns the sweetest, and very happy to speak French with my mom, their desserts were to die for. We bought an apple pie and a chocolate Buche de Noel, which were as yummy as they were beautifully-presented. This year, we also made our own egg nog for the first time, and I have to say I thought it was better than the store-bought egg nog!

Autumn in the Berkshires

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I truly believe that Autumn in the Berkshires is the most beautiful time of the year anywhere in the world. The Berkshires hold a special place in my heart after living there for only one year, which was far too short a time. Pictures definitely don’t capture its beauty, but here are just a few to make your heart melt (or at least they make mine melt)!

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An afternoon at the Barnes

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On a recent visit to Philadelphia, my first visit actually, I went to the Barnes Foundation to fulfill my art lover’s instinct. The Barnes is a very unique place where art is displayed in the most unusual way. It’s not like when you walk into the Art Institute of Chicago or the MET in New York City, where the art is hung at eye-level, typically with individual works lined up parallel to one another. At the Barnes, the art is displayed in a way that can be overwhelming, as there may be upwards of 100-200 works in a small room, virtually one on top of the other. Furthermore, there are paintings, drawings, metalworks, and pieces of furniture all mixed together, often from very different time periods and of very different subject matters. The collector and founder of the museum, Albert C. Barnes, was interested in displaying art according to line, texture, and color rather than according artist, time period, or subject matter. The result – the intriguing experience that is a trip to the Barnes.

Not only is the art displayed in an unusual way, there are no didactic labels informing the viewer of the artist, title, or background information. There are, however, booklets in each room that outline what each work is according to a diagram. Referring to the booklets as you browse through the galleries is like embarking upon a scavenger hunt or navigating through a maze. While the booklets are helpful in informing you what the works are, not having didactic labels next to each individual work forces you to evaluate the work based on its aesthetics alone, rather than its prestige and who it’s by. In this way, the works of art are on the same playing field, as opposed to arranged hierarchically based on the artist’s reputation.

A visit to the Barnes is essential if you’re ever in Philly, and I definitely plan on going back the next time I find myself there.