Art is the Stored Honey of the Human Soul: Art San Antonio Style

I’m finally getting around to sharing some favorite images from my trip to San Antonio last spring, where I was lucky enough to have traveling companions who were amenable to visiting not just one but two art museums: the San Antonio Museum of Art and the McNay Art Museum. Although both museums have good websites, they don’t necessarily include more information about everything I show below.  I’m including links to more information where I can (click on the picture), so delve in wherever you like. And if you visit, keep in mind that both museums have convenient free hours on evenings every week and some weekends, so you really have no excuse for not checking them out. This post is all pictures, and I’ve tried to include the frames where applicable, so scroll through and soothe your soul. Enjoy!

I love this stick figure walking up the wall: Joel Shapiro, Untitled, 2000, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

I love this stick figure walking up the wall: Joel Shapiro, Untitled, 2000, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Sylvette, 1954, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Sylvette, 1954, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

Georges Braque, Glass, Two Apples, 1935, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

Amedeo Modigliani, Girl with Blue Eyes, 1918, McNay Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX

Amedeo Modigliani, Girl with Blue Eyes, 1918, McNay Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX

Natalia Gontcharova, Rayonist Dancer, 1916, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

Natalia Gontcharova, Rayonist Dancer, 1916, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

Raoul Dufy, Golfe Juan, 1927, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

Raoul Dufy, Golfe Juan, 1927, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lemons and Cup, 1912, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX

One of my beloved bowls: Bowl with Kufic inscription, 10th century Iran, San Antonio Museum of Art

One of my beloved bowls: Bowl with Kufic inscription, 10th century Iran, San Antonio Museum of Art

Another bowl, probably 10 century, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX

Arch in the Courtyard, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX

Arch in the Courtyard, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX

Arch in the courtyard, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX

Arch in the courtyard, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX

San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX (in the parking lot)

San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX (in the parking lot)

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van gogh, quickly (Wheat Field with Cypresses)

I stopped in my tracks this morning when this painting flashed past on my Facebook feed.  I scrolled back. What was that?  Van Gogh?  Why, today, is this particular Van Gogh making me teary eyed?

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890), Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

It’s the sky, for sure, in Wheat Field with Cypresses, that gets me.  I’ll never forget when my son, at age three, fell in love with Van Gogh’s Starry Night. “What do you think those swirls are in the sky?” I asked him.  “The wind!” he said, without hesitation.  The wind!  Of course!  It had never occurred to me.  I’m a sucker for swirls, and spirals, and circles.  But I had never thought about what they might represent in Starry Night. I’m not even sure why that question came out of my mouth.  But his answer astounded me.

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Wind, for me, is new possibilities, fresh air, change coming, exhilaration. (I mention this, although it sounds cliché, because I know people who DO NOT like wind.) That sky in Wheat Field with Cypresses. The clouds. There’s something about them that strikes a chord.  A mythology chord, deep down inside, maybe — they look like billowing gods and goddesses, with pursed lips, faces blowing, or waving the wind into motion.

Van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, detail

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Making Sense of Troy: An Introduction

I’ve been circling around this for awhile, this Troy thing (particularly on my other blog). When I had the opportunity to go to Troy last summer — you know, the Troy of the Iliad fame, Homer, Helen of Troy, the Trojan Horse, Brad Pitt — I didn’t even know that it was in Turkey.  I’d always thought, Greece.  And I had a hard time keeping straight which characters in the Iliad were Greek and which were Trojan — there aren’t enough differences in their names, or maybe it’s that there aren’t enough similarities among the names in each group, for me to remember who’s on which side.  And then there’s the fact that they’re not really called Greeks at this point, but Achaeans, and Myrmidons, and Mycenaens, and Spartans. So all of this was a jumble in my head.  And I’m guessing that a lot of people are in a similar position.  I took an informal poll among my friends, who are highly educated and/or highly intelligent and/or avid, curious readers, and none of them knew that Troy is in present-day Turkey.  I think that a lot of the confusion may also stem from the distinct country boundaries we have now that didn’t necessarily exist in the ancient world.  I keep thinking about Africa and some of the arbitrary (at least as far as ethnic groups go) boundaries that were demarcated during colonialism and that we still adhere to today.

Google map with Troy marked by the “A” in Turkey.

It’s not easy to make sense of the site of Troy, and I just haven’t found a good source — one that lays it all out in a way that’s easy to understand. To be fair, I’m at a somewhat impatient moment in my life, and I don’t feel like wading through big tomes. (I’m not going to get into all of the academic discussions about whether or not Homer’s Troy existed, for example.  Not that they’re not interesting!) I’ve re-read the Iliad, and some really good introductions to the Iliad, but this doesn’t tell me about the site of Troy.  So here, I want to get down and dirty, try to lay it all out, make sense of it all as much as possible. Continue reading