Saturday, March 22, 2014

Painting on the Road: Northern Argentina, gauchos and knives

Alan, the Andes, and the Calchaquies Valley
While based in Salta in northwestern Argentina we took two guided tours. The first was to Cafayate and other locations in the central Calchaquies Valley.The wide, flat valley floods seasonally and leaves soft creamy greens hanging onto the last drops of moisture to await the next rainy season. At Garganta del Diablo, Devil's Throat Canyon, we watched shadows play on the walls and marvelled at the scale. (Watch for these scenes to appear in future paintings.) A couple days later we visited Jujuy Province and the towns of Purmamarca, Uquia, and Humahuaca. Our driver, Federico Teruel, has many talents, including crafting artisan knives or "cuchilleria artesanal", and explained that knives are an essential part of the gaucho culture in the Salta region. There are two main styles: the salteno dagger is shorter and used for everyday purposes, whereas the longer, more decorative facon criollo is used ceremonially. An annual parade of 2,000 gauchos in Salta every June 17 commemorates General Martin Miguel de Guemes, whom  I wrote about in a previous post. Many people in Salta are proud to be part of the gaucho culture that is an important part of the military history of Argentina. It's always pleasant to meet other artists when I travel, and if you check out Federico's website you'll see he is a master of his craft.
Headed toward the light  
Artisan knife by Federico Teruel 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Painting on the Road: Considerations while painting in foreign places

Courtyard at Centro de Extension, Santiago
Foreign: adjective. 1. of, from, in, or characteristic of a country or language other than one's own. 2. strange and unfamiliar.

My passion for travel is fueled by the foreign sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that stimulate my mind and senses. Typically I'll go out and wander around with my backpack of supplies to scout a place to paint while thinking: "What looks interesting? Good God, this pack is heavy. Watch out for dog doo! Where can I sit?  What if I have to pee? I hope I remembered my map so I can find my way back. Oh, no, is that guy going to bother me?" Yesterday I was strolling around alone in my Santiago neighborhood with a burning desire to paint, simultaneously feeling conspicuous and vulnerable, when I passed an institutional-looking building and spied a sunlit courtyard through an open doorway. It was so inviting that I invited myself inside and fortunately it was a public space so no one objected. Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile, Centro de Extension offered architectural interest, trees, people, a fountain, and the potential for English-speakers and toilets, if needed. Score! I will keep similar locations in mind for the future. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Painting on the Road: General Guemes and a banana plant

Three views of Gen. Guemea statue
Am continuing to have fun playing with watercolors on this trip and love the convenience of the Strathmore postcards. Not too sure how many will actually reach their destinations, though, as international postal service can be iffy. We enjoyed our time in the city of Salta located in northwestern Argentina. General Martin Miguel de Guemes (1785-1821) was a popular caudillo and military leader, a gaucho, who defended northwestern Argentina from the Spanish during the Argentine War of Independence (1810-1818). I painted three views
of his statue while basking in the sun at Plaza Guemes. The next day I came down with the flu and while confined to our room at Hotel Villa Vicuna for a couple days, managed to paint a quick pastel study of the banana tree in our courtyard. The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. The flower spike is called an inflorescence.
Banana plant blossom

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Painting on the Road: Postcards from Argentina

Strathmore watercolor postcards are convenient
We are smack dab in the middle of a 3.5 week trip to Argentina and Chile and I'm so glad I packed watercolors because a few quick postcards are all I've had time for so far. Argentina is a huge country and transportation is time-consuming. The postcards, paintbox, water brush and little spray bottle of water weigh next to nothing and easily tuck into my daypack, no problem to carry around on days when painting will have to be a spontaneous activity during a stolen moment. Even though I haven't been producing much art myself I have been looking at the work of others and making a few connections with other artists. In Buenos Aires we went to the San Telmo Sunday market which offers a range of contemporary art, traditional textiles/crafts/metalwork, and flea market antiques.

Picasso lithographs, Mendoza
While visiting Plaza Independencia in Mendoza we stumbled upon the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno which just happened to have a wonderful show of Picasso lithographs displayed without barriers or elaborate security systems, similar to how you'd hang art in your own home. How nice to get up close to great art! Argentina makes its art (and education through university) free to the public. What a good idea!

In Salta we saw The Children of the Volcano exhibit at the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology of Salta. In 1999 the mummified bodies of three Incan children were found at the top of the 22,109 ft. Llullaillaco volcano. They had been ritualistically sacrificed at least 500 years ago and buried along with culturally important items including textiles and miniature human and animal figures made of gold, silver and other materials.
Artifact found with Volcano Children, Salta

My goal while traveling is keep my eyes, ears, mind and heart open to whatever comes my way. I like to paint or draw when I can; look at art including graffiti; visit all kinds of museums; eat good food (of course!); and connect in meaningful ways with the people I meet. I've met a lot of interesting, kind, and helpful Argentinians and fellow travelers on this trip! (Hello Federico, Lara and Maija!) If you're interested in reading other posts from my Painting on the Road art and travel series you can type "Painting on the Road" into the search box in the sidebar.