Saying Goodbye- 7 July 2018

Well, I’m sitting on the plane waiting for my flight to leave for Dallas and trying to come to terms with the fact that my month and a half in Spain is actually over. The time passed so much quicker than I expected, and it’s going to be really hard for me to leave the place I feel like I was just starting to get to know. I’ve met so many wonderful people and seen so many places that I had only dreamed I would be able to visit.

Part of me is ready to be back to my routine and my normal food and habits and the people from back home that I’ve been missing. But right now that part is buried under the sadness that comes from leaving friends I’ve only just met, a new family here that treated me like one of their own, and a country that is full to overflowing with beauty and a rich, diverse culture. This experience has truly been unforgettable and studying in Alcalá has impacted me in a big way. If I ever have the chance to come back, believe me when I say I will not hesitate to hop on the plane.

Now we’ve taken off, and I don’t want to take my eyes off the window. I can’t believe this is the last view I’m going to get of Spain.

Maybe my heart feels so heavy because of all of the pieces of this trip that I’m carrying home with me.

…and Graffiti Nights (Part 2)

Along with all of the art in museums and other spaces where the works match the more classical definition of art, Spain is also decorated with a TON of street art. I really like art of any style or media, and I think street art can be a beautiful and powerful form of expression. I always take notice of the graffiti in any city I go to, and it was omnipresent in Spain. Every city I visited was covered with tagging and graffiti. In Alcalá de Henares, where I stayed, I actually got to see the process by which tagging is done, covered up, and redone. Along my route to class there were wide stretches of white walls that were the perfect canvas for the area’s taggers. In the morning I would pass city workers coating the walls in white paint, erasing strings of letters and names. Then later, on my way back from hanging out with friends at the bar or after taking the last train home from Madrid at night I would see groups of taggers out covering the newly white wall with vivid colors. It was a cycle that I watched over and over throughout my month there, with ceaseless working on both sides to have the last splash of paint. Here is a little bit of the graffiti in Alcalá that I actually watched being painted at night (red/orange tag and green/blue tag):

I didn’t see any truly “artistic” or impressive graffiti until my weekend in Valencia. The street art there is absolutely stunning, and I think it’s so awesome that the city’s culture supports this kind of expression. It’s not trashy looking or just simple tagging, but really adds another dimension to the buildings and the streets. I have way too many pictures to fit in this post, but here is a taste of what I saw:

Barcelona also had some very interesting and beautiful art. They actually have a few designated spaces in the city for graffiti, one of which being the Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies (Garden of the Three Chimneys). It is an urban park dominated by large walls where artists can paint without fear of being fined. I happened on it one day as I was walking back from the beach and the blend of styles and themes that I saw was stunning. I actually read online that the murals in the park are painted over once a week, so it seems as though my pictures are the only remnants of the art that was present on the day that I wandered by. The idea of the ever-changing landscape is both freeing and frustrating to me. Frustration from the quality of works these artists produce only to have them covered a few days later, but freedom in that there is a new experience for every visit to the park with new artists and new works to admire.

The culture in Spain is so deeply rooted and complex that one could spend a lifetime there and never discover it all. And the wide range of art in Spain, whether it be in the museums and the cathedrals or on the buildings and in the streets, just opens another window for people to see the culture and the beauty of the country. The richness and diversity of each of the cities I visited made it easy for me to see how so many artists find inspiration in Spain.

Painted Days… (Part 1)

One of the classes I decided to take during my month here in Spain is a class on the history of Spanish painting and Spain’s great painters. I’ve always loved art, and the class satisfies the required gen ed artistic forms credit that I’ve been putting off so when I saw it on the course list I thought hey, why not?

But I’ve gotten so much more out of the class than I imagined and honestly nothing compares to learning about a painting in the place where it was created, then going to see the work in person a few days later. Especially since I also was able to visit the sites where the artists lived and worked, and got to see the sources of their inspiration in the real-life cities, beaches, and people I passed by. I’ve been to world-famous art museums like the Prado, visited religious sites like El Escorial where every detail and brushstroke detailing the walls and ceiling is full of meaning, and seen works by artists like Velázquez and Dalí that have captivated generations. Having the background knowledge on the artists, the history, the techniques, and the works themselves from my time in class before seeing the paintings mere meters or even centimeters in front of me has made the art come alive for me and is something that I could experience over and over without ever being afraid of the sensation dulling.

I wanted to post about this specifically because yesterday was my last day in Barcelona with my parents (who came to visit as I was finishing up classes and have used me as a translator ever since) and we went to the Museu Picasso after a morning visit to Montserrat. As I traversed the halls of the museums and saw the development of Picasso’s art over the years through his many different inspirations, he became so much more than just the cubist painter that most people consider him to be. I had no idea he sculpted as well as painted, both with techniques that were at times radically different from those of other artists. There was a photo series that was part of a temporary exhibition in the museum that featured Picasso eating a fish which, after sucking the bones dry, he immediately pressed into some clay to use as an inlay for his Bullfight and Fish ceramic plate that he began working on as soon as the meal was finished.

 - Picasso in La Californie making Bullfight and Fish (verso: Faces)

Picasso in La Californie Making Bullfight and Fish

Bullfight and Fish (verso: Faces) - Pablo Picasso

Bullfight and Fish

Also, Picasso’s studies/interpretations of Las Meninas by Velázquez were so cool to me after I spent so much time studying Velázquez and had seen the original work at the Prado a few weeks prior. I really enjoyed comparing the two works and seeing the different pieces of the original painting that Picasso chose to focus on; seeing all 50something works in his Las Meninas series gave me a new insight into his creative process and his interpretation of/attitude toward the Velázquez piece.

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez

Las Meninas, 1957 by Pablo Picasso

Las Meninas, 1957 by Pablo Picasso

The quantity and caliber of art in this place has truly astounded me in the month and a half I’ve been here. If you ever visit Spain, I would 1000% recommend that you spend some time in the art museums and places like El Palacio Real in Madrid, El Escorial, one or more of the ridiculous number of cathedrals in every city, or anywhere else you can see the beautiful, diverse, imaginative and sometimes weird works that Spain is home to. And if you can take a class on the world-renowned artists filling the country with their works (or at least get an audioguide or book or find a Wikipedia article online), it will only make your experience that much richer.