Monday, December 12, 2016

There are few exercises better suited to "rolling with the puches" than heading off on a one week vacation (to Stockholm in winter, let's say...) and then having the whole family, one after the other, get sick... thereby forcing you to stay confined more or less continuously in a tiny little apartment that you'd previously envisioned as nothing more than a jumping-off point for some outdoor winter adventures. Well, if that were to happen by some chance, it would open up some opportunities for movie watching, creative thought, and blogging!

Here's a nice shot of my two favorite people feeding some ducks down near the Castle on Gamla Stan, on the one day we all got to walk around together before getting sick. Taken at about 2:30 pm... ha ha! It was dark as night 30 minutes later!

I would say that the lifestyle that Christina and I have carved out for ourselves is perhaps a bit different than the lifestyle of many other folks (such as those who have more traditional jobs, for instance), insofar as it is really up to us to motivate ourselves to find new professional opportunities or execute new creative work. We are certainly not unique in this regard, however; I believe it's a characteristic of the lives of many people, ranging from freelance professionals to most individuals who make their lives in the world of art. And what it means is that there are times when the work flows out of you fast, and there are other times when it barely comes out. Sometimes the factors that condition these relative differences in productivity are external (the world seems to ask for the work, good job situations, positive feedback loops, surrounded by inspiring visuals), sometimes they are internal (brimming with ideas, agitating to work, bereft of ideas, writer's [sculptor's!] block), and sometimes they are intangible or unknowable (welcome, muse!; uh, where did you go?)

I've had an interesting few years, with regard to this topic. For a while there, the world did want the work. Every year reliably produced one or sometimes two opportunities to build a new piece. And the many interims were filled with chances to show the older pieces to new audiences (and luckily this is still happening; Thank you Hand of Man for showing us the world!) But a funny thing can happen when the world keeps asking for your work, which is that sometimes the desire to say YES to the world, a desire which is of course fueled by ego and money, can cause you to provide an answer which doesn't really feel like your own work anymore. You get so tuned in to the subtle, or not-so-subtle, parameters of that request that the world is making that you answer it in that way. Well anyway, that's what happened with me.

So... a break. Funny enough, this break has had multiple simultaneous causes. The world did stop asking for the work (well, the new work anyway) at roughly the same time the muse left me (or perhaps that world just put its foot on her chest for a while). And so I've taken some time off, and we've moved to Barcelona, and I'm starting to hear the muse breathing faintly again.

In the absence of pressure, my creative drives are starting to show again, and starting to coalesce around a few interrelated themes. There's a study out there which shows that when a creative person talks about an upcoming project, they are less likely to actually complete it because the act of talking about it fulfills some of the same psychological needs that actually completing it would have. And so I'm not prepared to discuss here what those interrelated themes are (perhaps I'm superstitious after all, or perhaps I just know myself). But for the first time in a long time, I'm actually adding new items to that list I keep on my phone of new ideas for sculptures, and for the first time ever some of those ideas are actually not for sculptures at all, but for other forms of art.

And, in a new situation such as Barcelona, the onus is really on me to make it happen. I have no network, no clients, not even a studio. And that is hard. But I also have fewer distractions, fewer excuses. For the first time in years I feel I have the space to try to answer Austin Kleon's imperative: "Make the work you want to see in the world".

As for the studio space, we shall see. Last week Christina and I visited a few possibly promising places to get a smallish studio, unfortunately none of which come with any shared tools. And next week we will visit a place called FabLab, where they definitely have tools, but I don't know yet if they have space. I hope to solve this question within the next 4 weeks or so, possibly as a hybrid solution between FabLab and one of the other spaces, and get to work. Will update.

So I'll end with a few pictures of work I have managed to do in BCN, between all the other entry and acclimation tasks, and without a studio.

Is it cheating to include a drawing from 24 years ago? Not technically, as it was made in Barcelona!
When I was 22 years old I spent about two months living in BCN with our old family friend Carla Ros (before jumping over to East Africa for three months, much of which was spent on a Honda XL250), and I made this self-portrait back then, in 1992. Luckily she still has it!

Not too long after arriving in Barcelona we spent an afternoon at the aquarium, where I was reunited with one of my first loves, sharks. A quick trip to the Chinese store across the street for card-stock and glue and tape, and voila... wall art.
I hope to do a bit more of this type of paper art. 

And, a stab at a clay head. Faces are tough. At least I think so. I aim to get better at them.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Motorcycles in Barcelona

OK, here comes the much-awaited "Motorcycles in BCN" post!
If you REALLY REALLY don't care about motorcycles you could probably skip this one, but hey, you might be unexpectedly entertained!

Well, the first thing that needs to be said is that Barcelona really is a motorcycle town, as long as you consider that scooters are also motorcycles. And, as we shall see shortly, the line between "motorcycle" and "scooter" is a lot blurrier here than in the US.

Here is a pretty typical moto parking area, this one at Plaça Cataluña. I would say that at least 8 out of 10 motorized 2-wheeled vehicles here are scooters. Proper motorcycles are in the small minority. Of that remaining 20%, which are the proper motorcycles, I would say 3/4 are "street bikes", with the remaining 1/4, or 5% of the total, being dual sports of some kind, including super-moto. And I will also point out that probably one out of every 300 bikes here is a BMW K75, the same bike Christina rides in Taos. Those old K75s did well here.

But the range of "scooters" is impressive.

Here we see a 600cc BMW scooter.

And here are the police scooters. I think they are also 600cc. Suzuki makes a 650cc scooter called the Burgman. 400cc scooters are also common. But the vast majority are 50cc and 125cc. And speaking of 125cc...

125cc bikes are super common, and can be had in pretty much any style - rice rockets, super moto, naked, street, whatever. Here is a KTM125 Duke. 

The Suzuki VanVan is a neat little bike that I first saw in Israel. Fat tires, tiny tank, looks fun.

And a couple of customs. This type of modified bike is very rare here.

And a handful of super-motos, which are basically "dual-sport" bikes, or "enduros", with smaller wheels and street tires, thereby achieving a lowered stance. From the top, a Yamaha 125, a Rieju 250, and a KTM 640. Supermoto bikes are very much what I have my eye on these days, and I would be thrilled to have a bike like that KTM to zip around BCN on. These are, after all, very similar to the KTM full-fledged dual-sports I've been riding in Taos the last few years.

Last week I did finally have to scratch the 2-wheeler itch a little bit, and so I rented a 125cc Peugeot for a few days. Lots of fun, but also lots of traffic and waiting at red lights. The highlight was certainly a little trip I took up a mountain road in the Collserola, the mountain range that forms the northwest edge of Barcelona. The views were great, and it was fun to ride a curvy road once again.

And lastly, here's a neat little electric scooter for rent down by the port. Looks fun. Actually, it looks like it was fun to design. It's mostly just CNC milled plastic panels bolted to a basic welded frame, with small wheels and pretty nice bolt-on suspension components.

At some point soon I will have enough of my paperwork sorted out here in Barcelona to allow me to legally buy a bike of some sort. That ride up in the Collserola was enough proof, to me, that I would benefit greatly from having one. The only struggle then will be: Supermoto? Dual-sport? Or moped? Who will win, the dopamine-circuit or the pocket book?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The fountains are really everywhere, and as I mentioned, many of them are real works of art. Here, the lovely Christina shows us another one, complete with a smug-looking maiden, the heraldic crest of Barcelona, marble seashells, and fish/gargoyles. (Fishgoyles?)
This particular one is in nearby Plaça de la Vila de Madrid, in El Gotico, which features some Roman remnants.

Street art. Barcelona is full of it. I won't pretend, here on this blog, to present anything even close to a comprehensive discussion of Barcelona's street art; there are lots of other sources for that kind of thing. But I do find myself taking pictures of the stuff I like, so here is some of it.

Much of it is apparently prepared at home, and then brought out to the streets and glued up, kind of like Taos's own PromoHobo.

Anatomical illustration. I'm pretty sure this is anatomically correct. My dad is a doctor.

Skull. I really like this one. It reminds me of perhaps my favorite painter, Francis Bacon.

More skull. I actually don't particularly love any of these, but they do show how people prepare these things, some of which are quite three-dimensional, and then manage to get way up high and glue them up. Also noteworthy is the fact that someone (either the property owner or the city) has re-painted the wall below, but painted around, and thereby preserved, the art. One does get the feeling here that the street art is embraced as part of the texture of the city.

Here's another one from near the zoo. Love it.

But this one really takes the cake. People throw mattresses away on the street all the time, but someone took the time to...
-Paint these two figures who are "jumping in and out" of the mattress, and also..
-add paper feet to the two figures, which are glued to both the mattress and to the stone sidewalk.
As soon as the mattress is moved, even a few centimeters...  (did you catch that? centimeters!)... then the feet, and the whole "piece", is ruined. So ephemeral, so good.
(The word in front of the lady is "BASURA", or "trash"... and it looks to me as if the written word was there before the art, probably by the person who discarded the mattress...)

And I will close this one out with this panoramic view of the beautiful, old, and very cinematic staircase in our building, complete with my beautiful Christina and Kodiak looking up at me. It's 81 steps up to our flat. Sorry mom. They're really nice steps.

Today we had lunch with a fellow who does work that is reasonably similar to ours. Such a nice guy, and I think he will probably prove to be a great resource for us. At this point it feels like he is our best connection yet.

Later this week, we will go see a few possible studios where we might be able to start producing some new work. To be honest, I'm a little less optimistic about these possibilities than I was a few days ago, as I am coming to understand that these "communal" artist studios are not always welcoming of sculptors, due to the fact that we sculptors have a propensity for making noise and dust and such. But I'm trying to keep an open mind.

Future posts, hopefully in the next few days, will cover things like • More fountains • More sculptures (with a sub-focus on boobs in public sculpture - there are lots of those over here, I'm telling you!) • Motorcycles in BCN • The little creative work I've managed to do over here.
I hope you're as excited a I am!


Monday, November 28, 2016

OK, a few random photos, bringing in a few random themes about Barcelona, with a unifying theme of.... ART. Well, at least I think that's the unifying theme...

I take a lot of pictures just because I like what I see, dammit. But really, what's not to like about this bearded fellow in chain mail and a snake helmet? Imagine if the snake were real... or at least animatronic! And this was in the entry-way of a supermarket! (Although I have a feeling that the sculpture pre-dated the market). Barcelona is really a sculpture-lover's paradise, the place is so full of sculpture everywhere.

Another sculpture I like, clearly celebrating and dignifying labor. Barcelona has a rich, if not perfectly consistent, history of worker-driven, left leaning politics. The collective communities we are seeing here, often located in squats, are pretty inspiring. A few of these places (and there are many of them; more on that in a later post) are truly trying to make the ideal of a collective, self-sustaining community work, seemingly with varying levels of success.
But I digress. I love the blocky nature of this relief sculpture. Inspiring work is everywhere.

"ATTACK OF THE ORDINARY CITIZEN". Ha ha! This was part of a string of great street-art panels near the zoo (which was described in nearby graffiti as a "cárcel"). I can't help but agree.

The fountains of Barcelona... such a great institution! The city is dotted with public drinking fountains which dispense clean water for everyone. Almost every single one is also sculpturally interesting. Here, Christina hydrates somewhere in El Gotico.
I could easily fill a blog post with nothing but photos of the fountains; I will definitely post a few more, some time soon.

At this point, Christina and I have found our flat, and found a good school for Kodiak, and we are now on to the phase of figuring out what life is really going to be all about for us here.
We had hoped to use this time to connect with more festivals on the "european circuit," and to the extent we can accomplish this task by email, we are well underway. But email really falls short in Europe, it seems (didn't catch on here, I guess) and so we are also planning a few trips to meet and greet. There is already one promising possibility for some shows over here, which I am trying to nurse along.      
But before we ever left the US, I knew that I was going to need A) a workshop, and B) a motorcycle. So, this week, we are starting the process in earnest to try to find a "taller". It's hard to know yet how this is going to go, but there are several large warehouses which have been converted into artist studios, mostly over in the Poblenou district. We intend to see some of these this week. Fingers crossed.
As for the motorcycle, I'm working on it. The big impediment is the paperwork associated with being a "resident", or some reasonable facsimile of "resident". I'm quite keen on a supermoto-style bike, but who knows, I should probably just get a Vespa. Vespas are cool.

Hasta la próxima vez,

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Good Place for Kids

What has it been like for Kodiak in Barcelona, I can hear you asking...

Well, on the whole, it's a pretty awesome place for kids.

Here's the handsome little fella at our "home" metro stop (Liceu), wearing his school uniform. He has taken very quickly to the idea of wearing a uniform, with basically no protest!

Kodiak and I playing futbol at our local playground, just down the block. I haven't played this much futbol since high school. It's really the national sport here (as it is in most of the rest of the world, I think), so if you bring your own soccer ball to the park and start playing, pretty soon you have a bunch of new friends. 

Awesome playground in Gracia. We meet our old friend Carla here from time to time so Kodiak can play with her kids, Bruno and Leo.

Speaking of playgrounds, they are pretty much everywhere. We went out of town for the day a while ago to this cute little spot down the coast called Sitges. We did quite well for ourselves, I'd say, by finding a little restaurant nestled into a little plaza (which was really just the space between these ridiculously picturesque buildings), with a playground right alongside. I took this picture while sitting at the outdoor table, eating smoked salmon and drinking beer. And this little "plaza" even has it's own street lights! Yes, people here do know how to live.

"El Mamut". The Mammoth. Ciutadella Park. Every town needs one!

Certainly one of the best science museums I have been to in a while is the spectacular CosmoCaixa. Caixa is the biggest bank in Barcelona (maybe in Spain?) and this is what they did with all that money. Situated up at the north end of town, near Tibidabo and the Collserola mountains that border Barcelona, this museum is a real treat. And with a €4 entry fee, or absolutely free if you are a Caixa client (which we now are), there's little reason not to go. Here, Kodiak compares himself to the skeleton of a juvenile cave bear.

Still at CosmoCaixa, Christina and Kodiak peer into the "Flooded Rain Forest". They've built a small, but very complete section of Amazonian rain forest inside the building. Below the waterline are tons of fish, above are trees, plants, turtles, birds, and a capibara. 

When I was occasionally asked, before departing Taos, what it was that I was hoping to do in Barcelona, one of my answers was that I wanted to avail myself of the resources of a world-class city. In other words, I wanted for me and Christina and Kodiak to be able to do things that you just can't do in small town America. CosmoCaixa is a shining example, but we have also taken Kodiak to the zoo, the aquarium, the beach, walked down winding medieval streets and through real castles, and even introduced him to the opera.  So far, so good. 

And just to show that Barcelona offers resources for all ages, here we have a large nice toy store right next to a large nice sex shop. 

Toys for everyone!

Scale Models Say So Much!

Not long ago I came across this amazing scale model of the entire Ciutat Vell (which is Catalan for "Ciudad Vieja", or "old town").  I absolutely love these kinds of models; they give such a great sense of PLACE... like you are flying over the town in a helicopter...

The Ciutat Vell is the oldest part of Barcelona, comprising the modern neighborhoods of El Raval, El Gotico, and El Born (west to east). Most of it was at one time encircled by Roman era walls, fragments of which are still visible in a few spots. The Raval, where we live, was interestingly NOT part of this walled city; it was in fact mostly fields where food for the inhabitants of ancient Barkino was grown. Later it became built up, and dangerous. One of Barcelona's most famous, and grisly, serial murderers lived here.

This is the Raval. The thin black square outline in the middle shows the area of detail below.  

And here you see "our" area. For those of you who know our good friend Grey, who wisely bought a lovely flat here 10 years ago when the market was down, you can see how close we ended up to him. Randomly, I might add!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Welcome to the neighborhood...

So, there's some part of me, a psychological or personality quirk, that makes me want to clearly organize my posts on here... in other words to write one post on The Raval (our neighborhood), another one on Sculpture in BCN, another one on Motorcycles of BCN. But frankly, this is a recipe for not getting anything written, because The Perfect Blog Post about sculptures is never quite done, never quite ready to put to the digital page.

So, screw it. I'm going to just let it be more stream of consciousness, guided by the pictures mostly.


This was more or less the first family picture we took upon arriving, over a month ago now. We were all still jet-lagged, and you can see it in our eyes. Behind us are several legs of Jamon Iberico, or the ham legs that are so popular here. The sliced ham is pretty expensive, and we did a bit of math, figuring that each leg of "the good stuff" can easily be worth over €1000, sometimes more!  Kodiak and I like it.


So I said I'd get back to talking about the Boqueria, the large market just outside our window. Here is a picture of one aisle, on a normal day. There are many parts of the market where it's difficult to walk at a normal pace because of the intense foot traffic, and it's not even the tourist season! This place is super popular with tourists AND locals. I did a bit of measuring on Google satellite view, and the market itself covers about 1.4 acres. It's big. You can get pretty much any food you want here, except for milk and yogurt, strangely.


Yep, pretty much anything you want. Kodiak is mesmerized by the display of rabbits and ducks and pheasant.


The central part of the market is where all the fish are sold. This whole area is really like a class in aquatic natural science and anatomy. Kodiak and I geek out sometimes down there, figuring out what's what. The selection is amazing, fresh, and a few minutes from our front door.


And, in a little preview of more sculpture posts to come... The Raval Cat, by Botero. The Raval Cat is a prominent feature of the Rambla de Raval, a large pedestrian promenade in the heart of the Raval. The Raval has long been a rough and tumble part of Barcelona, complete with street walking prostitutes and drug dealers and homeless. The southwestern part of it still has that feel, a bit like San Francisco's Tenderloin district. So far, that's the only part of town where I've seen police actually doing police work on the streets. But the northeastern part, where we live, is definitely getting cleaned up and safe for tourists. And from what I've heard, the entire Raval is a heck of a lot cleaner and safer than it used to be, not even so long ago.
In Barcelona, a "Rambla" is a wide avenue in which the car traffic moves along the sides, and the middle is a large swath for pedestrians. The Rambla de Cataluña, or simply "Las Ramblas", are the most famous and are extremely popular with tourists. During a short walk on Las Ramblas, one can hear ten different languages being spoken.
As I mentioned, the Raval has a history of being a bit seedy, and so in 1995 the City of Barcelona decided to tear down a bunch of buildings, many of them considered unsafe, in one of the worse parts of El Raval to clear the way for the Rambla. It's the newest Rambla in the city, and seemingly much loved by the neighborhood. And it has a really big bronze cat in the middle of it.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Bienvenidos a Barcelona!

OK, so 5 years and 3 months is an admittedly long time to go between blog posts, but what the hell.

Christina and Kodiak and I recently managed to do something we've been talking about for years, which was move to Europe for a year. We went back and forth for a while about WHERE to land, exactly, settling eventually on Barcelona. We have friends here, we both love the city from previous visits, and one of us speaks Spanish. So here we are, in Spain.

It occurred to me to start a new blog (yet another one!?), but this one was supposed to be the one that simply chronicled my life, the life of an artist...  I thought about calling it viviendo_en_el_raval, OR un_año_en_barcelona, etc. But hell, it's hard to beat Art Is The Proper Task Of Life, isn't it?

It seems as if, in consideration of the fact that I am in fact reviving this old blog, I should recap the last five years in order to provide some continuity, right? Sounds boring, so let's keep it to one paragraph. I built some new sculptures, travelled with them to some interesting foreign places like Israel, Russia, and Texas. One of my sculptures features prominently now at the coolest place in Santa Fe, Meow Wolf. Christina's and my son, Kodiak, is basically his own little person now. I got really into off-raod motorcycling which is tremendously fun, but also in some way not very good for my productivity. A guy who used to be my friend is suing me because of the negligence and stupidity of another guy who used to be my friend. I wasn't even there! And then we moved to Barcelona. And then a minority of Americans managed to elect Tronald Dump.

So yeah, for now this blog really will be focused on our time here in Spain, because that's what we are doing now. The last year and a half in Taos was hard for a few reasons, mostly because of that pesky lawsuit.

I needed a change of scenery.

I hope that this time in BCN will be rejuvenating in some way, and give me a bit of focus back. It's a beautiful city, full of life and love and wine and sun and history and motorcycles and sculpture, and yes... inspiration is creeping back in. A few days ago I even made a paper shark sculpture! It's the first sculpture I've made in months.

Art actually is the proper task of life, for me anyway. I think Barcelona is going to help me remember that.


A cafe around the corner from us, with beautiful facade design, stainless steel, glass, and stone....


Sword-wielding Barbie... from the puppet theater in the Raval, not far from us....


Down the street. Why is this very official-looking (and very beautiful) skull sculpture placed above the street sign? Why is there a tiny silver figure perched in the eye socket? And let's not overlook the spectacular sculptural work on the building itself....


And lastly, here Kodiak peers out the window of our flat at the mini vegetable market that pops up sometimes in Plaça Galdric, the plaza below us. The large metal-roofed building beyond it is La Boqueria, one of the main markets of the city, which has been operating since at least 1217. I will post more pictures of that place in days to come, as it is quite unique.