Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The Other Side of the Wall smallThe Other Side of the Wall depicts the color and vibrancy of Tijuana that abuts the US/ Mexico wall just a few miles from San Diego. It is for the Border Wall Quilt Project. All pieces, mine included, are 8 x 16″

The wall on the Mexican side is brightly painted, and the family in blue is my drawing taken from one of those paintings. There are community gardens, a Nuclear Free zone plaque, and other colorful works of art.

butterfly painting on the wall

Part of the wall lists names of those who have died crossing the border. Although theoretically one could swim around the wall that extends into the Pacific Ocean, the US side is highly militarized.

border wall

Life goes on in lively Tijuana. But a pile of “wishing rocks” reminds us of the yearning for peace and unification of families.

wishing stones 3

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I’ve started a new series, similar to Eastern Europe in Stitches.  Recently I asked a good friend fom Tijuana to give me a tour. She was raised there, and holds many happy memories of growing up, especially of her grandmother and her farm.

She is also an artist who could readily understand my interest in viewing the art on the Mexican side of the wall that separates it from the US. There is a memorial to those who died in crossing the border. (top right in the pictures below.) You can see how the border wall extends right into the sea.

So we absorbed the beauty and sadness on the Mexican side of the wall. There was a pile of “wishing stones” including wishes for “unity of my family” and “that everyone finds prosperity and love.”

I’ve made four little quilts (5 x 7″) so far in this series. I bought some used Mexican postage stamp on Etsy, and some small items while I was there so I could add found objects. Each one includes a drawing on cloth (then stitched) of something painted on the wall, or something else I saw.

 

 

 

I am part of Cloth in Common, a group of international artists who respond to bi-monthly prompts. The current prompt is “Spring.”

Here the crocuses have sprung, only to emerge into a cold and still brown yard.

crocusesAnd, again today, it is snowing. It’s hard for me to think “Spring!” However, I just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe (actually a little bit warmer!) where I was inspired by “rebuilding” and “renewal.” Do they count for “spring?”

Many of the drab so-called “communist condos” have been painted, and they still house a large population. (Some, it was explained, are even better built than today. But not all.)

painted communist condo

Dresden was firebombed by the Allies in Feb 1945, killing as many as 135,000 people in the single most deadly bombing of the war, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was reduced to rubble but has been painstakingly rebuilt.

We visited Zwinger Palace, and have the before and after photos to show the rebuild. It is now a museum housing priceless art.

zwinger Palace bombedZwinger Palace rebuilt

 

I made small art quilts while I was traveling. I was especially intrigued by Berlin. First it was one city, then two cities, now one city again –and still stitching itself back together. These are pieces inspired by the art on the wall, torn down in 1989.

We visited just as the US President wants to build a wall on the US border with Mexico. For future generations to tear down!

How I am going to respond to “Spring” is still the Great Unknown in my studio. Rebirth? Rebuild? Traveling to Eastern Europe in the Spring? Stay tuned.

Besides Spring will surely emerge. Any day now.

I am excited that my art quilt “Celebrating the Destruction of Apartheid” has been selected for inclusion in a show at Visions Art Museum in San Diego, CA. The opening is April 21, which I plan to attend.

This lighthearted moment on our trip to South Africa belies the tragedy embedded in this place. The two figures are seated in front of the High Court Annex in Cape Town, where South Africans had to report annually to be classified as members of one of seven “races.” Our guide, seated on the right, relayed how his own family had been split up by this cruel, subjective process. He is joined on the left by one of our tour group members, a young doctor from Atlanta.

In the past, as persons of color, they would have been violating the South African laws of Apartheid, a system of rigid segregation and oppression of the non-white population. Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, and the Apartheid laws were abolished in mid-1991, pending the historical first multiracial election in 1994, when Mandela was elected President of South Africa. Today the “whites only” bench remains as a historical reminder that Apartheid has been tossed into the ashcan of history.

I was involved in the international fight to free Nelson Mandela and end apartheid in the late 1980’s, and incorporated my collection of political buttons from that time into the quilt.

Today, though Apartheid has been destroyed, South Africa is one of the most economically unequal country in the world. The fight for equality continues as it does elsewhere, including the United States.

The rest of the piece tells the story of our visit to South Africa. The Bushveld, at the top, is where we enjoyed a safari. Nelson Mandela’s prison cell and the quarry where he and other political prisoners toiled, fabrics I bought there, South African money and Jackass Penguins and other animals we saw are among the other items in the design.

celebrating the destruction of apartheid small

Martha Ressler, Celebrating the Destruction of Apartheid, Art Quilt, 60 x 37.5″

The smiling figures in this lighthearted moment on our trip to South Africa belie the tragedy embedded in this place. They are seated in front of the High Court Annex in Cape Town, where South Africans had to report annually to be classified as members of one of seven “races.” Our guide, seated on the right, relayed how his own family had been split up by this cruel, subjective process. He is joined on the left by one of our tour group members, a young doctor from Atlanta.

In the past, as persons of color, they would have been violating the South African laws of Apartheid, a system of rigid segregation and oppression of the non-white population. African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, and the Apartheid laws were abolished in mid-1991, pending the historical first multiracial election in 1994, when Mandela was elected President of South Africa. Today the “whites only” bench remains as a historical reminder that Apartheid has been tossed into the ashcan of history.

I was involved in the international fight to free Nelson Mandela and end apartheid in the late 1980’s, and sewed my collection of political buttons from that time into the quilt.

Today, though Apartheid has been destroyed, South Africa is one of the most economically unequal country in the world. The fight for equality continues as it does elsewhere, including the United States.

The rest of the piece tells the story of our visit to South Africa. The Bushveld, at the top, is where we enjoyed a safari. Nelson Mandela’s prison cell and the quarry where he and other political prisoners toiled, fabrics I bought there, South African money and Jackass Penguins and other animals we saw are among the other items in the design.

This piece was created for an invitational show of art quilts called “Things That Matter,” which will preview next year.  It is 60″ wide by 37.5″ tall.

The photo of the figures was provided by Jay Ressler.

 

There is a piece that I am still thinking about from our recent trip to Italy.

It is the Penitent Magdalene by Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi 1386-1466), a late work into which he poured his anguish.

Donatello was trained as a goldsmith, but has achieved his fame for his full size sculptures.A defining moment was the trip he took to Rome with Filippo Brunelleschi around 1404-1407.  Filippo studied buildings, especially the Pantheon, the domed Roman building which still today is the best preserved example of Roman architecture. It was later to serve him well in coming up with his original design for how to finish the dome on the giant cathedral in Florence.

Donatello studied Roman sculpture, thus helping to ignite the Renaissance sculptural masterpieces of the following two centuries.He himself then made masterpieces such as his David, St. Mark and many others.

He carved his Penitent Magdalene out of wood in his 60’s. Although it seems at first that wood would be easier than stone to carve, in fact it is very difficult as it can splinter at any time. Donatello’s vision is uncompromising. Mary is aged and gaunt. She has spent decades fasting in the desert. The bloom of youth is long gone, to say the least.

Donatello’s life-long friend Brunelleschi died in 1446. The two had quarreled and not reconciled before Filippo’s death. I believe he poured his grief into this work. The date of the work  is not known precisely, but are roughly 1453-1455.

It is currently housed in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence.

Mary magdalene by Donatello

Ever since I read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone when I was a teenager, I have been in awe of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). I re-read the book before we ventured to Italy last month and it ignited my admiration all over again. It is possible (I suppose) for another artist in history to have burned with such single minded devotion to art, but I can’t imagine that they have done so with as much success as Michelangelo during his long and often tortured life.

Two of his earliest works are housed in the Casa Buonarroti Museum in Florence. These are the Madonna of the Stairs (1490-92) and the Battle of the Centaurs (1491-92) Michelangelo was thus about 16 at the time. They are very different.  The Madonna is almost tentative.  The bas relief does not reach far into the marble. But the young artist’s natural ability to draw is seen clearly

Madonna of the Stairs Michelangelo 1490-92

In the Battle of the Centaurs Michelangelo bursts forth with all his love of sweaty male bodies, bone and muscle already well defined.

battle-of-the-centaurs MA 1492

David, 17 feet high, is one of his clear masterpieces, sculpted when Michelangelo was  29 years old. David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath in Judeo-Christian lore, is caught at the moment when hope hardened into dead determination in David’s mind. Yes his right hand is over sized, the penis uncircumcised (according to Renaissance artistic custom, not Jewish practice), the sling resting on his left shoulder of uncertain function. But you can feel the tension in his neck muscles, the focus in his eyes, the strong muscles of his calves and abdomen. There is feeling here as well as mastery of the human form.

David 1

Consider the story of this large, misshapen marble block.  It had been worked on previously and gouged (front to back) to such a great extent that sculptors feared to try to work with it. But Michaelangelo saw a way.  By throwing David’s weight onto his right leg, the forward knee of the left leg (which also slides to the left, allowing the knee to protrude forward less) and the raised left arm (note they are on the same plane — not far from the body) gave the illusion of movement while working within the narrowness of the block.

David from side.jpg

 

I  want to touch on one more, the Deposition, started when Michelangelo was 72.  It was an un-commissioned piece that he meant for his own tomb, but never completed it. Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus are supporting the dead Christ, with his mother Mary to the right, and Mary Magdalene to the left. The face of latter was worked on by a pupil after Michelangelo’s death, basically turning it into a saccharine mask. It is understood that the face of  Joseph (or Nicodemus) belongs to Michelangelo himself.

It is not of particular interest to me that this scene is not depicted in the Bible. It is, rather, the raw emotion and conflict in it that gets to me.  The body of Christ is too large, very awkward, and undoubtedly a dead weight. The head lolls, the legs are in rigor mortise or broken.  The Virgin has not the sweet teenager’s face that Michelangelo used in the famous Pieta that resides in St. Peters in Rome. It is instead grief drawn with a few blows of the chisel,as she  holds the body of her dead son.

 

Deposition Michelangelo