Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back While Looking Forward:

This image was taken near the Amstel, from a bench that parallels it. It shows the top of a bridge that runs perpendicular to the Amstel, with railings in the foreground and the gables of houses in the distance; it is a compressed image, due to it rather layered composition and lack of perspective. Looking closely; much occurs in this image: nearly one third of it is composed of the bricks that pave the aforementioned bridge, and the green railings on each side of it–due to the angle of stance and zoom lens, used to take this image–the railings seem to criss cross one another at opposite yet similar angles, due to this layering. This image is evocative of all of Amsterdam; as it's a city with layers of history, one piled on top of the other, at miniscule scale, which creates delightfully complex vistas for the eye–over water, through railings, and into houses–nearly everywhere one looks within the city.

Throughout the past year, I've allowed myself to stop and appreciate–and let be very healing–the small moments of layered sensory perceptions that fill the city; when the sun hits a building so beautifully, I stop and admire it; if a street has just finished being handsomely repaved, I'll stop to admire it; and if ever I feel as if the city's calling out to me, I'll stop and listen to it: Amsterdam I appreciate. But not only that. I allow its beauty–its life–to continually sweep me off my feet. It's a new found quality of mine, which I've been putting into loving practice since 2012: small moments.

Looking back at the past year is not a task in any way. It was one filled with new beginnings, and the beginnings of new endings, yet incomplete. It was the year that 'I stood up within myself in order to stand up for myself', in every sense of the sentence. I'm closer to knowing my true purpose and what my mind and body desire to achieve, or contribute to, while simultaneously not deviating from myself. Even more so than two years ago, I'm learning that how I react to situations is far more important than any situation that I may ever find myself within. I author my life; and not anyone else. Two years ago I emerged from a year that shattered all conceptions about the self–myself, that is. I looked in the mirror (something I seem to have never been too fond of), and told to myself: own it. It's remarkable how such a small shift in perspective toward the self can improve its view, of itself.

This year I was a year of many firsts: I was accepted to the University of Amsterdam, where I'm now studying toward my masters degree in Dutch Art History; I became Dutch; and I continued to travel Europe, experiencing the cities of: Istanbul, Prague, Edinburgh, Bordeaux, Oslo, Groningen (which is admittedly within the borders of the Netherlands, but was, until February, still an exotic location to me), Lille, Bruges, Ghent, and Lisbon. That's quite a many cities; each enriched me, in its own way.

What I'll take away from this year, is my renewed sense of purpose, which nudged me toward my current study, which itself has allowed me to see the world, and its art, from new perspectives. Not to mention the dozens of new faces, places, spaces, and artworks I've seen since starting. More importantly, I've concluded that the organizations I choose to place myself within will and do affect me in ways that I'll never be able to anticipate, or fully understand. Which is exactly why I've realized that only when I fully, lovingly, holistically, and unconditionally accept the self, my self, will I flourish–at anything I do or set out to achieve. I am valuing myself in way that has made me examine and prod into the closets of my life, to see what's really hiding in the back, dark corners, and needs to be or has been been, brought out. We choose what we engage with; I'm selective with my choices.

When I choose to place myself in psychologically damaging situations–for money, for prestige, for power... the list goes on–I lose, and others gain. I'm valuing myself, my talents, my actions, my thoughts, and my body, in ways that I previously never thought I was worth. Because of that, I'd like to think that I'm less inclined to be deceived or manipulated–in any way–precisely because I now know what it is I'm hungry for. I won't let myself deviate, or allow others to interfere with, my course.

So far, trips in 2015 are already scheduled for: the USA, the UK, and Croatia. There'll be more. What growth will they bring?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On the Streets of Lisbon:

Walking through the streets of Lisbon: A city that I had never before visited, and, honestly, had never had much inclination to, visit, that is. And if that wasn't an unfortunate stance to take toward the city, indeed. Mythic in my mind is the place from which Christopher Columbus sailed off to the 'New World', as it was then called; I came to the city with all types of expectations, while simultaneously expecting very little from it. Certainly, since I visited during December, when it was still warm, but also quite cold. Lisbon is a city on the sea, and its relationship with water is present everywhere; in fact, the waters of the Atlantic can bee seen from most of its streets, undulating as they do–up and down, and back up again. Tiny trams, or streetcars, roll up and down these same streets, narrowing at points so that not much other than it can pass. The city's citizens are so clearly proud of their past, and their future, though chauvinism is hardly to be found, and in its place its a welcoming and somewhat humble attitude. There is, somewhat surprisingly, a few fabulous seventeenth century Dutch paintings in the city, most notably by Rembrandt–for some–while for me, the presence of a portrait painted by Frans Hals, in the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, was certainly a highlight of the trip. Highly unexpectedly, pleasantly surprising, and somewhat mysterious in its offerings and existence, is the Quinta da Regaleira, situated in Sintra, east of Lisbon; its 'initiation well' reminded me of the eerily similar spiral-staircase-edge-laced well in the movie Pan's Labyrinth–never did I ever expect to be able to descend such a staircase in  my entire life, and now I have. Lisbon, and its surroundings, in winter, have much to offer the senses; and I can imagine that when the summer sun shines, the city offers still yet more.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Festive Dappermarkt:

Located just around the corner from my neighborhood is the Dappermarkt. It's an elongated version of the Albert Cuyptmarkt. Every winter the city dresses it up for the holidays; this includes the market itself, as well as the Eerste van Swindenstraat. Today, directly after taking this photo around 8:30 in the morning (which is when the sky, these days, morphs into a magical swirl of pink, purple, and amber), the city's street lighting ceased to be illuminated, as the sun rose. It was a magical moment; a new day began, as the city awoke from its daily slumber...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Three Seventeenth Century Painters:

Having felt like Jackson Pollock for the better part of the last three weeks while writing my first long-form research essay of the academic year–caught in a constant flurry of action, with practically no time left to shower–yesterday I handed it in. Since mid-November I have been waking up too early, in a continuous state of endless energy–rewriting notes, and reading about, and looking at, paintings. Most of this activity revolved around three seventeenth century painters: Anthony van Dyck, Frans Hals, and Rembrandt. The creations of these three figures haunted my every waking thought and sleeping dream since the beginning of December, when I began to investigate the levels of loose brushwork within their portraits, by comparing them to one another. Wrapping the narrative around the Renaissance notion, and coveted quality, of sprezzatura–which is the art that conceals art, and in doing so, makes actions or deeds appear as effortless–I focussed my thoughts on Frans Hals, and specifically investigated the loose brushwork within his 1622 'Marriage Portrait of Issac Massa & Beatrix van der Laen'. I really had fun with it. On numerous occasions during my research I found myself standing in front of the painting at the Rijksmuseum, talking aloud and into my iPhone's microphone so that my voice–and thus my exact thoughts about the painting–could be recorded. I went twice to record, but about 10 other times to further train my ability to qualitatively assess paintings, while assessing this painting; both recording visits were on a Sunday, in the first 15 minutes of the museum's opening–you know, so I wouldn't draw too much attention to myself, standing there, talking to myself. However, once I found my groove, my formal analysis flowed. Dutch art history fits me, and I'm throwing myself into the subject with childish enthusiasm, while remembering to have ample amounts of fun along the way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Order, in the Oudemanhuispoort:

Many happenings have taken place, or changed course, throughout my daily life over the past few months. Since university begin in September, it feels as if my body has been constantly flung about, dashing from place to place within the city. I’m seeing Amsterdam from an entirely new perspective as I visit previously unvisited buildings, park my bike at new new locations, visit cafes and restaurants that I’ve previously never even seen, but must certainly have passed hundreds of times. A new face of the city is within my sight. And I like that. New names are also something I’m working to remember, as new faces swoop into my life, what seems like every other day. What fun! To be around new people, new ideas–all the while in new places and spaces. One of these is one of the university’s first buildings in the city–the Oudemanhuispoort. I do not have classes there often, only twice thus far, but the few times I did this autumn, I walked through its vaulted, colonnaded passageway toward the entrance. The building houses the law school, and other classrooms. As I continued, autumn sunshine shone from above, the air warm, the leaves crisp–a suddenly feeling of wonder came over me. There I was, in a building from 1602 (the scene of which reminds me of this painting), at the University of Amsterdam. It was if I were walking through tradition, while walking down his passageway, in order to swath myself within it–I absorbed subsequent layers with every step I took. Or so I told myself; and so it felt. Being branded as a graduate of the University of Amsterdam is something I’ll forever uphold. And now, to graduate. ’Dutch Art’–my study is going well and the first semester of the academic year is nearly over. I’m learning everything there is to know about Dutch art, specifically its paintings, their history, alongside the many figures and ideas that come with the subject. There is much theory in painting, and I'm learning that art history itself is quite complex. Never did I expect to become an art historian–but it fits me like the most perfect piece of couture. Art history is at a crucial point within its historical trajectory; so many new fields and disciplines are combining in ways previously unseen, and the subject can’t ignore that. It’s not, either. And so much exciting brain research is being doing with images, and paintings. Much of art history is the history of art history–but it doesn’t have to be that way. What I’m learning about myself through my studies is that I am indeed a driven person. I’m determined and I have grit; I have confidence and I have presentation skills that shine, when I want them to. I’m also learning that–as I’ve known since grade school, as a child–my efforts are either totally behind something, or they are not. Luckily I feel, and I am learning, and seeing–through my studies–that I do have this extra stamina needed to raise my standard of output, creative, academic or otherwise, above average to above best. This ability is one that I previously bathed in. It's a quality I had lost over the years, since Amsterdam. My extra effort to put my own touch on the things I made, was somehow elusive. I'm finding it again. And because of that, our Christmas tree has never looked better than it does this year. Suddenly, my groove’s back. I even received the mark of a ten on my last paper–which, I understand, is quite the rarity. It's as if I've reconnected with a piece of myself that had been displaced, so that I could make room to absorb my new, Dutch identity. Luckily, that phase of my life here is now over, and what's left is room for me to create, and recombine. I've finally merged my former self with that of mine now. Thus far, the reasons I've made for myself, to become the person I want to be next, all feel right. I'm going to let that be my guide.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ripples of Change:

All I seem to be doing these days is hurling myself throughout the city; here, there, everywhere. I’m meeting so many new people, exposing myself to many new ideas, and making sure to make the most of these experiences along the way. So much within my life is currently evolving–but not concerning my daily routines, and more so my perspective on all that takes occurs within and around me. My thought processes are changing, as I push myself further toward who I next want to be. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Heading Down Damrak:

Damrak is the city's welcoming mat–or red carpet, however you prefer to perceive it–for those arriving by train (and most often, too, by plane). Like the city's train station–it has been under construction for quite a few years now. Because of that, it has been an absolute mess; not the most spectacular of greetings with which to welcome the city's visitors. That is, until recently. Over the past few months, Damrak has been completely repaved, remodelled, and refit with new lighting new cycle paths, new pavements, and most importantly–new life. The city's new, currently under construction North-South metro line will open in just two years; Damrak is only the beginning of a slow trickle of surface oriented revisions to the city. This trickle will soon flow faster, as the Centraal Station marches forward toward its completion. After years of subterranean construction below Damrak, the street–which is the city's welcoming mat–is now landscaped, manicured, and complete.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014