Sunday, 2 August 2009

A bit of Spanish surrealism

I'm feeling Dali-esque

We got back from Spain exactly two weeks ago, but I haven't had time to finish processing it -- not to mention editing the pictures or writing about it! It seems like we hit the English ground running . . . so busy trying to catch up with all of the friends and family that we have no time to see during the school year. Our summer calendar, which I always imagine as white and wide-open, is all blacked out.

One of my dear blog friends described herself as a "sociable loner," and it seems like such an apt description to me (or should that be of me?). I need to unpack my suitcases and get back in touch with my loner side -- not to mention my blog friends. The sociable side feels as stretched as this reflection of Salvador Dali.

If you are ever in Figueres, or even close to it, I strongly urge you to visit Salvador Dali's Theatre-Museum. It is a completely over-the-top visual extravaganza created by the artist himself -- and truly unique, as this glimpse of the exterior wall reveals.

I'm not sure what the little golden man is meant to represent - was SD giving himself an Oscar? -- but those lumpish triangles are actually loaves of bread, and yes, those are eggs. Apparently, they were the fuel for Dali's creativity in more ways than one.

Bread has been one of the oldest subjects of fetishism and obsessions in my work, the number one, the one to which have I have been most faithful.
(Salvador Dali)

Although Dali talked all sorts of rubbish, I agree with him about bread!

As for eggs, I can't see an egg these days without thinking of the sad demise of Ralph and Lauren. When we arrived home from our Spanish vacation, they were reported missing by the neighbors. At this point, we have to assume that they are truly gone. Since the gate was closed, and no feathers have been found, we have to suspect hen-napping. It's all a bit surreal.
And for the first time in three years, I'm out of eggs!

Dali's table: in the Hotel Duran

I always like to know about the food aspect of things, so I was fascinated by Dali's special table at the Hotel Duran. Since we may never be in Figueres again, we opted for the Dali Smörgåsbord: Theater-Museum, jewelery display, and tour of Dali's Figueres -- which included his childhood home, his teddy bear, and his special "cellar" at this Figueres landmark. Anyone can reserve Dali's table, and observe the various pictures and other memorabilia on display. If you run out of vinegar (not to mention white wine), just help yourself from one of the casks!

As I was snapping this picture, the waiter suddenly emerged, like an apparition, from the darkness. The camera ending up catching what I hadn't seen -- a very Dali-esque effect, I thought. So much of his art deals with optical illusions, and he liked experimenting with lenses.

Jamón serrano

This large pig haunch was displayed, rather luridly, in the middle of the restaurant. The waiter carved directly from it.

I suppose that Dali ate ham with his bread, but no one ever mentioned it.

Dali, Gaudi and pigs: the big three in Catalonia.

(you can just glimpse the tower)
the Pyrenées loom in the background

According to the Dali myth, Gala was wife/mother/goddess/muse/queen to the great artist. Her face and form, often linked with mythological subjects, appear over and over in Dali's work.

I'm not sure if Muse is all that it is cracked up to be, though. Apparently, he wasn't the easiest man to live with. I got the impression that he didn't have much of a sense of humour -- for all of his love of trickery -- and that he was an egoist of the highest order. When persistently questioned, our tour guide revealed that he was often bad-tempered and known to berate Gala for her spending habits.

Nevertheless, Dali did buy his wife a castle -- complete with throne. Whether it was an act of homage, or penance, I'm sure it suited his own sense of self-aggrandizement and myth-making. The best bit is that he had to ask permission to visit. Well, supposedly.

Bon Bon and I thought that the castle was lovely, although given the chance we would probably re-decorate. Sigmund was underwhelmed by its dainty size, though, and kept referring to it as Gala's "semi." (Unlike Salvador, Sigmund does have a sense of humour -- particularly when it comes to taking the piss.)

It was a castle on a nice human scale. Quite unlike Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece -- La Sagrada Familia.

(still under construction)

My children are not the most willing of cultural tourists. (I think that we blew their fuses in Florence two summers ago.) Any kind of church or cathedral immediately provokes a powerful response -- but not of the sacred kind. It did sort of amuse me when my world-heritage-site-weary daughter said, "But why do we have to visit this church? It's not even finished."

I have quite the opposite response. Everything about this grand cathedrals fills me with awe. There is something about a project that won't be finished in a human lifetime -- or even several decent life-spans -- which I find unutterably inspiring, and yes, surreal. These ambitious projects transcend all of our petty human traits: greed, impatience, short attention-spans, the notion of private ownership. With a bit of luck (and lots of money), La Sagrada Familia might be finished . . . more than 100 years after Gaudi died.

Gaudi's work can be seen all over Barcelona, and although it is always described as "modern," it doesn't really suit my mental image (metallic, glassy and sleek) of that word. Supposedly, he drew his inspiration from nature's forms -- but they are terribly strange in his renderings. More often than not, they remind me of the witch's candy house in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. Alluring, ornate and a bit nightmarish.

You can look and look . . . but it's as if your eye can't entirely absorb what it is seeing.

From far away, I zoomed in on this tiny piece of the Nativity in the Temple of La Sagrada Familia. Apparently, every little detail has meaning. I think that it looks a bit like an overfrosted cake from a distance, but all of that texture is fascinating if you can home in on it.

from the Facade of Birth
one of the many details
from the Temple of La Sagrada Familia

Mae West
said that Too much of a good thing can be wonderful. But more often, I think that too much of good thing is probably just too much.


marja-leena said...

Fabulous art critique, Bee! I'm not fond of Dali but now I'd like to see what you've seen, and the La Sagrada Familia has long interested me! Glad you had a great trip. Lovely to be home again, isn't it?!

rxBambi said...

Great post! I have never been to spain but I would love to go. I've actually always liked SD, but I'm not really an artsy person (read: too much science, too little art). I'd love to go to that museum with the eggs and bread loaves. How cool is that?
Glad you're back and can't wait to read more about your trip.

CashmereLibrarian said...

Bee, I adore this post! You write beautifully and thus make an intriguing subject even more interesting.
Love Gaudi. I think a Gaudi house would suit me just fine.

spudballoo said...

How wonderful...that first photo is amazing. Gosh the thought and time that must have gone in to that to get it right, just for a spot of street art. I love that.

I'm the same, I get easily overwhelmed by too much of a good thing.Better to see very little, but well that try to absorb it all, especially when you're talking Dali.

Yes I can well imagine he was a right old grump. Often the case with any 'great' person....actually appalling on a human level. I guess you don't get to be great by focusing on the small stuff of life.

So sorry about your chooks though, sob.

Much looking forward to BC, zooooming around. Should we plot and plan? xx

Reya Mellicker said...

I so much prefer reading your thoughts on Dali to encountering his art. I think that dude had some demons, I really do. But you write beautifully about him.

A pig haunch is quintessentially Spanish? How should we feel about that truth? Hmmm ... keep thinking of your bike trip and the never ending smell ... yikes!

Bee said...

Marja-leena - Have you ever been to Barcelona? It's such a beautiful city. I kept taking pictures of wrought iron balconies. I thought there was something rather wonderful about seeing a huge cathedral being built. I hope that I get to see it finished in my lifetime! It might be done by 2030, apparently.

rxBambi - As an all-around experience, the SD museum was one of the most interesting that I've ever been to. Even if you don't love his art, it was just FASCINATING. What a strange vision.

CashmereLibrarian - We saw a sweet little house that Gaudi both designed and lived in at the Park Güell. I wonder if you can find anything Gaudi-esque in Illinois?

Spudballoo - I'm pretty sure that most creative geniuses are nightmares to live with! I'm sorry that I haven't been on the ball with Blog Camp. I keep hoping that I will get some computer time. It took me four days to write that post in dribs and drabs.

Reya - How funny about the smell of pork! Despite it being a local specialty, I must say that we all avoided it.

Dali was a truly bizarre person. Demons, yes, but I think that he was quite the provocateur as well. Crazy like a fox, as the saying goes.

Dick said...

I've never been to Spain. It was the one of the few countries that my childhood family tours never entered (my father refused to cross the Spanish border as long as Franco was alive) so I'm always interested in personal accounts of visits there. This is a fascinating piece, Bee, the more so because of its artistic context. With Franco long gone, only funding stands in the way of a trip!

Anne said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Ralph and Lauren. Hen-napping! What a sad thing to find on your homecoming.

I sympathize with your summer surrealism. Even though I'm no longer on any sort of schedule that resembles an academic year, I still haven't outgrown (outlived?) the instinct that the summer is a time for relaxation, catching up, and not being quite as harried as during the school year. This summer, instead of catching up, I'm just trying to catch my breath. Now that I'm (finally!) on my way home after the last conference of the summer, hopefully I'll be able to do just that.

My response to the Sagrada Familia was, "huh." Not in a bad way, just "I don't quite know what to make of this." There are so many seemingly random elements to the facade that it was hard for me to get a sense of work overall.

Thanks for another great post, Bee, and I hope you can get in touch with your loner side soon!

willow said...

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your marvelous trip, Bee. Gorgeous pic from the Facade of Birthone.

When WT came back from Spain he raved for weeks about the tapas. He didn't mention any lurid pigs!

And sorry to hear about the loss of poor Ralph and Lauren. You must replace them with some new baby chicks in the spring!

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I did not get to Spain when I was over in Europe and I wished I had. This post made me wish that even more so.

I'm sure one of these days your daughters will thank you for exposing them to so much art and architecture. It may take another decade, but one day they will be there. At least that's what I keep telling myself when I force my kids to anything "educational", but what they refer to as "boring".

Bee said...

Dick - The Civil War certainly cast a long shadow. It just occured to me that Spain, like the U.S. didn't suffer much from the world wars -- and, in fact, benefitted from them economically. But their own Civil Wars caused so much lasting damage.

Barcelona is a truly beautiful city. I thoroughly recommend it.

Anne - I remember summer being so LAZY. It seems like we are always racing around here. (Unlike me, my oldest daughter wants to be busy all the time.)

I gave you a sideview of LSF -- partly to get a view of the various cranes. However, I agree that it is hard to "see" how the pieces fit together.

Willow - In my previous post about Spain I mentioned how the smell of pig poo permeated the Catalonian countryside. It did put us off pork . . .

We did eat some wonderful tapas in Barcelona. (I tended to go for the seafood options!)

Alyson - Your comment has me ruminating on another post.

Anna said...

Bee thanks for sharing your travel to Spain adventure, the church looks amazing even though was not finished. Sounds like you had lot of fun, and boy that pig is looking good, even now when it is time to go sleep, lol. Anna :)

dogimo said...

I love Dali! I think he had a great and delightful sense of humor. Albeit, yes, he was definitely an egoist - and there, may as well accord him the highest order!

There should be medal for that, in fact, a white-ribboned gold featureless disc with a waxed mustache: "I award you the Dali Medal: in recognition of your status as an Egoist of the Highest Order.

B said...

Oh, the jamon, the jamon!!!!
Sorry I did read your post, Dali, right? But I can only remember the jamon! :)
So looking forward to BC!

Bee said...

Anna - I wonder; did you dream of pork?

Dogimo - I was disappointed to learn that Dali never laughed much. Apparently, his sense of humour was mostly intellectual. I came away from Dali-land with a hugely increased respect for his talents, though.

Egoist of the Highest Order! Who should we award it to first?

B - Does this look like quality jamon then? :)

Lucy said...

I wonder if Dali might be a little like ouzo, great in the atmosphere of where it comes from, but not so tasty when you take it home...

I rather like the Christ of St John of the Cross, though in general I would say I don't much like Dali or crucifixions. There was a really good 'Private Life of a Masterpiece' on telly about it a few years ago.

Wasn't he supposed to have wanted to eat a bit of Gala when she died? Yuk!

Our Dutch pianist friend, who's very cultured in many ways, still makes a very adolescent 'bleugh' sort of face when you mention Chartres or any other significant French cathedral involving stained glass in particular, owing to enforced cutural trips to those places when she was young!

Bee said...

Lucy - I think that you are right about Dali and ouzo! I thought that he was fascinating when I was in Catalonia, but I wouldn't want to live with him . . . or his art . . . for everyday usage.

Anna said...

Hey Bee I wish, lol. But you know we had some crazy wild storm last night that it prevented us from BBQing, going hungry sleep brings up all kinds of food, so we ended up BBQing and eating in the early morning - fresh after the storm. Anna :)

Nancy said...

Have to agree with you about too much of a good thing.

Thank you for such a wonderful tour. I thoroughly enjoyed every word and picture!

BlueJayEye said...

Thanks for a nice travelogue. I like the Dali quote about bread. It made more sense that he was carrying a bread, the biggest one the ship's baker could make, when he first set foot on US soil.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh Bee, what a wonderful post, but all I can think of is Ralph and Lauren GONE! Boo hoo :-(

Cyndy said...

I, too, can get easily overwhelmed with "the whole," even though when on vacation seem determined to make the most of every moment (and, hence, needing a vacation AFTER the vacation to relax!). When I get home, I look at my pictures and edit them so that I may only see pieces of the whole, so that I may slowly digest them.

Your thoughts on the cathedrals rang a familiar bell with me. Have you read "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett? I highly recommend it, especially if you like to see how something grows over the course of generations. More pieces of the whole...

Merisi said...

DGP - I love that! :-)
Wonderful days in Spain,
thank you for sharing them so generously with us. I dream of one day travelling there!