Friday, February 26, 2010

Greece in the Frying Pan (Guai a Caldo di Grecia)

I like Greece, sunny, usually friendly people for the most part, the birthplace of actual democracy and Olympic games. Nothing like a bit of retsina in the evening on a rooftop patio in my favorite section of The Plaka, but now there is a little bit of trouble. They spent more than they should have and the amount of their debt is supposed to be 20% bigger than all the goods and services they produce for a whole year. That would be like some people owing 1.2 million dollars.

Here is a photo I took on a boat off the Ia side of the Greek island of Thera which captured the intense reds of the sunset there. It reminds me of the money that the Greek government and bankers who allowed them to get in over their heads are hemorrhaging.

Oh, but back to the problem at hand... In a sense, Greece is dragging down the Eurozone with them too. That's kind of the issue which crops up when one doesn't keep international trade at arms length and comingles current accounts of nations.

Well fear not, I have an idea! We can just divy up and sell off the antiquities of Greece to the highest bidders. I'm almost certain that the UK would love to have the rest of the Parthenon in downtown London to go with the Elgin Marbles which already reside in their museum.

Me, I just want a couple of caryatides from Athens to build a pool bath / marble cabana with. What would you guys bid on?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Rare, Beautiful, and Expensive at Ponte Vecchio

In the Florence, there is an ultra touristy spot on the river Arno called Ponte Vecchio, or 'old bridge'. In its current form, it was supposedly finished in 1345, but a bridge had been there since Roman times. Here is a picture I took of it from the Uffizi museum.

On and along this bridge might be one of the highest concentration of expensive jewelry stores in all of Italy or the world for that matter, but on that mild October day, I was only interested in one kind of shop.

No, not a coffee shop, that would be later. The shops that held my interest sold pietre dure, also known as Florentine mosaic. If you are unfamiliar, pietre dure is stone art where the pieces are 'jigsaw' cut by hand with a little diamond bow lubricated with wax and special mud for extreme precision in fitting the pieces together. Some of the works look as fine as any painting because of the level of intricacy and careful gradation of color.

In one of the shops, I spotted what I was after. A modern table top utilizing an extrordinarily rare green stone used for palaces and noble residences in Roman times, lapis Lacedaemonius often erroneously called 'green porphyry' or 'serpentine'. I want to reconstruct a small part of the Roman senate floor using authentic materials, and this is the stuff I'm missing.

I talked with the sales lady and showed her some of my work and mentioned I'd be interested in buying any raw materials they could spare at double their cost. The lady seemed enthusiastic and took me to meet the owner at a different shop on down from the bridge.

The lady owner / manager of the shop conversed with the sales lady for a few moments (I couldn't speak Mandarin and she looked kind of mean besides), and the sales lady returned and told me that the materials I was interested in were not available at any price. Then she shrugged and pointed out that I could purchase the table top and break it up for the material.
Destroying 11,000 Euro worth of perfectly good pietre dure art to get a few square inches of a pretty stone didn't seem like a good idea, so I thanked the nice sales lady and went on my way.

Note to the annoying shop owner in Florence: I obtained some of this material and have a contact in Rome to get more. Deal with it...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Artist Statement (Esposizione di Artista)

I was considering a recent question posed in a secret society website of mosaic artists of which I'm a member. The question was about the kind of typical marketing blurb you read when you go to a gallery and read about an artist whose work you are considering buying, and what if anything should be in it.

Many times, the artists throw in technical jargon that the average gallery patron won't understand. They also spend too much time comparing themselves to other artists that are maybe known a bit better. Or maybe they are a bit timid and don't sell / represent themselves well enough.

I thought I would put together a comprehensive artist statement to guide my own works; as much as to set goals and expectations as to advertise the quality of my works. I didn't want the statement to be flawed in any of the ways listed above.

So tell me what you think of my first draft here of an 'artist statement': (the mosaic group seemed to think it was spot on)

I strive to use all available methodologies and technologies of art to make unparalleled creations which will appeal to the very widest range of viewers imaginable. Even technologies that do not exist yet are effortlessly applied in the most creative manner possible with perfect efficiency of form and design. This will allow for the most lucarative and prestigious placements of my works, furthering my schemes of ubiquitous placement, licensing, and spinoffs / derivative works meticulously copied by slavish followers and carried forward for all of time.
In many cases, entire histories of civilizations will be rewritten to accomodate the grandness of my works. People will weep openly upon observing these unique creations, and other master artists will be obsessively plagued with burning questions such as 'Why couldn't I have made that?' The ultimate goal of the art is, of course, total world domination and complete mastery of everything and everyone throughout eternity.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Beef Island (Isola di Carni)

It was a mild evening on the yacht moored in Trellis Bay, Tortola, considering the 3 meter North Atlantic swells we all had to beat back through earlier in the day to get back from Virgin Gorda.

A crescent moon lit up Bellamy Key (as in the namesake pirate 'Sam Bellamy') and the Last Resort a few hundred feet away where the night before we'd all seen Tony Snell's comedy and music extravaganza. And there had been tequila, which by many accounts, made the comedy better.

It was the third evening of the live aboard sailing training (ASA-103 certification) and the turn to cook for everyone fell on my brother and me. So into the icebox we went, bringing out six large steaks provisioned days earlier, delivered at the Road Town harbor in Tortola.

Up on deck, I had to figure out where the grill propane supply was to start up the gas. The aft grill was easy enough to find even though it was just a 12" diameter circle of grilling space. In Texas, a grill that is smaller than 24" is just a joke.

The wind started to gust just a bit, which made the tiny grill damned near impossible to light. But, we kept trying with various permutations of standing windward to the grill, holding up lifejackets and eventually with preserverence the Char-Master sprung to life. With the steaks on the grill with absolutely no room to spare, everyone top side watched a plane land over at the Beef Island airstrip and we all cracked open a bottle of beverage of choice.

We all continued with the evening limin' until it was time to flip the steaks. As I turned over a steak closest to me, with no apparent force (as witnessed and testified as true by my brother), the steak on the far side of the grill *jumped* off the grill and into the bay towards the airstrip. Wide eyed, we both wondered what the hell had just occurred. I'd heard stories of Ouiji boards and goofy things like that with unexplained motion, but this was a completely random freak occurrence of physics.

The captain climbed up from the galley and had a good laugh.
My brother said he thought it was trying to make its way back to 'Beef Island'. But with it only halfway cooked, I'll bet it didn't make it that far.