Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Sauntering in of September:

September rolls into town tomorrow, and brings with it the annual initiation of autumn. Watching, feeling, and experiencing the clicks of the seasonal changes of Amsterdam are, when combined, a joyous delight. So pronounced are the transitions from each month to the next; supple buds dot trees along the canals during spring–still leaving visible the façades of seventeenth century gabled houses; moving further along the calendar, summer sees a richer green emerge on the city's trees–the whimsy of the centuries old façades behind, no longer able to be seen; autumn ushers in a fusion of predominantly golden colored hues, augmented by burnt yellows and browns, as every canopy of each tree in the city–with some enacting on the emergence of their autumnal colors faster than others–dwindle from the height of their mature, warm weathered state. It's around this time of each year, that the city’s vegetation enters into a sort of dormancy. Occurring simultaneously to the slowing pace of the city’s movement, is the slowing of the energy within it. The tourists have left for their usual retreat, leaving trams less full, terraces with available tables, and large patches of grass–just waiting to be claimed–throughout the city's parks. Amsterdam is entering autumn, hindering its celebratory stance toward summer. Patches of yellows and oranges can now be found along the boulevard-like thoroughfares and within these luscious parks; and luckily, perhaps, no red hues have yet to emerge. Red is the true sign of the world's turning toward winter, toward darkness. Ready for this next season I am. This summer has been one string of hurdles and highlights. For the first half July, I rested at home, or in the park, with family or with friends, taking time often to shoot photos of the city, all the while always finding time to read, drink, or eat on the comfort of my enormous and elevated urban-balcony. This past summer, with its calm and hard choices, was filled with self-discovery, and self-emergence. Since last September, I've been asking myself, often, who is it that I am, so that I can do it on purpose. Today, the day before autumn's annual entry, I sit on my balcony, basking in the warm setting Sunday sun, which weakens and dips below the horizon a bit earlier, with each passing day. Happily, this elevated urban balcony is nothing more and everything beyond an extension of my home’s interior; it supports me when I support it. The love that I give to my balcony's garden, is directly reflected in its lusciousness. Softness, welcomes. Always here, it’s when I dote and dwindle in the garden, that it truly, and gracefully comes alive–it's at its finest when I lavish my attention on it. It's then that it struts stiffly for onlookers in all directions, at its best and out to impress. Yet there were times this past summer when–so consumed by and within my own thoughts and doings–that the garden saw less of me, and more of the city. Only after the torrential rains, which have plagued Amsterdam since August began, finally stopped last week, that the garden and I have reunited; pruning, trimming, and watering; saying hello to the living creatures that depend on me for their survival; a symbiosis of transitionally, deep-rooted, and amplified natural beauty. My garden, at its best, is a visual delight–a feast. Handsomely, an elongated wall of ivy streams down around one edge of the garden–allowing one to submerse themselves within it; the city below detectable only by sound. But now that the rain has stopped and the sun, once again, now repeatedly shines, I make it a point to run throughout Amsterdam's streets, and up over its infinite bridges, as often as I can–mostly on weekends and in the mornings––knowing that a chill will, very soon, descend upon North Holland. And so it's with pleasure that I inhale the last energy of this fleeting, expanding summer. During my lounging at the beginning on July, I finally turned the last page of a mighty tome I've been reading on and off, for about the last four years: The Embarrassment of Riches. It’s an investigation into Dutch society during its Golden Age, and it’s one of those books that anyone wanting to study the art of that period must–and into that category I do now fit–most certainly must have read. This September, giddily I now announce, marks the onset of my academic study of Dutch Art at the University of Amsterdam; transformative this upcoming year is guaranteed to be. The aforementioned monster of a book–about the cultural world I now find myself within–I happened to finish while sitting in my garden; indeed, the garden is always there, or here, for me. It has, this year, matured beyond all expectations, and in doing so, continues to offer to me, a place of tranquility. In only a few more weeks I'll become Dutch, taking an oath to the King and the Kingdom. I chose to naturalize; I chose to become Dutch. Choosing between hard choices that are on a par allows one to become the author of their own life. Becoming Dutch was a choice I will always put my agency behind: I'm for the Netherlands; I'm for the EU; and I'm for the art of this fabulous country. As the sun begins its ephemeral daily descent, I realize how often it is that I sink myself within, and am drunken by, the sensuous, tactile splendor of my tiny garden. Yet, it’s only when I venture down to the city below, that I'm able to connect and engage with others, with people–to see and be seen. While cocooning myself is something I excel at, I’m learning that being vulnerable does indeed connect me to others–and that it also allows me to more easily empathize with them, and they with me. But, I've come to know, that it’s not only about more. It’s that we're more connected. How to connect with others? Is one way through art? Since last September, I've been pushing my life in one direction: toward the beauty of art. In doing so, I’ve simultaneously enacted a rapturous and endless accumulation and absorption of its academic history. As I age, my many cultural interests seem to be refining, here in Europe. Have I finally begun to create my own way? Knowing who I am and doing it on purpose allows me to shapeshift in appearance and purpose. I know that putting my agency behind art, words, and the ways in which they can be combined, is my future. I know it. And so sauntering into September, I welcome the soon to occur explosion of autumnal hues. In some odd way, the dawn of autumn also welcomes a new me; the me who’s chosen to use their life to illuminate art–something that’s, indeed, infinitely much larger than me.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

On the Streets of Bruges:

Walking through the streets of Bruges: A city that, at times, feels as if it's missed out on much of the world's progress, since the apex of its own Golden Age, during the Mediaeval period. The city's decline began with the onset of the Renaissance in Italy; though boats from that peninsula began arriving regularly in the harbor during the thirteenth century, 200 years earlier. With the establishment of his court in Bruges during the first half of the fifteenth century, Phillip the Good ushered in an era of extravagance, which would in later centuries flow throughout France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It's the remains of this decadent era of the Duchy of Burgundy–ruled over by the House of Valois-Burgundy, that seems so distant in history, and yet so near–in which one walks through today. Mediaeval remnants remain; cars, phones, and quick access to the internet all serve as friendly reminders that what the city lacks in modern architecture, in makes up for in modern amenities. Jetties protrude from timber-frame houses, ribbed vaulting is abound in numerous ecclesiastical spaces, while minuscule loggias overlook tiny canals that string through around and along the city center. Brimming with evocative architecture, Bruges is anchored to its past, which tends to lend to ephemeral experiences within its intimate confines, a transcending, ethereal feel. Most importantly, to me, it is the city in which Jan van Eyck was active, during the fifteenth century: the age of Netherlandish

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On the Streets of Lille:

Walking though the streets of Lille: A city just south of the Belgian border, whose national allegiance has shifted–or perhaps the better expression is, forced–throughout the past four centuries. Named 'Rijsel' in Dutch, the city's architecture is much less 'French' than that found, in, for instance, Bordeaux; that's because of the city's geographical position: not quite French and not quite Belgian, Lille seems to suffer from a loss of its identity, and, it would seem, is in the process of rediscovering, or perhaps, recovering, it. The city's citadel, ordered to be built by Louis XIV, is sited just north of the city center; remarkably, it's nearly entirely intact. Louis' presence can also be felt elsewhere within the city; seventeenth century architecture is abound. But, while existent, it was the city's early-nineteenth century architecture–particularly the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille–that swept me off my feet; as soon as I entered that building, I could feel that it was special, and also somewhat peculiar. Reminiscent of the the grandeur of eighteenth century France, though at a scale that certainly belongs to the early-nineteenth, the museum itself, and especially its main entry and staircases, is a playground for the the dancing of sunlight and shadows. The collection of Dutch painting does leave more to desired, though not in quantity, but quality, as many were in a serious need of restoration–cleaning and care. Cannon balls can still be seen lodged within the city's main market building, the Vieille Bourse, built during the Spanish reign, under Spain's Phillip IV. Visiting such cities as Lille–with its many hidden and less spectacular, though perhaps richer, for exactly that reason, sights–has enlightened me to the seemingly-infinite connections that can be made between the European monarchs of centuries past. A continent that was once so distant to me–Europe–has since become one of the main cornerstones of my life; I am so taken by Dutch art, and I take immense mental joy in connecting the historical dots across the continent–specifically the those of the seventeenth century Dutch Republic–and even more so, those of its prodigious output of paintings, within which, while looking toward them, I lend to loose track of the time, and also of myself.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On the Streets of Oslo:

Walking through the streets of Oslo: Nordic. And the capital of Norway; a city sited on the Oslofjord; a gem of intrigue nearly suffocated by creeks, streams, and trees, at a very high longitude, in Scandinavia. The Aerselva River runs from North to South, toward the Oslofjord, through the city, winding here and there, before it ducks underground, hidden from site, and passes below Oslo Central Station. It has historically–but no longer strictly so–served as the dividing line between Oslo West, and Oslo East; those with money, and those without. Today the river is home to many cultural institutions, schools, and places to wine and dine–including a very fun new indoor market. Newly paved paths line the river, making a stroll delightful indeed. So it was a city divided by capital. But today the city's changing. The capital that built the city, it should be noted, was held by gentlemen who lived in the mid to late nineteenth century, who were all highly invested in the local timber industry. Which brings me to the trees. For a city whose population is less than two million–metropolitan area, that is–it certainly is spread out; Oslo is everywhere. It tentacles out, up, and into the forests that surround the city proper; access to, into, through, and around which is made easier by sidewalks, roads, bike paths, and very importantly–trams. Weaving through the city’s streets; trams keep this small-to-mid sized wonderful ensemble of people, spaces, and places abuzz with energy. They link the misaligned components of city together; overcoming its topography. The high longitude leads way to copious amounts of soft-golden sunlight that sits low on the horizon, late into the night–sometimes seeming to never set at all–during spring and summer; while during autumn and winter, Oslo is submerged into darkness; and that darkness can be cozy if navigated correctly–with boots and gloves, and scarves and jackets, and candles, and excellent red wine near roaring fires on hearths, wine or hot chocolate mug in hand. But when the city’s in full bloom, as it was when I was there, it sparkles with colors and the sounds of splashing water. The Norwegian Royal Palace, so near to the university and art museum, is perched on a hill in the Western portion of the center; it welcomes all who venture to travel so North. Brick from industry, combined with pastel-hued colored houses–many of which seem to resemble wedding cakes, so ample is their, often white Victorian-Neo-Classical architectural trim; both categories of buildings were mostly constructed during the mid to late nineteenth century, and they compose the city’s characteristically local architecture and design–wood being abundant in the equation, too. Parks dot the city here and there, and the East, near and around the area of Grünerløkka, was and is especially enticing–it's abuzz with energy that’s now brimming the neighborhood full, and so it's spilling over and into the nearby neighborhoods, and streets, and specifically those around Sofienbergparken. Oslo's current Renaissance–like Amsterdam's–can be found in its East.