Symbolic Composition of the Spiritual World by Augustin Lesage

This painting absolutely blew my mind when I first saw it. Not only is it a large scale painting but it is also extremely detailed AND symmetrical. Lesage painted this intricate abstraction with oil on canvas. The painting was a representation of his fascination with natural forms and Egyptian influence. The overall shape and color scheme of the painting is similar to the architectural shapes and warm colors found in the Middle East. The intricate composition seems to be representational of the many aspects of the spiritual world. Although there are many different religions and rituals they all are unified under the term of "religion" and "spiritual world". The symmetry and consistent color scheme of this painting is what creates that unity.

Mother Nature (1999) by Maria Lassnig

This particular oil painting on canvas stood out to me because of its vibrant colors that seemed highly saturated in contrast with the stark white background of the canvas. The variety of line width and brush strokes creates a sense of movement that lead my eye around the composition. In exploring the content of this peice, I realized, not only from the title, that it was representational of a subject related to nature. The small trees and animals in contrast with the large human subject create a juxtaposition to the way we normally see nature as being much larger than an individual person.

"unknown" photograph by Viviane Sassen

All of the photographs Sassen presented at the biennale seemed to evoke a feeling of discomfort when I looked at them. She uses such bold colors and such a high contrast of shadows and highlights to create an absolutely striking photograph. This photograph in particular evokes a feeling of pain, fear or death, but when I separate the subjects of the photograph, it all seems very pure and innocent. There is a young girl, leaves, and white sheets, which all seems very harmless. However, it is the placement of the blood red leaves on the eyelids and mouth of the young girl that evokes such an overwhelming feeling of pain and discomfort for the viewer.

9-11-01 (2006) by Jack Whitten

Whitten gives a whole new meaning to the technique of acrylic on canvas. This peice of art was created on response to the September 11 tragedy of 2001. This 10x20 foot size canvas is covered edge to edge with geometric peices of molded acrylic paint that serve as mosaic tiles in this enormous collage. This abstract "painting" represents the emotional heartache and disaster of that day in history. For me, there is a connection between the process in creating this art peice and the process of rebuilding our country after September 11th. Whitten used what could be "old", dried up acrylic paint to form a unified mosaic collage painting, while we, as a country, picked up the peices after the September 11th tragedy and formed a more unified nation. In essence, both the artist and his subject(s) seemed to put the peices back together.

Mer Montee (2011) by Thierry De Cordier

This painting along with the others in this series just blew my mind. The attention to detail, with every tiny crest of a wave or shadow of the water ripples, is just astounding. The painting was created with oil paint, enamel and Chinese ink and was used to create an extremely photorealistic painting. I was initially captivated by the dark and shadowy color scheme which made me want to look closer at the painting, where I found the realistic details of the foamy waters. The troubling shadows of the water evoked a sense of fear and mystery for me.

July 10 I cannot believe it is the LAST DAY...there is still so much to do, so much to see!!! But no worries my friends, I will be back. Italy now has a special place in my heart and I will forever get the urge to be there and my thoughts will now be consumed with memories of this trip. My friends who studied abroad in Italy told me this would happen....they warned me. Anyone who has been to Italy, longs to be in Italy forever and ever. Ahh such a pity party I will throw for myself. 

Anywhoooo, for the last day in Venice it was all about the art! Anne and I got a little lost on our way to find the Arsenale Biennale site but ended up taking a few scenic routes around the streets of Venice. After having a little photo shoot in the streets, we finally found the Arsenale and saw some veryyy interesting works. Now....I don't want to sound like a hater...but there was a lot of artwork at the Arsenale that just seemed to be a nightmare. And by nightmare, I don't necessarily mean "bad"...I mean its scared me (and Anne). 

Despite some of the scary artwork, there were some very, very cool installations and paintings I came across. The paintings I photographed were just bursting with color, movement, rhythm and pattern. They all looked absolutely stunning against the stark white walls of the exhibit. 
After the Biennale, it was on to visit the Hangar Design Group in Venice!! This was a super exciting and nerdy excursion for all of the graphic design majors. After watching Professor Slagle sprint around the bus station to get our tickets and get us on the bus on time, we finally made it to our bus stop, where the bus driver told Slagle that we needed to walk down the road to find the Hangar Design Group building. Well folks, we walked all the way down the road, only to turn around and walk all the way back to the Hangar Building...right in front of our bus stop. Needless to say we got a little graphic design PT that afternoon. But it was a workout well worth it! The Hangar Design Group kindly provided us with water and air conditioning as we walked in the door and gave us a fantastic inside look at their firm. It was AMAZING to see just how broad their design market is. They showed us all kinds of designs from wine bottle logos to interior design to commercial design and beyond! It was so inspirational to see such kind and talented people. Before we left, they gave all of us a packet of three Hangar Design Group sketchbooks and Professor Slagle received what they called their "bible". Overall, it was a very welcoming and inspiring experience!
July 9 Woke up bright n' early to take a train ride to Padua, where we got to walk through the Scrovegni Chapel. Although we weren't allowed to stay in the chapel for very long, there was a lot to be taken in. The chapel was covered from wall to wall and even to ceiling with frescos painted by Giotto so long ago. If you didn't look around the every minute you were in there, you probably missed something. I swear every time I turned around, I would notice a person or a scene that I hadn't even noticed the first time I looked! 

Every now and then on this trip, after seeing artwork like Giotto's, I get hit with the thought of mind-blowing it is that these paintings and sculptures have last this long!! I'm's crazy to think about. And these aren't just any paintings or sculptures or structures...they are all extremely ornate and detailed. The artwork in this chapel has been seen by so many generations of people and had an effect on all of them. The effectiveness of these paintings is a result of the great craftsmanship and diligence. Time well spent is time well earned. 
After roaming around Venice some more, it was time for a gondola ride! You just CANNOT go to Venice without having taken a gondola ride. So we got a group and set out for a gondola ride at sunset. The weather was beautiful and the waters were calm. I will say that I was a little uneasy to get into the gondola before everybody balanced out the boat. After though, it was smooooth sailing :) It was a wonderful evening with some wonderful people. 

The Crew & The View

July 8 Today we went to the Accademia where we were able to put away the cameras and sketch the artwork we were seeing. This gallery contained many, many large scale paintings that all seemed to have similar content but were executed in completely different ways. Some of the paintings seemed to be soft and light, while other's had a hard edge and more attention to detail and definition. I began to look at the hands of people in each individual painting because some of them appeared so realistic, with veins and knuckles, while others were merely a soft outline of a hand painted a skin tone color. I preferred the paintings that chose to have a hard edge and more brush detail because I find myself more inspired by the photo-realistic paintings. 

Then it was off to the Guggenheim! This museum was filled with colorful, abstract paintings that inspired. I have always been drawn to bright colors and most recently found a new love for abstract paintings, after the abstract landscape assignment we had in Painting I. BE BOLD! I've learned that fearlessness is just one of the many techniques to creating a bold abstract painting. I paid close attention to the brush handling in each of the paintings I saw in the Guggenheim Museum. One brush stroke or one pop of color can completely change the way a painting is perceived. 
Color and texture inspiration was not only in the galleries and museums we went through; I found inspiration from the colors and textures on the doors, window coverings, buildings, wood, etc. all throughout Venice. I tried to take tons of pictures on the water bus rides just to make sure that I did not miss out on anything that might inspire me for my reflection pieces. For my response pieces, I definitely want to find a way to incorporate the distress wood and turquoise color I saw on the doors and windows. I also want to weld something similar to the window coverings I noticed throughout Venice (the picture below is of a window covering that was at the Guggenheim Museum. 

Almost forgot to mention that a big group of us went to Lido Beach in Venice at the end of the day! Seriously, HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE. So much fun. There was singing and dancing and photos being taken continuously. I loved getting to bond with everyone and just having a fantastic time! And the view from the water bus on the way back to our hotel was just a view I will never forget. BEAUTIFUL.
July 7 After gathering in the Piazza San Marco and having a photo shoot with the pigeons, we headed off to the Biennale to see some amazing (SERIOUSLY AMAZING) art pieces. The paintings were absolutely beautiful and were all so different. One particular series of paintings that literally made my mouth drop were by a Belgium painter by the name of Thierry De Cordier. The large scale images of dark, troubling ocean water immediately captured my attention when I entered the room and then when I realized that they were paintings and not photographs, I was absolutely astounded. I have always been inspired by photo-realistic painters and was especially inspired by the detailed brush strokes of Cordier's work. These paintings completely absorb the viewer with their shadowy, dark palette. 
The Giardini National Pavillions. SO MUCH FUN. Going through all of the different countries was like an art amusement park. Some of the countries' "rides" made me a little Korea for example, when they stuck Sean and I in a silent, pitch dark room for about 5 minutes with two other people. Very interesting...but the mirror building they created was so cool! The reflections just seemed endless and I have never been so happy with my decision to not wear a skirt or dress that day...could have been an awkward situation. 

Overall favorite countries were definitely France, Russia and Venezuela. Oh and America OF COURSE. France had an amazing installation made up of interconnected wooden stools that just blew my mind, while Russia had an installation that was raining gold coins, where only women were allowed to be at the bottom of the falling coins with umbrellas (and got a free coin for a souvenir!). Aside, from the excitement of falling money, it had an interesting message about the role gender plays in greed and wealth. Then last, but certainly not least, Anne, Sean, Team Slagle and I stopped in Venezuela to see the brilliant, graffiti light display they had going on inside the dark room. I could have watched the lights and colors play on the graffiti painting all day. Super cool. 
July 6 Sleeeeeep. Anne and I had a leisurely morning after we caught up on some MUCH NEEDED sleep and then settled in at a restaurant downstairs by the hotel for a little bruschetta brunch. All packed up and ready for Venice, we headed back to the train station to embark on our next Italy adventure. On the train ride, Anne and I sat next to the kindest mother and daughter from New Zealand. I could just listen to their accent all day long!! But to top it off, they were just so nice and friendly. The scenery from the train window was just beautiful. I love getting to see the countryside and vineyards of Italy. 

And at last, both our group and our New Zealand friends managed to get off at the wrong stop at the train station soooo shortly after we all realized our mistake, we got right back on another train and FINALLY made it to the beautiful Venezia!! For me, just the air felt totally different in Venice. It was refreshing to see all the colorful buildings and turquoise canals. 

I had a hard time telling whether our little bed and breakfast hotel was charming or creepy....the lobby was freakin' adorable. I loved the beams and fresh flowers that appeared everywhere in the hotel. HOWEVER, once Anne and I dragged our luggage up to what felt like the top of Mt. Everest, we discovered our converted attic bedroom haha. I found it to be pretty humorous and cute at first, but then as the night arrived and I laid awaken by the creeks and shifts, it wasn't so cute anymore. Now ask me about Bennell and Mia's room right next door...??? PRINCESS SUITE. Ridiculous. They had not one, but TWO sitting areas and enough room to have a small party in there. Needless to say, Anne and I had company over frequently in our room and it became far more comforting. 

Charming Bed and Breakfast...

Not so charming Cinderella attic...

After settling in, Ashanta, Anne, Emily and I set off to find a delicious place for dinner! And WE SUCCEEDED. We ended up finding a unique Jazz Bar/Restaurant not too far from our hotel that had both seafood and pasta. There were bras hanging all over the ceiling, so naturally, we asked our waiter if you got something for free for hanging your bra from the ceiling, to which she responded that it was just a tradition... I ordered the Linguini with Prawns and Rocket Salad and it certainly satisfied. Delicious. And then to top the dinner off, we got free shots of Limoncello...they know how to get a good tip in Venice ;)

July 5 Florence was so nice to Anne and I. After having somewhat of a rough time in Rome, Anne and I were able to make wonderful Italy memories in Florence. Seeing David first thing in the morning was definitely an awesome way to start the day. It was also awesome not having to trek all the way across town like we did in Rome. Florence was SO MUCH more quaint and comfortable.

After sketching David and seeing all of the artwork, it was onto the markets!! Shopping was DIVINE. We bartered and bought and bartered some more. The key for shopping in the markets is to ONLY have the price you would like to pay in your wallet. For example, "I would love to pay the $65 your asking for BUT I only have $34 in my wallet..." And normally, that will seal the deal and you will snag a GREAT deal.

The Uffizi Gallery was so enormous and filled with beautiful peices of artwork. One painting that Anne and I made commentary on was the "The Birth of Venus". In art history, Pitts was constantly saying how you had to see these paintings in person but when we saw the "The Birth of Venus", it was at less saturated than we both expected. Still a beautiful painting but completely different from the image we had seen. And once again, I just stared in wonder and the BEAUTIFUL CEILINGS. Covered in gold leaf and stunning artwork, it is hard to not be distracted by them the entire time you're walking.

And then to end our day on the most perfect way, Anne and I had a fantastic dinner on a porch restaurant that looked over the Arno River at sunset with a view of the Ponte Vecchio. I had salmon with a pepper sauce that was absolutely WONDERFUL. Seriously...I could drink that sauce by itself, it was so delicious. And then to top it off, we stood on the Ponte Vecchio and snapped pictures of the beautiful sunset while eating gelato and listening to this wonderful Italian man play guitar and sing Coldplay songs. It was quite possibly the best and most unreal moment of my life. I wished I could stay there forever. AND THEN, just to make a perfect evening EVEN more perfect...I found the letter my friend Hunter had left for me under bench By the baptistery while she was studying in Florence the previous week. SO WONDERFUL.

July 2 Where to start....first off, I have learned that I DO NOT sleep on planes (I promise this ties in with my chaos topic) Ok. I'm done with that vent. So when we arrived in Rome and adrenaline kicked in from the excitement of entering this new city AND new country, I was overwhelmed by all of the beautiful architecture. The colesseum was just like looking at a postcard. So unbelievably historic and perfect. Seeing all of the ornate sculptures and architectural details on day 1 definitely put into perspective just how much patience and hands on work was put into these gorgeous peices of the city. The fact that they are so well preserved and still even standing just shows how exceeding craftsmanship can make a peice last seemily forever, therefore making an impression on many more generations.

THE PANTEON. Seeing it in person and seeing it on the computer screen are two COMPLETELY different experiences. I was overwhelmed by how detailed and unique every architectural detail was in the Panteon. There was so much to look at that I would have needed a lot of time to really be able to take it all in. I can only imagine how long a critique would last if there were a class in the middle of the pantheon. FOREVER...that's how long.

In the grand scheme of things, Day 1 of Rome was super chaotic but the reflection of Day 1 was so sweet (and I don't mean because of the fantastic gelato Anne and I had in the Piazza Navona). Having the privelage to see all of this astounding works of art really does put artwork (emphasis on the work) into perspective.

Lesson learned: Great craftsmanship. Great results.

July 4 I have been struggling with this wifi...FINALLY got my second day blog to upload. Halle-freakin-lujah! So on with the Day 3 blog...

A trip to the Trevi fountain this morning was definitely the perfect way to end our visit in Rome. It was just as beaultiful as I imagined it to be and so amazing how grand it is! Finally got in tourist mode and picked up an assortment if great souvenirs. And I bought a fedora. FAVORITE PURCHASE OF THE DAY. I felt way more Italian when I was walking around the city with my hat on.

Also realized today that it is definitely time to put up my pick pocket defense!! Poor poor Anne...Anne, my sweet and innocent roommate, got her phone stolen. So needless to say, if we weren't already attached at the hip on this trip anyway, we most DEFINITELY are now!

Then onto a fresh start, we were off to Florence!! The train ride was just lovely. Looking out at the sunflowers and vineyards we passed through the countryside was a perfect photo opportunity. And then before I knew it, we were in Florence!! Wahoo! LOVE IT. This girl (me) unfortunately wouldn't have lasted very long in the big city of Rome so I absolutely LOVE how quaint Florence is! And once again, more stunning architecture. The Duomo literally took my breath away when we walked up to it for the first time. Seeing the baptistery (with its amazing ceiling!) was a good teaser for us getting to see the Duomo. I cannot wait to climb to the top of that thing!! Seriously...livin' the dream.

And to end the day, I got to meet up with my good friend Jenny from back home, who is also doing a study abroad program here in Florence! Anne, her and I had a FANTASTIC dinner with wine at the Trattoria ZaZa <<< definitely recommend it!!

July 3 This day had an abrupt start with a couple of alarm clock malfunctions but was an enjoyable day nonetheless. Once we hit the ground running (and I mean RUNNING for the metro cause we were late), we got to see some unbelievable frescos, sculptures and architecture. The Vatican was just overflowing with influences of Renaissance art and religion. Seeing St. Peter's Basilica in the morning as the sun was beaming through was an incredible experience. The high ceilings and ornate moldings portray just how grand of a role both art and faith has played in society for all of these years.

As I went through the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, all I could look at were those wonderfully, amazing CEILINGS. I mean, hello. I think if these painters, like Michelangelo, were to see my ceilings at home they would be appalled. And looking at my ceilings at home, I can see how similar to a blank canvas they can be. It is just mindblowing to me the length that these ceiling paintings can go. There was a hallway in the Vatican Museum where I saw a woman recording her entire walk under the ceiling because it just went on FOREVER. Imagining that someone could paint on a ceiling for that long astounds me.

However, one painting that really caught my attention was a "painting" hung in the Galleria Borghese. It was actually super tiny hand selected pieces of marble that were then peiced together based on value and color to create what appeared to be a "painting" of the Pope. It was so crazy and if someone hadn't told me what it was, I would have walked right passed it not knowing that it was tiled.

Being able to have more time to reflect today really made it a better experience for me. I enjoyed being able to sort of escape from the sensory overload of the Vatican, to being able to enjoy the Borghese Park and to sketch in the Galleria Borghese -- it was all very therapeutic. And for some reason sketching has always been a way for me to really get "in the zone" and to focus more on what my eyes are really seeing. Needless to say, I enjoyed the Borghese Park just as much as I'd hoped I would.