Details of a city

June 6, 2009

Walking around in Rome, one can see art in every nook and cranny, on a door hinge, a latch, a bracket for a downspout. This art goes beyond the task of the object,  it is made to be beautiful as well as functional. I am not used to this, being form America, where the practical is beautiful, where austere is sacred. In Rome, the art is for everyone. It is everywhere, you may look at it or not, but there it is.

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Cars and trucks

May 29, 2009


Cars and trucks of all sizes to be found in Rome. Scooters, the anathema of pedestrians, swirl about the city like flocks of starlings. When crossing the street, be bold, be sure, and do not hesitate. Or follow a little old lady; she will know when to make the leap.

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Phil is checking out the finer points of this work truck. The sides fold down for large items, or fold up to keep all your junk from rolling off. Neat. I want one, too.

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Phil and Frank flank what may be the smallest car we saw EVER. I think Frank’s feet would stick out the front.IMG_0040

Pat displays the runner up for smallest car. It certainly is very cute, and that counts for a lot.IMG_2197

This buggy has extra storage for your lunch.IMG_2300

Vintage award.IMG_2302

Double vintage points for this ride.IMG_2301

Tiny car, full sized stylin’.IMG_0054

Pretty small, right?

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Nice truck, I love red trucks.

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Details

May 29, 2009

Rome abounds in sculpture. From the smallest side street to the biggest thoroughfare, art can be found in a door latch or in a monumental fountain. The way stone was used as a medium in Rome, it’s like the ancients thought in stone, dreamed in stone.

This is a capital from a column in Ostia Antica.

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Here is a section of relief carved marble, set in the Roman Forum. In this piece, I see the roots of the Baroque and Rococo movements.

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The company we keep

April 19, 2009

The brothers and friends on this trip are a very large part of what made this trip so special. My two brothers, Pat and Frank, I knew I would get along with…..had for years. Karl has been a dear friend for many years, and we have spent many an hour in both pleasure and business. Steve, I know through Frank, and has been a most amusing and humorous addition to our group, and I am so very glad to have had the opportunity to get to know him better. Phil has been a friend for years, but I had never sent this much concentrated time with him. He was a steady source of warm humor, and a great companion.

This picture was taken in a former prison turned ‘wine bar’ outside the Vatican. Thinking that we could only get wine at such places was erroneous. Food, marvelous food, could be had as well. img_8162

This is the Cafe at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, the museum of modern art. This was a late afternoon snack and caffe macchiatto. We took every available opportunity to sample the various coffees, and cakes, cookies, and sandwiches, cheeses….img_8108

Here is Pat, hamming it up for the camera. This is on the rooftop terrace of our hotel, a great place to get together and recount the events of the day.img_7848

While most of our time was spent in serious persuit of the arts, there were several spontaneous moments of levity. This is in the garden of the Villa Giulia, the Etruscan Museum. Left to right, Karl, Tom, and Steve. Steve is not too sure of the old adage, but is giving it his best shot.img_81031

Karl, happy as a clam, on the upper deck of the tour bus, circling the city of Rome. Frank wisely planned this tour in the beginning, just when we got off the plane, so we could orient ourselves with the city from the roof of a bus. We purchased a ‘Roma Pass‘, which paid our fare on the bus, the subway, and often got us into museums for no extra charge, or at a greatly reduced rate.

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After a long day in the ancient city, Phil relaxes with a cigar on the roof top of the hotel.

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Steve, dead tired from a long day of walking the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, the Catacombs, is suffering form sore feet, and still manages smile. We all pushed ourselves to the limit every day, to see as much as we could.

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Steve, Karl and Tom rest in the shade above the Forum while we wait for Phil to show up. We seemed to always be waiting for Phil to appear, and always took advantage of the time to take a load off the feet.

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When asked what I liked most about the trip, right at the top is “the company”. Had we spent years picking out and screening applicants, we could not have come up with a better group. I came away from this trip, not only getting to know Rome, but knowing my brothers and friends so much better.

Fountains of Rome

April 15, 2009

Of all the things in Rome, I’d have to say that the fountains were the most impressive sights I ever saw. Paintings and frescoes were great, but the stone sculpture I never tired of. These sculptures could almost breathe, they were so beautiful and dreamlike. Such fanciful subjects, such as Neptune and his attendant monsters and fish creatures. These images are from the Piazza Navona, which has three fountains, set in a long narrow piazza.

Neptune, spearing an octopus.

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My all time favorite sculpture. The little tail on the mermaid’s bottom just sends me. What imagination these artists had. I came away from Rome completely inspired, and do not doubt why I make art.

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The center fountain at Navona, designed by Bernini. Total fantasy. Topped with an Egyptian obelisk, one of many in Rome.

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Trevi Fountain is the most glorious of all the fountains in Rome. I couldn’t absorb the grandness of the sculpture, the size, and the detail, the concept, oh, just over the top incredible. While this fountain was mind blowing, I preferred the smaller, more intimate fountains of Paizza Navona, especially in the early morning before the vendors and tourists cover the pavement. This fountain, too, was designed by Bernini. He was, in my opinion, a most incredible genius.

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One thing that struck me, long after I’d left Rome, was that this richness in art most likely will never happen again, with this kind of intensity. What did it take to make this? Money and power, certainly, one cannot but feel that dark side of the soaring beauty. But how many hours did this take, how many lives were spent, how much joy of creation was discovered?

Why do we strive to make art? Because it makes us feel good. Because we can’t help it? The more we make the better we feel. I know it sounds trite, but this is what works for me.

Arrival in Rome

March 31, 2009

There are six of us. Three brothers, and three friends. Frank Curran has planned this trip for years, not knowing who would go when the time came to commit to the trip. Brothers Frank, Pat and Tom, and friends Karl, Steve and Phil made up the party. And party it was!

After a well-orchestrated flight and taxi into Rome, Frank  herded us onto a tour bus of the city. This was the best thing ever, since we were zombies from the flight, and we got to see the entire city with little effort. A great way to get our bearings, as we went past all the major sights in a couple of hours. img_21151

This is a view off the balcony of our hotel. Across the street, on a rooftop dome, rears this creature,  carved from stone. This goat is the very same kind of goat I used on my rifle! This coincidence was just a beginning of revelations that came to me day after day, walking the streets of Rome.

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The next morning, I am drawn to the window to see if I really am in Rome. There is an indescribable golden light in this morning, and there is a veil of moisture in the air. In the misty distance, St. Peter’s Dome rises above the wakening city.

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The streets and alleyways hold new sights smells and sounds at every turn, the light changes by the minute, and the colors of Rome come out of the dim early light into blazing yellows, reds and ochers as the sun rises in the sky.

From an almost soundless midnight to the raucous whine of the midday scooter race, this is a world of daily contrast. There are few traffic lights, so when you step out in traffic you’d best be committed. It’s as if two flocks of birds cross each other in flight. Crossing the street is a completely subconscious act. If you stopped to think about what you were doing, you’d be run over.

In the distance, again the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica rises above the city. We walked from the hotel to the Vatican, which took about twenty minutes. The hotel had a splendid breakfast, cold cuts, breads, cereal, yogurt, etc. Really nice. They also had a coffee machine that made coffee to order, at the touch of a button. Oh, happy, happy, joy, joy! I had four cups of cafe Americano on this morning, and I had a little problem with my balance and vision for a while, until the caffeine  wore off.

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Inside St. Peter’s was the most amazing space I’d ever been in. Admittedly, I had been through the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums already, and felt a bit like mashed potatoes. This dome is so tall, and so decorated, I could not conceive of constructing it, nor decorating it. How long could this have taken? How many artisans spent their lives, nay, generations, on this work? It is unbelievable and beautiful. I felt very small in this space.

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The spiral staircase within the Vatican is faced with the most exquisite bas relief bronze panels, all done in high art floral patterns, cherubs, vines, etc.

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The Pieta. In an most awe inspiring setting. I saw this Long Island, at the 1964 World’s Fair, totally out of context. Now it is home.

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This is a maquette, or a study piece, to be carved in stone. It is plaster over string and straw, on top of a wrought iron armature. Simple and genius. This was one of the coolest things I saw. Why? Because I could see that this was made by simple humans, with simple materials, by hand. I could really connect with it. img_8146

A side street behind our hotel, with a German church at the end. I went in and sat. The pipe organ was being tuned, and the man was putting it through its paces. Magical.

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I can’t remember this Church, its name. But this kind of opulent glory was all over the city, every block had two or three churches. I am sure I exaggerate, but it sure seemed like that. Each church more beautiful than the one before it. Unbelievable.

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The doors on the Church of San Giovanni de Laterano, can you believe this, are the doors from the ancient Roman Senate? This gives me absolute chills thinking of the history behind these doors. These are massive, at least fifteen feet tall, each four feet wide, and a foot thick. One great pivot pin at the bottom, and one at the top. Can you imagine that it’s your job to set these doors in place? Level them up, set the gap top and bottom, and make sure they close flush in the middle? The scale of everything in Rome is larger than life. You feel the power that emanates from these structures.

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Ahhh. The Pantheon. The largest dome in the world, at one time, not surpassed for a very long time. I don’t have my facts down, can you tell? This was a Roman temple to teh gods, and then it was converted to a Christian church. Most other Roman buildings were scavenged and recycled for their materials. The Pantheon was saved because of its incredible beauty. The hole at the top of the dome is open to the sky, the oculus. What a great word. The rain comes in, so does the sun.img_2163

The front of the Pantheon. Your Greek roots are showing, temple. I could almost feel the gods as I walked around this building, such a surreal place. A couple of guys dressed up as Roman Centurions are getting ready to start their day of hooking tourists.img_21781