Curative Miracles? Orsanmichele!

Orsanmichele.  (Say it with me: or-sahn-mi-KAY-lay.   Rolls off the tongue.  Seriously, say it a couple of times and you won’t want to stop.)   When I think Florence, I think Orsanmichele.  Not the Duomo, not Michelangelo’s David.  Don’t get me wrong — I love all of it.  But a church, originally built as a grain market, with statues commissioned by the guilds of Florence around the outside, on the Via dei Calzaiouli (“via day-ee  calz-eye-oo-WOH-lee”), which means, “street of the shoemakers” — it really doesn’t get better than that.  And to top it all off, Via dei Calzaiouli is a pedestrian-only street.  Get it?  The street of the shoemakers is for walkers only!  (I’m sure that’s not intentional, just an interesting coincidence.)   Orsanmichele on Via dei Calzaiouli.  Doesn’t just saying it make you smile?

Orsanmichele, Florence, Italy, 1337-1430

Ok, let’s get down to it.  Continue reading


Art21 (Art in the 21st Century): a glimpse of season 6, episode 1, “Change”

I went to see the pre-season viewing of Art21 because of El Anatsui.  I wanted to see him in action.  My friend and I sat down in the auditorium, thinking that we’d just see how it went, maybe leave part way through, after the bit on him.  Then the film came on, and we were riveted.  From start to finish.   I’m not going to say too much about it. I don’t want to give too much away.  Let me just say that it’s totally worth seeing.  In the first episode of season 6 of Art21, “Change,” the artists interviewed are Catherine Opie, El Anatsui, and Ai Weiwei.  I’d never heard of Catherine Opie, and I was totally blown away.  Continue reading

Salt Art of the Coolest Kind

Salt labyrinths. Yes, labyrinths made from salt by Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto.  Achingly beautiful.

Motoi Yamamoto, Kunst-Station, St. Peter, Cologne, Germany, 2010

And a close-up:

Motoi Yamamoto, Labyrinth, Salt, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan, 2010

I guess that it goes without saying, although I’ll say it anyway, that these remind me of sand mandalas made by Tibetan monks.  For me, the beauty of the sand mandalas is very much wrapped up in the fact that they’re destroyed in the end.  I saw one for the first time at the Indiana University Art Museum, and as shocked as I was when I learned that the mandala would be destroyed, it’s really what makes them what they are.  Yamamoto’s salt labyrinths are also destroyed in the end, and the artist asks that the salt be thrown into the sea.  There’s something there about the interconnectedness of life, about life and death, particularly since salt is essential for human life, and as the artist points out, salt is important to Japanese death rituals. (It is sprinkled on mourners after funerals because it is believed to repel evil.)  The fact that the salt is put back into the ocean, thus completing its journey, brings it all full circle.  Something which is elemental to human life is used for art, then thrown back into the sea from whence it came.  Beautiful. Continue reading