Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Museums, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Florence Turns My Head

Florence

TRAVEL THERE: THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN OF EXCURSIONS

Even the name of the shore excursion sounded exciting – Renaissance Vacation in Tuscany.  I looked carefully, read all the options, but from the very first glance, I was sold.  Here’s what I was sold on.

What I Wanted

Michelangelo’s David – is there really anything else in Florence you have to see?  And the Duomo, of course the Duomo and this baptistery and those doors.  And the Uffizi Gallery.  That’s must.  Florence is a lot like Rome – a ninety minute drive from its port with entirely too many things to see.

And then there was Netflix’s The Medici’s.  It was way oversexed for me to actually say I enjoyed it, but it was filmed in Florence and seeing the Medici episodes  made me want to see every location.

What I Considered

Michelangelo’s David is in one museum.  The Uffizi is another museum.  Conveniently, the doors and the baptistery were both at one church, but the church is not the Duomo.  How was I going to see them all?

The Renaissance Vacation Shore Excursion from Celebrity Cruise Lines didn’t even mention these must-see classics.  It was also one of the most expensive tours offered, but just reading it transported me back to the days of da Vinci and Titian.

What I Booked

The Renaissance Vacation excursion focused on Palazzo Pitti.  I actually didn’t know what a Pitti Palace was until I did a little research.  The name on the palace might be Pitti, but it was all Medici and to boot,it had the Boboli Gardens.  I love gardens and the Boboli is like the garden of all gardens.  Only the Gardens of Versailles had hold a candle of fame to it.

I assure you, I could spend a whole day right there.  The online brochure waxed eloquent about the ride through the Tuscan countryside.  The list of city sights to visit sounded like a list of shooting sites for the Medici’s.  I grieved over (and still grieve over) not seeing Michelangelo’s David, but the Renaissance Vacation was going to be the best excursion of the trip – I just knew it.

And the booking was so easy.  With so many things to see in the area, the usual must-see list with the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the David, was getting all the attention.  Once I booked the excursion I started in-depth research into what we’d be seeing.  I devoured the section of my travel guide devoted to the Medici’s.  I soaked in every episode of the Medici’s and mourned when the second season was over.  I found a special about Italian gardens which focused on the Boboli.  I opened the pages of my copy of 1000 Place to Go Before You Die and marked all the pages which would described the places I would see in Florence.

I was literally giddy – again.  Would this blast from the  past be the highlight of my trip as I anticipate it would.  Well, you’re just going to have to keep coming back to find out, but next week, we’ll talk about Monaco.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Naples Excursion Planning

The Isle of Capri
The Isle of Capri

TRAVEL THERE: NOT DOING UNTO OTHERS AS I WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO ME

Naples is a lovely city.  A traditional bus tour of the city with various stops would be a lovely way to spend the day.  However, besides just being a lovely city, Naples is the gateway city for so may lovely attraction.  Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, Positano, the Isle of Capri!  How does one choose which Celebrity Shore Excursion to enjoy?

What I Wanted

If I had done exactly as I wanted to, I would have hired a private guide and spent the day taking in Pompeii and Herculaneum.  It would be hot, it would have been crowded and I would have been walking all day long.  I would have also been in heaven.

Two cities from ancient history preserved for posterity by an extraordinary volcanic eruption, lovingly researched and restored over centuries.  If I had to choose between the two cities, I would have opted for Herculeneum.  Pompeii is the most famous, an entire city frozen in time, but Herculaneum had been a sort of ancient Riviera-type playground for the rich and famous.  The frescoes and tile floors were supposed to be out of this world.

What I Considered

I’m not crazy.  I know if you drag a bunch of people around to a bunch of places they don’t care about and wear them out at the first port of call, you are not going to be the most popular person on a cruise.  I needed something a little more engaging to transition my group into the swing of things.

What I really needed was a sort of overview of the whole thing.  I checked into the cost of a personal guide for the day, but in order to have sufficient space in the vehicle for all six of us, along with a driver and/or guide, was prohibitive.

What I Booked

Hoping to kick things off with a bang, I decided on something that didn’t have a very exciting title, but promised a wide variety of activities – sort a something for everyone smorgasbord.  Capri, Sorrento, Pompeii didn’t grab me right off, but then I read on – jet foil to Capri, funicular ride, lunch in Florence and guided tour of Pompeii!  First day planned.

Booking Nightmare

This is where the booking problem came in.  I told you several blogs back that when I first looked at shore excursions, they were one price, but had gone up significantly a month later.  I was new to Celebrity as a cruiser, so I had not antisciapted the  shore excursion sale, but the Bagley’s had cruised with them many times.  They let me know when the next promotion came along – 20% off all shore excursions.  It was booking day.

Booking day lasted all day and into the next as I tried to guide everyone onto the same excursion at the same time.  In the end, we were all going to the same excursion, but Jim and Melanie had been forced into another time for it.  Not an auspicious way to start, but the hunt was on.

Frustrations be damned, we were booking excursions.  Come back next week and let’s explore the opportunities in Florence.

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Fashion, Museums, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

Galliano, Simons and Chiuri

TRAVEL HERE: DIOR’S LATER CREATIVE DIRECTORS

“Better to have no taste at all than to be limited by good or bad taste.”  That’s what the exhibition guide claims John Galliano rebutted when some criticized his outrageousness.  I can’t say I agree with him.  I kept looking for a good excuse for his (ahem) designs.  I’m still looking, but let’s jump in, shall we!

Outrageous Galliano

Bill was so turned off by the later Creative Directors that he didn’t take a single photo, but the central gallery, which he did photograph is full of designs by all of them.  Any of the dresses in the above picture that you think looks like a costume, are probably Galliano designs.   Somehow, Galliano ruled Dior for fourteen outrageous years.

Galliano wasn’t thinking of ladies taking tea with the queen or attending a ball when he was designing.  I think he was only thinking of his own fame.  He mixed odd materials like raffia, straw, woven horsehair, metal and such with velvet, crepe de chine and taffeta.  He used wooden joined hands for hats.  One year his inspiration was drawn from Masai tribesmen and he didn’t wander too far out of the jungle.

He was being an artist, certainly, but not really designing dresses a woman would be interested in wearing to an important occasion.  In fact, I’d probably be willing to pay you something not to have to wear one of his creations – unless it was Halloween.  Then they’d be perfect.

Raf Simons

While I certainly wouldn’t pay the fantastic prices you’d have to pay to wear a dress designed by Mr. Simons, I also wouldn’t pay you not to have to show up in public with his stuff on. The exhibition guide calls him a shape shifter and many of his designs do shift the shape of the wearers away from anything that looks like a human woman.  At least they don’t look like Halloween costumes.  Instead they look like something from Star Trek or Star Wars.  He experimented a lot with the technology of fabric, weaving, dyes and the mechanics of clothing.  To me, that’s more interesting than just being outright weird, like Galliano.

His time at Dior followed directly after the reign of Galliano, who left “amid controversy.”  I bet that’s being very tactful about it.  I imagine Mr. Simons proved to be a sort of buffer between the ridiculous and the sublime.  His time at the house only lasted three years, but at least there was still house for him to leave and I’m not sure there would have been if Galliano had stayed.

The Breaking of the Glass Ceiling

Finally, in 2016, a woman came to the helm of Dior – Maria Grazia Chiuri.  About time, I’d say, but her description of a Dior woman is a little confusing to me – “desirable, fragile, but sure of herself, with real inner strength.”  Is it possible to be all those things at the same time?  Her clothes seem to borrow a little from the outrageousness of Galliano – raffia, horsehair and metal, for instance – but they are not so cartoonish.  Still not my style mind you (or my price range), but interesting.

To a certain extent she suffered from being at the end of the line.  I was reeling from Galliano and still trying to understand Simons when I wandered over to her era.  Her clothes are modern to be sure and I’m not all that modern.  Perhaps when I return to the exhibit I’ll have more mental energy to process her designs.

And that finishes my review of Dior’s Creative directors.  The exhibit is fabulous.  While I wouldn’t wear Galliano’s clothes, they must be seen to be believed.  When you see all of the dresses, but in context of time, even the worst ones begin to make a little sense, but even if they didn’t, the gorgeous stuff is worth a visit.  Come back next week and see what I get up to.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Fashion, Museums, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

From Christian to Yves and Friends

TRAVEL HERE: DIRECTORS OF THE HOUSE OF DIOR

When Yves Saint Laurent took up the reins of Dior from Dior, management was concerned.  After all, YSL was only in his early twenties.  Can you blame them?  At first, everything was OK.

Trapeze to Trouble

The black dress and the floral print dress on the left were parts of Saint Laurent’s first collection on his own, called Trapeze.  The exhibition guide talks about “trapezoidal” silhouettes and the “free spirit of the Sixties”, even though it was only 1958.  It was a success, but  but the success was short lived.  In 1960 Saint Laurent called his collection “Beatnik.”  Talk about the Sixties, leather jackets with mink trim!  One short velvet evening dress featured bobble fringe trim.  Gorgeous had almost left the building, but I think this black number with the swag of pearls might be worth its weight in silk crepe.

Marc Bohan

Yves was ushered out the door, but one wonders if the success of his own fashion house made the management of Dior regret running him off.  When Yves left, they promoted Marc Bohan out of the London branch.  His classical training returned the house and its clientele back to the safety of traditional haute couture without resorting to boredom.  He borrowed from Russian tzars and the traditional Chinese cheongsam, keeping everyone happy for close to thirty years.  Some of it is a little too Eighties for me, but I’d wear others.

 Gianfranco Ferre’ 

Haute couture was being replaced by ready-to-wear around the world.  Many of the French fashion houses had disappeared and others sold out to mass marketing.  Dior remained.  Enter an Italian, Gianfranco Ferre’.  After Bohan’s freewheeling style references, structured suits and wafting evening gowns, Ferre’ took the house back to classicism.  The exhibition guide gives him credit for everything from Baroque architecture to Impressionists, even Cubists and Surrealism.

To my untrained eye, he seemed to embody both the best of Dior himself and his successor, Saint Laurent.  The simple column of the empire-waisted dress a la Josephine, which was named Palladio, spoke to me, but I think my bestie liked Glory, the black velvet number encrusted in gold, even better.

One thing I noticed about the Ferre’ dresses is that a goodly number of them had a lot of stuff on them.  Like the stripped gown on the front row.  I loved most of it, but then the bodice looked like someone’s granddaughter had come to work one day and glued a little of everything onto it.  Same thing with the polka dot dress in the back.  Just too much stuff.

And speaking of too much.  How about that gray suit with puff sleeves and the really big bow.  Sure, it’s too much but I love it anyway.  I would hang it in my closet next to Dior’s houndstooth suit with the more conservative black bow.

Mr. Ferre’s designs finish out the first gallery of Creative Directors.  Come back next week and we’ll look at three of the later directors.  Meanwhile, enjoy the fashions.

 

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Fashion, Museums, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

A Frenzy of Fashion

TRAVEL HERE: SO MUCH DIOR, SO LITTLE TIME

Now that we’ve browsed through the entire Dior exhibit together, let’s go back and take a closer look at some of what is called fashion.  I say that because to me, clothes should be designed to wear.  They should look good and make me look good when I wear them.  I can’t say that all the fashions in this exhibit would compliment the wearer.

Fashion and the Decorative Arts

I’ve said it before, the Decorative Arts are my favorite part of any museum.  Paintings and sculpture are nice, but what I love most are practical items made sublime by their decoration.  A Meissen vase can completely captivate me.  My favorite museum ever was the Silver Collection at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.  Such a bland name for such an extraordinary place.

Many dresses in the Dior exhibition are certainly sublime.  Would that my closet had such delights!  Take the black and white number with the coolie-style straw hat above.  Anybody with about an ounce of clothes sense would tell you it’s not in vogue.  Fully pleated wool skirts and jackets with peplums are just not the thing.  I don’t care.  I’d wear that anytime.  Not to a baseball game, of course, but give me an excuse to dress up and I’d put that number on.  And in vogue or not, ooohs and aaahs would follow me wherever I went.  The black taffeta, off-the-shoulder number next to it is pretty wonderful also.

However, I didn’t feel that way about everything I saw.  As time marched on the dresses were less decorative and more arty.  The show is partly chronological, but then it explodes into a kaleidoscope of eras.  Dresses designed to grace the form of post-WWII damselles stand next to fashions better suiting an ancient Egyptian priestess or a Zulu warrior princess.  Some of the outfits didn’t look like they would grace anyone or anything.  When I put on an outfit, I don’t want people to say, “My, that’s an interesting outfit.”  I want them to say, “Wow, you look great!”

To see the most egregious examples of these interesting outfits, you’ll have to go to the exhibition yourself.  The photos I’m using in these posts were taken by Bill during my first visit.  He’s as drawn to gorgeous as I am, so he didn’t waste his focus on interesting, much.  During my second visit I was so busy trying to match the various dresses to their description in the exhibition guide  that I failed to get a single picture.

Dior at the DMA
Designs by Christian Dior Himself

In the chronological part of the show, the focus is on the various directors of the House of Dior.  First, of course was Christian Dior, himself.  The suit on the far right with the big black bow?  I want it so bad I can taste it.  It’s name is Adventure.

I didn’t love everything he did as well as that one piece, but it’s probably safe to say I love everything he designed better than anything anyone else did.  For instance, the black double breasted belted jacket next to MY ensemble is entirely too bulky for my frame.  I’d look like someone’s living room drapes which have decided to take a walk.

Bill only took one more picture in this section of the exhibit, a lovely gala gown from 1950 called Oceanie with an ‘ over the e.  The amaranth red tulle dress is embroidered with sequins and beads, so I have no idea what that has to do with the ocean.

In fact, many of the names assigned to the ensembles had little to do with the ensemble it is assigned to.  Some of the directors labeled everything as a “Look” and assigned it a number. I found that as disappointing as a red dress with a blue name.

There’s more to the exhibit, of course, but let’s put Mr. Saint Laurent off until next week.

 

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Fashion, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

More Dior at the DMA

TRAVEL HERE: MORE DIOR THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE

Just when I thought Dior From Paris to the World was the best fashion exhibit the DMA had ever had, I found out it wasn’t even over yet.  Certainly the gallery with all the celebrity gowns had to be the climax and end of the exhibit, but no, there was more gorgeous to enjoy!  Come along and I’ll share the rest of the goodies.

Pretty in Pink

My bestie teases me about my OCD tendencies when we are visiting exhibitions, bazaars and galleries.  I’m very systematic about it, because I don’t want to miss anything.  As alluring as this confection of evening wear will be as you exit the big central gallery with the celebrity dresses, I recommend detouring to the left as soon as you enter this gallery.  Two treats wait for you there.  One is called “Lengendary Photographs” and for my husband the photographer, it was one of his favorite parts of the entire exhibit.  For me, it was the area called “Total Looks” that deserved all the attention.

Pictures are not allowed in this gallery, so you will have to use your imagination, but there is a semicircle of vignettes displayed.  Each vignette is based on a color and is decked out with everything imaginable in that color.  You could easily lose yourself for an hour trying to comprehend the items in each vignette.  There is no one season or look that is focused on, so the timeless nature of Dior’s designs and their versatility is well-demonstrated.  Perfume bottle is juxtaposed with a pillbox hat sporting an outrageous hat pin.  Shoes, jewelry, handbags, dresses, capes – literally, you name it, is served up in delicious coordinating hues.  It’s truly mind-boggling!

Eventually you will have to shake off your obsession with “Total Looks”  and see the next gallery.  There’s a section here called “Dallas and Beyond” which highlights memorabilia from Dior’s visits to Dallas and elsewhere.  If you have room in your brain to take in more, then this is a good place to soak up some more information about the designer himself.  I confess, I’ve merely glazed over it so far.  I hope to go back soon and have another stab at details like this.  All the galleries have displays full of idea books, videos of fashion shows, swatches of material and other items I really want to know more about, but the brain can only absorb so much at any one time.

Finally, with a guilt-free conscious you can gaze on “Splendors of the 18th Century.”  According to the Exhibition Guide, Christian Dior wanted to bring flamboyance back to Paris after the dark days of World War II.  His fashion house was decked out in all the glory of Versailles and the pink confection at the beginning of this post is the DMA’s attempt to capture that.  It was also a chance to show off one of the DMA’s most gorgeous paintings – The Abduction of Europa by Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre.

The Final Morsel

You’re almost through, as if anyone actually wanted to be.  Beside the “Splendors” display is the entry to “Field of Flowers.”  This gallery is devoted to all looks floral – a floral dress for every occasion.  Samples from all eras of the fashion house are displayed together.  Some you will love.  Others you will wonder why they bothered.  I was particularly impressed with some of the handiwork.  When you realized that every bead and ruffle is applied by hand, some of the dresses will blow you away.

I’m planning to revisit the exhibit as often as I can between now and September 1st.  So far, hunger is what eventually dragged me out of the exhibit.  Maybe next time I’ll eat BEFORE I go, rather than take a turn at the exhibit first.  In fact, if you’re panning your visit, eat first.  You’ll need your nourishment.

It’s taken three posts just to get you from the entry to the final gallery.  To exit you’ll have to make another dash through the fashion show themed hall ways.  Then you’ll find yourself on the other side of the small entry area with its red lights and samples of Dior’s Revolutionary new look.  If you come back next week, we’ll talk about some of my favorite and not so favorite pieces in the exhibit.

 

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Fashion, Museums, TRAVEL

The DMA’s Divine Date with Dior

Dior at Dallas
Flights of Near Fantasy

TRAVEL HERE: A CELEBRATION OF FASHION AS ART

On Saturday the 18th, Dior: From Dallas to the World had not even opened to the public yet and I was back for my second helping.  It’s just that delicious.  You don’t even have to like fashion or art to appreciate this exhibition.  What do you like? Architecture, marketing, celebrity sightings, engineering, manufacturing?  Think I’m kidding?  Come take a look!

Thrilled Clear Down to My Socks 

Modern art is all fine and good for those of you who like it, but I was just about fed up with the overabundance of it at my museum.  Modern, pop, contemporary, avant garde and everything in between had become a steady diet at the DMA.  That’s OK, with the dawning of 2019, I take it all back.  I love the DMA again!

With this latest exhibition, I’ll be running down there every time I can dream up a reason to go – so Dallas friends, please call me and let’s make a date!  If you go with me, I can get you in for free.  Last week I told you about the great party the DMA threw to celebrate the opening of the exhibition.  Today let’s talk about the “over 100 haute couture dresses, as well as accessories , photographs, original sketches, runway videos, and other archival material,” promised in my invitation to the Opening Celebration.

Dior at the DMA
Awestruck Already!

All That and More

On my second visit, the weather promised rain, but that wasn’t scaring away the excited crowd which waited outside the DMA.  We arrived a few moments before opening and I was surprised to see so many people.  I hadn’t thought of ordering my free tickets to see Dior on that particular day, because it was still members only, but I should have.  At 11, the earliest we could get in was noon.

After a detour through the Berthe Morisot exhibition to kill an hour (unfortunately that exhibition ended on the 26th, for those of you who missed it) we took our tickets to the line for Dior.  The first peek at the dresses took my breath away, both times I saw it – and I have a sneaky suspicion it will continue to delight.  You thread your way into a relatively small hallway and on both sides of you, double-decked at eye level and above, are mannequins in gorgeous black Dior dresses against a red-lighted stage.

While no one explained the intent of the exhibition’s design, to me, the exhibition space seems reminiscent of the temporary nature of a tent set up for a fashion show – especially the behind the scenes part, where the designers and models would be scurrying about.  Scaffolding can be seen through the white plastic walls and seemingly hand drawn arrows point the way to go.

Once you’ve navigated the arrows in the hallways, you’ll find an area devoted to the nuts and bolts of the design business.  Twenty toiles, muslin mock-ups of drawings created by the designers, fill a wall.  Most of them I would be happy to wear, as is, but a few do reveal the temporary nature of the garment.   On the parallel wall, videos show the actual process of packaging perfumes, building hand bags and other wonders of manufacturing these dreams for sale.  Display cases show swatches of hand-beaded cloth, sketches with fabrics attached and other bits associated with the process of designing haute couture.

Dior at the DMA
Designs by Christian Dior Himself

Though other galleries have more eye-popping displays, the gallery to the left of the toiles has my favorite dresses.  The houndstooth number with the big bow would be the one I would want to take home with me.  It’s called Adventure and was from the 1948 Envol line, but the look is timeless.  In the same area are dresses designed by directors Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan and Gianfranco Ferre.

To the right of the toiles is a gallery devoted to later directors, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.  I can easily say their designs are stunning, but they depart from the gorgeous craft of Dior himself and wander into that fashion world where models wear dresses I can’t imagine seeing walk down the street.

You must follow a few more arrows to see the grandest gallery in the exhibition, called From Paris to the World.  It shows dresses, on two tiers on both sides of the room, which have been influenced by various places around the world.  Saris, kimonos and other costume-like gowns will awe and amaze you.  Some I loved.  Others just made me giggle.  The photo at the beginning of this post, of the dresses in arched compartments, is where those who love celebrity watching will gather.  These dresses were worn by Lady Gaga, Josephine Baker and Marilyn Monroe, to name a few.

You’re not through with the exhibition yet, but I have run out of words for today.  There are still treats to enjoy.  Come back next week and I’ll take you on a quick stroll through the rest of the exhibit.  Then the following week, I’ll go back to the beginning and share more details of the exhibit.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Whose Fault Is This

Touring Chichen Itza

TRAVEL THERE:  ARE WE ANY DIFFERENT?

Looking back on Mayan society, we might be quick to blame priests or kings, perhaps even warriors or ambassadors. Study history and you will know their sins are legion, but we allow the same sort of characters to control us today, as surely as the Mayans were controlled then.

Parallels I See

Mayans bound the foreheads of infants to achieve a fashionable look and we may wonder why anyone would do that, but don’t we rush out to rearrange anything on our bodies we don’t like?  We may not file our teeth and set jewels in them, but we will pierce the skin under our lip and keep expanding the hole until those around us can see our gum line.  We are perhaps even more greatly ruled by fashion than the Mayans.

Here in the United States we argue about our government, yet we allow the same politicians with their same solutions to dominate our legislating bodies year after year, forcing more and more regulations down our throat. Some of these bureaucrats are hired and appointed by our government, but too many are re-elected and re-elected long after they’ve proven how they fail to keep any promise that they make.

I’m guessing the average Mayan on the street wasn’t so different from me. My sacrificial pyramid is delivered to my house daily on my TV and computer screen and in case that’s not enough, I carry a phone, so I can check in on the mounting atrocities at any time. I listen to what the media tells me, just like the Mayans listened to  their priests and royalty. I hate so much of what I see around me and yet, I feel so powerless to do anything about it.

The Mayans didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey, let’s have a society where the rich get richer, the powerful get more powerful and the rest of the population is ground under foot like ashes. And let’s create a religion where thousands upon thousands are murdered in gruesome ceremonies and we can pretend it makes the sun come back.”  Their situation grew out of a series of circumstances. At some point, the tide could have been turned, but they let the opportunity slip away. Their great intellectual capacity and their amazing creativity could have been the foundation of a beautiful utopia, but instead it created a sort of hell.

I pray fervently that we Americans are not making the same sort of mistakes. I hope it is not too late to gain some control over our “priests and royalty.” I hope our religion of self-gratification does not one day demand the egregious sacrifice of our fellow citizens.

Forgive me my doom-saying. Travel is fun and filled with exposure to beautiful things. That’s what I usually focus on. But travel should also expose us to things that make us look at our own lives and think about the way the world is going around us. We should question whether we are doing the right things and promoting the right ideas.

Chichen Itza made me stop and think about my world. I promise to get back to the fun and the beautiful, but I will always try to see something more when I travel than mere entertainment.  One more post about Chichen Itza and I am done.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

On My Way Home

Spanish Colonial Architecture from Bill’s 2011 mission trip to Guatemala.

TRAVEL TALK: SUMMING IT ALL UP

Our return to Dallas was blissfully uneventful.  I’ll spare you the details.  I entertained myself with Michener’s Mexico, but as I read, another part of my brain was sorting out what I’d observed on this short vacation.  My initial impressions required a lot of thought and my arrival in Dallas did not end my meditations.  

Capturing My Travel Thoughts

I’ll start with the relationship between Mexicans and Spaniards. I’m actually amazed at how good their current relations are considering the history of the natives and the invaders.  Spanish architecture is appreciated just as much as the ancient native sites.  There doesn’t seem to be a resentment between the Mexicans and their Spanish heritage.  Spain’s Catholicism has been embraced and there doesn’t seem to be any factions hoping to reignite the worship of gods who demand human sacrifice, which were the Mayans gods.

Granted the Mexicans overthrew Spanish rule during an ugly period that lasted more than a decade, but they got over it.  They didn’t reject Christianity along with the rulers they ousted or tear down Spanish cathedrals.  Though I am sure there was a lot of burning and looting during the war, since its been over, they seem to have developed a great working relationship.  The Mexicans I have observed seem just as proud of the beauties of Spanish colonial architecture as they are of their own pyramids.  Even when I visited Mexico back in the Seventies and Eighties, this seemed to be so.  Most specifically, there is not the tension over monuments and flags we Americans seem to harbor in relation to our own Civil War and slavery.

I Wouldn’t Be Quite as Nice

Personally, as a Christian, I resent the Spanish for the brand of Christianity they forced down the throats of the Mexican Indians.  They made most of them slaves and threatened to kill them if they didn’t convert.  Not that the Europeans did a much better job anywhere else, but the Spanish Conquest of Mexico seems particularly repugnant, in both their hunger for gold and their forcible spread of Catholicism.

My guide on the Chichen Itza excursion pointed out something I’d never quite noticed before.  He showed us a church decorated with serpents.  According to the guide, killing those who were unwilling to convert did not seem to be all that effective with some groups of natives.  So, instead the friars invited the natives to come to the Catholic Church to worship their own snake god.  Though this is more humane than murder, it’s still a trick and I didn’t like to hear of it. 

The Question of Christianity

Had I not mulled over the question of religion for several days, this post might have turned into a rant against the Roman Catholic Church.  They’ve done a lot of things wrong from the inception of formalized religion, but in truth, little about Christianity is attractive to many outsiders today.  In some places, like Central Asia for example, people are turning to Christianity in droves.  They are hungry for the hope it offers, but the concept of hope is alien to Americans who see Christianity the enemy.  They pull verses out of the context of the rest of the Bible and try to hold them up as messages of contempt.  I fear these people miss the point.

Christianity fails any time it gains an official capacity in government. It’s one thing to have a Christian king or president, quite another to have that leader promote his faith with his power.  Lead as a servant, sure.  Wield your power to grow your religion – NO!  Christians have made a lot of mistakes in America.  They have judged others based on a faulty understanding of what they think God wants.  They also took advantage of their majority and wrote laws favorable to themselves.  Now we are paying the price for that power.

During the Byzantine era, the Roman government encouraged its citizens to be Christians.  The emperor was Christian and he promoted Christianity in many ways, including paying bishops.  Many of the subjects of the emperor joined the church, not because they embraced Christianity, but because they wanted access to their ruler.  Others joined the clergy, not out of piety, but because it was a steady paycheck.  The Church may have prospered under these circumstances, but true Christianity has not.  The intentions may have been good, but the results were not.

Conversions which are coerced or forced in any manner are just wrong, period. A conversion to Christianity should be about faith, relationship and hope.  I do blame the Roman Catholic Church for much of the antipathy felt towards Christians.  It would take me thousands of words to discuss the atrocities of history, the distractions of Mariology and the veneration of saints, indulgences, Apolstolic Succession, the inerrancy of the pope, the practice of confession and absolution, transubstantiation, and so many other Catholic traditions which make me crazy.  However, all Christians are human first and we all screw up really badly.  Unfortunately, people judge God based on us, rather than judging us by God’s standards – and we all fall short of those.

As I stood in the plaza of Chichen Itza and considered the awful human sacrifices which were made there, it seemed to me anyone in that city should have been thrilled to learn of the God of the Bible. Instead of a stone god who expected sacrifices, the Spanish could have offered a Creator God, who sacrificed His own Son.  But the message was garbled, threats were made, abuses were committed and today many Mexicans are still caught up in a religion of works, rather than a joyful relationship with the Most High God.

These misconceptions about God, Jesus and the Bible still abound.  God is seen as the big killjoy of the world, because the message is still garbled.  The code of conduct outlined in the Bible is seen as a list of criteria to get into heaven, but that’s a total misrepresentation of Truth.  Shame on the religious people who promote this heresy.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Next week I will leave religion and move on to politics.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Berthe Morisot at the DMA

Berthe Morisot – The Cradle

TRAVEL HERE: IMPRESSIONS OF WOMEN

Women artists have been in the spotlight at the DMA this year.  The first few months of the year, Ida O’Keefe’s work was featured and I thoroughly enjoyed the peek into this woman’s portfolio.  Unfortunately, her art was overshadowed by her more famous sister, a sister who tried to shove her out of the limelight.  Reaching back to a pivotal player in the Impressionist movement, the DMA is now offering up selections from the portfolio of Berthe Morisot.  This exhibition reveals it was the male critics of the time who tried to shove a woman artist into the shadows.  Let’s think about that.

Refreshing Art

Before getting to Morisot, I’d just like to say thank you to the DMA, for offering up such delectable exhibitions as O’Keefe and Morisot.  I’ll admit, I was on the brink of not renewing my DMA membership when the Berthe Morisot exhibition was announced.  I fell in love with my museum through exhibitions like Pompeii and Shogun.  I hurried to the edifice every time there was an Impressionist show and cried as I added to my personal visual catalog of Van Gogh’s.  I’ve raved all over the world about our Reves Collection and touted our Dallas Museums of Art theory offered by Rick Brettell.  I’ve haunted shows like Jean Paul Gaultier and Tut with visit after visit, dragging in anyone I could bring.

In recent years, however, I’ve felt a little betrayed.  It’s been Contemporary after Modern after Pop after Modern after Contemporary.  Some of it I’ve enjoyed, like Cindy Sherman’s photography, but most of it just wasn’t gorgeous – and as I’ve said before, I’m into gorgeous.  The last time I was really wowed was back in 2014, when they mounted the exhibition on Nineteenth Century French Florals.  Meanwhile, their counterparts over in Fort Worth, the Kimbell, offered one gorgeous show after another.

When I saw Morisot’s name, I knew someone, somewhere had heard my lament.  I didn’t need every single show to match my personal taste, but I did need some breadcrumbs.  2018 had a few less than dark spots, but it was Morisot who kept me renewing.  Then I met a friend for lunch at the DMA and there it was, the Ida O’Keefe exhibit.  I’m a big fan of Georgia, so it took me a few moments to dial in the fact that I wasn’t looking at her work, but at her sister’s.  I made several trips to the museum to oooh and aaah over the exhibit and said a prayer to the art gods to keep the gorgeous coming.

Berthe Morisot – Reclining Woman in Gray

Berthe Arrives

My prayers were answered in spades.  Berthe Morisot’s work is delightful.  When most Americans think of female Impressionists, they think of Mary Cassatt and because she was an American, we know a whole lot more about her.  However, Morisot was also in the thick of things. She was married to Eugene Manet, brother to painter Edouard Manet, but don’t think she was dragged to fame by his coattails.  She was in her own right an important contributor to the Impressionist movement.

The demands of society at the time limited the scope of her subjects, but not her creativity.  her lovely pastel impressions of the world around her show a keen eye and a sure stroke.  As keen and sharp as any of the other Impressionists, but received by the critics with significant bias.  There’s a great infographic on one of the walls of the show.  It juxtaposes one of Morisot’s paintings with two of the other giants of the Impressionist movement, but their painters were men.  All three pictures of are women in domestic scenes, but while the men are recognized for boldness and creativity, the critics call her painting charming and sweet.

While her work is charming, she was also pushing the envelope.  If you’ll notice in the picture of the woman in the gray dress above, Morisot did not take the paint to the edges of the canvas. While the rest of the world was carefully covering every inch of canvas in paint, she experimented with incorporating unfinished portions of the canvas into the finished work.  She was accused of losing interest and not finishing the pieces, but it was not neglect.  It was a method she incorporated over and over again.

Berthe Morisot – In the Country

At first, she seemed used the trick on the edges of the painting, but she became bolder, using bare canvas in the center of her subjects’ faces as if to say, “I’m doing this on purpose. The woman in the hat demonstrates this tactic.

I must be honest, I find the bare places in the center of the paintings a little distracting, but I admire her pioneering spirit.  Nowadays, we see paintings with the canvas coming through all the time.  When you do see it, thank Berthe Morisot.

I love this show and have already seen it several times.  I hope you’ll go, too.  If you love gorgeous, you’ll love it.  I’ll leave you with one last piece by Morisot, which was perhaps my favorite, but that’s hard to say when there were so many I completely adored.  Like Van Gogh and so many of the artists we now love, Berthe didn’t sell much while she was alive.  Most of her paintings were in the hands of family and friends.  I’m so glad she has been rescued from those hands and put on the walls of museums, where people like me can enjoy them.