Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mendoza - Maipu

When you've been in Buenos Aires for enough time, if you don't figure out how to pull your feet up and let the crowds carry you, it can get a wee bit stressful. Ok, it can get very stressful. Where do you go for a little open air, and dare I say, wine??? Mendoza. It's about 1,000 km away, which is this far:
How do you get from A to B? Well, you could fly and it would take 2 hours. Or you could take a 14 hour overnight bus with Chevallier in which you are served wine, dinner, whiskey, coffee, and breakfast while enjoying your own personal television and seat that lays flat. The first class like seats were around $100USD, which ended up being our most expensive bus ticket on our travels. However, it was the nicest and also the longest bus ride we took, and it was well worth the money.

We arrived in the morning in Mendoza and took a taxi from the bus station to the hotel. It was a little confusing getting our huge packs put into the taxi by one guy and then having another guy get in the driver's seat. Turns out the first guy was just "helping" and needed a tip for this service. This wouldn't be the last time we encountered such a situation. Finally, arriving at the Intercontinental (don't get impressed, I got a work discount), we checked into our very nice rooms, and got ready to explore Mendoza. We took a city bus into the center and explored the plazas and artisan fairs. Let's get down to it. Why do you go to Mendoza? Wine. So here we go, bodega-hopping in Maipu (which is pronounced 'my poo' - it's ok to laugh, lord knows I did). My wonderful friend who runs this amazing liquor store in Minneapolis set up a great tour with Rutini Wines at Bodega La Rural. La Rural is home of one of the oldest working wineries in the area, there's a museum on site - pictured below is one of the old fermentation containers on the traditional wood floors.
We got a tour of the museum and also were lucky enough to try many Rutini wines, including my new favorite, their Torrontes. I'd never heard of Torrontes before, and now I'm a fan. It is to white wine what Malbec was to red. That's the prediction. It's a smooth full white wine very much worth a try. Their Cabernet was amazing as well. And I did love that it's pronounced phonetically in Mendoza, no dropping syllables in Spanish!

We got to taste all this wine (and learn all about it) with Alejandro:

After Rutini, we headed to Trapiche, another antique winery in Maipu. The facilities were really impressive and beautiful, and the tour guide was entertaining. Trapiche was one of the labels of Malbec we drank frequently in BA, so it was fun to get to know their process and their other wines. Plus, it was the prettiest bodega, in my opinion:
Important things to note when visiting wineries on a budget:

Each tasting will cost around $30AR

Think through options on transportation. We chose taxis for our day in Maipu. We had a terrible experience on our way to Rutini. The hotel called a taxi, we told him exactly where we needed to go and he replied with "si, si, si" - which, would indicate he knew where he was going, right? After 3 times stopping at gas stations (letting the meter run the whole time), looking at maps (sometimes upside-down), and talking to Pilar (our contact from Rutini) on Kat's cell phone, we finally got there, and he tried to charge us $80AR. Laura wouldn't go without a fight, and Pilar came out to back her up. Overhearing the back and forths in Spanish confirmed my belief that this trip would've been much harder without Spanish speakers leading it. We ended up paying him the fair price. Pilar was kind enough to get one of the Rutini drivers to take us to Trapiche and then take us back to the hotel for a bargain of a price. Sometimes you may pay a bit more by hiring a driver, but not having to deal with taxis trying to rip you off, may be worth it.

Bring some granola bars. Most tastings don't offer food. And you'll want to taste all the wine you can - it's good.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What's New, Buenos Aires?

...and here I am again in the big city! Laura's apartment in Barrio Norte has been such a comfortable home for me in this city of 13 million people. It's very centrally located, so it's been easy for me to explore to my heart's content. I forgot how much I love walking until my feet feel like they're going to fall off. There's a lot of ground to cover, and, I've been covering it! Some of the places I've seen are....

The Casa Rosada (Pink House) where government happens. And the object that spurs the Evita soundtrack to play continually in my head...
Speaking of Evita, this is the museum devoted to her. Housed in a mansion in the swanky barrio (neighborhood) of Palermo are artifacts, clothes, photos and videos of Eva Peron's life. What I've realized being here, is that every political figure is loved AND hated. In the museum, they paint Evita in a very positive light, emphasizing the social policies and charity work she was a part of.
And STILL on Evita, here's her family's tomb in the very posh and beautiful Cemeterio de Recoleta.Back to Palermo, there's a beautiful botanical garden. It's very large and full of stray cats who are kept nice and fat by visitors. I love this statue in the garden:Near the Jardin Botanico, in Palermo, is a very old and very trendy shopping district, Palermo Viejo. Also near is the Parque 3 de Febrero, a very Parisian (they call Buenos Aires the Paris of the South, which...I realized after exploring certain barrios, it really is) park:Another barrio is the uber-modern Puerto Madero. Fashioned after London's Docklands, it boasts a very impressive skyline and a great mix of old and new architecture. The footbridge pictured below crosses a series of dykes that filter in the brown murky water of Rio de la Plata. It is The Woman's Bridge, the design is based on a position in the tango.
Along with the modern is the giant steel sculpture, Floralis Generica, in Recoleta. When functioning, it opens at dawn and closes at dusk.
And lastly, something seen frequently in this city, a demonstration. The men are carrying a massive Argentine flag which is in tatters. I'm not sure what the gathering was for, but they were followed by hundreds of drummers also carrying flags.
I have a bit more of ground to cover in this city before Saturday, when we head to the West of Argentina and on to Chile!

The Big Show

Well, it finally came. The exhibition of all my hard work for the residency. There was a great turnout from the local art community and also my lovely friends from Buenos Aires. I had a wonderful time and, from what I could gather, people seemed to like the work and were asking questions about the concept - which, in my opinion means it was a very successful show! Unfortunately, as I was talking to people the entire night, I wasn't behind the camera much, so there are only a few pictures that I have....One man asked me if certain poses were based on certain animals. He identified them correctly and then explained that he's been working at the La Plata Zoo for years. He said, in reference to the Sleep piece, that he looked at it and immediately recognized the pose as the pumas he sees daily. Pretty damn cool.
And thanks to these guys for coming from the big city :)

Friday, August 26, 2011


Last minute addition:Show. Time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

OK, so I love acrylic...

As I've finished 3 more acrylic pieces (below), I realize that I never really gave acrylic a fair shot. I got frustrated quickly and sought relief in oil. Graciously, oil accepted my advances and there was no need to turn back. Until. I forced it. And while general skin and some modeling has been difficult, I fell in love with acrylic while working on the fabric for my "Sleep" piece. I couldn't be happier with how it looks, and it was truly enjoyable.

Basic Need : Physical : Sleep - inspired by a lion snoozing at the zoo, a piece at the MNBA (El Reposo - Eduardo Schiaffino), and a local facade
Basic Need : Emotional : Community - inspired by packs of animals & the stenciled street art in Bs As
Basic Need : Physiological : Communication - poses are based on a meerkat (L) and monkey (R) - close up, there is text in the background

My goal as of now (Tuesday) is to have a total of 15. This means starting and finishing 2 more pieces for the show Saturday. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Friday, August 19, 2011


In addition to the 9 that I've posted the last two days, I finished this one today:

Basic Need : Psychological : Success
The idea for this piece came when I went to the Natural Science Museum here in La Plata: The museum has a great reputation as being one of the largest museums of its kind worldwide. In an old train station, the main level is filled with skeletons and taxidermied animals.
I saw quite a few stuffed animals with smaller animals hanging limply in their mouths. Thinking of bringing home a kill, or "bringing home the bacon" in human terms, really summed up a crucial type of success for survival in regards to both animals and humans.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finished products (mas, mas!)

Basic Need : Psychological : Belonging
Basic Need : Psychological : Identity/Identification
Comfort : Instinct : Licking wounds -- Could also be a reference to health, which incidentally is not listed as a human need. (Thanks Hannah for this idea!!!!)Basic Need : Physical : Elimination Basic Need : Physical : Clothing

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finished products so far...

Human Need : Physical : Food (& water)
Creature Comfort : Instinct : Protection/Security (I can't believe this isn't a "basic need")
Basic Need : Psychological : Purpose/Work

And the popular Argentine Meat poster I referenced:
Basic Need : Physical : Shelter

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I hate acrylic paint.

Oh boy oh boy do I. I had forgotten my hatred for acrylic. The pieces I've done so far here at Corazon have been with gouache. I forgot how much I love gouache! Barely any of the actual product has to be used and it covers fairly evenly. AND. The best is that it blends beautifully. Acrylic just lays there and has the audacity to DRY. What the hell, acrylic, I expect you to stay alive as long as it takes me to blend you. That's ALL I expect. And no, nothing. However, acrylic, I will say the one good thing about you is that there is much more flexibility in detailing. Gouache blends almost too well - you add a new color and it absorbs the color with the moisture of the water. With acrylic, I remembered to layer. And ended up enjoying it.

Rant over, yesterday and today, I have been working feverishly to finish this piece...

Human Need : Physical : Shelter
I use the word "finish" too liberally. I'm not sure if I'm finished, but man oh man that rhino took a lot of time. And I'm really happy with it. Which is finished enough for me, for now. Shelter is one of the top basic human needs. I got the idea of using Durer's rhinoceros (below) because I saw it used in Bs As in one of the huge stenciled street art pieces. I thought of scrounging to find shelter, and how it would be whatever is available and covers me. The thought of the rhinoceros as an animal having its own shelter was one thought, but thinking of if a rhino lost its skin, similarly to a snake, this would make a great shelter. And the arrangement of the shield-like pieces comes from Durer. He had never seen a rhinoceros when he did the below etching. This was just based on descriptions, so, the real theme behind this piece is scrounging and make-shifting to satisfy one of the most important basic needs of humanity - for shelter and protection.

**As a note, I've recently finished the books: The Help, The Poisonwood Bible and am now listening to The Hunger Games. I find it so fitting that I'm immersing myself (unknowingly until now) in literature steeped in these basic needs of humanity and creature comforts. Pretty great how things work.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rain + Hail + Sickness = Productivity

Today it started to rain. Hard. Praise Lord in heaven that Laura told me to bring my rainboots! This way, trotting off to get more OJ and pick up my laundry was not a complete calamity. The rain made the roads look like this:
Who bikes in the rain, really?

And then it started to hail. And that looked like this:
So I decided to paint. And that looks like this:
This is the emotional need for individualism and identification. Inspired by tropical birds, mostly a peacock.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

From sketches...

Here are some in progress shots. They might be finished, not so sure yet!
Above is the first one that I started (on Tuesday), based on the meat poster found here. It satisfies the emotional need for purpose. I'm a little peeved at how the lettering turned out as my pen was runny and I just went with it, smudges and all. No turning back with gouache...

This second one is based on the emotional need to belong. I actually saw a dog sitting patiently for its master with its leash in its mouth in Buenos Aires. It's not uncommon to see such well behaved dogs here.

Last but not least, the need for protection and security. When an animal bares its teeth, it is telling you to back off. No necessary violence may come next, but this warning is an instinct for self-preservation.

So THIS is what 3 days of work feels like.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Creature Comfort/Human Need

The purpose and outcome of this residency is a solo show at the end of the month. I decided to not think about the concept of the show until I was here. My arrival in Argentina was not challenging, as I had a friend to pick me up from the airport and tell the taxi where to go. My time in Buenos Aires with her was easy as she could explain things for me or tell me where to go for a converter, bus ticket, etc. Since my arrival in La Plata, I've really been thinking of those extra things in life that make one feel secure, comfortable, happy. As I was without a basic human need (heat) for the first few days here, I started thinking of those as well. Whenever I can't get things off my mind, I seem to need to express them artistically in order to work through them. Thus, my show concept was born.

I've been researching the basic human needs as well as noticing different creature comforts that humans (assumed) need/want. In order to illustrate these, I took a cue from the animals in the streets and at the La Plata Zoo, and will use their poses in a human form (mine for lack of model options). The following are just preliminary sketches - gouache on watercolor paper:

As meat is a huge part of the gastro culture of Argentina, there is a well known poster of the Argentine cuts of beef. The above is illustrating the psychological need for a purpose. The plan is to use an art nouveau border to mimic the poster look, and label the cow parts on a human.

This is a pose shown to me by a monkey in the zoo - sucking on a bit of rope. I'm not sure if this was out of boredom or habit, but it brought to mind the idea of a security blanket, the need for something familiar.

I saw a stray dog sleeping in a doorway, shielding itself from the cold. Another comfort, would be the ability to comfort outselves, and the need for warmth. Not sure which way I'm going to go with this one, but the fetal position is pretty symbolic for comfort.

Based on a peacock I saw at the zoo, posing proudly, this represents the need for identification and individuality.

Yeah, I know it's creepy. This is for the need for protection/safety. Dog baring it's teeth - personified by yours truly. Don't ask me to make this face for you, it's evidently terrifying.

As I said, these are just sketches to get me started. I have a lot of ideas just waiting to come out, so stay tuned and see how things progress! Working with gouache is not a new thing for me, but it is such a departure from my life with oil paints. This more fickle and delicate medium on paper that warps, will no doubt continue to be challenging, but that's just part of the fun. So here goes!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Street Art Tour - Buenos Aires

Back peddling a few steps - I realized I never really blogged about Buenos Aires! As it is a pseudo home base for me on this trip, I will be returning before I return to the states - meaning, there will be more to come. However, before I forget about this wonderful experience, here are some images from my favorite experience in Argentina thus far:

Graffitimundo offers a very comprehensive and interactive tour of the street art of Buenos Aires. Unfortunately the weather had turned mighty cold after we met, and most of the tour (obviously) is outside. However, we were brought to different neighborhoods all over the city that had some amazing art on their walls.
This is an example of the oh so present collaborative projects on the walls of Bs As. My new favorite street artist, JAZ, did the animals, his frequent collaborator, Ever, did the bottom of the face, and a visiting street artist (I believe from Korea? I missed that part of the story) did the top of the face.
In Bs As, graffiti/street art is illegal. However, the authorities aren't going to arrest someone with a spray paint can. If you own the wall that's being painted, and you have a problem with it, you are free to press charges. What most people have done, is sought out these artists for site specific murals. So there's actually a chance for a lucrative career and fame through street art. The above wall had just been painted white, and we had the pleasure of seeing it in progress.
Above, again, is a collaborative wall. The large smiley face was made by an artist who filled a fire extinguisher with black paint and aimed it from across the street.
This is JAZ and Ever again - the story behind the walls used is very interesting. The Argentine government will let someone squat in an empty building, legally, if there is someone who is sick, old, or under 18. As our tour guide explained, by the time the youngest child would turn 18, they would most likely have a child, so, legally, families can continue to live in abandoned/empty buildings forever. Some land owners, upset by this, and instead of fixing up the property or rebuilding, will demolish the building and leave the rubble in its place so no one can live in it. This is precisely the case with the above scene. The wall in the foreground with the posters on it is the outside wall, the wall with the street art would be the interior of the building. The rubble lies in between. The tour guide said that when JAZ and Ever came out to paint, the neighborhood came out and cheered, showing their support.
And finally, the highlight of the tour. The best thing about these street artists being known in the city is that we got to meet them. (!!!!!) JAZ let us into his amazing studio and answered any questions we had. His english was very good, and so I got to chat with him a bit. He is so humble and ... well, normal. The piece he was working on (you can see it on the bottom of the photo, laying flat) was just drying. He mentioned it was a commissioned piece, so I asked him where it was going - Shanghai. Yes, this guy is known. And chatted with me about painting. Star. Struck. And I want that studio - amazing.

I took about 300 more pictures, as all the art was fantastic, and it was really great to get to see and learn the story behind the pieces and artists. Makes me wonder, if these public art forms were more embraced around the world, what amazing things we could see! However, if it's not rebelling, would there be a need for it anymore? Hmmmm.....