Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel (PAL), Serialized. #12 (“as if it [the snow] were sprinkled with diamond dust”)

Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel, by Mira Tudor

Today’s post is the twelfth installment of my serialized novel Poets, Artists, Lovers (PAL).

You have all the previous installments HERE.

And here’s the whole novel, with the various Amazon links and a book description.

Please note that these posts go online on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and I will then take them down a month afterward. Enjoy!

#12: “as if it [the snow] were sprinkled with diamond dust”

Present day, almost four years later. “Let’s go to Moieciu this weekend,” Anca said to Marcel one evening in November 2001. They were lounging on the bed watching a movie.

“Okay, let’s,” Marcel said, his attention focused on the action of the thriller on TV.

“And let’s invite Lis and Ettie as well,” Anca added.

“Let’s.”

They decided to go to the Prahova Valley again, the default weekend destination for many Bucharesters. This time Anca and Marcel picked the traditional mountain village of Moieciu de Sus (“Upper Moieciu”), a village some three hours’ drive from Bucharest, set between two mountains—Bucegi and Piatra Craiului—at some 1,100 meters altitude (3,600 feet).

The four friends arrived there to a boat-shaped settlement, its slanting sides covered in a blanket of snow that flickered invitingly in the mid-morning sun. They left their bags in their rooms at the guesthouse, packed their cameras in their backpacks, and went on a pleasant three-hour hike to Bisericuța (“Little Church”) Peak, a 1,322-meter-high plateau crowning a picturesque hill off the main road of the rural community. 

Anca wrote a poem about it, “Snow in Upper Moieciu,” waxing lyrical about crystals of snow crunching under their feet like so many tiny jewels; the warp and weft of post-and-rail fences surrounding log cabins and haystacks; and the sunlight flaring through scattered fir trees, whipping the snow, making it look as if it were sprinkled with diamond dust.

“Good, I’m all covered in mud now,” Alice said after Henriette lent her a hand to help her get up.

“How did you fall?” asked Anca. She was coming down the hill behind the sisters with Marcel when Alice slid on a slippery patch of wet ground—which was to be expected: she thought she could brave the challenges of the trip in running shoes.           

“I simply glided down,” Alice said, as she walked away from the path to clean her hands with some snow. “But I love how my muscles feel,” she added with a smile as she rejoined the group.

“My stomach is growling,” Marcel said, taking long strides in his sturdy high-ankle hiking boots. “I can’t wait to dig into those steaks.”

“Defeats the whole purpose of climbing up here,” Henriette said. Her tone was cheerful, but she was partly serious too. She liked to pick on Marcel that way.

“I’ve also brought beer,” Marcel said with a smirk.

“I wish there were some way to do this again,” Henriette put in as they approached the village down in the valley.

Marcel stopped to take a candid snapshot of Anca. “You sound like a child wanting to go down the slide again,” he said to Henriette. “No pun intended, Lis, but you could have gotten better shoes.”

“Well, they don’t fit me well anymore. I’ve gained weight.”

“It happens,” Marcel said congenially. “I suggest we go eat.” Marcel held out a hand to Anca. She grasped it and then reached into the right pocket of his jeans to pull him to her. He gave her a kiss.  

They were at the guesthouse in another half an hour, and soon after that in the kitchen for lunch. As they had traveled together in the past, the wheels of working together were well greased, and they fell into their tasks easily. Anca boiled coarsely ground cornmeal; Henriette made shepherd’s bulz for everyone, molding polenta into rounded lumps around pieces of soft sheep’s cheese aged in fir tree bark; and Marcel grilled the bulz balls, which they ate with fried eggs.

Then they resumed their cooking, Marcel stepping to the grill to make pork collar steaks, Anca julienning potatoes for French fries, Alice cutting strips of pickled gogoșari bell peppers, and Henriette slicing a drum of cow’s cheese, smoked with oak chips, which they had bought at a roadside stall on their way to Moieciu, together with the sheep’s cheese.

*

A few months later, in March 2002, Anca and Alice were taking a stroll together through Cișmigiu Park, a place filled at that time of the year with hyacinths, daffodils, and pansies, when Alice brought into the discussion her favorite topic of conversation: Henriette.

“She spends virtually all her free time sculpting,” Alice said. “She’ll end up hurting her back from it—like Silvia with her cello.” She glanced at people buying cotton candy.

“Doesn’t she get tired?” Anca asked, her hazel-green eyes glinting in the soft spring light. “I make the same mistake of working almost every day, but at least I stop around eight, nine o’clock.”

“I do too,” Alice said with a smile, “but she’s worse.” She stooped to take some photos of a bed of colorful pansies. “She often sculpts until eleven or midnight.”

“What is she working on now?” Anca asked, her eyes on Alice’s slightly heavy hips dressed in black-and-white striped denim pants.

“Breasts,” Alice answered, crouching to get a better view of the flowers.

“Breasts?”

Alice stood up again. “She’s making one pair for each decade.”

“Decade?”

“They’re made to suggest transformation over the course of a lifetime. So she starts with the buds of a preteen, and then she does them at twenty, thirty, and so on, ending with the greatly drooping breasts of a ninety-year-old,” Alice explained while she did a few side bends to stretch.

“It’s an interesting concept,” Anca said, her gaze moving unconsciously to her friend’s bust, which seemed fuller than usual and pushed up, indicating a seriously padded bra.

“What can you say, right?” Alice snorted, amused that her friend was eyeing her chest.

They resumed their walking, heading now down a plane tree alley.

“I’ve never seen the breasts of a ninety-year-old,” Anca remarked, amused.

“Alice Neel painted herself naked at eighty,” Alice said, looking at the mottled bark of the trees. “The point being that in this youth-fixated Western world we don’t realize how invisible the human body becomes after a certain age. When I first saw two naked seventy-five-year-olds making love in a movie and enjoying their bodies together at the edge of the sea, I was shocked. And I had seen Alice Neel’s paintings and other images like that.”

“Such as?” Anca asked.

“Vanitas images, sculptural groups mostly, and then Dürer, Rodin, Otto Dix . . .” Alice responded, gazing into the distance at people pushing strollers and kids running about in a sandy play area.

“But isn’t she objectifying women if she’s showing only a fetish part of their bodies?” Anca asked, eyeing an elderly man handling an old bellows camera set on a tripod.

“I’ve thought of that too,” Alice said, taking a photo of the man and his subject. “She says she might do the whole body at some point. But I think those images would be too powerful and would take away from the emotional strength women get as they get older.”

“That’s true,” Anca said. She looked at kids on the playground swinging on monkey bars. “But on the other hand, if you show only the breasts, you don’t convey the notion of psychological strength, either.”

“Which is why I suggested she do the hands as well,” Alice said.

Anca smiled. “On the breasts?”

Alice gave a congenial laugh and invited Anca to a beer at the restaurant in the center of the park.

“I like that you found a way to Ela,” Anca said once they received their orders.

“Yeah, Ela . . .” Alice mused, cradling the glass in her hands. “I simply share with her what it feels like to be active. Remind her what you and I are living for, in the hope that the dialogue—or monologue—will awaken in her memories and the desire to get out of her shell,” Alice said.        

“Do you still write to her every day?” Anca asked.

Alice glanced up at her friend. “I do,” she said. “She needs to know that we’re thinking of her,” she added, taking a mental picture of Anca as she was then, with her perfect gamine cut and her dappled green eyes set off so beautifully by the dark mascara. “And she needs to be reminded of who she is.” She looked away, out the window, at two lovers walking along with their arms curled against each other. “She’s hurting because Phil wanted her before he knew who she was,” she said eventually.

“But that’s the definition of infatuation,” Anca blurted rather loudly, putting her mug down with a thunk that surprised them both. “Or does she imagine that Phil loved her?” she then asked more quietly.

“I have a feeling that she’s imagining she loves him. Loves, not loved,” Alice said.

“Hasn’t she heard of sexual attraction?” Anca said in a small voice.

Alice smiled slyly by way of a response.

*

“I heard I’m not invited to your next party,” Pamfil said, strolling by Anca’s side after running into her downtown one afternoon in June 2002.

“Well, you know how it is, jealous boyfriends and all,” Anca said, lifting a corner of her lips puckishly.

Pamfil didn’t respond to the jab in any way. They walked a few steps in silence. “How long have you two been together?”

“Nine years.”

“Nine years?” Pamfil reacted. He ran his gaze unconsciously over her slim body and then gave her a pasted grin.

Anca smiled at his uneasiness around her.

“I remember when we met at the beach. You were so young and beautiful with your long black hair,” Pamfil said as they stopped at a crossing. “So, you won’t invite me to your party?” he asked after a pause, as they started crossing the street.

“Sorry, Marcel has taken you off the guest list for now,” Anca said with a half-laugh. “He’s just being ridiculous,” she added once they were back on a sidewalk.

“Will I see you at my place?” Pamfil asked, casually reaching out for her hand and giving it a squeeze. He tilted his head at her. “Party is next Saturday.”

Anca smiled despite herself but then quickly regained her sangfroid. “So soon? It’s been a month already?”

“My cherries are ripe,” Pamfil said with a smile, releasing Anca’s hand. “Next Saturday’s theme is cherries and sangria. I give you the cherries, and you all make the desserts. I make the sangria.”

“Sounds like fun,” Anca said, slowly recovering from Pamfil’s touch. She waved goodbye and walked away. Then she turned around. “Remember not to come to my party,” she called, the jocular note in her voice disguising her concern.

“Will you come to mine?” he asked, his tone almost entreating.

Anca stifled a laugh. “I’ll have to convince Marcel.”

Pamfil watched her with twinkling eyes for a moment. “If you’re coming, stop by this week to get some cherries.”

To be continued . . .

Fragments Pushed Forth, Fractures Swept Along

Doris Salcedo, Colombian sculptor and conceptual artist
Doris Salcedo, Colombian artist

Aesthetica, the magazine and its website, is one of my favorite go-to places for contemporary art. Here’s a piece about Doris Salcedo sliding a crack along the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, Baptiste Debombourg’s sending a gallery wall cracking and tumbling toward us, and more ado about fragments and fragmenting.

Visual Inspiration: Art as Fragments (brief Aesthetica article)

Doris Salcedo’s 2007 installation and intervention piece actually fractured the floor of the Turbine Hall with a crevice of various widths and depths that had chain-link wires embedded in it. She called it Shibboleth.

In the Bible, in the Book of Judges, there’s a passage about a battle between two Semitic tribes, the Ephraimites and the Gileadites. When the Ephraimites tried to escape, denying that they, in fact, belonged to their tribe, the Gileadites put them to a test of saying the word shibboleth. The Ephraimites couldn’t pronounce the initial sh sound (they turned it into an s) and were thus exposed.

As a noun, a shibboleth came to mean a custom, such as a way of speaking, belief, or a tradition which distinguishes a group of people. It’s a marker used to both include and exclude, to differentiate between an in-group and out-group. According to her own statements, Doris Salcedo uses the notion of shibboleth in a vein close to its biblical context, as a signifier that rather than evoking benignly group differences points instead at discriminatory practices and also violence against members of out-groups, with particular reference to immigrants who come to Europe from the so-called “third-world” countries. The work is then meant to reflect both pressure and division, Salcedo says. But there is so much suggestion of struggle, too, in the work, and of calling into question, as Salcedo suggests, the direction of our gaze—toward those who struggle, toward those fallen into the cracks, toward those who push from the crevices to free themselves only to find themselves, in many cases, in circumstances which hold them in like those bits of chain-link fence incorporated into the interior sculptural walls of the installation.

Here’s more about this piece from Tate Modern and from the Khan Academy.

And here’s a photo:

Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth, Tate Modern, 2007

(Photo by Nmnogueira at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Surrealist Interventions: The Art of Marcus Møller Bitsch

Giraffe and Hot Air Balloon, by the Indonesian photographer Syaibatul Hamdi

But this post won’t be about Hamdi. I chose this image because it was freely shared on Pixabay and it shows some of the thought processes behind Marcus Møller Bitsch’s work, the Danish photographer featured recently on the website of Aesthetica Magazine.

Unlike most Surrealist artists, Marcus MB, as he likes to be called, doesn’t use digital manipulation if he can help it, and instead creates his version of Surrealism using simple props, such as a photograph of a blue cloudy sky cracked open in the middle to reveal a night sky with small sparkly stars. Or a photograph of the sea which he tears in places in order to place in the indents what could possibly be rather small rocks—which then end up looking like large outcrops in the middle of the sea.

Here’s a selection of his photos on Aesthetica Magazine’s website

Golden Dream, Glass Painting; and a Note on Art Galleries in Downtown Bucharest

Whether you’re an art aficionado or not, I think you may find you’ll enjoy some of the art galleries in downtown Bucharest on your next trip here. Entrance is free and I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. I am amazed myself every time I go for a leisure stroll and stop at Artmark or Galateca or Cercul Militar / Military Circle (the latter one where Victoriei Blvd crosses Regina Elisabeta Blvd, close to University Square). I had another favorite gallery on Victoriei Blvd, but unfortunately it closed down sometime this year. Other galleries I invite you to explore are Elite Art Gallery close to Unirii Square and Art Yourself Gallery near Romana Square.

All of these spaces showcase contemporary art, but Artmark also has an impressive collection of 19th-century art (along with collections of various objects they sell at auction) which rivals in many ways that of the National Art Museum (not in size, of course) and is free to visit. So you have nothing to lose; give it a try! Artmark’s building lies close to the National Art Museum, on a street (C.A. Rosetti) which connects Victoriei Bldv to Magheru Blvd.

Here’s a photo from my last promenade in the area, when I caught some contemporary pieces right after the official close of an exhibition.

#Supercontemporary exhibition of contemporary art at Artmark Auction House in Bucharest
#Supercontemporary at Artmark Auction House, Bucharest, Romania

And here’s an amazing piece from yesterday’s walk, when I swung by Cercul Militar and caught a glass painting exhibition by Elena Cioclu. The two images presented here are on show until August 5. My favorite is Golden Dream. It includes not only a cross, a (church) bell and angels, but also an axis mundi (through the cross), a liminal circular area which includes references to vegetation and organic forms, and a spiritual realm where angels support the structure of this world, including by holding on to the edges of the bell (and therefore helping it move in the world). The color composition is also intriguing, with golden, blue, and turquoise hues (which I haven’t captured very well) and with a more intense, orange reddish dot at the center of the cross, in a blue square. This bit is very significant, as it may refer both to the human nature of Christ and to His sacrifice; also to the intensity of the center that holds all things together.

Note as well the circle around the meeting point of the arms of the cross,  which is an ancient symbol of the Sun adopted by the Celts; given that it’s also split in four, it also references, just as crosses do, the four corners of the Earth and the four elements that—at least in Western symbolism—make up this world (earth, water, air, and fire). And if you don’t see any symbols of the Trinity, keep you hair on: the vertical arm of the cross is flanked by three beams on each side, making up a total of seven, which among other things (the seven days of Creation, for one) is said to represent the unity between the Holy Trinity and the created world.

Golden Dream sells for €1800.

Golden Dream (
Golden Dream (“Vis de aur”), glass painting by Elena Cioclu

NB: I had to take the photos at an angle because I developed a smudge on my camera lens (can’t fix it) and also this is glass, so I didn’t want my profile reflected in the photos.

Balance (
Balance (“Echilibru”), glass painting by Elena Cioclu

If the above two pieces are too spiritually charged for you, I’ll leave you with a photo of marigolds from nearby Cișmigiu Park 🙂

Marigolds in Cismigiu Park, downtown Bucharest
Marigolds in Cișmigiu Park in downtown Bucharest
 
 

Discovering texture

Some wonderful ways to add texture to paintings

Laura Hunt, Artist

Helping people deepen their experience of art is something I enjoy; exploring the various elements of art is one way to do that. Here’s an introductory excerpt from my most recent post.

To set the stage, here are the seven elements required to create art: line, shape, form, value, space, color, and texture. Some artists use all of them in a given work, some may only use two or three, but each artist has her own way of employing the elements and choosing what expresses her intent. The elements required to create art are line, shape, form, value, space, color, and texture.

Last time I wrote about line, an element that makes frequent appearances in my paintings. This time I’ll select another one off the shelf –texture.

The element of texture doesn’t require much explanation. You know when a tactile quality catches your eye, begging to be touched. Running…

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Notre-Dame Cathedral: The Three Rose Windows Still Intact

Notre-Dame Cathedral in ParisMy first worry when I saw the fire at Notre-Dame was that it would blow up the rose windows. Had the roof not collapsed, they would have been most likely destroyed. It remains to be seen how the lead frames are faring, and how the glass has been affected once a detailed survey of the damage begins. President Macron wants the cathedral restored in time for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, but that goal may be too ambitious.

Here’s more:

“Notre Dame: experts explain why Macron’s five-year restoration deadline is impossible” (Hannah McGivern and Nancy Kenney, The Art Newspaper, April 26, 2019)

“Fate of Priceless Cultural Treasures Uncertain After Notre-Dame Fire” (Alex Marshall, Liam Stack, and Heather Murphy, New York Times, April 15, 2019)

 

The Streets of London: Chihuly at Kew Gardens—on Chez l’abeille

Chihuly Extravaganza at Kew Gardens
I was lucky enough to see some of his works at a museum. They’re very much alive when you’re in their presence, especially if they’re under natural light.

Chez l'abeille

During the Easter break we were fortunate to have some extraordinarily unseasonable weather – the sun shone, the sky was a bright summer blue and the thermometer rose – so this seemed the perfect opportunity to see an outdoor glass installation by a favourite artist.

The Dale Chihuly Exhibition, “Reflections on Nature” at The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is a sequence of artworks, both indoors and nestled within the famous glasshouses. It took a couple of hours of gentle strolling to see them all and to spend time really looking at these beautiful works within the natural environment.

Enjoy!

As well as seeing the installations in the garden, we visited the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art (located inside Kew and included as part of your ticket). There is a large exhibition of classic pieces by Chihuly, some of which I already knew. However, I particularly liked seeing his…

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Tell Me—in Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel (99¢ until April 25)

Mira Tudor_Poets, Artists, Lovers. A Novel_ebook cover_blog

“Later that week Anca sent a number of poems to the magazine Literary Romania. “Tell Me” was among them. It talked of roasted potatoes and onions, rooibos tea with honey, and perky sad music on the CD player. It considered whether life is ever more than swapping stories in a kitchen over a poor man’s meal shared threeways, each bite charmed with sunlight and music. It described an intoxicating scene with a long-haired woman in a vaporous dress, pirouetting on the kitchen table to humor her boyfriend, who then grabbed her by the thighs and hips and put her down in front of the piano, where she played God knows what, for she used no sheets, and she and her man were the only musicians in the room. Finally, it mentioned her bare foot pushing the brass pedal with conviction, her launching into Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, whirling its listeners like a tornado, and her cutting loose as more water for tea boiled on the stove, and the guests were invited to crack walnut shells for a makeshift dessert.”

Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel is now selling at $0.99 and £0.99 (until April 25).

Lucia Lobonț, Moody Pictures

I love the aesthetics of Lucia Lobonț’s ceramics, whether they be tamer decorative pieces, moody portraits, or mixed-media-informed collage-like compositions with more recognizable use of decalcomania (Here’s an example of the latter.)

I discovered Lucia Lobonț about a week ago at Elite Art Gallery in downtown Bucharest, where she had two portraits and a mirror frame on show. Here’s one of the portraits and part of the mirror.

Lucia Lobont_Reflection and Portrait

Lucia Lobonț, Reflection and Portrait
Glazed Ceramics

In the piece to the right, I’m drawn to the economy of gestures in marking shadows and red cheeks, and, of course, the moody tone, set by those wonderful droopy eyes, the chubby chins, the quirkily curved lips, and the full ovals of the faces.

Nika’s Enthusiastic Review of PAL

Mira Tudor_Poets, Artists, Lovers. A Novel_ebook cover_blogNika at prettylittlebibliophileweb.wordpress.com has posted a glowing review of Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel. I am tremendously happy when my book touches so many chords with a reader, and I’m especially thankful for hearing from readers like Nika who say my book changed their life in some way.

Here’s Nika’s review, complete with many quotes from PAL.

And here’s Nika’s Instagram post of PAL

Thank you, Nika!