Saturday, May 29, 2010

Birds, sculpture and houses in Uruguay

If I was ever to design a beach getaway where I could
write, create and share relaxed times with friends and
family, it might just look something “El Águila” which
we visited on our recent trip to Uruguay.

This intriguing structure built by Uruguayan artist/builder
Juan Torres for Natalio Michelizzi in the years 1945-48
looks out over the beautiful sandy beach near the town
of Atlántida.

Although it’s larger boat-like (or dolphin-like..
there seems to be differing ideas on the appearance)
which used to jut out below the Eagle head is now gone,
one can still climb up into the head and get a bird’s
eye view of the beach. Seems like Torres approached
the project much like I might have (or similar to
Carlos Páez Vilaró). There weren’t any set plans. He
just began!

It would have been nice to ride horseback along the
largely abandoned beach, but we settled for sand
castles and waves.

From a house like a bird to houses made by birds,
I was fascinated by all the dome mud houses
created by the Horneros (a type of “oven bird”..
probably so named because their houses look like
bread ovens.) We saw them everywhere, especially
tucked into the eves, on beams, on window sills
of houses near where our daughter lives.

Here is another one at the top of one of the many
public sculptures in Montevideo. The Hornero
placed his house to look our over the sea too!

The sculpture which the Hornero chose was probably
my favorite of all the public sculptures we saw in Uruguay.
This one, dedicated to sailors lost at sea, is located
in Punta Gorda. It looks out over La Rambla, the
long drive and walkway which stretches for miles along
the shore in Montevideo. The intertwined bronze circular
figures with protruding spines convey powerful

Next week El Mercado de los Artesanos and more
bird imagery!

Journey on!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jorge Añón's Leather masks

One of the fun aspects of travel is unexpected discoveries.
One day as we were wandering in Montevideo on Calle
Tristán Narvaja, known for all its antique shops,
we passed the bookstore Babilonia Libros. I noticed
some masks in the window and a sign which said they
had an exhibit of masks and sculptures by Jorge Añón.
Really - how could I not be intrigued by this window!

As we entered this is what we saw:

My hubby, Jon, was drawn by the greenhouse aspect of the shop.
I was fascinated by the magic..looming above the sales counter
was this leather and metal creature:

We wandered the narrow pathways between books looking
at the masks on the walls. Well, I did anyway. Jon
looked more at books and the atrium ceiling and plants!
Something about the masks pulled on me, especially one
way in the back named La Mâyâ which had the illusion of
a spider web over the face with a mosaic Ouroboros of mirror
shards and leather surrounding the face. The friendly
salespeople (some of whom were also artists) referred me
to Jorge's website:
The website has English and Spanish versions.
We left. I suspected we'd be back.

Back at our daughter's house, I went on Jorge's website
learned more about him and the Mask Investigation Workshop
Center which he has organized, and saw more images, and
determined prices. Jorge, born in Uruguay in 1954,
has worked with a variety of materials but says he is drawn
to the "extraordinary nobility of leather". He works with 1 mm
thick cowhide,forming it, trying in on over and over again to
make sure it is wearable, breathes etc. Speaking of the
importance of masks through history and in the present,
he states: “whenever we feel captivated by that which is
hidden , whenever someone is willing to play in this game
of illusions and whenever someone tries to meet "the other",
masks will surely be beside us.”

We were busy with other activities for a while, but
Jorge's masks kept calling...I've learned over the years
that when something calls as strongly as La Mâyâ did to
me that I should pay attention. So toward the end of our
stay in Montevideo we went back to Babilonia Libros for
another look. The power of the mask held and reading
more about the symbolism of the piece helped me clarify
why I was drawn to it. It was inspired by an image on
a deteriorated cover of Brahamnic sayings. As the
description reads: La Mâyâ - "the eternal weaver of
the illusionary world surrounded by the Ouroboros."
Here it is - on the left as seen in the shop, and on the
right back in Boston. The mask is one of those that
are meant to be held by the attached stick for use.

For those of you readers of Spanish - here is the front
cover (with the image which inspired the piece)
and inside full explanation of the symbolism:

For those of you who don't read Spanish, the jist of the
symbolism is that each of us see the world through the web
of our creation. It is as we perceive it, not just as it
"is"...We are each the eternal weavers participating in the
never ending cycle of existence.

If my plans to return during Carnaval season materialize,
I hope to connect with Jorge and other Uruguayan mask
makers at the Mask Investigation Workshop.

Journey on! Wendy

Friday, May 14, 2010

Masks, Costumes and Candombe

For many, Montevideo's Carnaval celebration is its major draw.
In an effort to understand Uruguay's approach to Carnaval, we
visited the relatively new Museo del Carnaval in an old building
by the port of
I couldn't resist starting this post with my favorite photo
in the museum: The clown above sipping from his mate, the
gourd container from which so many Uruguayans sip yerba
mate. This youtube video gives a good look at the creation
of the museum with candombe, the Uruguayan drum-based
musical form in the background.

The small museum gives a good sense of the complex influences
in Uruguayan celebration - classic Commedia dell'arte,
afro-inspired Candombe, and everything inbetween.
My favorite exhibit was in the costume hall - well
presented to show exactly how the pieces are worn or held.

I was intrigued by the above costume on the right where
the wearer's face is clearly visible and more ideas
stirred when I saw these creations:

Just outside that hall was this mask with a distinctly
Venetian flair. Look for the eye holes. Side view shows
how it is worn.

Occasionally as we traveled around the Montevideo
environs we heard the candombe beat, but never actually
saw any of the drumming in person. Every weekend groups
play in the streets, including one all female group of
drummers. Candombe originated among the Afro-Uruguayan
population and is based on African drumming. Some say now
it includes European influence and even touches of Tango.
Check out this youtube video of candombe on Calle Durazno:

I'm hoping our next trip to Uruguay will be during Carnaval
season(a long one in Uruguay!) to see the masks and costumes
in actionand to hear more candombe.

Perhaps I'll be able to connect with some mask makers like
Jorge Añon whose mask I bought when there. More about Jorge
and his work next post!

Journey on. Wendy

Friday, May 7, 2010

Carlos Páez Vilaró’s Casapueblo and giant fingers

As mentioned in my last week’s post, my wandering this past
month has been in South America. We are just back from three
wonderful weeks in Uruguay with a weekend in Buenos Aires.
We savored time with our daughter and her husband and children
who live in Montevideo,and wandered discovering art,artists,
architecture and countryside new to us. There is much to share.
My creative energies are definitely stirred up.

I'll start with some images of one of the first places we
visited:Carlos Páez Vilaró’s magical Casapueblo:

This amazing structure created by the Uruguayan painter,
ceramic artists, sculptor, musician and all around energetic
human Carlos Páez Vilaró sits on the shore of Punta Ballena
North of Montevideo.To learn more Vilaro, his life and travels
go to his website:
He bought the property in 1958 to build a home and studio.
It grew and grew as he added new rooms for friends, created
a museum, a hotel and on and on. He still works in the top
floor studio area and divides his time between Casapueblo
and a home in Tigre, Argentina across the Rio Plata.

It’s an experience to wander its rooms and paths...or sit in
the intimate sculpted theater to see a movie of Vilaro’s art
and life. Several rooms serve as an art gallery and museum.
Here are some images of his art in the gallery area. Needless
to say I was drawn to the bird sculpture!

Then, one can take the elevator down 9 floors and walk down
a long pathway and end up in a café area open to the shore.
Or - fly above catching air currents as one parakiter was
doing when we were there. How I would have loved to have
had that avian perspective!

One could spend a whole day there just photographing
angles, looking at the artwork, and dreaming up legends.
We were entranced by Vilaro’s art, but settled with buying
his 2008 book “El Secreto de Casapueblo” -a children’s book
which lays out possible legendary origins of Casapueblo.
Did it arrive on the back of a whale? Did a herd of white
horses transform themselves? Did a cloud alight and become
a house? The sun descends each day guarding the secret.

The day we visited Casapueblo, the sunset found us
wandering between Chilean artist, Mario Irarrazabel’s
giant fingers at Punte del Este, a little farther up
the coast. I wondered about all the stories children
and their families had created over the years after
playing in the sand next to his "La Mano en la Arena".

Next week - our discovery of the Museo del Carnaval!
Journey on..Wendy